We headed back to Sebastopol for Ryder’s BFF’s 4th birthday.  The boys had a blast!  Jack loves cars/tractors, etc.  So I don’t think we had even stepped foot out of the car and he spotted the red tractor out in the field.  I’m going to digress a bit, we all loaded up in my van and headed to Sebastopol (which is about an hour drive).  I was laughing shortly into the drive, there were 4 kids in the back and Kendra and I in the front.  The decipal level coming from the back was so high, and I looked at her and said “and I want more!?”  It’s funny when it’s a one time thing for a short amount of time but is this what I would want to do everyday?  Loading up 4 kids and listening to their craziness?  Actually, yes!  I may sound crazy but I do believe I would love it!  Maybe not all the time, but I can handle the chaos.

So back to our day, we picked fruit and had a picnic and ate yummy cupcakes.  It was such a lovely day.  Of course I hauled fruit home, but I was much more conservative b/c I knew I didn’t want any to go bad and, to be honest, I was getting a bit burned out on canning.  So I picked enough pears to can 2 more big jars and some peaches (but we devoured those before they ever made it into a jar- which is what you should do).  I still had 2 giant baskets full of apples that needed to be cored and peeled so I went easy on the apples. 

On Saturday morning Ryder and I started preparing the apples for applesauce. 

 I’m amazed at how good of a helper Ryder is.  He peeled and cored about 1/3 of the apples, I would put the apple on the prongs and he would turn the handle until it was peeled and cored and then drop the apple into the lemon water bath. 

 We had fun and he’s so stoked about eating applesauce that he actually made!  That’s what is so great about having kids help with cooking (or anything for that matter).  There is a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I find he is much more open to trying different foods when he’s helped in making or growing or picking it.

We have a small bag of apples left that I would like to turn into apple butter- but we are heading out of town this week so if they haven’t been eaten’ and are still there when we return that’s what they will become.

As for canning, I think I’m done, well I do think about canning tomatoes, but I might wait till next year.  My tomatoes aren’t producing like I had hoped (I need to change their location next year).  So I might just eat them all- we’ll see.

I just started the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- so far it is awesome!  Everyone MUST read this.  It is about a family that spends a year eating “deliberately” – only eating what they grow or can purchase locally ( translates into what is produced locally).  I am only in the 4th chapter but already I am a believer.  I have been trying to live this way for awhile now but this is even more hardcore than what we’ve been doing.  The author talks about how much oil is used to produce the food you eat.  I’m sure not many people even think about that when they are biting into their ginormous, plump, ruby red strawberry in the middle of January.  Guess where that strawberry came from? Not the local farm down the road.  Not even from a farm in the United States.  Most likely that Strawberry came from a some giant agbusiness farm in the southern hemisphere.  So there was oil used to plow the fields,  to run the machines that package the strawberries, the fuel to get the strawberries to the docks to then be shipped to the USA and then the fuel that goes into the trucks that deliver the strawberries to your local market.  WOW!  That’s a lot of fuel.  Now multiply that by all the food in our grocerry stores- that’s huge. 

So this family has decided to buck the system and do it the old fashioned way- eat seasonally and eat what you produce or what is produced in your own community.  I know this is not possible for some or seems like an arduous task but you must think baby steps. 

What we do is …. we start by trying to buy local ( the farmer’s market) , then we try to buy within California, then we try to stay on the west coast and if we really want it or need it for a recipe than we stay in the U.S.A.  Let me tell you, it definitely takes me some time to grocery shop but I feel good when I leave- knowing I have done my part.  I always laugh when I’m buying produce and I see Organic __(insert any veggie or fruit)______ from South America or Mexico or wherever.  It seems like an oxymoron.  

It’s all about eating seasonally.  I have come to realize this after we moved in our new house and stared to get into gardening more (now that we had usable space and decent soil).  After that first year of growing our own heirloom tomatoes I realized the ones at the store are awful( I should say – the ones that are at the store and out of season).  Now, I will not buy tomatos during the off season- it’s just not worth it.   

It’s definitely not “convenient” to do things this way.  But it’s more fun and more rewarding.  It just feels good. 

At one time we had tried to move out of Cali and back to the midwest and the first thing I did when looking at new cities was look for their local farmers markets.  The link below is great for finding farmers markets, farms, CSA’s, etc. in your area.  We are lucky to live where we do and they are everywhere but some people aren’t as lucky and might need to do a bit more research.  Take a look at the link below and go visit your local farmers market or farm and bring home what’s in season.  Some places will even provide recipes for some of those veggies that aren’t the “norm” or what you may find in your grocery store.  It’s fun to try new veggies or fruit.  http://www.localharvest.org/

Try the challenge at the right “Be a Bookworm” and pick up this book for it. 

Happy eating!

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I was very pleased with the lunch Ryder and I made on Friday and wanted to share the end result.  The couscous was even better that night for dinner and the next day for lunch (you can tell I like it just a little!)  I had some fresh meyer lemons from my friends garden and squeezed those with the olive oil for the dressing.  I loved the fresh tartness of the lemon, so I would recommend lemon over vinegar.

OK Thursday came up much too quickly this time around.  I am now looking back on my week of cooking and realizing it wasn’t so exciting- bad Julie.  Anyways I am excited about my lunch I am going to prepare for my girlfriend tomorrow.  So I figure I’ll tell you what I am making tomorrow…..

my favorite- The Frittata with Israeli couscous on the side and of course for the bread lovers Garlic Naan

I am a big fan of spinach and feta so that is the kind of Frittata I will be making.

I like to use a cast iron skillet (very old and nice and seasoned)

saute onion

add spinach and wilt

add egg (8-10- depending on the size of the skillet- mine is medium)

sprinkle in feta

cook on stove-top until egg is kind of firm (shake pan around)

through in oven (350 degree) for 5-10 minutes (depends on the oven and how firm you let the eggs get on the stove-top)  I like it to be golden brown on the top.

Serve warm or room temp (I even like it cold the next day)

Israeli Couscous

love this stuff….

cook according to directions on the box

I like to add the following…

   sun-dried tomatoes

   kalamata olives- pitted and sliced

   cilantro (must be fresh)

   olive oil and vinegar (whatever type of vinegar- I have used apple cider-but I guess it’s just preference)  If your sun-dried tomatoes are jarred in oil – be careful on the amount of oil you add at the end.  You can even just squeeze some fresh lemon in the oil as your acid for the dressing- especially if lemons are in season.

of course add salt and pepper to taste

I like to make more because it’s even better the next day after all the flavor’s have had time to meld together.

My friend made the couscous for us after Saige was born as part of a dinner and I just loved it.

The beauty of both is that you can add whatever you want or are in the mood for- it’s a very forgiving and flexible meal.

Hope you enjoy! 

Sometimes the dreaded question of the evening.  After starting work last week I’ve already run into the dinner question, what’s for dinner?  Some nights (especially in the winter) I am so unmotivated to cook.  It’s not that I don’t love to cook or love to eat- but it’s the getting creative part.  Sometimes Doug and I don’t always agree on what to eat.  For example, I could eat vegetable curry every night, Doug on the other hand, not so much.  I have a hard time getting him to eat it once.  So here lies part of the problem.  I want to keep it exciting so that there’s always something new for Ryder, we like to expose him to lots of different types of food.  During the summer when fruits and veggies are in abundance it seems much easier ( I actually can live on tomato sandwiches during the summer) but in the winter when most veggies are resting and the remainder are being shipped in from Chile, I have a hard time figuring out meals that everyone will like. 

One of my new faves are golden beets. 

 golden beets

 For those of you who are making a face and turning your nose up at the word beets, you haven’t tried organic golden beets.  I haven’t quite made a convert out of my husband but Ryder admitted he liked them (score one for mom).  My favorite way to cook them is just salt, pepper and olive oil and throw them on the grill, but again in the winter I don’t always like to grill so I have started to roast them in the oven or even just in a skillet with some thinly sliced onions.  They are just so pretty and tasty.  I challenge everyone to go out to your local market and look for fresh organic golden beets and try them- you just might like them- even a three year old likes them.

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel
like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine.  And this emotion
of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year.  There is
nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling,
as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
–  Alice B. Toklas