Saturday, February 27, 2010

Market Report: 2/27/10

I hadn't intended to hang out at the market all day today, but once I got there, I was really too lazy to head back home.

But that's all right: by staying all day, I got to see how the crowds have picked up, how the cooking demonstrations are going, what is selling, and who is signing up for gardening classes. Plus, I had plenty of time to linger with other Local Roots folks (some of the volunteers) and to nurture some budding friendships.

I had contributed a loaf of my maple-oatmeal bread to the first cooking demo of the day, which featured locally-made sausage, local eggs, and local cheese for a little breakfast sandwich. That demo proved so popular and promoted my bread so well that I sold out of that variety by 11 AM! (And that particular cook can ask me for bread any time she wants to do a demo!)

The second demo featured a vegetarian turnip and chickpea curry, which made a delicious light lunch (along with a cheese roll from the bakery case). I enjoyed talking with that cook as well, swapping ideas for curries and her future demo plans.

When the gardening workshop organizer took a break for lunch, I covered the registration table for her and ended up signing up another person as well as chatting with other friends who came in the door. (Hey, with a cup of good locally-roasted coffee in hand, I can be mellow and laid-back and gregarious as some of the other folks around there!)

I did actually finish up my shopping early in the day, but I also bought two cups of coffee, a pretzel roll, and a cheese roll from the bakery, and then I went through the line again later to purchase a rosemary plant. Here's what else I found, partly to restock my baking supplies:

--five pounds of soft white wheat flour from the Spelt Baker's partner
--two containers of maple sugar from the Maple Man
--a dozen eggs from the Young Amish
--dill cheddar curds from Blue Jacket Dairy
--decaf coffee beans from One Happy Guy
--salad mix, green onions, broccoli raab from The Winter Harvesters
--spinach from the Cheerful Lady

Can you believe all that green stuff? Color me green with happiness!

By the end of the day, I had sold out of all but one loaf of bread, all my crackers and spiced nuts, all the pains au chocolat, and a respectable amount of baklava and scones. A very good day!

But now -- on with more baking!

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Independence Days #39

Ooops. Yeah, sorry about that -- going a whole week without blogging.

It's not that I haven't been cooking and baking and doing things -- it's that I have, and it has kept me busy busy busy

Guess that means I might actually have something to report for the Independence Days challenge this week!

1. Plant something: Red cipollini onion seeds (above).

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserve something
: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saved some flour from kneading bread dough for my own projects; toasted more eggshells for the garden; saved spelt and wheat hulls for compost or mulch (after sifting).

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Organized seeds (working in those just received from this year's orders) both in the bin and in a spreadsheet; ordered more seeds; figured out what seeds would need to be started early and when; finished up a jar of dried kale.

6. Build local food systems: Tested a new dessert recipe -- strawberry meringues -- for a client; made lunch for a co-worker so that we could meet and eat; organized a small seed order for the cooperative; kept track of gardening workshop registrations for Local Roots; wrapped up March newsletter for Local Roots; attended garden planning workshop at the market; baked for market.

7. Eat the food: Leftover blini; the rest of the pea shoots, yum; a hearty vegetable soup with dried local beans, dried corn, dried kale, canned tomatoes, frozen green beans, frozen onion and pepper puree; bread pudding with leftover rye bread, cabbage, onion, and goat cheese; broccoli pizza; pasta with sauteed tatsoi and garlic.

I'm so glad that spring is coming one of these days. While I'm not as grumpy about the snow as some people are, these grey days are getting very wearing, and I am ready to smell the soil and start digging again.

But for now, I'm ready for another week!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Market Report: 2/20/10

After missing market day last weekend due to my trip to the OEFFA conference, I knew I couldn't miss today's market at Local Roots.

Of course, since I took all of my goods to be sold to the market yesterday, I didn't have to get to the market very early. So I enjoyed a leisurely brunch with the Renaissance Man, nibbling on reheated leftover blini with blackberry jelly and maple yogurt. (Verrrrrry nice.)

While he headed off to The Farm, I headed into the kitchen to test a new recipe for a client. I had found this recipe for dried strawberry meringues in my copy of Food Drying With an Attitude and knew I had to give it a shot, especially since I had some dried strawberries at hand. After grinding the dried berries in my (cleaned-out) coffee grinder, I worked them into the stiff, beaten egg whites sweetened with a touch of maple sugar, spooned them onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet, and let them bake slowly. The result is a very light, crisp, airy treat with a burnt-caramel edge and an intense strawberry sweetness. I've never been a fan of meringues, but these I like.

After lunch, I headed down to the market, mostly to check on things and to relieve a volunteer at our gardening workshop registration table. The only thing I bought this week was a tub of goat's milk feta cheese from a local producer, but I did end up bringing home two unsold loaves of my own bread along with a loaf of raisin nut bread I got from another baker for one of my pain aux noix.

Things are kind of quiet at the market, so I hope we can pick up business a little more in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I'll just keep baking!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Independence Days #38

Whew. It's been a rough week. Despite an invigorating start following the OEFFA conference, I soon wore myself out and wasn't up for much of anything. So here's this week's feeble attempt at an Independence Days challenge update:

1. Plant something: Nothing.

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saved flour from market baking to use in home baking; used up some plain yogurt in place of sour cream; used stale bread in making bread pudding for myself and for another friend.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Restocked baking ingredients; used up more of my dried fruits and vegetables; pondered next seed order.

6. Build local food systems: Attended OEFFA conference; worked on Local Roots newsletter; baked for market; helped with gardening workshop registrations; baked for a couple of friends; shipped an order of baklava to a former professor; interviewed a local researcher about spelt and took her some spelt crackers in thanks; shared bread at a Local Roots potluck; posted articles at The Ethicurean.

7. Eat the food: Roasted sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, and cabbage; buckwheat cookies; pea shoots and goat cheese on homemade bread; a variety of homemade soups; blini with local vegetables or jam; hash browns with egg.

I'm at least getting better at using food from storage -- my grocery bill this month (not including bakery ingredients) currently stands at less than $65, and most of that has been dairy products and fresh produce.

I'm starting to feel the urge to get seeds started for spring, so perhaps next week I can make a little progress on the "planting" part of this challenge. Not easy, though, when the garden still rests under a foot of snow!

In the meantime, a little more rest is in order!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blini'd By the Light

Having blithely skipped over Valentine's Day this year, I decided to return to last year's celebration of Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) as Pancake Day. After all, the weather continues to be cold, making me want starchy comfort foods, and pancakes for dinner are always a treat.

I've been wanting to try buckwheat blini for a few years now and have had the recipe bookmarked in my copy of The Vegetarian Hearth, just waiting for the opportunity. And since I milled some of my home-grown buckwheat a couple of weeks ago, I figured there was no better time to pull out the recipe and give it a whirl.

According to the book, blini are "solar symbols... especially enjoyed during Butter Week" (the week leading up to Ash Wednesday) in Russia as the pale light of winter gives way to the growing sun of the coming spring. With the gray weather we've had around here lately, this sounded like the perfect dish to conjure up a little more sunshine. And with a batter loaded with eggs, butter, milk, and cream, even if the sun delayed its appearance I'd still be happy.

I whisked together the full recipe but had to cut short the rising times (it does include yeast) as I had started it later in the day than planned. The Renaissance Man came by for the feast, and I heated up the cast iron skillet to cook these little pancakes.

Since I could only cook three or four at a time, I turned the oven on to warm and set each batch onto a warm pie plate before continuing with the next batch. Still, I stopped about halfway through the batter so that we could actually get down to the business of eating these treats:

For the first round, I had soaked dried shiitake mushrooms, dried kale, and dried onions together earlier in the afternoon. After draining them, I gave them a quick saute with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. We topped our first blini with that mixture, adorned by plain yogurt. Savory and delicious!

For round two, we pulled out fresh pea shoots and topped those with more yogurt -- and enjoyed some just with yogurt (in place of sour cream). Mmmmm....

By the time round three rolled around, I wanted just one more, spread with some delicious blackberry jelly from The Archivist (many thanks!). What a wonderful dessert!

After that, I used up the rest of the batter and tucked the remaining blini into the refrigerator to enjoy later. The RM agreed that this made a very satisfying dinner and looked forward to sampling some of the leftovers at a later date.

We never did get around to the traditional serving method of dipping the blini into melted butter, though that would have been delightful.

But even so, I feel a little more hopeful about the return of spring sunlight!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow News Is Good News?

Hate to sound like a broken record here, but guess what? Yep, it's snowing again.

While I'm not as "over" snow as some people around here, I find that it's causing me to slip into hibernation mode. Watching those big fluffy flakes drift down outside my window make me want a pot of tea, a blanket, some cookies, and a book -- and not the work I'm supposed to be doing.

I have, of course, been working hard, when my brain hasn't been addled by snow-watching. I baked 20 loaves of bread last Thursday for the Saturday market, I made soup all week long, and I posted yet another article to The Ethicurean. (I've been busy on that front, publishing a book review on food security and a Local Roots update, as well as a paean to winter soups.)

I haven't done much for an Independence Days update, so I'll hold off on that for a week, but I have been working on articles and ideas for more articles, and my farming days are getting a little closer, too.

I "ran away" this past weekend to attend the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) conference in Granville. I picked up lots of good information and handouts, made some new contacts, ate delicious meals, and limited myself to just one book from this lengthy table. I'm still digesting everything I learned, of course, but it was an enjoyable and invigorating experience.

Now that the snow is moving in yet again, it's time to fire up the oven for this week's baking, beginning with the usual baklava.

And maybe then I can settle in for a brief winter's nap before moving on to breads...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bake In the Throes of Winter

Not that this is news, but it's snowing again.

Granted, here in the Land o' Woo, we're not getting the quantity of snow that folks further south (!) are seeing this week. All things considered, this is downright tolerable.

But it does have the effect of nudging me back into the kitchen to bake and to create warm fragrances that chase away the chill.

I started off the day by baking a fresh pan of baklava for this week's market day. (Good thing, too, as I just discovered an online order for some.) Boy, if the sweet scent of honey and butter and nuts and spices doesn't get your day off to a good start, something is wrong with you...

I followed that up with a dish of bread pudding. Yesterday, the Renaissance Man and I trekked down to the market so that I could pick up my leftover bread from last week's snowy market day, and he mentioned that another baker had welcomed us to the stale leftovers on his shelf. So we picked up a loaf of raisin bread, and this morning I chopped it up for this blissfully simple dessert.

In fact, it smelled and looked so good, I called up the RM -- a fellow self-employed wanderer -- to invite him over for a morning tea break so that we had a good reason to tuck in while the bread pudding was still warm. (It met his approval.)

I managed to spend a good bit of time during the late morning and into the afternoon working on writing projects -- I'm not neglecting that part of the business -- before heading back into the kitchen for more fun:

I'd had a request last weekend from a fellow producer for my pesto scones, and I promised her I would add them to the online order system. Trouble was, I didn't have a photo! So I decided to bake a batch today, purely for the sake of photography, of course -- and will leave a couple for her at the market as a precursor to putting them online. (And if I get a couple from the batch, too, well... chalk it up to quality control.)

Tomorrow will be my big baking day of the week: Thursdays work well for pushing through the breads that I sell, leaving me Friday morning to clean up any last baking and Friday afternoon for delivering things to the market.

I think the snow will taper off soon, but it certainly gave me great inspiration for making some delicious comfort foods!

And tomorrow, I'll be bake at it again...

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Dressed to Mill

I have baked a lot of bread lately.

No, really. I mean, a lot. Like, serious bakery quantities. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but over the past two weeks, I've baked about three dozen loaves of bread for market.

That means that not only has my KitchenAid been earning its keep, I've also gone through a lot of flour. And at this point I am totally out of the whole wheat and spelt flours I got from my mill guy in November, and I'm switching over to the home-milled variety.

That, in turn, means more work.

I loaded up a bucket of whole spelt berries and slipped and slid my way to the Renaissance Man's place today. He very kindly offered a home for my "new" big mill on his back porch, so I intended to give it a bit of a workout. And as you can see here, I needed to start by switching the burrs (that metal plate) from the coarse grind to a finer one.

Normally, this is not a difficult task. But I must stop here and add that the RM's back porch is an uninsulated one. After the snowstorm we had, the temps today were barely into the 20s, and thus the temps on his porch were, oh, maybe into the 40s.

So to grind the spelt into flour, I had to be dressed appropriately -- that is, for the frigid outdoors. And it wasn't easy undoing the burrs with thickly gloved fingers. But I persisted (with a little help from the RM) and worked and milled and ended up with about five pounds of flour (which still needs to be sifted).

You always have to have the appropriate equipment for the job, and for some jobs, you need the appropriate costume.

And yes, in this case, I was dressed to mill.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Market Report: 2/6/10

You know that snow I mentioned in yesterday's post? Well, I hadn't been convinced that we would well and truly get the major snowfall that had been predicted...

...until I headed out at about 7:15 this morning, intending to deliver the last of my baked goods to Local Roots, and saw this. I think it's fair to say that we got the predicted amount!

And it kept coming down...

Being one of the few who (A) had a key to the market and (B) was able to get to the market, I ended up helping a couple of other people open up for the day: unpacking producers' items, setting things out for online order pickup, setting cookies and such in the pastry case, shoveling, and so on. What was going to be a mere "stop and shop" visit before I headed out of town ended up being a full day's work shift (with my trip canceled).

I will say that my contributions to the pastry case looked pretty elegant: dark chocolate seduction torte and buckwheat butter cookies (with cacao nibs). But I was pretty sure that I wouldn't sell out of either since I didn't think too many people would be in.

My shelf looked pretty terrific this week, too, but it was immediately apparent that I had baked waaaaaaaay too much bread, given the forecast!

But no matter: eventually One Happy Guy came in (with his family) and started brewing coffee, and while we waited for the snow to abate and the shoppers to trickle in, we volunteers enjoyed a morning coffee break with samples of bagels and goat cheese, plus pastries we had purchased to go along with that fresh locally-roasted brew. When we did finally spot a customer or two, we invited them to join us, in conversation if not in food.

Aside from ourselves, we probably had no more than 25 customers come through. Even the end of the snow, the clearing of roads, and the brilliant sunshine couldn't draw out most people (who were likely still blocked by big snow piles at home). But those who came in did buy a good bit, so my sales at the end of the day turned out to be about a quarter of what I had taken in -- and most of the remaining products can be carried over to next week -- so it was not a total loss.

In all, it really was a relaxing, comfortable day spent with some good people; I made a little money; and now I have the rest of the weekend free to do some restful things at home (like making soup!).

Snow fun if you can't enjoy it somehow, right?

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Independence Days #37

The snow has steadily drifted down outside my window for the past three hours now, the prelude to a winter storm due to intensify tonight. Though I worry a bit that this will both affect the market tomorrow and even cancel my travel plans for the weekend, it's been a delight to sit here at the computer, sip hot tea, work, and watch the flakes grow larger and pile up.

I'm glad I took my baked goods to the market earlier this afternoon. I had baked a lot of bread over the past day and a half, on top of other goodies earlier in the week, and I don't think I would have been too happy unloading all of it in the snow!

Other than the baking, it hasn't been a particularly exciting week at home food-wise, but I think I still managed to show a little Independence:

1. Plant something: Nope. I'm a little tired of sprouts!

2. Harvest something: Broccoli sprouts.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Tried to use a little less cornmeal on baking sheets and flour on the kneading board; used the rest of my butter wrappers for greasing pans; saved turnip tops for stock; converted leftover snacks from Tuesday's reception -- the ones not set out -- into items I can sell at the market tomorrow.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Ordered and received more chocolate for pains au chocolat; starting to work through more canned goods and stored potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash; started list of more baking ingredients needed from a local bulk food store (I've gone through 25 lbs. of unbleached flour in a week and a half!).

6. Build local food systems: Visited with Emily of Eat Close to Home (happy times!) and showed her around Local Roots; accepted Emily's gift of Forty Seeds -- her tried-and-true bean seeds!; attended community garden discussion at Local Roots and talked with a couple of people afterwards about ideas; baked for another client; prepared crackers, spiced nuts for members-only reception for Deborah Madison; spent the afternoon with my Spiral Friend and her daughter, showing her daughter how to make chai spice shortbread; enjoyed dinner with The Photographer and planned a joint outing next week (research for an article); baked a lot for market.

7. Eat the food: Locally-made "everything" bagel; homemade croissants; ravioli with spaghetti sauce (all homemade); cherry pie; hash browns with eggs and cheese; squash soup (from The Photographer); roasted sweet potatoes and potatoes on raw turnip greens; Hakurei turnip slices (raw) with homemade baguette chunks.

A good week, in all -- even after a bumpy start.

So this evening I get to sit back, revel in the knowledge that my market work is done for the week, inhale the fragrance of roasting vegetables, and watch the snow fall some more.

And whatever happens -- well, it will be for the best.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Feeling Out of Tortes?

Before launching into this week's baking, I started off the week by baking a few special items for a special event at Local Roots.

When I found out that Deborah Madison -- author of one of my favorite cookbooks, Local Flavors -- was coming to town to speak at the college's Wellness Series, I asked around and got people to agree to a members-only reception for her at Local Roots after the college's reception. I offered to bake my sesame crackers and rosemary walnuts to serve at the market, but I wanted to come up with something on the sweet side, too.

I ended up pulling out and dusting off the recipe I created for a Dark Chocolate Seduction Torte, something I haven't made for a couple of years.

On Monday I tackled the first four layers, including baking the spiced nuts. This time around, it occurred to me that I might not have as much difficulty in cutting pieces if (A) I didn't refrigerate it first, (B) I cut the torte into squares before adding the sauce, and (C) I used a paring knife.

Bingo on all counts!

Sure, the sauce was a little sloppy and pooled in the bottom of the cupcake liners, but overall this made the squares of torte easier to handle -- and easier to dazzle.

I dropped everything at the market ahead of time and then headed up to campus to listen to Deborah's talk -- which covered the impact of food on culture from the early immigrants to America to our current locavore movement. Several times I wanted to shout out "yes!" to what she had to say (don't worry, I restrained myself).

After the talk, I rushed back down to the market building to help lay out the reception table. A few people raised an eyebrow or laughed when they read the name of my dessert, but once they tasted it, they decided I had not exaggerated.

We gave Deborah a thorough tour of the market once she arrived, and we all had the chance to talk with her (second from left). She wasn't able to enjoy the spread as she realized after the talk that her stomach felt unsettled, but she expressed her delight with what we had done and even bought a few things from our producers! We gave her a Local Roots t-shirt before she headed out, and she promised to wear it to her yoga class.

The rest of us lingered a while longer to enjoy more of the goodies (including raspberry ribbon bars, maple pumpkin bars, mushroom pate, spelt crackers, and artisan cheeses) and our own conversations, but all agreed it had been a fine party, even if it had been sparsely attended.

I still have some torte squares left over, so I will likely save those for the pastry case on Saturday. I feel better knowing that the excess of what I made (what hadn't been set out) will earn me a little extra money for no more work on market day.

And hopefully this torte will make someone else feel better, too!

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