Saturday, January 30, 2010

Market Report: 1/30/10

How's this for setting a new record? This is easily the earliest Market Report I've been able to post in any year!

That's right, Local Roots reopened today -- but not as a farmers' market, as an honest-to-goodness store that features local foods. Producers didn't have to be on-site (though a handful were at least part of the time), and items for sale were arranged by general category (with shelves or tables for producers to display their products):

The new freezer and coolers housed locally-produced meats, cider, milk, butter, cheeses, and LOTS of eggs.

One row of display units featured racks of assorted baked goods (mine are on the top shelf here)...

...while the produce growers had the tilted tables in the middle of the floor loaded with potatoes, onions, squash, apples, and high tunnel roots and greens.

The new coffee bar does not yet have all the equipment needed for brewing freshly-ground locally-roasted coffee, but One Happy Guy offered samples of his coffees throughout the day.

At the other end of the coffee bar, a glass pastry case allowed local bakers to show off their special items: muffins, bagels, German lye rolls (oh, heaven!), and my specialty (far end of the top shelf), pains au chocolat, made with homemade croissant dough using local eggs, butter, and milk. (Sorry, I didn't get a better photo; they went fast!)

While we didn't have as many people stop in to shop as we did at the holiday farmers' markets, the crowd provided a steady stream of activity throughout the day, and most people seemed impressed with the store design.

As for me, I hung around for a while and did my shopping:

--a lye roll and hobo bread from The Photographer
--two everything bagels from another baker
--gorgeous and sweet Hakurei turnips from The Winter Harvesters
--cabbage from the Amish Farmer
--a Brie-style cheese from the Cheese Guy
--croutons from the Young Amish

I also had the fun of showing Emily from Eat Close to Home around the market, introducing her to a few of our producers and generally enjoying her enthusiasm for the place. When she headed out to return home, I followed her to drop my groceries at home before coming back to the market for a community garden discussion in the afternoon.

All in all, I did pretty well in sales: the only perishable item that didn't sell was a final loaf of bread, and the rest of what didn't sell (one bag of granola, some biscotti and cookies) will last until next week. The pains au chocolat were a very big hit, so I think I will have to make those again sometime (but not next week).

So here we go again -- another market season, starting early!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Independence Days #36

With Local Roots scheduled to reopen tomorrow as a store, I've been busy this week with getting back into my baking groove. Whew!

But for a quick interruption of that activity, here's this week's Independence Days update:

1. Plant something: Seeds for broccoli sprouts.

2. Harvest something: Broccoli sprouts.

3. Preserve something: My sanity (it was a close call for a while there yesterday).

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Found that the hard red winter wheat flour I'd milled had gone off, so added it to the compost pile; learned about using coffee grounds as mulch for new carrot plantings so as to confuse the carrot fly (must remember that later this spring!).

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Made a run to a local bulk food store on Monday to stock up on 10-lb bags of unbleached flour (vital for some of the items I bake to sell) and other ingredients; picked up a bag of seed-starting mix on the way home; packed up a bag of newspapers (saved for sheet mulching) and tossed it into the back end of the truck for minor ballast.

6. Build local food systems: Shared the bulk food store run with The Photographer; pitched in to help clean up at the market before re-opening day; met with representatives from a few local agencies to find out how Local Roots can connect with them to make food more accessible to those in need; shared a cherry pie, some biscotti, and a loaf of bread with The Photographer; received and paid for my cover crop and other seeds ordered by the Sheep Lady; baked for market; cleaned up around home for a visit from Emily of Eat Close to Home.

7. Eat the food: Buckwheat pancakes (one scrambled); cheese grits; broccoli pizza; spaghetti with homemade sauce; chickpea-corn fritters topped with yogurt and fresh sprouts.

And now.... time to get some sleep to be ready for market tomorrow!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bake to the Future

While things have been a little quiet, maybe even a little staid, here at Rolling in the Dough the past few weeks, big changes have gone on behind the scenes. As of last Friday, I've traded in the security of a steady job for the personal fulfillment of self-employment (or, as a friend likes to remind me, underemployment).

This new path allows me to combine my love of writing with keen editorial skills (which aren't always used on my own work, admittedly), along with a serious foray into farming and a continuation of my baking for Local Roots.

It's a little early to delve into the farming, and the writing isn't nearly so exciting as you might think, so today I'll just focus on what I've been baking, both for friends and for the planned re-opening of Local Roots this weekend.

Strangely, since I've never been a huge fan of cherries, I've had the notion for a few weeks now that I'd like to bake a French cherry pie with my home-canned cherries. This morning I ended up baking two -- one to share with the Renaissance Man, and one to give the Photographer. I managed to keep them from becoming cloyingly sweet, even with that buttery flour and maple sugar crumb topping, so I think everyone will be pleased.

I started baking for market earlier this week, with a batch of granola and two kinds of biscotti (chocolate-hazelnut and ginger-pecan), so today I was ready to turn to breads.

I've gotten hooked on the five-minute artisan bread for myself, and though I still need practice cloaking the dough for baguettes, I'm happy to practice that this week for an easy way to fill up my shelf at the market. (I've got another batch of dough rising, and I'll bake those loaves tomorrow.)

In addition, I made pain aux noix today and attempted to make maple-oatmeal bread (that didn't rise), but I'll try to get more baked tomorrow. And as long as I can make the time, I plan to have a very special treat in the glass bakery case next to the coffee bar... so check back later to see if I got it done.

As I discovered today, it's going to be a challenge juggling the demands of baking with the demands of my writing projects. Somehow, it will all work out, though I suspect every day will involve some negotiation of my to-do list.

But I'd better get bake at it...

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Mess Duty

You know you're jumping into the week way too fast when you screw up breakfast on a Monday morning.

I had a hankering for buckwheat pancakes, you see, since I hadn't made them for a while. So I whipped up the batter and spread some into a hot waiting skillet. I poured a little too much onto the pan, and apparently the skillet wasn't hot enough, because the pancake needed to cook longer than I thought. And when I went to flip it... all fell apart, folding back over on itself, bits sliding off the edge, etc. In short, I ended up with scrambled pancake for breakfast.

Well, it still tasted good, especially with some local grade B maple syrup.

Messy... but good!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Independence Days #35

Hmmm. Well, guess I let a whole week slip by without a post.

It's not that I haven't been doing anything food-related. I did bake a few tasty things this week, but I never grabbed the camera and never really stopped to think about them much more than eating them. Some weeks are like that.

So this week's Independence Days is likely to be short:

1. Plant something: More broccoli sprouts.

2. Harvest something: Sunflower sprouts (at last!) and broccoli sprouts.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saved the chaff and bran sifted from my recent milling of hard red winter wheat, and will use that in sheet mulching a garden bed (once I get out to do it); saving newspaper and paper shreds and cardboard boxes for same.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Readjusted top shelf of canned goods to make room for other jars; checked on storage onions; restocked some baking supplies; paid for my Fedco seed order (part of the local OEFFA chapter order).

6. Build local food systems: Attended local OEFFA chapter meeting and Local Roots producer meeting; baked for The Photographer; shared homemade spaghetti sauce with the Renaissance Man (who promises lasagna for sometime in the near future); tested a gluten-free cookie recipe for a couple of colleagues; made arrangements for an upcoming reception at Local Roots.

7. Eat the food: Ravioli (from the freezer) with homemade spaghetti sauce; squash with dried kale, chickpeas, walnuts, and local cheese; popcorn; dried apple slices for snacks.

I confess to having gone out to eat often this week, spending time with friends, but though most of the food was not local (save for the current on-tap Great Lakes brew of Conway's Irish Ale, yum), the time with friends made it all worthwhile.

I do plan to get more baking done this next week, but unless I have my camera in hand, you still might not believe me, so I'll work on that.

More anon...

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Independence Days #34

The weather has warmed up a bit the past couple of days, and the thick blanket of snow has started to melt, revealing patches of wilted grass and weeds along with dark, moist soil. Makes those seed catalogs look even more tempting!

I'm still eating strictly out of the pantry and other stored food at home -- haven't gone grocery shopping yet this year! -- but you could say I'm cheating because I've also eaten out a little more, between morning coffee breaks and a couple of meals with friends. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good track record, and I've got a list of other meal ideas to help me use some different things from storage.

Baking will occupy my morning tomorrow, and I feel the urge to break out of the box and make a pie with some of the cherries I canned last summer. With a largely open weekend ahead of me, there's no telling what trouble -- er, delicious experimentation -- I might get into.

But it's time to wrap up this past week before we move ahead:

1. Plant something: Started more broccoli sprouts.

2. Harvest something: Nothing -- sunflower sprouts are sloooooow.

3. Preserve something: I wanted to try sauerruben, but all my turnips were too shriveled.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Not a good week, having discovered the dry disaster of this year's root vegetable storage (sigh), not to mention a couple more rotting squash and sweet potatoes. Time to step up the pantry eating! On the other hand, I rescued a few glass eggnog bottles -- the local dairy takes back their milk bottles, but not these -- to use for dry storage (beans, grains, etc.).

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Started planning baking for market once it reopens; also loaded info into the online order system for some of my baked goods. Decided I didn't need to go out for groceries (again) since I still had a decent stash of baking ingredients on hand.

6. Build local food systems: Started sending out press releases for next round of events at Local Roots; updated LR profile on Local Harvest; worked out a list of naturally-sweetened desserts by request for a new baking client; shared baklava with friends; received the gift of Bermudan sweet-hot sauces from a former student assistant; worked out a seed order with the Sheep Lady; talked local foods adventures and pastry experiments with the incomparably sassy Spicyflower, back in town for a visit.

7. Eat the food: quiche with leek, carrots, broccoli; eggplant parmesan (with homemade sauce, kale added); parsnip-kale galette; pancakes; cooked chickpeas; hash browns; canned peaches; bread with grape jelly from The Archivist.

As you can see, eating from my food storage is turning out to be a wonderful challenge, and so far I've been able to keep my diet pretty varied.

I look forward to finding out what next week will bring!

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Seedy Side of Town

On a cold winter's night, a lone woman looking for comfort and warmth gets desperate. There's one raging thought on her mind -- one compelling desire that sweeps away sense -- and she finds herself reaching for the best possibility for semi-satisfaction that she can find.

Seed catalogs.

Yes, even though the winter has barely begun, the snow has piled up recently, and the arrival of one seed catalog after another has me thumbing through the pages, sighing over descriptions and ogling the photos of colorful and succulent fruits and vegetables.

And this year, my budget is limited but my desires are beyond bounds!

I turned in an abbreviated (compared to last year) Fedco order to the local OEFFA chapter, and I split a pair of potato varieties (also through OEFFA) with The Cheerful Lady for this year's farming. But then, the Sheep Lady asked if I was interested in joining her in a seed order from Bountiful Gardens, where I found a variety of intriguing cover crops (fenugreek! who knew?) and grains, so I sent her a list. And at last night's steering committee meeting at Local Roots, I snatched copies of the Territorial and Baker Creek catalogs for more ideas and potential orders. (There are still some items at Berlin Seeds, a local place, that tempt me, too.)

What's a girl to do? Like Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything except temptation -- especially when the temptation could be growing in my garden a few months hence.

I mean, wow! The varieties of eggplant! A new kind of basil! I could grow peanuts and sesame seeds! Did you see that dwarf pomegranate? -- I'm sure it would fit in my little apartment in the winter...

So I ponder, make my lists, strike items off, tot up prices, ponder some more... and at some point, once common sense and practicality have had their say and whittled down the choices, temptation will shout, "Yippee!" and send off for "just a few seeds, really, you'll find room for them, I promise..."

Thus begins another growing season...

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday Night Fevered

After working a full week and having meetings or other things happening on weeknights, I tend to try and cram a lot of activity into the weekend, especially cooking. But when some big event comes along, I get into a fevered rush to push through the rest of my to-do list.

Take today. I had planned to spend a good chunk of the day at a Fiber Arts Guild event, and when I got home, I knew I still had some baking and cooking to do, despite my desire to sink into an easy chair and continue knitting.

First up, I whipped out a pan of baklava, succumbing to the requests of two separate friends. Not too difficult.

Then, I pulled out the container of breaded eggplant I had thawed, a pint of tomato sauce, the remains of a bag of herb mix, and started working on eggplant parmesan for dinner. Since my tomato sauce was on the thin side, I started by making a roux in the sauce pan (about 2 T each of butter and flour) and then added the sauce and herbs and whisked it until it thickened.

As usual, I layered eggplant slices, sauce (to which I had also added some reconstituted dried kale), and shredded Parmesan cheese, then baked it for about half an hour at 350 F. Such a relatively easy dish to throw together -- if you've done the work ahead of time!

Having checked the root cellar this afternoon and found that all of my root vegetables had not had enough moisture, thus leaving them shriveled and useless (AUGH! as Charlie Brown would say most vehemently), being able to throw together a satisfying nutritious dinner from preserved foods that held up very well was a definite relief.

(Yes, I'm going to have to revisit the root cellar methods for next year. Live and learn. At least that wasn't the sole option for food preservation and storage, and I wasn't dependent on those root vegetables for the whole winter. As they say, don't put all your eggs -- or foods -- in one basket!)

I can relax now for tonight, having gotten through today's to-do list. Tomorrow, though, is another day and another chance to get into the kitchen.

Here's hoping it won't be so frantic!

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Independence Days #33

Winter is coming on with a vengeance. We've had off and on snow of late, and it continues to pile up with this recent system moving through. The snow is beautiful to watch as it drifts down steadily, and I'd love to go out and play in it, but walking anywhere in particular? No thanks, I'd rather stay home.

Of course, I haven't been able to stay home, but I've definitely scaled back some of my outings. For example, it's January 8th, and I have yet to go to the store this year for groceries. (The only food item I've bought for at home has been two bags of locally roasted coffee beans, mainly because One Happy Guy said he'd roasted some decaf and did I want it? Well, duh...)

This wintry weather has given me a good opportunity to start testing how well I've put up food for the off-season. The results are encouraging, especially since I've barely begun to cook -- I've relied on basics like pizza and soup, potatoes and grits and omelets, and homemade baked goods. This next week I'll try to do more cooking out of the pantry and see how varied the meals can be.

It's a good time, in short, to focus on some homegrown Independence:

1. Plant something: Started sunflower sprouts.

2. Harvest something: Harvested broccoli sprouts.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Cleaned out plenty of old produce from the fridge for a stir-fry dinner; started using up squash and sweet potatoes, cutting off bad parts.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Milled whole wheat and spelt for baking; took stock of other baking ingredient needs; stored lots of water before snowstorm moved in (and then disappointed us).

6. Build local food systems: Finished January Local Roots newsletter (whew!); wrote other items for Local Roots; shared baking with The Photographer.

7. Eat the food: The last of the leftover parsnip gratin; the last of the rutabaga soufflé; fresh cornbread; grilled cheese; pizza with lime-green broccoli; fridge cleanup stir-fry with fresh sprouts; cheese omelet.

I've got the oven heating up so I can bake pain aux noix tonight for myself and for The Photographer, and I'll start soaking some dried beans tonight for some slow-cooked dish this weekend. I've pulled breaded eggplant slices from the freezer as well as the last jar of vegetable stock, so I think I'm off to a promising start for making more good pantry food this weekend.

I wonder how long I can go without buying food (aside from milk)? Hmmmm...

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Bake In Action

Happy New Year to all, just a few days late. I confess to having gone out on New Year's Eve -- the first time in ages -- and sharing merriment, excellent food, homebrew, and a late, late night with very entertaining people. I guess I'm still recovering!

Gradually, though, I have managed to find my way back into the kitchen and to test some potential recipes for market:

--Maple oatmeal bread, a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book (with slight changes): I had to let it rise for a couple of hours on Saturday as I met up with a friend for afternoon "tea," and the result was an astonishingly light and tender loaf for something chock full of oats and spelt flour. Needs a touch more salt, but otherwise, it's a keeper.

--Berry-nut scones: This was a one-off as I used up the last of the dried wild blueberries from my New Hampshire vacation, but with chopped almonds and homemade candied orange peel, it was a worthy final flourish for the berries. The basic recipe will be one that allows me to showcase any number of fruit and nut combinations while also offering the wholesome taste of whole grains. Another winner.

--Chocolate-hazelnut biscotti. It's been some time since I made this recipe -- why??? Rich cocoa powder, toasted hazelnuts, melty chocolate chips -- what's not to love? Add in a hidden helping of whole grains and a kiss of maple sugar, and you've got the perfect accompaniment to your mid-morning coffee break.

Yes, I think all three of these will end up at the market at one point or another, though I'll probably only offer the bread on the online order system. Since I found a neat round jar for my biscotti display, I'll definitely have to keep that filled with these chocolate-hazelnut treats as well as my ginger-pecan beauties.

I've got several more recipes dog-eared, so I might be baking again soon...

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Independence Days #32

Well, here we are in another year. But I'm still in the first year of Independence Days, and somehow, New Year's Day seems like a less notable turning point for this project than others I could name.

No matter: a New Year, a new week of Independence!

1. Plant something: Started broccoli sprouts.

2. Harvest something: Nothing -- it's all under snow!

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Toasted and crushed more eggshells for use in the garden.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Cleaned up cupboards and transferred grains and beans to glass jars, tucking in bay leaves to prevent infestation; transferred 50-lb bag of whole wheat to two plastic buckets; cracked hazelnuts for test baking.

6. Build local food systems: Worked more on January Local Roots newsletter; enjoyed New Year's Eve with new friends.

7. Eat the food: Cabbage dal; leftover parsnip gratin; spanokopita from dried greens; rutabaga soufflé.

A quiet week, overall, but it's encouraging to see that there are still some things I can do even in winter.

A Happy New Year indeed!

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