Monday, February 28, 2011

The West End Community Garden

It's amazing to me that while I lived on the farm, I never considered my family as farmers. My mother was a math teacher and worked in a fabric store. I told everyone she was a teacher, not a farmer. It was my grandfather's retirement hobby. It was something I helped with, but never gave much thought. It certainly wasn't something I wanted to do when I grew up. However, as I get older I am starting to miss the pastures and my dirt road. I especially miss my chickens. However, the romance of farming is lost whenever I realize we are in the middle of a drought or a hard freeze. I know that some person's crops and subsequent income are suffering. Regardless, I still have a strong desire to garden and perhaps raise a few chickens. But until I get my perfect little house and yard (tucked somewhere in Southside or Avondale), I will just have to settle with helping other local gardens.

I e-mailed West End Community Garden last summer asking if I could volunteer. They welcomed my help and told me just to come out on Saturdays. That was their designated volunteer day. However, I just wasn't organized enough to make it out there. As part of my new years resolution, I decided that this was one of the organizations I wanted to support. I want to invite you to come join me on Saturdays with the other volunteers as we help get this garden ready for the growing season. Contact me for more information!

Below is a film my friends Anna and Lindsay made, enjoy!

WE: The West End Community Garden from Digital Community Studies on Vimeo.

Fresh food has become one of my true passions in life. I feel that the right kind of diet will succesfully heal our bodies in ways that no pill can. How have you found yourself reconnecting with your food? Do you have a CSA, go the farmers market, or are you simply choosing in season produce at the grocery store? Please share your stories in the comments section.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community Supported Bakery

I am a big fan of the Tree Hugger website. I love reading about what people are doing to improve their lives in a positive (and earth friendly) way! This lovely little video I am sharing with you made my heart smile. This woman has converted her garage into a bakery where she sells shares of baked goods. Brilliant! If you live in the South Puget area - I am super jealous, because I would totally be buying a share from 8 Arms Bakery.

Watch the video below to learn more!

Do you buy your baked goods from a local bakery or (like me) are you still buying from the grocery store? Share your information in the comments section!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Instant Documentary Marathon

In the last year, I feel that Netflix has really become a  big talking point. Sure, we always thought it was cool. Now that their instant library is becoming so extensive - people are jumping on the bandwagon. People seem to be watching really obscure movies so that they can bring it up in conversation (I myself have started watching a lot of Woody Allen movies). I also love how people will talk about a movie and then say, "It's on Netflix. You should watch it." It's become such a popular statement that I now have to remind people I don't have enough hours to watch the entire instant catalog, but I am trying!

What I love most is the mass availability of good documentaries. I am addicted to documentaries. Especially green/food documentaries. For today's post, I thought I would talk about the documentaries that are available to watch online through Netflix. Remember, these are just the ones I like that can be found on Netflix. There are a ton more out there to watch, but I'll save that list for another day. All of these films helped deepen my commitment to real food. Some of them I have watched several times because they always inspire me to analyze my life and figure out what else I can be doing. Enjoy!

  • American Experience: Earth Days - This is a PBS documentary that shows how the green movement really got started.
  • Food, Inc. - Yes, I know you have heard about it. Yes, it will make you want to stay away from the meat counter and any conventional grocery store. However, it will truly inspire you to find and enjoy food grown in sustainable ways.
  • Dirt! The Movie - I know this sounds weird - this is a cute but serious documentary. It shows how deeply we are connected to dirt and how humans are basically destroying and compromising everything good about dirt.
  • King Corn - Corn is in everything! EVERYTHING! These two guys from the city buy an acre of Iowa land and grow  commercial corn. They document the growing process and where there corn will go. Along the way, we learn about some of the mainstream practices that are killing small farms.
  • The Gerson Miracle - This film is very special to me. It's about a clinic who is curing cancer with a raw vegan diet. I had actually started researching vegan diets weeks before my mom died. I had planned to graduate college, move back to the farm, and heal my mom from the inside. I have talked to a lot of people about this treatment and I get a lot of weird stares. However, when you realize someone you love has no other options you'd be lusting after this treatment as well. My main point - food is the ultimate healer.
  • Food Matters - This is sort of a companion film to The Gerson Miracle. They talk about super foods, vitamins, and how important it is to choose natural foods. For a short while after I watched the film, I would drink a glass of water as soon as I woke up. Guess you'll have to watch to find out why!
  • No Impact Man - This follows a man who blogged about reducing his impact on the planet as much as possible. Even though he goes to some extremes (like shutting off his electricity in his New York apartment), he does come around at the end and talk about what would really work in an everyday house hold.
  • The Garden - The film documents the end of this very large community garden in LA. It brings up a lot political issues about land abandonment and ownership.
What are some of your favorite green minded documentaries?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Braised Cabbage with Chorizo and Beans

I made two cabbage/bean/chorizo recipes in a row. This one came from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express. This is a great little cookbook. I think it's a great book for people just learning to cook seasonally and wish I had seen this book long ago. I actually halved this recipe - because Bittman doesn't really make clear how many or how much is a serving. I wish I would have cut the cabbage into slightly smaller chunks, I think it would have helped speed up the cooking. I used Mexican chorizo instead of the smoked Spanish chorizo it describes - all was well, my friends. I used breadcrumbs that I had made from an old hard rock French loaf. With the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top, I found pure comfort in a real winter dish on a cold night. [To make it gluten free - just use Parmesan instead of breadcrumbs.]

Are you still just making slaw with your cabbage? Shame on you!

Braised Cabbage with Spanish Chorizo and Beans
(Serves 3-4)

Sliced smoked chorizo into quarter-inch-thich pieces, then cook in olive oil until it begins to crisp. Slice a head of green cabbage into weight wedges and put it on top of the chorizo; add a couple of cups of cooked or drained canned cannellini or other white beans, spreading to surround the cabbage; cover and cook for a few minuages, then flip the cabbage and stir the beans. Continue cooking until everything is warmed through, season with salt and pepper, and serve topped with toasted breadcrumbs or croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

White Bean and Cabbage Soup

Simmer down! This is not the horribly bland cabbage soup recipe you used that summer after freshman year when you were trying to quickly drop the added pounds. It is, however, a very comforting and hearty bowl of soup that will knock these winter nights out of the park.

It also comes from my new favorite cookbook Recipes from the Root Cellar. I halved the recipe and used the other half of the cabbage for a recipe that will be posted on the blog soon. I used Mexican Chorizo instead of Spanish. The difference? Mine was crumbly like hamburger meat and not really like smoked sausage. Honestly, you should never feel like you HAVE to have the exact ingredients. Cooking is all about making what you have work for you. I will say that I think the recipe needs more broth... it just seemed to be more like a stew. I also forgot to put the white beans (which I cooked at home) until after I had my first bowl. So that may have been why the broth to ingredients ratio seemed off. Oops.

I am telling you people to give cabbage a chance. I have a friend that says he can't get excited about cabbage, "It's just cabbage" he says. I used to be the same way, but now I know if you add the right ingredients cabbage is as tasty as you can make it. I am excited because I am about to cook with my first head of red cabbage soon!

Have you made cabbage a part of your winter diet?

White Bean and Cabbage Soup
(Serves 6-8)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small head green or savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (6-8 cups)
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 pound thin-skinned potatoes (do not peel), cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, andouille, or other full-flavored, fully, cooked sausage
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and onion and saute until beginning to color, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the broth, potatoes, and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and summer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quick Roast Chicken & Root Vegetables

I made this recipe one weekend when Mallory was gone. I had just cleaned up the kitchen really well and was ready to try a new recipe. I found this new winter favorite from  the book EatingWell on a Budget. I actually made several changes. I roasted a chicken last summer and it was delicious. I couldn't believe people weren't roasting chickens every other day! I put the leftover chicken on sandwiches and I am pretty sure some of the meat found its way into a fritata. I am not a big fan of having a lot of leftovers (because it invites food waste), but there was no reason any of that chicken was going to be wasted.

I used chicken legs and thighs instead of breasts, substituted oregano for the marjoram, used half a red onion instead of a shallot, and balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar. Trust me - none of the substitutions took away from the recipe. I halved the recipe - but my proportions were still a little off. I used three chicken pieces when I should have just used two. And I think I cut up too many turnips and potatoes. I got about three servings out of it and that is pretty much what I ate all weekend. I served it with  beer braised cabbage. It's too good not try people!

Do you roast chicken and vegetables regularly?

Quick Roast Chicken  Root Vegetables
(Serves 4)

1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound baby potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 bone-in chicken breasts (12 ounces each), skin and fat removed, cut in half crosswise
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red- or white-wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 500°F.

2. Toss turnips, potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a medium bowl. Spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Transfer 2 teaspoons of the flour to a small bowl and whisk in broth; set aside. Season chicken with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off excess. (Discard any leftover flour.)

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken, skinned-side down, and cook until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. After the vegetables have been roasting for 15 minutes, stir them and place one piece of chicken, skinned-side up, in each corner of the baking sheet. (Set the skillet aside.) Return the vegetables and chicken to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more.

6. When the chicken and vegetables have about 10 minutes left, return the skillet to medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk the reserved broth mixture again, add to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half, about 8 minutes. Stir in mustard and vinegar. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the sauce.

Per serving: 333 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 72 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrates; 31 g protein; 4 g fiber; 770 mg sodium; 1033 mg potassium.

Monday, February 14, 2011

100th Post | I Will Be A Hummingbird

My 100th Post! So I have posted lots of recipes featuring fresh, seasonal produce that will fuel your body in a good way (even though some of the recipes are a bit luxurious). Really, there are only a few more months until I have completed a whole year documenting what I cook. At first, I thought the blog was a cute idea, "Oh Tiny Tables - it's a cooking for two blog!".  It was something just to kind of fidget around with.  I also like the idea of showing off some of my cooking skills. I mean come on, I aint too shabby! At the heart, this blog is still all about feeding two people with fresh seasonal foods. However, I have truly become an advocate for eating a planet friendly diet. To me, this blog is a lens into the great greener community.

Lately, I have become very fascinated with the process of growing fresh foods. I watch documentaries, read books, and even apply for jobs that will further my knowledge on the topic. I feel that eating fresh foods that are almost meatless is my small step in healing the planet. After watching the film, Dirt -The Movie, I am even more convinced that my small choices are helping. Here is a clip from the movie that really touched me (not to mention... super cute).

Are you doing the best you can? How?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Holy Mole | Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole

This is a recipe I found months ago and have been waiting and waiting to find a chance to make it. I, of course, cut the recipe in half and it easily fed three ladies. It comes from Almost Meatless a great little cookbook about utilizing meat as a flavoring instead of as a main event. It's perfect for people who don't eat a lot of meat, trying to reduce meat, or simply trying to save money (meat is expensive, yo!).  You could easily get four servings out of the halved recipe if you served it with two generous sides. This might even make a nice romantic meal for a Valentine's dinner (or for yours truly's pity party). It's spicy and comforting - just what we need to combat the winter nights!

Honestly, this isn't hard. I will say that I used corn that I froze last summer and black beans that I cooked and seasoned from a dried state. I also had two different colors of sweet potatoes and used both - just to jazz it up a bit. You do have to plan a little because the bake time is kind of long. Pop it in the oven, open a bottle of red wine, get Pandora going, and stare into the eyes of someone you love. You'll be screaming Holy Mole once it pops out of the oven.

How awesome are sweet potatoes, by the way?!

Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 ounces (about 2 links) chorizo sausage
1/2 small onions, cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, juices strained and reserved, tomatoes chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn, or 1 (11-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds yellow or orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices, or in disks
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 avocado sliced for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush a 9 by 13-inch baking dish lightly with oil.

2. To prepare the tomato mixture, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the surface of the sausage lengthwise to remove the meat from the casings. Crumble the meat into the hot pan and saute for about 5 minutes, breaking it up further as it cooks and begins to brown. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and the oregano and cook for 30 seconds more.

2. Pour the reserved tomato juices into the pan to delgaze, scraping the bits from the bottom. Add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and chocolate. Stir to combine while the chocolate melts. Add the corn and black beans, reduce heat to medium, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the water. Taste for seasoning and add salt and appear if necessary.

3. Meanwhile, to assemble and cook, spread one-third of the sweet potatoes on the bottom of the prepared baking dish, overlapping the slices. Scoop half the tomato mixture (a heaping cup) and spread evenly across the first layer of potatoes. Top with one-third of the shredded cheese and spread evenly across the first layer of potatoes. Top with one-third of the shredded cheese. Repeat this layer process, ending with a layer of potatoes. Top with one-third of the shredded cheese.

4. Once assembled, cover with foil, pushing it onto the surface of the top layer, and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are fork tender (yellow sweet potatoes tend to take longer). Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining third of the cheese atop the potatoes. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the layers to set up. Cut and serve with avocado and lime wedges. Garnish with cilantro as desired.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hi, my name is Mandy. I am a food advocate!

I previously wrote a post about my disappointment with Grow Alabama and how I was looking for new options. I recently canceled my subscription to Grow Alabama and am just receiving the last few boxes. Let me tell you, the box I am getting this week has ONE item from Alabama in it - iceberg lettuce. PATHETIC! It also had cucumbers and cherry tomatoes! I haven't had one parsnip yet this season. I plan to talk more about neglected winter foods soon enough - stay tuned. I like to think that the items not coming from Alabama (mostly North Carolina this week) are from small farmers as well, but I am just not sure. Ever since the avocado, my trust has been completely broken. I constantly analyze my produce and wonder "Are you from California?" Most of the produce I receive in the summer seems kind of dirty like it was "just picked", but this produce has been perfectly cleaned and pruned.  Like that, it makes me think they are just ordering off a food truck like a restaurant does.

For those of you interested, I receive(d) the medium sized box (Silver Share). When I bought it, the share was $118 and some change (that included my delivery fee). However, the price has gone up since then. Yes, it's convenient. No, it's not organic (they won't even say they are pesticide free). Yes, it's a good cause. No, I would not recommend it for any true local sustainable food advocate. I am all about growing pains and I know that they need the financial support (and demand) now to get Alabama farmers to grow winter produce  - but something about the company doesn't taste right. Maybe I just need a little more Alabama dirt in my system and I haven't been getting enough for months now.

Okay, now that we're done with that. Let me talk about some options I found. Sadly, no one has winter produce. So the only thing I can tell you is to grow your own, put up a lot of surplus, and support the few farmers that sell their wares sporadically at Pepper Place. I am even thinking about creating a make shift root cellar (who am I?!).

Jones Valley Urban Farm - I love their general mission, but man oh man - these guys can't send back an e-mail. I contacted the person in charge (via e-mail) twice about starting a CSA with them. First e-mail was sent days before Christmas. Second was sent at the end on January after I saw on their website "Hurry and contact XXX. Shares are filling up!". I am not sure if they just don't want my money - but I won't be getting a CSA from them this year. I will, however, stop by after work and check out their produce stand. They usually put out a few things for sale.

Snow's Bend Farm - This is who is now going to provide my CSA. A small sustainable farm in the Tuscaloosa area (gotta support West Alabamians!). I had heard from Amanda Storey that they had a waiting list. I am not sure if the fates realized my desperation, but I managed to get a share this season with no problems. I am pretty excited to be getting all my produce from one farm. I know that my money will directly help a local farmer. I've cut out the middle man by about 99% (it would only be 100% if I decided to grow my own food). My friend Summer is going to split the share with me and we'll alternate weeks. This will help me reduce my food waste (cause I never could seem to keep up with my Grow Alabama box - especially in the summer), reduce the general cost, and give Summer and I another reason to talk about food. You guys will hear more about Snow's Bend once the share starts later this spring.

Pepper Place Market - One of the reasons I wanted to find someone to share the box with was so that I could go to Pepper Place and really do some shopping. Before, I would go maybe two or three times a summer. Mainly to enjoy some delicious strawberry cake. I can visit the market on my off weeks and splurge on some really good honey, cheeses, and - of course - produce!

All in all, I am really happy with my decision to leave Grow Alabama. I am really grateful to them for everything I have learned. I have gained all my current cooking skills using their produce. However, for the principles that I stand for I need to be able to completely trust my produce. And sorry, Grow Alabama, you are just too two-faced for me. So, I don't see it going anywhere for us. We're done. Best of luck to you!

What are you doing to support your local food system? Please share in the comments section!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I want to be a Home Economics teacher...

... but a really cool one that doesn't make you tote around a sack of flour and pretend it's a baby!

I just finished reading an article at the NY Times by Mark Bittman. He is a big name in the food world. I currently have his book Kitchen Express checked out from the library. I really fell in love with him when I watched him on Spain... On the Road Again. It was this great show where Mario Batali toured Spain with Bittman, actress Gweneth Paltrow, and this too cute for words Spanish actress. It comes on PBS and I actually stalk there website hoping it will rerun again soon!

Back to me wanting to be a home economics teacher. If you've talked to my friends, you'll know that I have wanted to be a lot of things. And who is to say that I can't do them all in one lifetime? I am eating a ton of vegetables... so hopefully I've added lots of years to my life. So in this article, Bittman is discussing things that need to change to heal our food system. In case you haven't heard... it's broken. Completely! Watch any food documentary and you'll leave wanting to never eat sausage again - not because of what's in it, but because the way the animals are raised, killed, and processed . It's also horrific for the workers!

One of the points that he talks about made me sit up straight and say "YES! That is what I want to do!" Read on my friends...

Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.

I so want to be a home ec teacher. I want to teach kids how to make real budgets, cook real food, and learn real skills that will benefit them their whole lives. This is part of the reason I have this blog. I am teaching you all that cooking with fresh foods is only as hard as you make it. Once you realize that all you need is a good knife (and truly... that is the secret to cooking) - then you'll realize that cooking isn't so bad after all.

Please go and read the whole article. It's apparently the first in his series on food issues.