May 3rd, 2013 § § permalink
Yesterday afternoon, 12 baby chicks arrived in a cardboard box in our kitchen. They’re en route from Eggplant Urban Farm Supply in St. Paul to my parents’ chicken coop in Wisconsin. With a two night stop over at our place. We’re baby chick sitters.
Today I have the day off to keep an eye on water and the heat lamp. I’m also supposed to be working on laundry, homework and cleaning the house for a Cinco de Mayo get together tonight. None of that is happening with the tiny ‘chirp-chirps’ coming from that box. Every time I turn around I’ve wandered back over to see what they’re up to.
How could you resist this?
See what I mean?
Baby chicks are contagiously cute.
And a reminder that YES. Spring is coming. No matter how much snow falls in the month of May.
I’m planning a great weekend hanging out with these girls. Hope you enjoy yours as well!
April 4th, 2013 § § permalink
Have you enjoyed the first signs of spring as much as I have? There’s nothing like a few 50° days in a row to get you thinking about planting. With frost still in the ground and snow covering much of Minnesota, it’s going to take some extra patience not to bust out the trowels and rakes. However, there is one tool we all can use this time of year to help jumpstart our gardening – a tablet or smartphone. In the past few years, several useful (and free) gardening apps emerged on both the iPad and Android app markets. Below I’ve jotted down a few that I think you should check out this spring as your waiting for planting season to begin.
Worried about taking your iPad out to play in the dirt? Put it in a zip-top plastic food bag. It will still be touchscreen sensitive without risking any encounters with dirt, water, or nasty scratches.
GardenTime Planner by Burpee - If you’re brand new to gardening this year or looking for planting times in your zip code, this app is a great resource. Plants are limited to the Burpee brand, so if you’re looking for heirlooms or unique varietals this might not be the choice for you.
Fine Gardening’s Tomato Match - Have a thing for tomatoes? Looking for the best variety for canning or slicing on sandwiches? Tomato Match allows you to search common and unique tomato varieties by use, color, planting schedule. When you find one you like, it links to sites where you can purchase seeds and plants.
Permaculture - Permaculture continues to be one of the fastest growing gardening trends in the United States. This app has articles, links to permaculture blogs, and videos to give the novice and experienced gardener a good overview of permaculture. It’s not the most dressed up, but for a free app the available content is well worth it.
Garden Minder by Gardener’s Supply - I’ve used the Gardener’s Supply online application for planning my garden sketches for the past 3 seasons. This year, I’ll be transferring to the iPad for my planning, including creating my own sketches for square-foot gardening and notifications when plants should be started, maintained and harvested according to zone. Although there’s no way to retro-actively add data, there’s a great section for journaling and adding photos to track your progress season to season.
MyGarden.org - Have you ever wanted a Facebook-like experience for gardeners? Mygarden.org is a free website that combines social networking with gardening. Their mobile application allows you to search more than 6000 plants and connect with more than 5000 other green thumbs. My favorite feature is the ability to upload photos of unknown plants to the site for other gardeners to help identify. The app is free but it does require signing up for an account on mygarden.org.
These apps are all free on the Apple and Android app market. If you’re interested in giving up some of your other “green stuff” for paid gardening apps, the New York Times has a good review of apps priced from $0.99 to 9.99. No gardener should live without a good weather app either. Check out the NYT reviews for the best data-based weather apps to keep your plants in the best condition all summer long.
March 25th, 2013 § § permalink
Two years ago today, this little blog began. In that time, I’ve met great people, shared some ridiculously good meals and done my part to spread the word about local food. I’m delighted (and honored) that you’ve stopped by and owe you all a great big thanks! Thanks for sharing in the adventure and thanks for supporting your local growers. I look forward to much more in the months and years ahead.
Thanks also to those that entered in the (because who doesn’t LOVE free stuff!) giveaway last week. Congrats to Becca Griffith for her randomly selected winning comment:
A t-shirt from the Locally Grown Clothing Company will be arriving in her mailbox shortly!
March 16th, 2013 § § permalink
When I talk to people about food blogging, they always assume the cooking is the hardest part. How do you come up with new stuff to make all the time? How do you take a bag full of stuff from the farmers’ market a make it look like that?
For me, time in the kitchen has always been the easy part. And the writing comes better some days than others, but that’s more related to how many episodes of New Girl are available on Hulu than difficulty. No – it’s not the recipes and it’s not the words. It’s the photos that drag me down in the blogosphere.
I can’t tell you how many amazingly tasty meals I’ve made and photographed, only to wake up the next morning and realize every single image is slightly out of focus. Or how many times I’ve gone out for a farm-to-table dinner, snuck in my camera for a few discrete shots only to find they are blurry and underexposed when I get home. I bet I’ve had a few hundred blog fails since this site began.
I’m pretty hard on myself when I’m trying to come up with photos for posts. I like to think of Photoshop as a mini-wedding dress experience every time I plug my SD card into the computer. Images have to “sing” to me in that “this-is-totally-the-one” way every girl feels when the dress is absolutely perfect. It bugs me if the composition’s not great, if the lighting’s less than perfect. Sometimes everything will look put together, but the photo just doesn’t “feel” right.
It’s sad to say, but in our “like it – tweet it – share it” world, words mean a lot less than the images around it. What could be one of my favorite meals of the year is likely to get buried somewhere in the halls of the internet if I don’t have the right photos. Plus, when it comes to local food, there’s not always much to make into a flashy – wowza – photo. Seriously. There’s only so many ways you can pose a head of cabbage and an onion before you get that “been there – seen that” feeling.
Today’s post is a PERFECT example of my good post, bad photos problem. At the same time I planned a spot on how to make an easy, no-hassle corned beef for St. Paddy’s Day–I’ve been dreading it too. What was a tender, perfectly seasoned and slow-roasted brisket came out as a nasty, sloppy looking hunk of pink roast beast in the pictures. I’ll be honest, a piece of local grass-fed corned beef from Mississippi Market set us back a few bucks. Then to have it not appear appetizing enough to share with all of you was like rubbing all that salty corned beef, briny goodness in deep wounds.
I did my best to arrange it, slice it, plate it, prod it. I promise. As I snapped away I was certain all my shots looked like this:
Image by Lara Ferroni at KitchenDaily.com
when in fact, everything I took looks more like this:
It’s hard enough to convince people to turn away from a the supermarket and choose a local food lifestyle. A pile of once-green now turned slimy gray-yellow cabbage certainly is not helping. Where’s that extra $600 and 3 months of time to for pro-photography classes when I need it?
For now, you’ll just have to trust me. Corned beef made in the crock pot with cabbage and served with a side of boiled potatoes and carrots is truly the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The prep and cooking is hassle-free. The smell is heavenly. The flavor is immense. None of which I effectively communicated in these pictures. Just take my word for it (not my images) and add this to your celebration!
Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Bridal Edition Cookbook
3-4 pounds of corned beef brisket – trimmed
1 small head of cabbage
1. Place brisket and seasoning packet into a 4-6 quart crock pot. (You can also use a Dutch oven for this, but cook times will vary). Pour enough cold water in the pot to cover the brisket by 1-2″.
2. Cut the onion and cabbage into halves and then each half into large wedges. Stack the onion and cabbage around the brisket until the beef is completely covered.
3. Cook on low 7-8 hours, or until beef reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Remove from crock pot and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve cabbage and onions with beef.
March 7th, 2013 § § permalink
Minnesota may be covered in 10+ inches of fresh new snow, but local farmers around the state are busy with spring preparations. Many of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farms already have seedlings under grow lights and their reservation books waiting for sign-ups. March and April are common months for CSA registration, with many farms filling slots completely by May. If this is your first season signing up or if you’re searching for a new farmer, I’ve put together some questions and a worksheet to help guide your choice.
I’ve had good–and not so good–experiences with CSA’s. Our first year was a big bust because our expectations didn’t match what our share ended up being. We purchased a ‘salad share’ expecting eggplants and pumpkins and instead got a summer of gourmet heirloom greens. Not a bad thing, just not what we anticipated. It was a lesson in how a little research goes a long way. These questions are not comprehensive, but should help you in researching the best fit for your summer CSA!
First things first: Are you sure a CSA is right for you?
CSA’s are one of the single best ways to have regular interaction with your local farmer. Keyword of caution in that statement: regular. A new delivery shows up every week all summer whether or not you’re ready for them. Having a plan and knowing your eating habits is important when choosing a CSA. If summer already means time in the garden, at the farmers’ market or in the kitchen, you’re probably ready for the regular weekly planning it takes to use up a CSA share. But for some of us who keep busy schedules June through August, CSA shares can cause more stress than enjoyment. If you’ve got 13 weddings this summer or are planning that month-long backpacking trip, this may not be the most cost-effective summer for a CSA membership.
Speaking of cost, how much should you pay for a CSA share?
The cost structure for each CSA runs on basically the same principle. Each shareholder pays for a portion of the farm’s expenses and in return receives a regular produce delivery. That being said, there’s a ton of variability in the cost of shares. I’ve seen shares for Twin Cities delivery sites from $150 to $900 per share. The best way to calculate your costs is to divide the price of the share by the number of weeks of delivery (e.g. $300 per share X 20 weeks of delivery = $15 per week). Some CSA’s provide an estimate of the amount of produce delivered which helps calculate the cost even more closely. If you consider your typical summertime grocery bill and it totals about the same, the CSA is probably a good fit for your budget. Remember you’re also directly supporting a farmer. For some of us we’re willing to pay extra to know we’re doing our part to keep it local.
Here’s a CSA research worksheet I’ve created to help you evaluate your options this year:
Download the .pdf CSA Buying Guide Worksheet