Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ELC Day 5 Food Musings

So the local chickpeas cooked all night long in the crock pot and are now cooling on the counter (I read somewhere that a good trick to keep the cooked beans intact is to let them cool in the cooking water). The kombu strips have been pulled out, and the beans are pretty much ready to rock.

I made another great batch of homemade granola last night (recipe adapted from La Dolce Vegan's Simple Crunchy Granola). I can't believe how freaking easy it is to make granola, especially when considering what people will pay for it at a store (easily $6-8 per pound!). It is crazy. Although it's not 100% local, it is about 60% local by volume. I used organic local oats, butter and sunflower seeds, with oats being the biggest ingredient in the whole recipe (4 cups). Next time I could improve the local-ness by using local honey, but right now we are still trying to use up a giant bottle that we bought from Costco a year ago, so that was out. The other stuff (pepitas, sesame seeds, coconut, wheat germ, cinnamon) - I'm not so sure we can find local, ever. I've seen brans at the Farmer's Market, but not germ. Possibly pepitas will show up during pumpkin season? But I think we're out of luck when it comes to sesame seeds, coconut and cinnamon. Maybe over time we can replace these with other local ingredients. If anyone has any good recipes to share, please let me know!

Today at the local health food store, I restocked my supply of Vital Wheat Gluten, which I use when I bake bread. When reading the box later, I realized I can make seitan with it. Cool! I've never made homemade seitan before, so I'm anxious to try it out. I think we're going to do eggplant parmigiana tonight, but seitan will soon make an appearance on the table. After trying it out the easy, mostly instant way via the VWG, I'll be more willing to give it a whirl from scratch, hopefully using local wheat flour. Stay tuned for that.

This challenge is so great because it's making me try lots of new things: freezing tofu for chicken fried "steak", making homemade seitan, looking into making our own cheese, yogurt and kefir. It's also making me do stuff I should do all the time anyway: use our crockpot more, use the bread machine more (or just make bread totally by hand). Also, really appreciating our local farmers, both from the CSA and the farmer's market - they work their butts off year round so that we can have this bounty. Around this time of year every year, I start to get tired of the CSA share - it seems like we get the same stuff every week, and I get sick of trying to come up with new ways to use it all up. But this year, due to this challenge, I'm really appreciating the magic that is food like never before. It's amazing that tiny seeds can spend time in dirt, and magically become fuel for our bodies, sensory experiences for our minds. So, I may smirk when I see yet more green peppers in my box, but it turns into a grateful smile a few seconds later when I remember how hard won they are.

The Local Dairy Hunt
So after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and how impossible it is for small dairy farmers to sell their wares directly to consumers, I've been feeling pretty discouraged about finding good sources for local dairy. I mentioned this to our next door neighbor, Rick, and he said, "What about Canada?" DUH! Of course, Canada! Right over the bridge from Detroit, 14 miles from our house, is Windsor, Ontario. I checked out their Farmer's Market website, and although there was no specific mention of dairy products, we're going to check it out tomorrow, just for the experience. I'm psyched! It never would have occurred to me to check it out if Rick hadn't mentioned it; just another reason why it pays to be friendly with your neighbors.

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