Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge: Day 2

Here we are at the end of Day 2 of the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge, and I've learned two new things about eating locally on a budget:

1. It's difficult, if not downright impossible, to eat locally and frugally when professional obligations beckon!
2. Controlling portion size in order to manage a budget can be equally tricky.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to breakfast, when I enjoyed a scrambled local free-range egg with local organic cheddar for breakfast, along with a cup of decidedly not local coffee (though organic and fair-trade) tempered by local milk and maple syrup (since I'm trying to avoid non-local sweeteners if I can this week). The meal satisfied me temporarily, but I usually need a little more than that to start my day, and I found myself wishing I had baked muffins with local berries... or had time to whip up some pancakes with local grains.

Alas, that was not to be today, as I needed to prepare for an almost-all-day meeting at work. And at lunchtime, I ran smack up against my other lesson for today. Though our group had lunch at a local restaurant that featured some local foods on the menu -- I had a buttery and delicious mushroom napoleon featuring locally grown mushrooms -- not all the foods were local, and the price was definitely not good for a tight budget. Happily, my meal was paid for by the Boss Man, but I'll calculate my daily and weekly expenses both ways to show the difference.

By the time I got home from work, I was ready to tackle some of the other produce I had pulled from the freezer for this week's challenge. Having pondered a few options, I decided to try something new and completely unscripted: edamame soup, inspired by a typical creamy pea soup to celebrate the flavors of spring.

I minced garlic and shallots (bought from the Cheerful Lady at last year's market) and sauteed them in local butter. I added a sprinkling of salt and pepper, followed by a small amount of crumbled dried basil (also from the Cheerful Lady), before I tossed in about 1/4 c of thawed edamame (from the Tomato Farmer). After letting the flavors develop a little, I took the mixture off the heat, poured in some local milk (between 1/2 and 1 cup... I didn't measure), and pureed the entire mixture to a pale green semi-creamy soup. I topped it with a sprinkling of crumbled dried tomatoes for extra color and flavor, and I settled back with my soup and a few pieces of that local Gouda.


The edamame were still a little on the starchy side and so didn't puree into a thoroughly creamy texture, but the combination of flavors came as a pleasant surprise, and it made for a refreshing start to the meal. I gobbled up a few more of those hot dilled beans from the Archivist's garden and kitchen, and then I made a small bowl of popcorn (ruby red popcorn from a local farm, topped with melted local butter) since I knew I would need a little more food to keep me from going to bed hungry!

Between breakfast and dinner, I only "spent" about $3 (yes, even counting the coffee) thanks to portion control and stocking up items in bulk. (I'm telling you, produce at the farmers' market really is a deal!) Lunch, however, was another matter: just under $15, including tax and tip. Guess I just have to be prepared sometimes to splurge a little (even if I didn't actually pay for it)!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update!

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