Aquilegia formosa

time to try the home creamery? February 1, 2010

Filed under: Food,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 2:06 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Those folks over at Not Dabbling in Normal posted this which discusses making butter and ghee at home. There are also links to the author’s blog, Chiot’s Run with step-by-step how-to guides. The ghee is meant to be a (partial) replacement for non-local olive oil, I believe, but I think it better replaces other vegetable oils like canola, etc, due to the higher smoke point. I wonder if it’s a good choice for deep frying?

The NDiN post also mentions using milk that had soured a bit to make a quick pressed cheese. I love this frugal tip! It makes me think of my grandfather (who grew up in England during the 30’s and 40’s) saying “use it up!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about dairy products lately, as well as the pros and cons of trying raw milk. Many of my favorite sustainable, frugal, local food blogs talk about buying local raw milk. However, these writers are American, and are thus choosing not to use a very different kind of milk than what is sold in Canada. For example, my cousin, who is very into the Slow Food movement, says Canadian milk does not contain antibiotics. I’ve only her word to go on at this point, as I haven’t researched either the Canadian or the American mainstream commercial product, but it’s certainly food for thought. This site from California has some raw milk facts.

The idea of healthy, raw, local milk is somewhat appealing, however, it is illegal(!) to sell it in British Columbia. Home on the Range has a creative solution; interested individuals can buy a “share” in the herd and hire an “agister” (“one who takes care of cattle for a fee”) and then pay a weekly “maintenance” fee. I love the political subversion of this, which is likely more common than just in BC, as the NDiN post mentions doing the same thing in Ohio, as does this Globe and Mail article about an Ontario farm.

One share is $17.50/week for a gallon of milk. That’s $910/year, plus the share price. If I want butter or cream, it’s an additional $8, for 8 or 16 oz., respectively. $8 for half a pound?! That’s at least $8/week, or $416/year, plus extra when I bake, so maybe another $100/year. Right now I pay about $4 to $4.50/lb for conventional butter and less than $3/litre of half and half (10% m.f.) cream. However, since this is about baby-steps, instead of freaking myself out looking at costs per year, I could always start low-key, with a quarter share, for $50 and $5/week for a quart of milk. That’s $260/year, or $22/month.

The jury’s still out on this one, but I think it’s time to give yogurt a try. Maybe also look into soft cheeses, and purchasing the necessary cultures.

Advertisements
 

homemade iced tea January 28, 2010

file this one under baby steps:

My husband, a major consumer of Nestle’s brand iced tea, decided to make his own today. He had stayed home sick from work, and was apparently feeling better in the afternoon. He made two batches about 3.5 L each. One was sweeter than the other, and we’ll do taste tests to see which one still tastes best tomorrow and the next day. By then it’ll likely be gone, so we’ll have to have gotten enough data to choose!

I’m so impressed, I made one comment about how it’d be cheaper, and we do have tons of Earl Gray tea, his favorite. I also read the label, because I’m becoming a Food Renegade (see button on side bar 🙂 ). Step 1 is ‘become a label Nazi’ and the commercial brand has high fructose corn syrup, which, according to the video, below, must be from GMO corn. Ew.

 

Just say no to GMO’s January 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — aquilegiaformosa @ 12:27 am

Why I’m writing this blog (this, and my babies):

Thanks to Wendy at Surviving the Suburbs for this one.

 

what I’ve been up to January 23, 2010

…because I haven’t been blogging. 🙂

I’ve been working away diligently at being a mom and at being an awesome social worker.

I’ve been reading lots of blogs about yummy, frugal, local meals:

I’ve been thinking and researching local food (on the ‘net) and the academic literature around this whole food movement. I picked up a few books from my university’s library. They are:

  • The Slow Food Story by Geoff Andrews, 2008.
  • French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age by Susanne Freidberg, 2004.
  • Outgrowing the Earth: the Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures by Lester R. Brown, 2004.
  • Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry is Killing Us by Christopher D. Cook, 2004.

I didn’t have much time at the library, so I just grabbed according to publication date and then interest in the title or back jacket blurb. I don’t know that I’m going to read them all – I really don’t have a lot of time, I have papers to write on a few different subjects. Diet for a Dead Planet sounds a little grim for me , but the back jacket quotes Frances Moore Lappe (author of Diet for a Small Planet, a cookbook I remember fondly from my childhood) about how the book can “motivate change before it’s too late… we don’t have to be victims.” So I read self-empowerment in that, a bottom-up, grassroots approach to changing food production. Outgrowing the Earth seems like it will be similar, but with a global warming, population surging, environmental science approach, rather than a political, economic, health care approach to the topic. I’m not too into grim, scary, however. I don’t need all the evidence recounted to me, I find it overwhelming and depressing. I’d rather skip right to the ‘what to do’ chapters.

The Slow Food Story seems interesting so far; I’ve read half of the chapter on the history of the movement, in Italy in the 70’s as an offshoot of leftist political action. I like that premise – that the pleasure taken in eating well can be a political action. That by making ethical food choices, I am making a political statement. That is empowering to me because I feel like I have no political clout in this country, even though I exercise my democratic right to vote. My vote counts for squat because of the party system. By participating in the politics of food production, I’m participating in direct democracy. This might be the book to focus on for this semester.

I also read a few great blog posts about packaged foods, quitting grocery shopping, and the ethics of raising chickens and buying seeds. These posts have got me thinking so much, I’m planning separate blog posts about each topic. I am fascinated by ethics. I’ve taken a couple of courses at my university on ethics, “morality and politics” and “ethics and public policy.” (The prof who taught those is currently teaching “environmental ethics” which I would have loved to take, if it hadn’t conflicted with a course required for my degree.) I think this journey I’ve begun is heavily related to doing what I think is right, moral, ethical. I think we have a responsibility, a duty of care, to one another and to this planet. If we are doing things that are killing plants, animals, ecosystems, entire human cultures, we are doing things that are wrong.

But are we doing harm intentionally? And do we see the harm we’re doing? Are we responsible for discovering and rectifying the damage? Can we compel others to do the same?

Thinking deep thoughts, that’s what I’ve been up to.

 

farmer’s market, fresh greens January 17, 2010

Filed under: Food,Garden,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 1:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been doing a bit of research on the ol’ ‘net into possible sources of local food. Turns out, this isn’t the best time of year to be diving into this! Of course I already knew this, but I had a bit of hope for something out of season. I’ve discovered a few great links for the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley areas. Firstly, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets has a page listing winter markets. According to this, I could hit up the Abbotsford market on Jan 30th and the Mission market on Feb 13th.  Abby’s also got a couple of March dates, and both have some April dates. My school is in Abby, not too far away from this market, but it operates on Sunday, so it may not be worth the trip on it’s own. My dad lives in Mission, so that market could be combined with a visit.

My local farmer’s market, in White Rock, has winter market days April 4th and May 2nd, and is open every week from Father’s Day to Thanksgiving. The 2009 vendor list included Maluma Bison, which is listed as selling sausages and smokies. I’m excited to see what’ll be there this year – maybe some good connections to locally raised meat?!

Other markets that are close to my neighbourhood and the places I often find myself driving are: the Langley market, starting July 8th, running Wednesdays from 3 to 7 pm; the Ladner Village market (with over 140 vendors over 3 city blocks, on June 13th & 27th, July 11th & 25th, Aug 8th & 22nd and Sept 8th, might be worth a visit or two just for the sheer density of vendors, and could be combined with a visit to West Coast Seeds), and the Surrey market in Whalley, running  from June to September on Wednesday afternoons starting at 1pm.

Still, not too much happening in January! However, I’ve still a bit of kale and Swiss chard growing in my back garden, and we had a nice helping of kale sauteed with carrots and yellow peppers with dinner on Thursday night. Also, I’ve started sprouting some seeds in my kitchen. I’ve got onion, alfalfa, sunflower and mung, all from Thompson & Morgan seed co., which I bought last spring from a local nursery. I’ve also got some wheat berries I purchased in the bulk section at Choices ( a local yuppie organic grocery chain), probably conventionally farmed and shipped from who knows how far away – I’m going to try sprouting those ones, too. Once I’ve used up that batch, I’ll see if I can find a more local, ethical, sustainable source for my sprouting seed.

And soon, if this post is any indication, I can begin starting spinach seed indoors to cut and to transplant into the garden under row covers at the beginning of March. I’m getting very excited for the growing season ahead!

 

cheesemaking January 16, 2010

Filed under: Food,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 8:28 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I read this post on making farmhouse cheddar over at Suzanne McMinn’s fun and family friendly site, Chickens in the Road earlier this week. Today she posted on waxing the cheese so as to age it. Farmhouse cheese is the fastest hard cheese to make, apparently, and is something I’d love to try to make, especially as I’m becoming hyper aware of all the non-recyclable plastic shrink-wrapped around so much of my food. Suzanne makes hers with store bought milk, so it’s not as difficult to try out as I might once have thought – y’know, back in the days when there were no baby-steps, it was all or nothing and I had to have my own cow, or at least access to local raw milk before I’d look into such a project! In fact, just about a year ago, I was reading about Suzanne learning to make ricotta cheese from milk from her own goat! (of course, she clearly states that your own goat is not required!) This woman is a wealth of information on many old-time skills and crafts. She even wrote a post on how to make your own cheese press. While I know I probably couldn’t make one all by myself (as I don’t have any power tools), I know a few folk who’d kindly help me out 🙂

UPDATED Jan 19th: Suzanne posted about homemade cream cheese for all of those who were intimidated by the making farmhouse cheddar post (the whole cheese press thing is what seemed daunting to me). As well, she reminds us:

“You don’t have to have a cow… Making cheese isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Just because you bought the cream at the store doesn’t mean it’s not homemade cheese. You still have so much more control, both from a health and a taste standpoint, in the end product. You can use less or no salt. You can add your own flavorings using your own home-preserved fruits or herbs.”

Baby steps. Flylady would be proud. So would Bob. 🙂

UPDATED: Jan 30th: El at fast grow the weeds recently posted this about cheesemaking. Lots of good links!

 

today’s report January 11, 2010

Filed under: Food,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 9:06 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There’s not too much to report here; today was my first day of classes for the semester. It’s going to be a busy one, I’ve got a 3 day/week practicum, in an elder care facility (called a “Life Enrichment Centre”), plus two days of on-campus classes, and my research assistant job. Also, the kids, the hubs and the sister/roommate to feed, etc.

I’ve been talking about my new adventure, hoping to spark some brainstorming and to give me some new ideas. So far, I’ve talked with my sister about coming up with alternatives to plastic produce bags to keep my lettuce and celery crisp in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. She suggested things like root cellars, or burying root veggies in plastic totes with sand or straw. Not quite what I was going for , but definitely on the right track. Her boyfriend, however, didn’t really get why I’m doing this. I mentioned it was partially about wanting to shop less, and he suggested he could shop for me, which was very thoughtful, and somewhat cute, but also beside the point. I’m thinking I’m going to try experimenting with dampened tea towels.

Today the kids and I popped into the grocery store to pick up some milk and some chicken for dinner. Shrimp and ham were on sale, so I grabbed a package of each. My first thought on looking at the shrimp was that, despite being only $10, a savings of $8, they still cost a lot – they are from Asia!! They are freshwater prawns from Bangladesh! I’m glad this is a journey comprised of teeny, tiny baby steps. If it weren’t, I don’t know that I’d know what or how to feed my family.

At the checkout, the cashier gave me a new cloth bag, which was, she informed me, for spending over $25 today. Chalk up one point for sustainability?! Then we walked across the parking lot to the produce store, and we placed a few veggies into recycled plastic produce bags! That’s right, not only did I remember to take my cloth bags out of the trunk and use them, but I rinsed out, dried, folded, put in the trunk and reused some of those plastic produce bags!

I’m gonna call that a win.