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Eating Like a Local at The Local

Both Adam and I work for small businesses, so we don’t have traditional 401K’s, matching or life insurance programs that larger corporations offer. We know these things are important so we have made a connection with an investment company out of Indianapolis and have started making plans for retirement.

We meet with the investor reps about once every six months in Indianapolis. These meetings are typically over two hours long and full of, what seems like, really big decisions.

By the end, we are both pretty brain fried and really ready for an adult beverage.

After our last meeting in early May we decided to have dinner at The Local Eatery and Pub on the north side in Westfield.

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We first went to The Local a couple months ago with Adam’s sisters and their friends and spouses. I was coming from a catering event so I was running late. That night the rest of the group waited for me to order entrees but did order a few of the many appetizers and drinks.

I was rushed and a bit frazzled as I arrived because I felt bad that everyone was waiting for me, but I was able to see The Local’s laid back, rustic and simple vibe as soon as I got the table.

Beers, sodas, and some cocktails were served in mason jars. And, the cheese board, complete with seasonal fruit, brie, prosciutto and crostini, was served on a large butcher block.

That night, Adam ordered the chicken on a wire, which was free range local chicken with a fried egg. Adam has become a huge fan of any thing topped with a fried egg. We have done them on burgers, salads and I would love to try it on pizza.

I had the pulled turkey sandwich. It was slightly spicy thanks to the chimichurri sauce, but well balanced with melted smoked Gouda cheese.

I loved the feel of the place and we all had a great time.

The fun crew!  And then a silly chick in the bottom corner...

The fun crew! And then a silly chick in the bottom corner…

This most recent visit, when it was just the two of us, I had more time to take it all in.

That is, after I ordered a glass of chardonnay… my mind was still thinking numbers, the dollars we need to save if we were to live until 95 and about what would happen if one of us were to become disabled, handicapped or worse.

… Chardonnay clears those things from the mind and makes it everything better.

I was able to notice and appreciate the large chalkboard displaying the local farms featured on the constantly changing specialties section of the menu.

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I was also able to learn more about the story of The Local. The restaurant opened in 2011 and is located near many of the popular suburbs of Indianapolis like Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville. The Local’s goal is to support and feature local farmers and artisans in order to build a strong local economy. They also love to be a part of the Farm to Table genre because it helps to reduce their environmental footprint.

Their website lists their farm and artisan partnerships and the menu explains their relationships and passion for Farm to Table.

In addition to my wine and Adam’s local Sunking beer, we ordered the baked goat cheese.

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(If you are new here… Hi! Welcome and thanks for reading! And, just so you know, I like cheese… a lot.)

It was great. The cheese was baked with roasted garlic cloves and olive oil and served with toasted bread to put the slightly melty cheese spread on.

Adam ordered the same sandwich. He loves it. It looked great and is always on The Local’s menu. He also loves their homemade buns.

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I ordered the seasonal specialty which was a white fish with beans, oyster mushrooms and a ramps sauce. I was sold on the entrée thanks to the ramps.

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My parents are part of a tiny CSA near their home in Michigan. I say “tiny CSA” because it’s just one farmer, but my mom has always loved natural food and local farmers. It’s only natural that she has developed connections with this grower. At Easter, Adam and I were up at my parent’s home on the coast of the lake and she had received her first CSA from him of the season.

Ramps were in this first CSA. I had never seen or tasted ramps, but they are really interesting.

Ramps are sort of a leek, onion, and garlic combo and can be found in the spring. They are technically a wild onion but they look similar to a green onion and have a garlic odor. In cooking, they are pretty versatile. They can be cooked in any recipe that calls for green onions or leeks. My mom even just tore some up and put it in a spring green salad at Easter.

The dish was wonderful so I asked the waitress where the ramps were from. She didn’t know, but said she would find out. However, the girl didn’t come back to our table with any answers.

And, that’s my only minor complaint about this very unique and influential restaurant. They list which farms they partner with, but don’t say what is local and what comes from one particular farm or another. If it was my place, I would make sure the staff was prepared for questions and knew about the food they were serving. Or, at least had points of reference in the back of the house if a question was asked so they could easily find the answer.

But, everything else was excellent on both our visits. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is a perfect combination of rustic and approachable for the everyday. The food was great.

The Local is a great place in Indy that is making a great effort to support the community and local farmers. I am proud and eager to support a restaurant that makes this kind of effort.

Be sure to do the same if you are in the area!

The Local Eatery and Pub
14655 N. Gray Road
Westfield, IN 46062

http://localeateryandpub.com/

When It Rains It Pours

Somewhere there is some Garden God laughing.

“Haha, Claire,” he is saying with an evil chuckle, “Start writing about your garden… and I will go and really mess it all up.”

This is currently what I am dealing with.

It all began about two weeks ago…

Adam and I knew we were being ambitious.

We had big plans for the garden, but we also had the rest of the yard to think about. We moved into our newly built house in early 2013. Landscaping is the goal for this summer.

And, for the record, landscaping is a lot of work.

Scratch that.

Just getting grass planted and growing is a lot of work.

We spent much of Mother’s Day weekend spraying the bazillion weeds that had crept up and then tilling the yard up.

The house sits on five acres. This was a big undertaking.

Adam sat on a tiller for a total of sixteen hours. (And got an amazing farmers tan in the process.) During this we also tilled up the entire garden including the new garden beds. We have gone from last years eight to twenty four.

Twenty. Four.

While Adam was on the tiller, I went out to last years garden beds to weed and remove all the straw we laid last fall to cover the garlic and strawberry plants.

The strawberries looked pretty good. They were full of weeds, but were flowering and look like we will have a good amount of berries in the next few weeks.

However, of the one hundred garlic cloves we planted last fall we have about ten that made it through the brutally cold winter.

I am bummed.

We use garlic so often. I was looking forward to having bulbs straight from our backyard.

The silver lining is that I don’t have to thin the bulbs out.

So, there is that.

And, then…

Last week, I set the seedlings outside on an afternoon that was sunny and warm to help harden them off. Hardening off seedlings helps them to build a resistance and strength against small rainstorms and wind.

I wasn’t prepared for the element that would wreck havoc my tomato and pepper plants on that nice afternoon.

My dear darling chickens decided that the small seedlings looked like a good snack while I worked in my office just inside.

… We nearly had Free Range Indiana Hen for dinner that night.

I was not pleased.

I transferred the partically chewed tomatoes to new flats with new soil and, now, ten days later they are looking a bit better.

I just don’t know how many times I am going to have to save these tomatoes.

And, then… last week it rained.

It rained a lot.

So the plants didn’t see sunlight for a while and the ground was soaked.

We couldn’t work compost into the dirt. We couldn’t get the plants out of the flats and into the ground. We couldn’t even walk through the backyard to the garden without sinking.

The ground is still muddy.

And the plants are still in the flats.

The goal is to get the plants into the ground today after work.

I keep telling myself, “They aren’t dead until they are dead!”

But, they look pathetic.

I can’t help be think they are longing for leg room.

And, in the back of my mind I am wondering if they really are too far gone.

I may be chalking last years sucessful garden to beginners luck and purchasing plants to get things going.

I guess that’s how things go sometimes.

May Sarton

May Sarton

Hope your gardens are looking much better than mine!

“Farmland” on the Big Screen

A couple weeks ago, my good friend Katie treated Adam and I to the opening night showing of Farmland. Katie grew up on a farm and, quite honestly, she was one of my first tastes to the amazing community that farmers hold each other in.

The movie was at a chic theater in Indianapolis (… A theater where you could order a glass of wine for the movie. If more theaters did this I might consider going to the movies more often than the time that has passed between now… and when the last Harry Potter movie came out.)

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And as the credits started rolling, Adam turned to me with the biggest smile on his face.

He was still beaming as we walked out of the theater and asking, “So, what did you think?” over and over.

Honestly, I thought it was very good, but that seemed so generic to say at that moment.

I needed more time to process it all.

There was so much information. Emotion. Stories. Passion.

Lots and lots of thoughts were running through my head.

For me, it wasn’t like watching your childhood heroes like it was for Adam.

From my stand point, it was like watching a captivating, information packed segment on Dateline or the Today show. Except it was eighty minutes long.

I reversed and asked him what he thought.

“I think everyone needs to see it” he responded without hesitation.

I couldn’t help but agree. The thought had crossed my mind.

In this day and age where everyone is so quick to judge farmers based on what they see in paranoid food blogs and Food, Inc., Farmland is a strong rebuttal. (I am not sure if it was designed that way, but I also couldn’t help but find it ironic that Farmland’s final shots were set to an upbeat version of “This Land is Your Land.” Food, Inc. ended with a somber “This Land is Your Land.”)

I’ll admit. Food, Inc. got to even me. As I started this blog, I knew I had to watch it.

So, I picked it up at the library last spring and after viewing it I decided that if I am in control of the meat I eat, I wanted to know where it came from.

At home this wasn’t hard. I bought meat at the farmers market or from people we know. But, out and about? That was hard.

So, my post Food, Inc. resolution lasted about three weeks.

Farmland addresses those horrible images that Food, Inc. shares that got me to reconsider my burgers and steaks.

The images of a cow being rolled over by a fork lift. Or the guy kicking a pig with all his might.

All the farmers featured in the video agreed that those images make them mad. Sick. Angry.

One mentioned on how their animals are their livelihood. They can’t make a profit with a poor product. In turn, they love the animals they tend to.

Another said, “All kinds of industry have their bad apples and they ruin it for everyone”

It’s true.

Bad press and bad stereotypes are found in any and every industry.

Teachers? Lazy. Over paid baby sitters. And, how about the ones sleeping with their students?

Nurses? Drugging their elderly or mentally disabled patients so that they don’t have to deal with them.

Sales people? They are greasy, aggressive and will do anything just to make a buck.

Doctors? Often running drug rings out of their practice and buddying up to the pharma reps just for the all-inclusive vacation.

Politicians? Do I really even need to go there?

The thing is, food is personal.

Food is the one thing that everyone uses everyday. (Multiple times a day!)

And thanks to the propaganda images and news articles from a few “bad apples” in the agriculture industry, people are quick to judge farmers.

Now more than ever, people feel like they need a connection to their food. They feel that they deserve to know how the food was produced. They want to see the face behind their meal.

So… go get it.

Make connections with local growers. Ask questions of the people who actually do the work.

Take all internet boards and propaganda with a grain of salt, and take it upon yourself to get the whole story before forming opinions or assuming everything you hear is a fact.

In fact, watch Farmland.

I have asked so many questions and read so many books and articles over the last two to three years about our food system, to the point that I think I could hold pretty good ground in intelligent conversations about farming, local food, organics, scare tactics, etc. But, I still learned so much from Farmland.

For example: No added hormone’s in chicken.

Sounds good, right? Most consumers would rather buy the chicken labeled no hormones added versus the one that didn’t have this label.

Guess what?

Some marketer thought it sounded good too.

No farmer is adding hormones to chickens. One company just made it big and bold on their label so everyone thought that this chicken was better for them than the other.

I am pretty sure I have even boasted in this blog about how our backyard chickens don’t have any added hormones. Which, yes, is true. But, in that regard, it puts them on the same level as any other chicken out there.

The information provided in Farmland is eye opening and presented at a level that is simple to understand. And, that may be because the six farmers are showcased in the documentary are in their 20’s and 30’s. It felt like I was watching and learning from people who could easily be Adam and my friends.

Each of these farmers come from very different kinds of farming, such as big organics in California, ranching in Texas, commodity crops in the Midwest, and organic CSA’s in New England. But, they did a great job speaking about the realities that the entire industry shares like the weather, the current age demographic in agriculture, the stereotypes they face each day, the up and coming technology propelling the industry to be able to serve the demand, and their unfaltering passion to continue to grow our nation’s food.

If you grew up around farming and love agriculture, go see Farmland.

If you have never met a farmer and want to know more about agriculture, go see Farmland.

If you swear by organic food, go see Farmland.

If you don’t think GMO’s are a big deal, go see Farmland.

If you saw Food, Inc., go see Farmland.

If you buy food, go see Farmland.

Everyone should see it.

Use it as a tool to help you form your own opinions, but keep learning.

The film is in select theaters across the nation and will be available for digital download late this summer.

Lessons From Mom’s Kitchen

Happy Mother’s Day to the Mom’s out there! I have quite a few friends who are celebrating their first Mother’s Day, which, I can only image is super special.

When I watch these girlfriends with their new babies, I can’t help but wonder what I will be like as a Mom.

Will I do the right thing?

Will I lead my children to be independent adults?

Will I maintain who I am in motherhood?

Will I keep working?

Will I use cloth diapers?

Will I ditch the Windex and switch completely to all natural cleaning supplies?

And, what’s the deal with vaccinating?

Or, how about gluten? Will I give them gluten?

Or breast milk long enough?

… And, what is long enough without being weird?

Oye.

Being a mom is tough. And, confusing.

And, I am not a Mom yet! Heck. Being a mom is just barely a blip on my five year plan radar.

Growing up, I was surrounded by great mom’s who have set the bar high for motherhood without even knowing it. My aunts, friend’s moms and my own mother were (and still are) all wonderful mothers and great role models. And, they made it look easy.

I can hear my own mother laughing.

She is probably thinking something along the lines of, “It wasn’t easy… but, it’s only as hard as you make it…” Referring to the (exhaustive) list on concerns I rattled off earlier.

It’s those little words of wisdom that make moms great and my mom was full of them.

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She wasn’t a huge fan of a lecture. In fact, I think half the time I took advice from her, she didn’t mean for it come off that way. It was just something she would say in passing through her nurturing, keeping it real, you will know when you figure it out style of mothering.

I have carried much of my mom’s advice into my adult years and it has shaped me to become the woman I am today. She would say something little, be it about relationships, friendships, failures or life, that would just stick with you.

What is interesting is that many of her bits of wisdom are related to the kitchen. She was and still is a great cook. She is actually more like an artist than a cook. The kitchen is her studio. Her creativity is unlimited. She can really make a meal come to life.

But, what is really interesting is that these “words of wisdom” weren’t actually words. These few great life lessons are things I have interoperated from her actions in the kitchen.

And, the saying is true: Actions do speak louder than words.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Yes, my mom is very good at keeping it real.

But, that doesn’t mean she just lets it all hang out. She just knows her limits.

When entertaining my mom has an arsenal of favorite crowd pleasing dishes. These are menu items that she knows she could have mostly prepared earlier in the day and that, I think by now, she has memorized.

She knows a dinner party was not the time to try something new. However, if she does want to give something new a whirl, she will do a test run before the party.

This means she could spend time with her guests. She has always wanted people to feel comfortable in her home. No one feels comfortable when the hostess is stressed and working hard (Or worse, struggling) to get dinner on the table.

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Try New Things

Sure. There are times to stick with what you are good at and there are other times that you should stretch yourself.

My mom had that arsenal of great dishes, but she also loved to bust out a cook book and try something totally new and different. She taught us that if you can read a recipe, you can cook just about anything. I would say that 85% of my meals growing up were made from scratch.

But, she didn’t stop with just new recipes.

She was a maven of the natural food stores before they hit the main steam. I remember my sister was once on a tropical, rain forest, monkey-loving kick. (Don’t be embarrassed, Kerry. We all were seven once…) So, my mom purchased coconuts so we could see what they looked like on the inside and try the milk.

My mom made an effort and pushed herself and us. She saw value in broadening our palates.

Today, my siblings and I are far from picky eaters. We will try any kind of food, because we know from growing up that it might just become one of our favorites.

Think Outside of the Box

Literally.

Growing up we rarely ate processed food. I remember longing for my mom to buy Dunk-A-Roo’s and lunchables so I could be like everyone else at the lunch table.

I also remember hearing, on multiple occasions, my friends say “Your house has weird food” as they looked into the pantry trying to find a snack.

And, by typical standards, yeah. We did.

Instead, of the Pringles or Cheetos they were looking for, we had homemade Chex Mix. Or, blue corn chips with salsa she had canned. Or, hummus that she made.

… talk about freaking your friends out. “Umm… why are these chips dark?”

I know that her meaning behind this might have been for us to avoid added sugars, unneeded calories or artificial ingredients but it really taught me to not settle for the easy route. I enjoy using my skills, knowledge and creativity to the extreme.

Find Balance

My mom knew that nutrition was important. That is why she made meals from scratch and put an emphasis on fruits and vegetables versus chips no matter how much we complained.

But, she also knew that life is all about balance and you have got to live.

On occasion she would make phenomenal desserts or meals, like risotto, that were more caloric, but were worth experiencing and often were served at times that were worth celebrating.

I remember her once saying, “You can eat a cookie. Just don’t eat ten.”

As an adult, I love this lesson and because of it I have adapted an 80/20 lifestyle when it comes to food. I try to make the right choices 80% of the time.

I try to have fruit and vegetables at every meal. I do my best to make much of what we eat from scratch.

But, when there are cupcakes at a friend’s bridal shower, I am going to eat one. And, if I want to make ice cream, I make ice cream and I enjoy it. I don’t worry about it blowing “my diet.”

I savor each bite because it’s special and something that decadent deserves it.

And, so do I.

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Grow Wings, but Remember Your Roots

The summer I was thirteen I had the incredibly amazing opportunity to go to Australia and stay with a family there. Before I left, I had a sleep over with a few close friends. My mom stocked up on vegemite, essentially Australia’s Peanut Butter. It’s rough, but the Aussie’s love it. She also made Pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert that is similar to a meringue with fruit.

She could have run up to the grocery store and picked up a cake that had “Bon Voyage” scripted on it. But instead, she did the research and wanted not just me, but my friends, to experience a piece of Australia’s culture.

When I got to Australia’s customs the attendant asked me in a thick Australian accent, “Miss, do you have lots of sweets and lollie’s in your bag?”

Umm? Lollie’s?

She pulled a gallon zip lock baggie of candy from my checked baggage.

Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, and sandwich crackers with peanut butter filled the bag. As kid whose mom rarely bought this kind of stuff I wasn’t sure what to think.

But, I won’t lie… it made me pretty excited.

On the bag there was a note from my mom. “To share a piece of America with a new friend… because you can’t bring Apple Pie.”

I love broadening my horizons but I know you always have to remember where you came from.

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Around the Table Is the Best Place to Be

When Adam and I first started dating there were dates where we just talked and talked about our favorite things, what are families are like, where we grew up and so on.

While these conversations were exciting, we really didn’t have that much in common.

At least on the surface.

He liked to hunt, fish, and farm. He grew up in a small town surrounded by a corn field.

I liked shopping, shoes, and wine. I lived like a princess in a suburban bubble.

Even our parents seemed pretty different.

Adam’s Dad built a small business up from the ground and his Mom was a tough love nurse. They met in grade school and married in their late teens.

My dad was a right brained, successful marketer and my mom had stayed at home since I was born. They met at Business School and married approaching thirty.

But, then we got to the core. The values they imparted on us. That’s when the similarities started rolling in.

One major part of our childhood that both Adam and I valued was that our families ate dinner together at a table almost every night.

Both of our mother’s, who were driving kids to and from practice most week nights, made an effort to eat dinner as a family around the kitchen table.

TV’s were off.

… Phone’s and Ipad’s weren’t an issue.

It didn’t matter if it wasn’t until eight o’clock.

Or, that you had a paper due the next day.

You sat and spoke to one another. Listened about the other person’s day. Talked about current events. Learned it’s okay to have an opinion, but you need to respect someone else’s. Helped each other get through something challenging. Laughed. Said thanks.

This is something that Adam and I do everyday and know we will do when we have our own children.

And, if it’s the only lesson I am able to take from my mom and impart on my future children I will know I had done something right thanks to the huge impact it has had on me and my relationships with everyone I love.

Thank you, Nancy.

Thank you, Mom.

For teaching us both the most important lesson of all:

When you have family, friends and love with your whole heart, you have everything.

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Cinco de Mayo Rhubarb Mojitos

I am like… oh, 95% positive that I made the first purchase of the season at Carmel’s Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.

I had been in Indianapolis Friday night for dinner with friends who were running the next morning in the 500 Festival’s 5k and Mini Marathon.

Hey, girls, heyyy!

Hey, girls, heyyy!

I, however, was not.

I can power through an intense spin class like a champ but am pretty sure that I have not run more than two miles since last summer.

I blame the winter.

So, the girls all rose early to get to the race and I began the drive home. On the way, I stopped in downtown Carmel to check out their Farmer’s Market.

It was opening day of the market for 2014, but I had never been to the market period. I had always heard great things so I was eager to see what they had to offer.

I got there about forty minutes before the market opened thanks to the early race start so I grabbed a Starbucks and brainstormed a few blog ideas in my car while I waited. Ten minutes to open I decided to hop out of my car and see what was going on.

I took a lap around the market and was beyond impressed.

There was so much available, despite the cold, late spring. I even saw tomatoes. Obviously, green house tomatoes. But still… tomatoes!

By the time the mayor began her opening day speech and rang a bell to signal the commence of the market, I was standing underneath a vendor’s tent that was selling vibrant rhubarb and big, green spears of asparagus handing over some cash.

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Note: There’s no prize or celebration for the first purchase of the season. Dang!

They were the two things I was looking for and I couldn’t wait to get them home.

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable and is typically cooked in sugar to be added to desserts. Rhubarb is typically harvested in mid to late spring. The color of rhubarb is the best. It can be from deep reds to pinks with a little green.

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I had never had rhubarb until I started dating Adam. Rhubarb crisp is one of his families most loved desserts.

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I thought about making the crisp but then remembered that Cinco de Mayo was just around the corner and decided to use the rhubarb to add subtle flavor to one my favorite Mexican vacation cocktails, the mojito.

Mojitos are incredibly refreshing and are not as sweet as a margarita. And, with all the mint left over from the Derby’s Juleps it seemed perfect for Cinco de Mayo!

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Rhubarb Mojito

Rhubarb Syrup:
3 large stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups water

Place all ingredients in a medium pot, stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about five minutes or until rhubarb is tender.
Strain rhubarb collecting the liquid mixture in a bowl. Clean pot and pour liquid mixture back into pot. Boil over medium heat until liquid becomes a syrup. About fifteen minutes.
Let cool completely before using.

Rhubarb Mojito

6-7 mint leaves, torn
3 tablespoons rhubarb syrup
1 ounce white rum
Club Soda
Fresh lime juice

Add the mint, syrup and rum to tall glass. Stir to combine. Add ice and top with club soda and juice from a lime wedge. Garnish with mint and lime wedge.

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Midwestern Rasied, Southern fed.

After a semi-traumatic (see also: dramatic) experience with innards from a chicken I bought at the Farmer’s Market last summer, I was relieved when we were told that we could have everything removed from our fifty birds at the place we took them late last fall to get butchered.

Adam grew up with a great friend, Andy, who still lives just down the street. Andy is over often and when he heard we were going to have the butcher just pitch the innards, he spoke up and told us that we had to save the livers.

… Livers?

He explained that his family, who hails from eastern Tennessee, loves fried chicken livers. We had to keep them and the next time they were in town they would cook them for us.

So, we had the butcher bag up all the livers and we froze them until early last week when Andy’s grandparents and aunt came to town.

At lunch, the day of our fried chicken liver dinner, Adam’s mom asked me if I had ever had liver in tone that made me wonder what I was getting into. Truth of the matter was no. But, I convinced myself that if it’s fried, it’s probably not going to be too bad.

I am also not a picky eater and will try almost anything, but it still didn’t stop me from Googling “Fried Chicken Livers” in the afternoon just to see what to expect.

Within the first five posts there were recipes from Saveur and Food and Wine. Turns out fried chicken livers are a southern classic and even the snazziest southern inspired restaurants were serving them. The sites even listed beers and wines that pair well with the fried livers.

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That evening, Adam and I headed over to Andy’s where we found his grandmother and dad cooking up a storm. The stove top was full of cast iron where livers were frying as well as potatoes and cornbread patties.

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Andy and his grandmother both commended us on how great the livers from our birds looked and that they were a great size. They had soaked them in salt water and then milk, much like I do with duck, to help dull the game-y flavor.

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The liver’s were dredged through flour with a bit of spices and then placed in a skillet of oil and melted butter.

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Andy’s grandmother told me to try one that she had pulled out of the skillet a few minutes earlier that were sitting on a plate lined with a paper towel.

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I understood why they had soaked the livers in milk; they had a very similar taste and texture to venison or duck. Andy said the gaminess is likely because they contain so much iron.

Chicken liver is a great source of iron and zinc, but contains quite a bit of cholesterol so they are not something that you would want to eat all the time. (Don’t worry, Doc. I balanced this meal out with a glass of red wine.)

The spread that evening was great. In addition to the livers, there was homemade cole slaw, deviled eggs, fried potatoes, corn bread, and a killer peanut butter pie.

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Adam and I so appreciated the experience because it was something we would have never done ourselves. But, we will now. What I really loved was getting a taste of an authentic southern meal and seeing another family’s traditions come to life.

Yesterday, I saw liver’s at the Farmer’s Market. Give them a try! There are tons of recipes out there and when I try them at home I think I will use this recipe from Food and Wine. The author says the soy sauce will balance the gamey taste if that’s not something your into.

Love ‘Em to Death

Last week Adam and I transplanted the seedlings from their starter kits to larger flats. The seedling’s love the extra leg room and are beginning to look like plants.

Zucchini, Cucumbers and Kale... getting big!

Zucchini, Cucumbers and Kale… getting big!

While we were transplanting the seedling’s I noticed that the tomato plants didn’t look so great. They didn’t have a good green color. They looked… purple.

As I pulled the flat closer to me I realized it was kind of heavy and with further investigation I found that the plants were sitting in about a half inch of water.

Water is important for plants, but these guys were saturated.

We found that the cause was from Adam and me both watering them each day. I had been traveling for work so Adam thought I wasn’t able to get to it. We didn’t talk about it. One thing led to another… and the seedlings were over watered.

Yes. Like I just said, watering your plants is important. And necessary. But, there’s a fine line.

Over watering is actually worse than under watering. Over watering prevents a plant from obtaining nutrients and oxygen to develop their roots.

You would think that the more attention you give your plants, the better they would do.

But, that’s not the case.

You can actually love your plants to death.

Fortunately, with the tomato plants, we found it early and acted quickly. We put them into new flats with new soil. The tomatoes are looking much better and my mind is running wild with images of all the caprese salads that will grace my table come August.

Tomato plants looking better and getting adult leaves.

Tomato plants looking better and getting adult leaves.

I have fallen victim to loving a plant to complete death before. I bought a rosemary plant and thought it would be so cute to grow on my kitchen island in a large, rustic coffee mug. I didn’t know rosemary needs to be in pot that drains water well.

My coffee mug did not do the job.

BMOC, Herbs-2

The old water sat in the bottom of the mug causing the root to rot which prevented water and nutrients getting to the plant. What happened is that it looked like it was dry and I kept watering it. Soon, the plant was dead.

I now have a rosemary plant in a Terra cotta pot that I water when the soil dries out and it is doing great.

Much better!

Much better!

Here are a few other watering tips:

– Gardens typically need about an inch of rain each week. But, like a healthy diet, everything in moderation. One inch in twenty minutes isn’t great for a plant. Keep an eye on the weather and supplement as needed.
– If the weather gets particularly hot and dry, you may need to water more. And, if it’s cool it may not need as much.
– Water plants in the morning. This ensures that water dries off, instead of staying on the plant all through the night making it susceptible to fungus and bacteria. And, if you water them in the middle of the day, the water might evaporate before it’s absorbed by the plant.
– Provide water directly to plants roots versus spraying all over.
– Get a sprayer head that is designed for gardens. It will ensure the rate of the spray isn’t too strong and some are designed to make it easy to reach in-between plants.

Love your plants.

… Just not to death.

Dollars and Sense at the Farmer’s Market

Farmers Market Season is upon us!

And I love it.

I love the energy at a Farmer’s Market.

I love the people watching.

I love checking out the unique, artisanal products or heirloom produce that I could never find at a normal grocery store.

I love it all.

This morning Adam and I ventured out to our local Farmer’s Market.

It was a quick trip as we had some landscaping work to do back at the homestead. (… Work that made us realize we really are adults as our alma mater is celebrating its biggest spring event with the bars opening at 7AM.)

The Farmer’s Market didn’t have many produce vendors present thanks to the chilly, late spring we are experiencing. But, we did pick up some bratwurst from a local pork producer. They seemed like a great idea for dinner after a day of working in the yard.

As Adam paid the vendor $15.60 for the ten brats, I thought of the most common question and biggest complaint I always tend to hear in regards to local meat: Why is it so expensive?

Last year, after a trip to the Farmer’s Market, I came home with a free range whole chicken. I was excited about this bird. The vendor was full of information and clearly very passionate. And, I wasn’t sure that I had ever had a free range chicken. I kept reading the taste was amazingly different in comparison to a normal chicken breast at the store.

I also had never cooked a whole chicken. So, it seemed like a fun challenge and I couldn’t wait to see if I could taste a difference.

Adam was excited too… and then he asked how much it was.

I had not told him because in the back of my mind I knew how my [insert nice way to say “tight ass”] husband would react.

And, I was right.

The word “ridiculous” was used often and before I knew it he was researching how to raise meat chickens.

God love him and his “Why pay someone when I can do that” attitude…

Proof of this attitude?  His landscaping project of the day was creating this beautiful wall for our patio.  So happy to give it a little character.

Proof of this attitude? His landscaping project of the day was creating this beautiful wall for our patio. So happy to give it a little character.

So, in early September, we became the proud owners of fifty free range broilers.

The babies from last September.

The babies from last September.

Adam created a “chicken mobile” out of a large wagon. The top of the wagon had bedding, water and feed. Then a little ramp gave the chicken’s access to the ground so they could roam and snack on grass and bugs. We could move the wagon around the yard so the chickens wouldn’t eat one piece of land to entirety.

A chick on the top of the chicken mobile.

A chick on the top of the chicken mobile.

And relaxing in the grass under the chicken mobile.

And relaxing in the grass under the chicken mobile.

We thought it was going to be great. Easy, too. We would have little, happy, free range birds and, in a couple months, a freezer full of organic, natural roasters for far less then we could purchase.

Right?

Wrong.

Okay, not totally.

In the end, the chickens came out great. They taste wonderful. We have enjoyed sharing them with family and friends and love how one bird can make us a couple meals.

However, they were a lot of work.

They required our attention twice a day, everyday.

They ate a ton. They drank a ton. (Note: Getting water to chickens on a cold, dark late November morning? Not exactly fun.)

There was quite a bit of cost to get started and the butchering at two bucks a pop added up fast. (… Although, that was worth every penny, in my book.)

When it was all said and done, Adam and I sat down and went over all our expenses. There was the chicken mobile, the feed, the equipment like heating lamps and water dispensers, the bedding, the butchering, and our labor.

We realized, using basic economics, if we were going to sell them at a market, $20.00 per chicken really isn’t that “ridiculous.”

As consumers, we have not just a choice, but also a voice.

And for the last sixty years or so, American consumers have voiced that meat should not only be available for every meal, it should also be cheap.

It started with fast food. We want a cheese burger for a buck. Five chicken nuggets for 99 cents.

And, it’s now what we see in the grocery store and that is why a $20.00 chicken has such a sticker shock.

We are lucky, in a sense, that in America meat is so widely available and isn’t going to break the bank. In fact, out of all the countries in the world, American’s spend the least percentage of their income on food.

However, farmers feel the backlash of the availability of the cheap food, even though our society demanded it, and some farming practices are coming under fire.

Farmers are smart, resilient and able to adapt. That is what they did and they will do it again, if that is what the market demands.

However, thanks to my food service role in K-12 education I know the reality is that the cheap, widely available meat is likely here to stay. And, I could never completely go over to the one side of this agriculture fence and say “Organic or BUST” because there is not just a huge market, but a need.

I know that I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to make a choice when I purchase food for Adam and me. And my choice in purchases is reflected in my belief to support local growers.

I am also fortunate to have a voice.

A voice that wants to ask, if we really are spending so much less of our income on food in comparison to our peers around the world, couldn’t we ditch the amped up cable package and reallocate that cash to receive a product that supports the earth, local farmers, the local community and provides great nutrition?

I swung by the grocery store this afternoon and couldn’t help but check the prices on bratwurst. A package of five was for sale for just under six dollars.

I spent a whopping four more dollars for my ten brats.

Four dollars that might go back and help that farmer raise more pigs. Or pay his rent. Or send his kid to college.

Or perhaps its four dollars that will stay in my community supporting other small business like my husbands. Or the cute lady who owns this fun accessory boutique that sucks me in when I drop off my dry cleaning. Or the new bakery on the square that I haven’t been to yet, but sounds delicious.

Four bucks.

Four bucks is less than a fast food meal.

… less than my drink at Starbs!

Money well spent.

Go Garden: Tools Needed

Last night, to celebrate Earth Day and because “it’s time,” Adam wanted to till up the soil in our garden beds. Tilling the soil is important because it makes it easier to work in compost to help enhance the soil and makes seeds or seedlings easier to plant.

Because we have so many garden beds and they are so large, we like to use a rototiller. But, the rototiller was not feeling very festive and, last night, it decided that it didn’t want to work.

Adam was upset. We could use a shovel to till the ground but, the rototiller is a tool that makes our lives so much easier.

Some other garden tools that I found really useful and important to have in our first year of gardening are the following:

Work Gloves: Just like a cook’s best tool, a gardener’s best tool is their hands. However, in the garden your hands might need protection from branches, thorns, etc. You can spend a lot on gloves if you really wanted to, but a good fitting pair of cotton gloves with grips work great and won’t break the bank.

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Kneeler Pad: This will save your knees and quads when gardening. Even as a young, athletic person this was a life saver. You can also find them in cute patterns which always makes things fun!

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Hose with a Spray Nozzle: Watering cans look very “classic gardener,” but the amount of water needed to water a decent sized garden would likely require many trips back and forth from your outdoor tap. Be sure to measure the distance from an outdoor tap to the garden to ensure you purchase a long enough hose. Also look for nozzles with a rain spray option for gentle, thorough amount of moisture.

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Trowel: This one is super important. It will help with planting, weeding, incorporating compost into soil, and more. A trowel is in the garden with me at all times.

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Pruning Sheers: I use mine to harvest produce such as lettuce, so that it will regenerate itself, zucchini’s and peppers. They are also great to have for flower arranging and trimming landscaping.

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There are so many tools out there to help a gardener, but I feel these are the best to invest in first.

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A few other of my favorite tools that I would recommend investing in as you continue to grow your garden are:

Wheelbarrow
Hand Fork/Cultivator
Garden Hoe
Rake (… the one you use for leaves in the fall will work just fine)
A good shovel or spade
Rototiller
Compost bins

… Oh, and don’t forget sunscreen and a hat!

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I learned that one the hard way…

Are there any garden tools that you swear by?