Don’t Eat the Books

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve spent a lengthy night in the kitchen. Instead, I spent my evenings this week consuming beautiful words and whatever I could grab out of the pantry rather than working through new recipes.

Sometimes, life stops for books. The book in question had a return deadline I couldn’t extend (it’s so popular!) and I couldn’t possibly send it back half-finished… so my other plans had to wait.

It was sooo worth it.

So I have no food for your bellies tonight. But! Food for your brain, your soul, your bookshelf, is just as important. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you about this most recent read, as well as a couple of others from the Resources page, that have helped inform and inspire my passion for food.

No one is asking me to tell you about these books. I’m just glad I read them. I think you should read them, too. The end.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
My mom put this on my radar because she heard it was about farms and because the author’s first name is spelled like mine. Moms. Detailing her own transformation from a coffee-toting, high heel-wearing, travel-writing New Yorker into a radical organic farmer over a surprisingly brief period of time, Kimball illustrates the joys and the trials of her new farm life. The book reads like a well-written romantic comedy, starring a smart, savvy woman, her skillful, principled spouse-to-be, and their plan to build a farm to provide their community with any food they might need.

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Yes, I know that this is like, THE book that new foodie converts read. But I really do think it’s a fascinating account of one family and their attempt to go local, and I mean REALLY local. For an entire year, they vow to eat only what can be grown on or very near their Virginia farm. I was already well-versed in Kingsolver’s work when I picked this up, but even if you’ve never read her work before, this is a good place to start. Then check out her other work because it’s beautiful.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman
This is a very quick read and is technically targeted toward little kids. But it takes lovely little peeks into different walks of life. And it’s full of hope for gardens urban and rural, established and spontaneous. Read it to your kids, your cat, or yourself.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
If local eating had a syllabus, this is another book that would be required reading. Michael Pollan’s depth of research focuses on four different “meals” ranging from the industrial food poster child (a fast food meal consumed in the car) to a meal entirely foraged and hunted by the author himself. The book does a great job of addressing the meaning behind and age old question: “What the heck do I want to eat?”

That’s enough for now. I have big dates this weekend with the farmers market, a strawberry patch, my camera, and my stove, so stay tuned for some tasty recipes in the coming days! I promise.

Four Cheese Fettuccine

My favorite dish as a kid was spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese (the powdery kind, mind you). It was years before I would tolerate spaghetti with spaghetti sauce, and to this day, I still prefer it without.

But the first time I indulged in the miracle of the universe that is fettuccine alfredo, I was hooked. Thoroughly convinced it was the best. food. ever.

Not much has changed.

And so! For years I have searched for a recipe that achieves in my kitchen what various restaurants mysteriously create every day: a creamy, cheesy, tangled mass of warm pasta that knocks my socks off.

When I stumbled across this recipe, it was love at first sight. I HAD to try it. The first taste was enough to convince me that it was definitely worth making over and over and over. And I have!

To be sure, this dish certainly steps it up a bit from the powdered parmesan I grew up on. I’ll admit, my new found love of these cheeses takes a larger chunk of my budget than your standard block of orange cheddar. But oooh, they are worth every grated bite.


Chicken Pot Pie(s)

Okay, before I dive into this one, I need a favor. I have a bit of bloggie housekeeping to take care of, and it’s a bit embarrassing. Long story short, I recently installed a plug-in affecting the feed that I didn’t realize I needed when I initially launched the site. Sooooo if you have subscribed to the RSS feed, I would very much appreciate it if you would unsubscribe… and then resubscribe again and refresh the reader. Live and learn, I suppose. I appreciate your help!

Now to the tasty business.

This may be a staple comfort food for some of you, but I don’t think I ever had chicken pot pie until Brad insisted I try some of the Marie Callender one he had one night in college.  I was… not particularly wowed.

This recipe changed all that. I my original intent  in seeking out this recipe was as a surprise look-I-made-you-one-of-your-favorite-meals-ever dinner after Brad’s first round of law school exams. The look on his face when I finally let him out of the study (wouldn’t be a very good surprise if he could see what I was making, would it?) was like a six-year old’s at Christmas.

The original recipe I found for this claimed to make one 9-inch pie. With the adjustments I made, I have ended up with TWO 9-inch pies both times I’ve made it, which yields delicious homemade lunch for the next few days.  Tasty lunch, too. Also, it’s very flexible to veggie preference. Prefer potato over corn? Broccoli over peas? Both or either would probably be delicious. I like the crunch offered by the celery and the carrots, so I definitely recommend leaving them in if you’re gonna play mix-and-match, but it’s your pie, do what you like. Within reason…


Introducing the Third Floor Farm

Growing up, we didn’t have a Nintendo. We owned no boat, and we didn’t have a big screen TV. We had something much more valuable: all the fresh produce we could possibly want.

For most of my life, my grandparents cultivated an enormous garden from whence treasures of all colors and flavors erupted every year. I never saw a jar of store-bought jam in our pantry because my grandma made jam every summer with berries my sister and I picked (er, the ones that made it to the kitchen). I learned at an early age that eating peas off the vine in the humid embrace of the garden was better than any candy at the checkout line. Luckily, we lived just one hour north of this lush patch of land and could watch the garden cycle from seed to harvest.

Sadly, the recent death of my grandpa and the waning strength and stamina of my grandma leave the garden plot barren this year, save for the persistent blackberry bush and some volunteer cosmos. But that garden still holds some of my fondest memories with my grandparents, who taught me at a very young age the value of homegrown food and instilled in me an aspiration to grow some of my own.

After college, one thing I looked forward to more than any other was starting a patio garden at our first apartment in Washington DC. I was unfortunately thwarted: somehow, we managed to secure an apartment assignment with a balcony that received literally no direct sunlight. None. It was quite aggravating. The next year, I was certain that our new place across town would yield a sunnier outlook. Alas, two hours of daily commuting to a full-time job, and most days, a part-time job as well, meant that I could barely keep myself fed and watered. Besides, after deciding in late April that we would be moving to North Carolina in July, it didn’t make sense to start building an army of soil-filled containers that would also have to make the move.

And so, with no further ado, I want to take a moment to introduce you to a few of my long-awaited leafy friends. Friends that I hope will survive, and if I’m lucky, that will actually produce some extremely local food for my little kitchen.

Ta da!

Okay, so I’m not gonna get a pantry full of jars out of this. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I’ll consider this adventure a success if I get ONE tomato.


Easter Eggs + Deviled Eggs

If Easter eggs are your thing, you have probably already dyed yours and let them spend their happy morning in a pile of scraggly plastic grass. So while this might not provide you with a must-try kitchen adventure for this weekend, I still want to tell you about the brief, but bizarre, life of my Easter eggs this year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve used the standard effervescent tablets of color in mis-matched coffee mugs to dye eggs. This year I saw not one but three different suggestions for techniques to dye eggs with vegetable dyes. Perfect! A lifelong tradition that could be easily adjusted to accommodate my transition to local food. Easy right?

Mmmmm not as easy as I’d hoped.

Obtaining the dyes was not too difficult. I needed beets (readily available at the farmer’s market right now), red cabbage, and turmeric. Okay, so the turmeric is in no way, shape, or form local. But it seemed to be the most prevalent suggestion for creating a golden-hued egg, so I gave it a shot. Other than that, water, vinegar, and salt were easy to come by.

Next! I saw a technique to achieve beautiful eggs stenciled with leaves and flowers. A few minutes wandering around my apartment property provided a few stenciling options. A couple pairs of hose chopped into egg-friendly pouches later, some friends came over to partake in the vegetable dyeing experience.


Crunchy Bok Choy Salad

Mmmmm spring. The time when my cravings for cool, green salads kicks into full gear. Lucky for me, the tables at the farmer’s market are bowing under the weight of every kind of lettuce, cabbage, chard, and shoot I could possibly want. In fact, here, we are lucky to have two major growing seasons for leafy greens, as well as a fair amount all winter. It’s fabulous.

Bok choy is actually a pretty new leafy green for me, introduced to me in this recipe from Brad’s mother on their visit last fall. For some reason, I’ve made it with lasagne both times we’ve had it. It makes a great side for pasta.

Sidebar: if you don’t already know who Brad is, I should probably bring you in the loop since he’ll probably be mentioned a lot here. I really hate the word “boyfriend” (for some reason I always think of giggling tweens when I say it) but it’s a challenge to find an accurate word for what he is to me. Domestic partner? Significant other? Un-wed spouse? Romantic roommate? Best best friend? Anyway, you get the point.

I digress. The bok choy.


First Post + Balsamic Strawberries

One day, I marched home from a nearby orchard, pink-cheeked and grinning, with thirty pounds of apples. I shoved them precariously onto the bottom shelf of my refrigerator, accompanied only by the water pitcher squashed against the left side wall.

I ate fresh, local fruit all winter. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to expand my horizons (or, technically, shrink them), draw more and more of my food directly from my local surroundings, and possibly even grow some of it myself.

If you had told me ten years ago, or even three years ago, that I would be launching a food blog on Earth Day this year, I would never have believed it. Ever.


Here we are!

Now, I could just make my dinner and be done with it, but I like sharing! And since I can’t have you all over for dinner every night, this seems like the best way I can share my adventures with you. Who knows! Maybe a recipe on this site will give you something new to try in your own kitchen. Maybe you’ll take comfort in reading my tales not only of success, but of the occasional disaster (I’m talking to you, homemade caramel sauce). Maybe the garden on my balcony will inspire a new plant or two in your own spot of sunlight. Maybe picking thirty pounds of apples on a brisk October day will be for you what it was for me: a place to start.

I hope you’ll stick with me as I embark on this tasty journey. And I’d love to hear from you as you eat & cook your way toward your own culinary goals.

So keep reading! Subscribe. Share, like, tweet, comment, e-mail, add to reader, follow… pick your internet verb(s) of choice and stick around for the fun. And the food, don’t ever leave before the food.