May 29th, 2012 § § permalink
Hello friends. I’m feeling neglectful that the month of May is coming to an end and I’ve only dropped by to share a half-dozen times. Promise there’s hard work happening behind the scenes (follow what I’m up to on Facebook and Twitter in the meantime) that will be well worth it when we hit June. We’re talking giveaways, interviews, guest posts, and some good ‘ol summertime Minnesota-grown cookin’.
Tonight, I’m checking off one mighty item on the to-do list.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The garden is finally in.
May 25th, 2012 § § permalink
Last May, I gave my dad Ameraucana chicks for his birthday as an addition to his growing coop back home. Before they were delivered, the chicks spent a few cozy nights as house guests under my careful watch. Let’s be honest…I was an obsessive mother hen. By the time they left, all 5 had names and their own personalities. How could you not fall in love with a cute little puff-ball like this?
Those gals are all grown up and producing gorgeous blue “Easter eggs”. When it came time for my parents to place their chick order again this year, they asked me to house sit for 5 more from Eggplant Urban Farm Supply in St. Paul. Yesterday I picked tiny golden Buff Orpington chicks and brought them home to cuddle and canoodle.
When it comes to local eggs, it doesn’t get any better than freshly snatched from the nest box. A growing number of Twin Cities households are recognizing the ease and enjoyment of keeping a backyard coop. Eggplant reported having orders for 150 chicks in the previous two weeks alone, suggesting that what started as a trend is growing into larger a backyard movement. Homegrown chickens not only offer the freshest eggs, but they also provide greater control over where food originates, insurance of humane care, and protection against large food borne illness outbreaks.
If you’re interested, Eggplant also offers regular Backyard Chicken classes for beginners learning about permit and coop requirements, cold-climate care, and special considerations for urban poultry. There’s also an annual Twin Cities coop tour in September if you’d like to check out how other owners are supporting backyard flocks.
Once you hear the quiet little chirping of a box of baby chicks, I’m willing to bet you’ll soon have some house guests of your own. Enjoy the long holiday weekend Minnesota. Summer’s officially here.
May 20th, 2012 § § permalink
Have a kitchen skill you’d like to master? Wishing you had a “how-to” guide for a certain recipe? Send a comment for the how-to’s to help your local eating and we’ll get started!
One of my very first and most successful posts on 20Food.net was a May 2011 recipe for rhubarb bread, famous in the kitchen partner’s family. We’ve already had a few loaves this year and a few opportunities to snap the kitchen partner’s hand away as he tries to grab a slice before it’s fully cooled. This bread is irresistible with a scoop of vanilla ice cream when the weather is hot and muggy. It’s perfect for springtime breakfasts with yogurt or a sweet late-night snack. In case you missed last year’s post, here’s a how to make an old-fashioned rhubarb bread–just like Grandma Sippl does.
How to Make Rhubarb Bread
1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F and prepare loaf pans with non-stick spray. To make large slices, use one 9 x 5″ loaf pan. To make a smaller slices, divide the batter equally into 2 pans. Slices will be shorter, but closer to a serving size.
2. Wash and chop 2 cups of rhubarb stalks into 1/2″ pieces (3 stalks will typically equal 2 cups) and roughly chop 1 cup of walnuts or pecans, if desired. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and 2/3 cup room-temperature butter together until creamy.
4. Blend in 1 egg, 1 cup of sour milk or buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until well-combined. To make sour milk, pour 7 ounces of milk into a measuring cup, and add 1 ounce lemon juice. Allow to rest 1-3 minutes until milk separates. Gradually add in 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until batter is smooth.
5. Gently fold in chopped nuts and rhubarb.
7. Pour into greased loaf pan and lightly sprinkle brown sugar over top of loaves.
8. Bake for 1 hour or until top is browned and a toothpick comes out of the center clean.
9. Remove from oven and cool completely before turning out of pan. If turned out before cooled, bottom will separate and remain stuck in the pan.
May 14th, 2012 § § permalink
In the past few weeks Minnesotans have started to tip-toe into the best locavore season. Whether you use 50, 150 or statewide as your local food line, June through September are by far the easiest months to eat local in the North Star State. Minnesota’s growing local food network was recently measured against other states’, and our locavores measure up well.
When the 2012 Locavore Index was released last week, Minnesotans had something to celebrate. A brand new measure introduced by New England-based Strolling of the Heifers, the rankings use farmers’ markets and CSA’s per-capita data from 2010 and 2011 to generate composite “locavore” scores for each state. Minnesota has a whopping 528 farmers’ markets and CSAs statewide, ranking #17 in the country. Vermont blew away the rest of the nation, with over 40 markets and CSAs per 100,000 residents. It may be a small state, but they have come a long way in establishing a supportive local food community.
Not a perfect measure
While the 2012 Locavore Index is one of the first rankings of its kind, it is far from a comprehensive measure of local eating. Farmers’ markets and CSA statistics are easy to find and measure across time. Not so easy are the other ways locavores fill their refrigerators–growing and preserving their own food in a backyard garden; calling up a grower and buying direct; purchasing local produce at a neighborhood co-op or health food store; using directories like Minnesota Grown or Local Harvest.org. Estimating total dollars spent on local food is no easy task.
Likewise, the Locavore Index only measures the access to farmers’ markets and CSA’s. It doesn’t measure usage or the percentage of people who regularly buy local food in their area. To date, we don’t have a solid measure for the number of local meals that make it on the table each week.
Is it problematic that the Locavore Index falls short in these areas? Maybe. Maybe not. The index is capable of showing overall growth in farmers’ markets and CSA’s over time–preliminary indicators of the rate and strength of growth of locavore habits over time. It also shows what many locavores already know: there are gaping holes in access in certain areas of the United States. States like Florida, Arizona, and New Jersey struggle to provide residents with easy access to local food. Florida may seem like a produce-rich region, but with roughly 1 farmers’ market/CSA per 100,000 residents, availability is significantly lower than in other areas. It may also be that local food networks in these regions don’t utilize farmers’ markets or CSAs in the same way as other regions. Their distribution tools lie beyond the scope of the Locavore Index.
What it means for Minnesota
Although #17 is arguably in the middle of the locavore pack, Minnesota is well on it’s way to becoming a local food leader. Minnesota is home to more than 5 million people, a tremendous number of mouths to feed compared to Vermont’s 600,000. What works in urban population centers like the Twin Cities, likely wont translate to rural areas in the far outer regions of the state. Vermont is a tiny state in comparison to the distance food must travel around Minnesota.
Finding better ways to measure locavore habits is one way to better capture local food around the state, but innovation and commitments among stakeholders in the marketplace will also be key. We need better mechanisms to connect local producers with Minnesota buyers–beyond farmers’ markets and the CSA model. It’s working for now, but is not enough to push Minnesota into the top 3 locavore states in the nation. Better conversations. Better tools. Better commitments to eating local. We’re on our way Minnesota, now let’s show the rest of the country how locavore is really done.
May 11th, 2012 § § permalink
I have a song from preschool stuck in my head today:
“Today is someone’s birthday, this I know.
Today is someone’s birthday, we like her so.
Today is someone’s birthday, who could it be?
Today is Amy’s birthday-ee”
Yup. Today I turn the big whopping 25. That’s about as much as I want to talk about it too. Last year when I wrote my birthday post “24 Things to Happen in my 24th year”, I had the very same feelings about getting older as I do this year. You just have to add 1 to 24 and subtract another year from the time I have left to cram everything in. From my post last year:
Today I’m celebrating my 24th birthday. As far as birthdays go, this has been the toughest for me to face. So many of my friends and family have said ‘Oh, 24 is no big deal… You’re young yet!… Wait until you turn 30, then you’ll have something to worry about…’ Yet 24 still seems unfair to me. I’m old enough to be a bone fide adult with a career and a house payment, but so much of life (having a family, establishing a community, reaching goals) is unchartered territory. I also thought I’d have much more accomplished at 24; there’s still so much good work left to do! It’s a bit overwhelming to be old enough to go at it alone, but be young enough to not know the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic 24th year. Full of fresh and exciting challenges including some freelancing and some new non-profit work I’m anxious to continue with. Full of good food and good meals with friends. Full of a blog that continues to exceed all of my wild and crazy expectations. I even made a dent on my list from last year, especially finding more time to spend eating and growing the local food I love most. But as always, time passes way faster than I’d like. I still feel the pressure that there’s much left for me to accomplish and even less room for error.
So this year, I’m creating a different kind of birthday list. I’ve still written my 25 aspirations for this year; a tradition is a tradition. But instead of plastering them up to regularly remind me, I’ve tucked them away until Birthday #26. Less focus on what I have or haven’t finished yet, and more focus on the moment. Maybe this time next year I will have finished some or all. Maybe not. It’s hard to say. What I do know is my 25th year needs to be focused less on accomplishments and more on being comfortable in my own skin.
I cringe when people say “life is about the small things.” It’s completely revolting for a Type-A-Anal, Overly-Ambitious, Anxiety-Prone, Irrationally Perfectionist person like me. Not one bone in my body likes to relax and just “live in the moment.” I’m so focused on analyzing/reflecting/unpacking the previous moment, efficiently multi-tasking in the current one, and strategically planning for best outcomes in the future, there’s no time for relaxing. That is until I turned 25.
This year–in every practical sense–my birthday list looks like this:
1. Let it be.
2-25. Repeat #1.
We’ll see how it goes. I’m guessing there will be a some good stories worth sharing along the way. Many thanks to all of you for being a part of Year 24 and for staying with me through 25.