Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparation for the New Year!

I'm in full blown nesting mode! Yesterday, on my "day off" from work, I was washing walls, moving furniture (or rather, directing where furniture should be moved), and scouring Once a Month Cookbooks so I can stock the freezer to prevent starvation once our new bundle of sleep-depriving joy arrives!

I figured I'd go into the garage and see what meat we had in the freezer and if there were any leftovers that we needed to use to make space for the new freezer meals I would be preparing...and guess what I found?!

I found the bottom of my deep freezer!

I freaked! This was a first as the freezer is usually packed to the gills with organic flours and local meats and fruits and freezer burned who-knows-what. This was not good. I clearly failed at properly preparing for local winter eating. The thing about trying to eat locally is that you really need to be sensitive to the seasonality of food. Beef isn't butchered in winter. If you didn't freeze your peas back in spring, the only thing local about your vegetable is that it's coming from your local grocery store.

So as I sheepishly returned to the kitchen realizing that a very expensive trip to Whole Foods was in my future, I figured in preparation for 2011, I'd get on Willow Lea's pre-order list for a Quarter Beef in the spring. I spoke with Michele Aavang, and she is taking reservations for butcher dates of March 15, April 12 and May 4. Price is $1.30/lb live weight.

I felt a little better getting my beef order in, only to turn around and see the growing pile of mail on our counter which included 2011 seed catalogs for Burpee and Seed Savers.....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Be a Local St. Nick!

As a parent, I try desperately each year to instill the REAL meaning of Christmas into my kids and every year one of them lets a comment about toys being the height of the holiday season slip out.

I know how they feel. Except instead of toys, my obsession is cookies. Baking AND eating them. However, I get as much joy in sharing them with others. Nothing says "I love and appreciate all you do for me year round" like a batch of fresh baked, melt in your mouth treats!

My favorite thing to do is give them to those who least expect it in my local our librarians who to go the extra mile and hold new books aside for my kids without us ever requesting them because they know what topics my kids enjoy, or the priests at my church who listen to me complain and confess the same things over and over again patiently without ever yelling "GET OVER YOURSELF".

This year I only baked 5 different cookies. At 8 months pregnant I just couldn't muster up the steam to do many more (and yes, my poor unborn child is also the scapegoat for my lack of outside Christmas decorations and poor gift wrapping jobs). This year's selection included(starting at the top of the picture above and moving clockwise): Cherry Snowballs, Mincemeat Cookies, Coffee Bonbons, Cream Cheese Coconut Thumbprints, and Peanut Butter Kisses. All of the red "frosting" you see is not just food coloring, but actually a cherry chip which I found at Woodman's Market on Randall Road in Carpentersville. They are tasty if you like artificial cherry flavor and the color, but I found the flavor a bit overwhelming to the cookies. I'd stick with what the original recipes suggest. My family did a taste test and we couldn't all decide on a favorite. The strongest opinions were regarding the coffee bonbons. Let's just say you have to love coffee to enjoy them--they're pretty potent!

So this year in the spirit of the REAL St. Nicholas, set aside a dozen and surprise someone special in your neighborhood who may have been overlooked. I bet it will be the greatest gift you give this season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Say No To Drugs!

So I've got this crazy idea in my head that I'm going to birth this baby with no pain meds, despite the fact that with both of my prior deliveries I was drugged to the hills, and both of my babies were very large. In preparation, my husband and I are learning the Bradley Method of natural childbirth. We've been taking a wonderful class through Jennifer Budney (who is a doula as well, in case you're looking for one:, which has an entire section dedicated to nutrition. Now it doesn't take a PhD in nutrition to know that the best thing anyone, preggo or not, can give their body is dark, leafy greens.

I don't know about you, but sitting around munching on collards or mustard greens is not my idea of a good time. Sure, I can deal with a romaine salad, or a spinach omelet, but after 4 weeks of eating those twice a day, it was time to branch out.

Now don't knock the recipe I'm suggesting today until you try it. I know when you first read the recipe you will probably think I'm ON drugs. This baking method takes away any bitterness in the kale and your kids might even enjoy eating it (especially if they aren't on a "green thing" strike):

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Trim stems off of kale and cut or tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.
-Wash and dry kale leaves, and then place on a baking sheet.
-Toss the leaves with the olive oil and season with salt.
-Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges are brown, but not burned. Be careful, if you overcook the kale will disintegrate when you touch it.