Thursday, June 26, 2008

Growing Food

When I was growing up, my dad and I grew zucchini and rhubarb in a small plot in our backyard and tomatoes in large containers on our patio. We always grew more than we could eat and ended up sharing our harvest with friends. That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, I have grown little in the way of food and have grown increasingly disconnected from the process. Last year, I challenged myself by growing herbs in pots on my front porch. My parsley and thyme grew like weeds but my rosemary, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, and basil died before I could enjoy eating them. Feeling intimidated, I was reluctant to try growing anything this year. But with the help of two friends, Christine and Barb, we now have three garden plots in our backyard. Back in May, Barb helped us design our plots and gave us transplants from her own garden. Geoff and I felt so inspired that we dug the plot pictured here while Caroline was napping. Christine, who has an incredible vegetable garden, also split some of her plants and gave them to us to grow in our garden. And I bought vegetable plant starts at the farmers' market and I added them to our plot. It's been almost one month now and all of the plants are still alive! The tomato plants are growing tall and the first squash blossoms on our zucchini plant bloomed just a couple of days ago. And today, Caroline picked the lettuce for her egg salad sandwich. The mosquitoes were swarming so it was anything but a Kodak moment. But I did get a chance to take this "after" picture of our vegetable garden.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 26: Breakfast - blueberry muffin (frozen blueberries from Walton Orchards), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Lunch - egg salad (Heritage Acres), lettuce (homegrown), 100% whole grain bread, spinach (Titus Farms) with currants, cucumber (Wildflower Eco Farm); Snacks - whole wheat Melba toast, string cheese

Childcare Center Menu, June 26: Breakfast - apple muffin, peaches; Lunch - egg salad sandwich, oranges, cucumbers; Snacks - cheese sticks, wheat crackers

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas!

My uncle used to have a black part-Pekingese dog named Diva who loved peas. She would walk through his garden eating them right off the vine. She was known to boogie for peas and would get noticeably upset if she found you munching on one without offering one to her. I can't blame Diva for her penchant for peas. I feel the same. I love all peas - English shelling peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, frozen green peas, dried split peas, and wasabi-flavored dried green peas. But fresh, sugar snap peas are my favorite...and they are in-season. I bought some this weekend from the Vang's at Crane Centennial Farm. They are organically grown and were $3 for a basket. They can be lightly steamed or stir-fried but I like to eat the pod and pea raw. Caroline is getting used to the pod but she likes the peas inside. At almost 23 months, she doesn't have quite the dexterity to crack open the shells herself but with a little bit of help, she can grab the peas.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 24: Breakfast - strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm), French toast (Zingerman's sourdough bread, Heritage Acres eggs); Lunch - brown rice with kale (Green Eagle Farm), feta cheese, dill (Crane Centennial Farm), onions; Snacks - peas (Crane Centennial Farm), hummus, whole wheat Melba toast

Childcare Center Menu, June 24: Breakfast - strawberries, French toast sticks; Lunch - turkey and rice, green beans, grapes; Snacks - smiley fries, watermelon

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strawberry Jam!

There are few things that taste better on an early summer afternoon than a slice of fresh sourdough bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam. This weekend, my friend Wynne and I made a couple batches of strawberry jam with berries that we bought, for $23 a flat (8 quarts), from the Vang's (Crane Centennial Farm) at the Meridian Township Farmers' Market. The strawberries are not certified organic but the Vang's do not treat them in any way with harmful chemicals. They are sweet, juicy, and simply delicious. Caroline helped make the jam by crushing the berries with a potato masher (and her hands) and by stirring them as they cooked down. Wynne and I followed a traditional strawberry jam recipe that calls for pectin. Caroline and I made a third batch of jam using my friend Marge's strawberry jam recipe which is great when you only have a small amount of fruit and no pectin handy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

There is so much at the farmers' market now! The asparagus season will be over soon but dark green leafy vegetables, lettuces, radishes, and sugar snap peas are in-season now. Caroline tried something new today at the market - spring rolls! She munched on the fried egg roll wrapped around bean threads and carrots in the car on the way home. The spring rolls are the perfect size for a toddler's small hand. And they are delicious!

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: rhubarb, asparagus, broccoli (Threadgould Gardens); crunchy butter lettuce (Owosso Organics); Red Russian Kale, curly kale, spearmint (Green Eagle Farm); Easter Egg radishes, spinach, chard (Titus Farms); cucumber (Wildflower Eco Farm); strawberries, sugar snap peas (Crane Centennial Farm)

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I come from a family of cooks. My mom is one of the best cooks I know and my older sister, Michelle, is a close second. When we were in Toronto last weekend, Michelle made Hiyashi-chuka, one of my favorite picnic dishes. Hiyashi-chuka is a cold noodle salad. You can be creative with the noodles and toppings but Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka is usually made with a bed of somen noodles (very thin Japanese noodles) topped with thinly sliced eggs, ham, and cucumber. The dressing is simple: 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Caroline loves Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka. Pasta salad was on the menu today so I decided to pack Hiyashi-chuka in Caroline's lunch. Since I didn't have somen noodles, ham, eggs, or cucumber, Caroline's Hiyashi-chuka was made with buckwheat soba noodles and topped with Tohono O'odham Trading Company Tepary beans (a gift from my friend Cheryl), carrots, and lettuce (Owosso Organics). It wasn't as pretty as Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka and the noodles were a bit too starchy but Caroline liked it just the same.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 19: Breakfast - strawberries (Threadgould Gardens), 100% whole grain toast, cardamom apple butter; Lunch - Hiyashi-chuka (buckwheat soba noodles, carrots, lettuce (Owosso Organics), Tepary beans; Snacks - whole wheat pita bread, hummus (Eden garbanzo beans)

Childcare Center Menu, June 19: Breakfast - strawberries, wheat French bread, strawberry jam; Lunch - pasta salad with pinto and garbanzo beans, red and yellow peppers, apples; Snacks - sweet potatoes, wheat crackers

Monday, June 16, 2008

No More Blueberries

We didn't lose very much in our refrigerator and freezer when we lost power for 4 days last week but our blueberries did thaw out. I could have put them back in the freezer after our electricity came back on but rather than lose the quality that comes with freezing, thawing, and refreezing, Caroline and I made blueberry muffins last Friday. We ate a couple of them last week and froze the rest. These were the last of the blueberries that we bought last summer from biodynamic farmer, Bruce Walton.

We spent the weekend in Toronto, so we missed the farmers' market on Saturday. But my friend Wynne picked up a few things for us: strawberries and asparagus (Threadgould Gardens) and lettuce (Owosso organics). Thanks, Wynne!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 17: Breakfast - whole wheat blueberry muffin (Walton Orchards blueberries), pearsauce; Lunch - lentil croquettes, brown rice, asparagus (Threadgould Gardens), carrots; Snacks - strawberries (Threadgould Gardens), string cheese, whole grain Melba toast

Childcare Center Menu, June 17: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat croissants; Lunch - lentils, rice, California vegetables, apples; Snacks - cheese breadsticks, watermelon

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Strawberries Are Here!

This has been our first week of part-time child care for Caroline. It was nice not to have to think about how I would try to mimic the child care center's meals...although I must admit that I have not been doing a very good job of mimickng. We had a long winter and I simply cannot resist sending Caroline the fresh, locally grown foods that are now available. Last weekend, we bought four quarts of strawberries from Crane Centennial Farm. They are not a super sweet variety but they still taste delicious and we have been eating them everyday. I packed a few in Caroline's lunch today even though the lunch fruit was honeydew melon. Caroline likes strawberries but doesn't love them like her cousin Matthew. I remember one summer years ago when Matthew, who was about 3 years old at the time, ate so many strawberries...that he threw them up on to his dinner plate. It actually wasn't as gross as it sounds and is a good reminder that it is possible to overdo anything, even strawberries!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 12: Breakfast - buttermilk currant muffin, pearsauce; Lunch - brown rice with kale (Owosso Organics), feta, and dill (Crane Centennial Farm), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Snacks - hummus, whole wheat pita bread

Childcare Center Menu, June 12: Breakfast - corn muffin, applesauce; Lunch - BBQ chicken with corn on the cob, honeydew, wheat bread; Snacks - hummus, pita bread

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Power: Day 4

It's been four days now that we haven't had power. I attended the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society conference in New Orleans last week and returned home to Lansing on Friday night. On Saturday morning, we visited the farmers' market as we do every Saturday morning. By the evening, dark clouds covered the sky and we knew that a storm was coming. We lost power that night and have been without electricity ever since. What have we been eating? We're eating our way through the perishables in our fridge that we don't need electricity to make into a meal: yogurt, vegetables, bread, cheese, strawberries (from Crane Centennial Farm), cold tofu, dried fruit, sunflower butter. Last night, my friend Wynne who lives two doors down the road got her power restored so we went to her house and grilled asparagus and made pasta. I packed the leftover pasta and asparagus in Caroline's lunch today.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 9: Breakfast - rhubarb muffin (Threadgould Gardens rhubarb), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Lunch - pasta, tomato sauce (canned last summer), asparagus (Threadgould Gardens); Snacks - blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), whole milk plain yogurt, whole wheat graham crackers

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Locally Grown Corn-on-the-Cob in June?-

Now that I have defended my dissertation, I am hoping to spend more time in the kitchen and the garden with Caroline. My research took a critical look at farm to school programs in the United States. Caroline has been my inspiration and motivation for the last two years. The long days and nights were unbearable at times but I kept my eye on the prize - more time with Caroline. She will still go to the childcare center on Tuesdays and Thursdays but starting next week (or the week after...I can't remember what I requested) Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will be time for just us. Until then, we will still pack her lunch five days a week.

In her lunch tomorrow, Caroline will get a little taste of summer. Last year, we froze corn-on-the-cob that I bought from Rebecca Titus at Titus Farms. Geoff and I sat on our front porch and shucked corn for an hour before we blanched it and vacuum-packed it with our Food Saver. Rebecca's corn is always sweet and delicious. Caroline loved eating the corn right off the cob even when she was only 13 months old. In fact, her enthusiasm for corn-on-the-cob inspired the childcare center cook to start buying it for the other kids!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 3: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes, banana; Lunch - marinated and baked tofu, brown rice, corn-on-the-cob, bok choy (Owosso Organics); Snacks - string cheese, whole grain crackers

Childcare Center Menu, June 3: Breakfast - Oatmeal, raisins, bananas; Lunch - chicken lo mein with soy sauce, watermelon, corn-on-the-cob; Snacks - red an yellow bell peppers, saltines

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 1st Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 1: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - pinto beans, carrots (Owosso Organics), brown rice with greens from Owosso Organics (chard, beet greens) and Wildflower Eco Farm (broccoli rabe), feta, and dill; Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, June 1: Breakfast - white grape juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - cheesy rice, California vegetables, bananas; Snacks - lemon pudding, wheat crackers
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