Local Made Easy
I think I can honestly say that I am hooked on local foods. I have noticed that in the past month since our going local challenge I consistently and effortlessly continue to buy local foods. One reason I say effortlessly is because the places I choose to shop make it easy for me. While Rhaya and I have mentioned some of the places we find our local foods as we go along, here are a few ideas on how to start to finding your own local foods:
Farmer’s Markets – Obviously the Farmer’s Market is a great place to get all kinds of local foods from veggies and fruits to cheeses, meats, wines and sometimes even specialty items like soaps and pottery. While some are just winding down for the year, many move the market indoors for their customers to enjoy year-round. Find one near you at Local Harvest.
Food Co-op: From helpful signs like the cute chalkboard above to the individual handmade signs, the local Co-op makes it easy for me and I have come to rely on their extensive labeling of products to guide me through my local foods shopping experience. Co-ops are owned and operated by its members who collectively decide upon their principals which guide their decision making process. Typically, food co-ops offer high quality, affordable, products at the best possible price minus the sales atmosphere. Most co-ops do not require you to become a member to shop in their stores, but if you find yourself shopping their regularly, the shares are usually affordable and it may be worth it to have a voice in the operation and get a discount (sometimes up to 26% if you are willing to work a few hours). Find one near you here or here.
CSAs: CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. While its likely too late to sign up this time of year in most places, it is something to think about for next. Think of it as your very own farmer’s market delivered to your door. Early in the spring, you can sign up with a participating farm to purchase a share of their crop, then every week a you can pick up your own fresh box of in-season produce at a central location in your area. Check out Rhaya’s post about a Farm Fresh Delivery in the Indianapolis area. Find one near you here.
In addition to the above, you can always practice a few simple things no matter where you shop: 1. Read labels, as in go for the bag of apples that were grown in your own state rather than across the country; 2. Speak up, ask questions about where the food is coming from and ask stores to carry more local foods; 3. Eat in season; and 4. Support restaurants that support local foods. For more ideas, check out Sustainable Table for information on sustainable shopping, where you can find a directory of local food sources like many of the places mentioned here and even restaurants too.
Cottage Cheese Pancakes
When I first saw this recipe in the Traders Point Creamery E-newsletter, I was too intrigued by it to not give it a try. So last weekend, we picked up some cottage cheese from Traders Point Creamery and made these pancakes using the following recipe. It serves two generously.
Cottage Cheese Pancakes
3 free-range eggs, separated
1 cup small-curd cottage cheese (one container from TPC)
1/3 cup flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
Whip the egg yolks, cottage cheese, flour, sugar, salt and a sprinkle of cinnamon together in one bowl.
In a separate bowl whip the egg whites. (The original recipe says to do this “until they are stiff but not dry.”) Gently mix the egg whites (or “fold”) into the cottage cheese mixture.
Treat the batter as you would traditional pancakes, making them on the stove top until they are golden brown on each side.
We topped ours with organic strawberries and local honey. (Powdered sugar would be very good as well.) I was expecting it to have a “cheesy” flavor, but it tasted more like a dessert! A perfect pancake alternative (full of protein and calcium) for when you are in the mood for something on the sweet side — pick your favorite fruit or preserve for the topping and enjoy!
While I have become more adventurous about trying things in the kitchen, I still think that some things are best left to the experts. Unlike Liz, my mushroom-making skills are fairly limited, so I was delighted when I saw that Homestead Growers (regulars at Farmers Markets around the city and a great place to get local mushrooms) made and sold “LocalFolks Foods” Mushroom Patties — made with three types of their local mushrooms, bread crumbs, herbs and spices.
Served on organic ciabatta bread, I topped mine with fresh mozzerella, while my husband chose to add the Garden Herb Fromage from Traders Point Creamery to his “burger”. We couldn’t decide which one was better… they were both equally delicious!
So even if you aren’t a master chef, don’t shy away from the produce stands at your farmers market. You never know what ready-to-serve surprises they may have already whipped up for you!
Chicken & Eggplant Bake
Last night I experimented with a new recipe for our weekly going local meal. I think it originally came from a South Beach Diet book, so for those of you watching your carbs, here is an easy low-carb and local meal that is perfect for this time of year.
Chicken & Eggplant Bake
1 medium eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken, cooked, and chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 + 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- Pre-heat broiler.
- Slice the eggplant into 12 rounds and place in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet, rub with olive oil, broil for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat of the oven to 375 after removing the eggplant. (In retrospect in make work out better when putting it together in the dish later if you cut the eggplant lengthwise to resemble thicker lasagna shape pieces.)
- Remove eggplant from oven and flip each round over. Again, rub with olive oil, then top with Parmesan cheese. Stick it back under the broiler for 4 minutes.
- Throw the cooked, chopped chicken into a large pan with garlic, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, pepper, Italian seasoning and salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Oil an 8×8 baking dish. Place a layer of eggplant rounds on the bottom. Cover this layer with the chicken mix and then cover with another layer of eggplant. Top with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until heated through.
- It’s a little difficult to serve into dishes, but it makes about 4-6 servings.
Pasta Stuffed Peppers
Here at Green-Lemonade, we seem to like stuffing things. Liz has made stuffed peppers and mushrooms, but after my last stuffing attempt, I was a little nervous about trying it again. However, I found a great locally-adaptable recipe while paging through my Domino Magazine, and decided to give it another go.
Pasta Stuffed Peppers
Start by hollowing out two large red peppers. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Choose a thin pasta (I used some local pasta made by Ruth) and boil the noodles for 3/4 of the recommended time. Drain and transfer to a skillet where you will add olive oil, salt and pepper. I also added basil and the recommended pine nuts, which admittedly, were not local.
Scoop the pasta into the peppers, and bake for ten minutes. Once you have removed them, add a little local cheese (we used fromage), and serve immediately.
To see the original recipe (which include olives and raisins), it is available online on the Domino Magazine web site.
October – Fair Trade Month
While we have already talked a little bit about organic foods and a lot about local foods, it is important to mention another type of food to be on the look-out for: Fair Trade Certified. Think coffee, tea, cocoa, fresh fruits like bananas and mangoes, rice, sugar, and vanilla.
In short, fair trade products secure a fair wage for farmers, fair labor conditions, environmental sustainability and quality products. Look for the Fair Trade Certified label at the grocery which serves as a guarantee by TransFair USA that the product has been purchased from producers according to International Fair Trade criteria.
So, in honor of Fair Trade Month, try a few of my favorite fair trade products like the cocoa and dark chocolate from Equal Exchange. Or, you can find information about locating other Fair Trade Certified products here, but it is really as easy as looking for the label, pictured above, at the grocery or even asking for it when you order your morning cup of Joe.
Once you have finished switching your light bulbs, why not consider powering those light bulbs with some “green” power (that comes from environmentally-friendly renewable resources such as the wind, sun and water)? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “more than 50% of retail customers in the United States now have an option of purchasing a green power product directly from their electricity supplier.”
Personally speaking, we are enrolled in the Green Power Option from Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL). We are signed up at the 100% level and so far, it has yet to cost us more than $2.00 on our monthly bill.
Interested in powering your home or business with some green electricity? See if it’s available in your state and contact your provider with any questions you may have.
Sweet Potato & Zucchini Frittata
My husband declared this morning after tasting this that it is the “best egg thing” that I have made, and I make a lot of “egg things.” Anyway, I found this recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, a cookbook created by the masterminds at Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY which I can’t wait to try next time we head home on the thruway. I adapted the recipe slightly to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand, for example changing the 8 oz cream cheese called for in the recipe to 8 oz of cottage cheese and reducing the milk to 1 cup instead of 2 (only because I found it Friday night and was anxious to make it Saturday morning and didn’t want to have go to the store first!).
Sweet Potato & Zucchini Frittata
1 peeled sweet potato sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 thinly sliced onion
1 large zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/2 cup cottage cheese at room temperature (or 8 oz. cream cheese)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar
Preheat oven to 400 and oil a 8 x 8 baking dish.
In a large bowl mix together sweet potatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 + 1/2 tbsp of oil until evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on an un-oiled baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 + 1/2 tbsp. of oil in a large skillet and saute the onions with the rest of the garlic and salt until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and marjoram and saute until the zucchini rounds are soft and golden brown , about 10 minutes. When the sweet potatoes are tender and brown, remove them from the oven and set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350.
In a blender, puree the eggs, cottage cheese, pepper and milk to make a smooth custard. Layer the roasted sweet potatoes in the baking dish and spread the sauteed zucchini on top. Evenly sprinkle on the cheese reserving a little, then pour the custard over and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake 40-45 minutes, until browned and firm. Serve hot.
Blog Action Day + A Bright Idea For Your Home
One easy way to help cut back on your home’s energy usage is to buy light bulbs that are more energy-efficient. According to the EPA, the average household spends 10-15% of its annual electricity bill on lighting. If you switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), you will not only save on your electric bill, but you will be helping the environment. The EPA estimates that if just one room in every U.S. home were switched to efficient lighting (CFLs), we’d reduce CO2 emissions by over one trillion pounds.
The Green Guide (from National Geographic) gives the low-down on how these light bulbs save you money in the long run, and also has a list of where you can get some CF bulbs of your own. Also, make sure to check out the Environmental Defense web site to learn How to Pick a Better Bulb, and next time you are at your favorite home improvement store, pick up something that will not only help lower your electric bill, but will also help lessen your impact on the environment.