Archive for February, 2012

Crazy for Chicken

Buying local can be tough. It can also be easy, once you know where to look. Thankfully, people are happy to share resources when they find something great. This happened recently when a mom from my sons’ school posted information about local chickens. I promptly looked up the website and decided to give the quarterly delivery a try. The farm delivers chickens by the box of twelve, and they are $1.25 per pound cheaper than the chicken I buy at the co-op. That saves me $4 to $5 per chicken! I split the box with my mom and a neighbor, keeping six chickens for myself. The tough part was the drive to pick up the box, but it was worth it.

If you are in the Twin Cities area, I highly recommend the chickens from Finca Mirasol. You are supporting a local family farm while getting delicious chicken. The farmers recently lost their home in a fire and appreciate every order they receive. I find it more difficult to buy meat at the grocery store anymore. Knowing where my meat comes from gives me peace of mind and I love meeting the farmers.

While my family is becoming tiresome of roasted chicken and vegetables, I find myself looking forward to making stock. I have been experimenting with various spice and whatever vegetables I have on hand. I love that I can make enough stock to cover the entire cost of the chicken. I also adore the roasted vegetables. I can be found in the kitchen eating the veggies while I pack them up for leftovers. It is possible that more end up eaten than saved.  The chicken stock fuels my soup obsession. My boys complained about all the soup I’ve been making, until the day I made Chicken Wild Rice soup. Son #2 loved it so much, I’ve made it twice in a month. I use leftover chicken instead of ham in my recipe, and don’t have sherry on hand. Recent thermos purchases have made it possible for the boys to bring soup to school for lunch and they are loving the variety.

Cheesy Chicken Soup, recipe courtesy of Mom

Another roasted chicken and vegetables, with rosemary and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

For my local food recipe, I realized I could make a soup that my mom has been making for 30 years. It has always been a favorite of mine and consists of butter, flour, grated carrots, chopped onion, chopped chicken, milk, chicken broth and cheese. I don’t use a recipe anymore. My mom taught me the recipe and I just eye the ingredients now. It brings me back to my childhood, but the boys aren’t big fans. They ate it because it was what was served. Son #2 didn’t ask me about it like the wild rice soup.

We celebrated another half birthday recently. Son #2 is now 9 1/2, and it terrifies me that he will be 10 in less than six months. How did that happen? Double digits!?! He had a great time bowling with friends, minus a bit of a meltdown when he didn’t bowl as well as he expected. They had pizza after bowling, and I had enough time to make his cake from scratch (sorry again, Son #2).

9 1/2 years old!

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Happy Valentine’s Day

This year, for our 12th Valentine’s Day together, my husband asked me the standard question. “Should we go out somewhere?” This stems from a long ago Valentine’s Day when I was pregnant with Son #1. On that day, I made a gift, baked a cake and waited for my husband to return home from work. Unfortunately, he didn’t know I was expecting a gift and dinner reservations. Even more unfortunate for him, my pregnancy hormones got the best of me and I spent the whole night crying. I clearly remember tears streaming down my face as the server took my order and saying “I’m sorry. I’m pregnant.” I can only imagine what that poor server was thinking. If anyone watched SNL recently, Zooey Deschanel sang a song which I joked was about us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGle3Q3Bnn8&feature=related

One year later, my wonderful husband, still traumatized from my crying, planned the best Valentine’s night ever. He made hotel reservations, had dinner ready in our room, brought candles, wine, dessert and gave me a running jacket that I still wear. Flash forward ten years and three more boys, and Valentine’s Day is a completely different story. Our new tradition is to make dinner together after the boys are in bed. I think my husband asks me about going out just as a precaution. While family dinner is a priority, this is the one dinner a year where we set aside time to eat together without the boys. The peace and quiet is heavenly. Have you ever eaten with four boys, ages 9, 6, 2, and 6 months? Earplugs are strongly advised.

I was feeling a bit guilty about the $0.89 box of mac and cheese I was feeding the boys for dinner and decided they deserved something fancy. I cut their cucumbers and strawberries into heart shapes in honor of Valentine’s Day. I rarely make boxed mac and cheese, so they were thrilled. We went on to eat salad with goat cheese, stuffed pork tenderloin, asparagus, twice baked potatoes and dessert. We cook from a book called Dinner Dates by Martha Cotton, which gives directions for Chef One and Chef Two. I don’t think it is published anymore, but if you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend it.

Valentine's dinner for the boys.

On the local food front, I made Beans and Sausage one night when my husband was working late. I don’t think he ever got to try the recipe. I ate all the leftovers before he had the chance. I found the recipe hearty and comforting, and could have eaten it all week. Still on the cooked carrot aversion, the boys ate the beans pretty well and Son #3 kept asking for “more hot dogs”. I’d definitely make the recipe again. I only had to substitute onions for shallots, and left out the parsley. The white vegetables in the photo are daikon radishes. We got them in our CSA box and thought it would be a great way to use them. I think they were a nice addition.

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Almost Local

We are past the halfway mark of the Dark Days Challenge. How is it going? Buying local is becoming a habit for me. The challenge seems more like a routine and I’m easily finding recipes that work with ingredients available. It has taken some research to gather resources, but I feel more comfortable and know where to go for specific foods. Buying for one entirely local meal a week means that I’m making a lot of “almost local” meals with the ingredients I’m purchasing. These are meals that have all local ingredients with one or two exceptions.

My boys don’t know the difference and have no idea that our meat is coming from people who recognize my name when I place my order. They don’t know the conversation I had with the “honey guy” about the health benefits of honey or the son of the beef farmer who told me about the time he tried to become a vegetarian. They are passionate about what they do and I’m supporting people who live near me, instead of a big corporation. On a recent trip to the Farmer’s market, I was told I bought the very last package of short ribs and that they are busier than ever.

The boys are also surprising me with what they are eating. For one recent meal, I made a Cheddar Apple Frittata, which I came across in Everyday Food. I was excited to find that all the ingredients were available locally, but wasn’t sure if the boys would eat it. I’ve made frittata with vegetables before and the boys ate it fairly willingly. Using apples seemed risky. I don’t think it was their favorite meal, but we didn’t have leftovers.

On the vegetable front, the boys are definitely expanding their horizons. Son #2 prefers rutabagas over carrots. Son #3 likes turnips. They definitely have their opinions and favorites when I roast chicken with vegetables. Why don’t kids like cooked carrots? Is it an acquired taste? I keep trying, but can’t get any of the boys to like carrots in any form except raw. A new dish for all of us was celeriac gratin. We got the celery root from the CSA share, along with the suggested recipe. Sons #1 and #2 ate it and liked it, but Son #3 wouldn’t touch it.

Celeriac Gratin

1-1/2 lbs celeriac, cubed in one inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tbsp flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or thyme
1 cup grated parmesan
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Boil the celeriac cubes for about five minutes, until fork tender. Drain. Butter a 5 x 9 baking dish. Melt the butter and add the flour cook until flour browns, add the stock and stir until thickened, Combine the cream,and garlic with the stock and bring the mixture just to a boil. Pour over the celeriac. salt and pepper and top with cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes or so, until browned.

We’ve welcomed another eater in the family. Son #4 has graduated to cereal and various pureed foods. The squash from our CSA share is coming in handy. I’ve cooked a big batch and froze it in ice cube trays. He’s doing well and it is getting fun introducing him to new foods. I’m hoping he is as easy as his older brothers have been to feed.

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