Thursday, August 6, 2009

Food for A Family Backpacking Trip

Before we moved to Michigan in 2004, Geoff and I spent many weekends together backpacking along the west coast. On short trips, we brought ingredients to make pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, bagel sandwiches for lunch, spaghetti or Indian curries for dinner, and s'mores for dessert. If we had space in our pack, we threw in a bottle of wine. On week-long trips, we were happy to eat trail mix, granola bars, and instant oatmeal on days 4, 5, 6, and 7. Tomorrow, we are headed to North Manitou Island for our first backpacking trip in Michigan and our first backpacking trip with our 3-year old. Of course, I've been thinking for days about what we'll bring to eat. Since we'll be carrying Caroline's gear in addition to our own, space will be at a premium. But it's only a 2-day trip and the hike in to our campsite is not more than a few miles. What should we bring? So far, I've gathered ingredients for hummus (instant), cucumber, and cheese sandwiches, whole wheat rotini pasta with garlic and cherry tomatoes, and s'mores (always s'mores). Plus, I've packed bread, instant oatmeal, granola, crackers, dried apples, blueberries, cherries, hot chocolate, tetra packs of milk, coffee, and tea. What am I missing?

I just learned that the weather forecast predicts rain for Saturday, which to me is just additional motivation to carry good food. Eating instant oatmeal on a beautiful morning is one thing. But who wants to sit in a tent eating instant oatmeal for 2 days? Come to think of it, who wants to take a family backpacking trip when the weather forecast predicts rain?! Me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Simple and in-season: White Bean and Corn Croquettes

Sweet corn is in-season! We bought half dozen ears from Kory Krueger (Sweet Spot Orchards) at the farmers' market on Saturday. They were $0.50 a piece. We usually eat sweet corn as corn-on-the-cob but tonight, I cut the kernels off of one ear and added them to my recipe for bean croquettes.

I use an easy and versatile recipe for bean croquettes: First, I mash together 2 cups cooked beans (any kind), 1/2 cup onion (minced), 1 egg, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste. (Tonight, I added corn to the bean mixture). I like my croquettes with a little bit of texture so I mash them using a potato masher. For a smoother texture, you can put the bean mixutre through a food processor. Next, I cover the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil and turn the heat to medium-high. Using my hands, I shape about a 1/4 cup of the mixture into an oval-saped cake. I repeat this step with the remaining bean mixture. Finally, I cook the croquettes in the hot oil until golden brown on each side (about 3 minutes per side). They are best when served hot or warm.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simple and in-season: Roasted vegetable sandwich

One of our family's favorite summertime meals is a simple roasted vegetable sandwich and a green salad. I made these sandwiches for dinner tonight using eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers that I picked up at the farmers' market today. I cut the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices, brushed both sides with olive oil, and cooked them under the broiler for a few minutes per side. I placed the vegetables on one slice of toasted bread from Avalon International Breads (Detroit) and spread neufchatel cheese on another and put the slices together to make a sandwich. I ate my sandwich as is. Caroline disassembled hers but ate all the pieces.

Happy Birthday Caroline!

We celebrated Caroline's 3rd birthday yesterday with this beautiful buttermilk cake from Zingermans!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fruit flies be gone!

Since we started composting our fruit and vegetable scraps, I’ve noticed that the amount of garbage our family generates per week has decreased from about five grocery-size bags to one. I’ve also noticed that we have a significant fruit fly problem. We put our fruit and vegetable scraps into a plastic container and dump the container out into our compost when it gets full, or about every other day. The container has a tight-fitting lid but it still attracted fruit flies, so many of them that even Caroline said to me one day, “We have a fruit fly problem!” I hate to kill bugs of any kind but seeing the tiny flies buzzing round the kitchen all day really gave me the creeps. So, I started poking around the internet. How do you get rid of fruit flies? The most obvious way is to remove the source, or in my case, the plastic container. But I’m a busy mom and I like to save myself trips to the compost if I can. After another minute or so on the internet, I came across on-line stores that sell a full suite of fruit fly eradication options: pest control sprays, fly traps, gels, baits, traps that use pheromone sexual attractants. For about $100, you can even buy your own professional ultraviolet fly trap. I passed on all of these options and opted for a simpler trap made of materials that I had on hand: plastic food wrap, rubber band, small glass jar, apple cider vinegar. I put about a 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar in the jar and covered it with a piece of plastic food wrap secured in place with a rubber band. I then poked several holes into the plastic food wrap (using a fork) and placed the jar on the kitchen counter. The fruit flies, attracted to the apple cider vinegar, quickly made their way through the holes in the plastic food wrap. But they couldn’t get out.

Our family returned from a 10-day vacation on Sunday night and I’m pleased to report that we came home to a kitchen free of fruit flies.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Keta salmon on sale!

We love wild salmon but because it's so expensive, we only buy it when it is on sale. This week, Keta salmon is on sale at Whole Foods Market. The price? Only $6.99 per lb. I had never heard of Keta salmon until Sunday morning when Caroline and I went to Whole Foods Market to buy our groceries. I wasn't sure what it would taste like but for $6.99 per lb, how could I go wrong? I bought a pound and we ate it for dinner tonight. Unlike King or Sockeye salmon, Keta salmon (alson known as Chum or Chub) has a very mild flavor and light colored flesh. Keta salmon has a lower fat and omega-3 fatty acid content than other species of salmon. For example, 3 oz of King salmon has about 11.5 grams of fat compared to just 4 grams of fat in the same amount of Keta salmon. But it is high in protein and, well, it's salmon and we love salmon. To cook it, I placed it skin-side down on a broiler pan, brushed the flesh with melted butter, rubbed it with Alder smoked coarse salt and broiled it for 6 minutes. I served it for dinner with brown rice and a side of sauteed yellow squash cut into rounds. The salmon had a nice flavor. So nice that I think I will go back to Whole Foods Market later this week to pick up some Keta salmon to freeze and eat later this summer. Keta salmon is on sale until July 21.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where Our Milk Comes From

For the last two years, we've been buying Calder Dairy milk. I'm lactose intolerant so I've never tried the milk but Geoff tells me it tastes great. Calder Farm is a family owned and operated farm in Carleton, which is located about an hour south of Ann Arbor. The farm has a relatively small herd (110 milk cows) of Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey cows. Artificial hormones are not given to the cows to enhance their milk production. I've always wanted to meet the cows who produce the milk that Caroline drinks everyday so this afternoon, Caroline and I drove out to Carleton with our friends Katherine and Julia. I had never been to a dairy farm so I wasn't sure what to expect. We arrived at 3:00 pm, just in time for Caroline to have a chance to help give a bottle of milk to a 7-day old calf. We spent the next hour walking around the property (and eating ice cream from the on-site ice cream parlor) and at 4:00 pm, we watched the cows being milked in the milking parlor. The farm has a small milking parlor with only 8 electronic milking machines. It takes about an hour and a half for all 110 cows to be milked. The milk is stored in a refrigerated tank and then taken to Calder Dairy in Lincoln to be pasteurized in small batches and bottled in recyclable glass bottles. After watching so many documentaries exposing the underbelly of the conventional and industrial food system, I was heartened by our visit to this farm where cows are treated with respect and where the employees seem to take pride in their work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Needle Lane Farms CSA

When our friends Leslie and Steve asked if we could use their CSA (community supported agriculture) share while they were out-of-town, of course I said "yes." They are members of Needle Lane Farms CSA (Tipton, MI) and pick-up their share at Morgan and York on Tuesdays. I love the CSA model. Members subscribe to a farm by buying shares of the farm in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the operating the farm. In return, they receive a share of the harvest throughout the growing season. Before Caroline was born in July 2006, we were members of the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm CSA (community supported agriculture). Every Wednesday we went to the farm to pick up our share of fruits and vegetables for the week. We never knew what we would get in our share from week to week and that was part of the fun. I loved the challenge of making meals from surprise ingredients. After Caroline was born, we found that we didn't have time to go to the farm to pick up our share and I didn't have the energy to accomodate surprises. So we dropped our membership. I miss being a member of a CSA so when it came time to pick-up Leslie and Steve's share today, I hurried to Morgan and York. Their share of vegetables -- broccoli, lettuce, kohlrabi, chard, cabbage, red potatoes -- looked ultra-fresh and delicious. Dinner tonight? Whole wheat pasta tossed with sauteed garlic, broccoli, sun-dried heirloom tomatoes, toasted pinenuts, and parmesan cheese and served with a side salad. Thanks Leslie and Steve!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't toss the beet greens!

Beet greens are delicious. They can be used as a substitute for spinach, chard or kale.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Caroline's new favorite vegetable? Beets!

Last year, Caroline would barely touch my roasted beets. This year, she can't get enough of them. She likes golden beets and Chioggia beets (the pink and white stripped variety) but her favorite beets are the red ones. She likes the taste enough to eat them but what she loves most is the way that they make her tongue (and everything she touches) that deep red-purple color. Sometimes, she rubs the roasted red beets along her lips and says, "Look Mama! Lipstick!" I don't encourage food play but I let Caroline get away with a few applications.

I roast a bunch (or a couple of bunches) of beets on the weekend, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator, and use them throughout the week in salads, as a side dish, or just as is.

Roasted beets


Preheat the oven to 450F. Trim beets and scrub clean. Small beets can be roasted whole. Large beets should be cut in half or quartered (depending on their size) if they are going to be roasted alongside small beets. Place beets, cut-side down, in a oven-proof dish. Add a splash or two of water. Cover dish tightly with foil. Place in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until beets are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Peel beets while they are still warm by using fingers to rub off the skin.
Legacy Tracking Code (urchin.js)