Menu Swap January 12th: Locally grown, raised or made

heirloom tomatoes

We are working on our way to become true localvores.  We are at heart.  Living in Michigan it is simply not possible to cook the way I want to cook with all things local.  For example, tropical anything will not grow here.  We do have a shrimp farm about 20 miles away, but other than that, shellfish – not local.  Outside of exotic ingredients, we do try our best to go as local as possible as often as possible. By local I mean about a 220 mile radius, within the Michigan borders and including the farm I am from, which is about 220 miles away.


Items to choose from that are local and in our house right now: Leelanau Raclette cheese; Leelanau fromage blanc; Farm Country Cheese House aged sharp cheddar cheese from Lakeview; garden canned tomatoes; frozen garden green chiles; potatoes from our garden; my dad’s farm or my friend’s farm; shallots from the garden; garlic from my brother’s garden;apples from the farm; pears from the farm; frozen cherries and strawberries from my dad’s and cousin’s farm; dried cherries; cherry juice concentrate; a full winter herb garden in my basement with the exception of thyme which died; wine and sparkling wine; hard cider; fresh cider; local beer (for Eby); apple eau de vie (apple schnapps); canned tomatillos from the garden; pork from our pig; including bacon; free range, organic chickens and pheasants from my brother’s farm; beef from my boss’s farm (grass fed); local lamb; homemade jam from my friend and aunt (using local fruit); maple syrup from my brother; salsa from friend; corn tortillas; tortilla chips; potato chips; sauerkraut made up North; bread and butter pickles and pickled dilly beans made by me from the garden; honey; sugar (made from sugar beets in Michigan’s thumb – we are shaped like a mitten); free range organic eggs; carrots; black beans; dried tomatoes from the garden; frozen chopped garlic scapes and frozen morel mushrooms from the woods.   Imagine when summer harvest rolls around and the garden is producing!  My broccoli crop failed this year and my beans didn’t do so well, so we have virtually no frozen garden veggies.  The rest we ate already.

yum, tomatoes! and pork

I really am amazed at how much we have that is local.  We do search for it, but the items mentioned above are not specialty items that we went to a store to find, they are just what we have available in Michigan.  Michigan is agriculturally the second most diverse state after California.  We grow a lot of dry beans, fruit and veggies.  I do consider myself to be lucky.  Luckier than most when it comes to food as I come from a cherry and potato farm that has morphed over 30 years into a cherry, specialty apple and farm market potato farm.  My brother farms with my dad and produces free range organic chickens, ducks, heritage turkeys, pheasant and on occasion, quail.  We co-purchased with my brother this fall a Dexter heifer (a cow in waiting) and a Jersey Dexter steer and they are eating nothing but the hay my brother raised this year.  The farm has changed in so many ways since I went to college many years ago.  I think it is much more sustainable now, more diverse and more interesting.  Interesting enough that we plan to return to it one day.  Aside from cherries and apples there are also grapes, blackberries, raspberries, currants, apricots, pear and peach trees on the farm.  Some years I get up there during the various seasons, some years I don’t and dearly miss my fruit.  I always have apples though, they hold pretty well in our basement and in the farm’s walk in cooler.

apples potatoes

If I didn’t have all these resources at arm’s length (or a 3.5 hour drive one way) and I didn’t have a farmer’s market 3 blocks from my house, and I didn’t have a huge garden in my back yard, I would shop at my local coop and farmer’s market even more as I believe in spending my money locally and supporting local farmers.  I would need a bigger food budget though.  It is not cheap to buy this way when it comes to protein purchases, but it is healthier and I know who raised my food.

Jr and Unna heritage chicken 4 weeks

My spices, well, those are in the exotic category as they just don’t grow in this climate.  I do oddly enough have a Meyer lemon and a key lime tree in my basement under greenhouse lights.  I am preparing for global warming when MI is the temp that FL is now.  They are not doing so well.  They know they are in Michigan.  So, avocados, spices, some veggies and all citrus come from out of state.  I am ok with that.  I am working on neutralizing my footprint, but because of my need for limes and grapefruit and red chile from NM, I will always have a foot print.

collage of fruit pheasant at the farm

Our cooking goal this week is to use at least 50% of locally sourced ingredients.  To do this in my 200+ radius, I had to include Canada as Ontario is only 100 miles away.  They are included as I wanted to incorporate some fish and I was more in a perch mood (fits with the Deep Fry Friday) than Whitefish.  Whitefish fishing season is typically closed during January anyway.

I decided to go to the East Lansing food co-op (ELFCO) first and see what local produce they had available before completely planning our menu.  Guess what they had there?  Nothing, zero, zilch for local produce.  It was all from California.  Plenty of local dairy though, so I stocked up on that, plenty of chicken, duck and pork too.  Zingerman’s cheese and Calder’s milk and butter. I then went to Foods for Living which is like our co-op but bigger and more expensive than Whole Foods – nothing for local produce.  I expected to find kale, cabbage and maybe fennel and brussel sprouts somewhere.  So that is why we now have the 50% goal.  I guess it is about 10F and snow snow snow here in mid Michigan.  We need more greenhouses!

What we are cooking this week:

Sunday: Potato, bacon, leek soup.  We will use local milk, 2 local cheeses, potatoes and our own bacon for this one.  Only the leeks are not.  Ironically I have leeks in the backyard but they are the size of a pencil and under 2 feet of snow.

Monday: Mignon’s de porc a l’ail from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles book.  Pork medallions with a garlic confit.  We will roast purple potatoes with garlic and rosemary and a brussel sprout gratin with raclette to round out the meal.  All the ingredients for the pork we have locally, wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and homemade demi glace that I have in the freezer.  Only the brussel sprouts and some olive oil are not.

Tuesday:  Dilled potato salad with horseradish creme fraiche, grilled 1/2 chicken and some green beans.  The dill, horseradish, potatoes and chicken are local.

Wednesday: Lamb curry with tomatoes and potatoes over rice.  Rice and spices will not be local.

Thursday: Guajillo spiced pork from Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday.  This is crock pot cooking at it’s best.  The dried chiles and onions will not be local, but the pork, tomatoes, garlic and potatoes will be. OR we might try to make tacos al pastor with our pork.  We watched Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) in Mexico last night and I can’t decide between the two dishes.

Friday: Fish and chips!  Fried perch, dusted with rice flour and lemon zest, fresh cut fries and a fennel slaw.  Fennel, rice flour and lemon are not local, but perch and potatoes are.  Oil to fry in also not local.  This is part of the continuing Deep Fry Friday series.  Send me your deep fried posts!

So, what is cooking in your kitchen this week and what were you able to find that was locally grown, raised or made, to add to your menu? Sometimes this time of year you have to look a bit harder, but it might be more worth it.  In summertime it is easy to find local produce.   In wintertime you might have to search out that farmer who sells milk to the health food store, but they need your business all year long as we want to keep them around.

What’s cooking in the gf blogosphere:

Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness was able to visit her farmers market and had a few good finds like apples and carrots.  Those of you in Southern climates are lucky!  Cheryl is supplementing her farmers market finds with her garden goods, some fresh and some frozen. I love the idea of Nightshade soup – it sounds so dark and dangerous.  She also has socca on the menu which I have yet to try despite wanting too for over 2 years.

Sea of Book of Yum has some delicious looking Jjapchae noodles posted to make me drool.  She is always featuring some tempting looking Japanese food and this week Korean too.  I love paneer and the tomato cashew gravy she plans to make sounds great for a cold night, even if it is not that cold, it sounds good.  She didn’t mention Wednesday night, I wonder what she has going on?  Secret plans?  Do tell us!

Manda of Asparagus Thin has been thinking about starting her own business, so anyone with tips – drop her a line.  She has left the sweet world of decorating cakes she can’t eat and is cooking up an international storm, as usual.  I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I have to say, if she showed up with the Boston Creme Pie she is planning on baking, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it.  Haute lamb stroganov is on the menu too – I am curious about this one and love anything with stroganov in it’s name – who doesn’t? 

M-Elle of Cooking and Uncooking is starting a new Tasty Tuesday feature (starting with pot pie – ummm) and looking for posters.  For all of you with super crazy schedules this feature will allow for leftovers the next day.  A ginger peanut stir fry is planned for later in the week and well, you probably all know how I feel about ginger – spice of life!  I can’t forget to mention her falafel dish too – it sounds great!

Angela of Angela’s Kitchen is loaded with local produce from visiting farmers markets and her garden this summer and meat after buying grass fed beef this fall.  She will be incorporating canned, dried and frozen produce into all of her meals this week.  The tomato relish has me intrigued and the sesame chicken with bok choy is something I have been craving.  Angela is a busy woman!  I really don’t know how all of you with kids and celiac keep up on the cooking and blogging.

Wendy of Celiacs in the House will be using some homemade frozen pesto to zing up her meals as well as some frozen tomatoes.  Pesto in the dead of winter is such a great way to feel like summer will show up again.  Fondue with pound cake is on the menu to end the week and she starts her week with a great sounding pasta dish (with pesto).

Karen of Gluten Free Sox still has some garden goods hanging out to use, but let’s jump right to the crawfish etouffee using locally made boudin shipped in from Louisiana via a friend.  Does your friend need more friends?  I figure I need about 8 hours to get to Karen’s house for dinner, so maybe she can plan accordingly.  Chicken piccata is later in the week and such a great dish, lots of flavor, easy to make. The herb garden is alive and well and will be adding to the dishes of the week.

Scrumptious of In My Box has collard greens to use!  I can see mine out the window, they are frozen.  Falafel is on the menu here too as well as lentil spinach curry which sounds like comfort food to me.  Lots of tofu mixed with greens and this is one healthy, tasty menu.  Will you tell us what brand of GF buckwheat soba noodles you found?  I can’t find any in MI.  I would figure that after this week the fridge should be nice and clean and ready to be reloaded.

Elizabeth of Modern Gal plans to use some local grass fed beef this week and using it in a couple of dishes, like the crockpot beef and vegetable stew.  The apple ginger coleslaw caught my eye, you probably know why.  It sounds fresh and crisp.  She is relying on her freezer stock and is working on cleaning it out.  Must be a January theme in prep for Chinese New Year or the US Inauguration as several of you are highly motivated to clean up and eat up!

Ester of The Lilac Kitchen gave me some great tips on cooking up French Fries/chips, which I will use on Friday this week.  She gets a box of veggies from her local organic store every week and they stress using local produce, what a bonus.  It sounds like she is hoping to get her own garden started next year to add to the veggies she has cooking this week.  I noticed leeks on the menu, they are a great winter vegetable, esp with potatoes!

I always wish we could just head over to each others houses after reading all the great menus.

chickens in the morning sun

my family's farm house

Happy eating!  Don’t forget to post your menu swap next week with Book of Yum!  Lentils and dals are the theme!
i’m out

Menu of the Week Jan 5th: soup!

Vietnamese crab and squid soup

I love soup.  I could eat it more frequently than I do.  Eby really doesn’t care for soup unless it is full of meat and has almost no broth, or it must be more stew like.  Since that is the case, I will typically cook soups for my lunches if I am working from home that day.  Last week I was craving beans and greens (this week too).  This week I am craving a spicy Asian style noodle soup, like the one above, Vietnamese crab and squid soup.  I would make it, but I don’t think I wrote the recipe down or else I got it from a cook book long returned to the library.  Lessons learned.  Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness is hosting this week’s swap, so if you need some soup ideas, click on over check out all the menus this week, even if you don’t need soup ideas you should check out the menus.  If you haven’t posted your menu before, why not try it this week?  It is really easy once you get the swing of it and helps with grocery shopping as well as meal planning organization.  I have posted one every week since last Feb.  As a result, I can look back over old menus and get new inspiration.  Inspiration also comes from many cookbooks, magazines, fellow food bloggers and internet recipe sources.  Try it for a couple of weeks, you’ll see.

On to the menu.  I used the soup idea to clean out a few items from the freezer yesterday.  Soup is good for that.  It’s sunny, snowy and cold in MI today, and I wish I had some of last night’s soup left, sort of (see below). I have been trying hard to not have many leftovers and it is working finally.  I always want to cook something new the next day and can’t easily take leftovers on the road with me.  It looks to be a pork and chicken week, so I will work some extra veggies and seafood into my lunches (soups I hope).

Sunday: South American veggie and pork soup. This soup celebrates many of the ingredients that came to us via South America: potatoes, tomatoes, corn, chile peppers and would have been even better had I not scorched it while playing on Facebook. We topped it off with cilantro. Tomatoes and potatoes were local or from the garden, garlic too.

Monday: Roast 1/2 organic free range local chicken on a bed of onions, portabella mushrooms (on sale!) celery and parsley. Gluten free waffle stuffing (getting it’s own post tomorrow) with sage, thyme, parsley and garlic, rice (to go with the gravy I hope happens) and roasted brussel sprouts.

Tuesday: Hue (Vietnamese) style fried rice with lemongrass and black pepper or lemon grass chicken or tofu. Some of those pork spring rolls I froze last week will go nicely with this too. I wish you guys could taste them. If I posted the recipe, you probably could. Will work on that.

Wednesday: Company in town, spice him up! My dad is visiting for a meeting. Living two miles from Michigan State University gives us lots of opportunities to entertain out of town guests with meetings on campus. We like reasons to entertain. We are grilling some of our own pork center cut loin on the rotisserie and making risotto along with either broccoli or green beans in some form of healthy casserole, or just steamed. We will use the Fennel Fusion spice rub, oh how I love that stuff.

Thursday:  I am in Chicago for work, but won’t have a lot of opportunity to go out except in the near vicinity of the Sheraton by O’Hare.  Eby is on his own for dinner, which likely means dinner at Arbor Brewing Company, along with some beers.

Friday: Truffade and Pounti ala Auverge region of France and Saveur mag.  Eby picked these out to make.  I already bought the prunes so no turning back now.  Pork and potatoes are from us, green beans or broccoli are not.

Saturday:  Lunch Vietnamese crab soup with tomatoes.  Every since I posted that pic today, I have been searching for a similar recipe and have found 4.  Now I have to cook it again right?

Stop by here again next week and send me your menu swaps as I will be hosting.  The ingredient is “local”.  Source out at least one local ingredient, anything from your garden (fresh, frozen or canned this time of year) certainly counts.  If you need ideas of how to find something local, leave me a comment or email me.  Consider swinging into your local food co-op if you have one near by and those of you in warmer climates probably still have farmer’s markets to visit.  Local anything counts, cheese, meat, tofu, veggies, let your tastebuds and imagination do the cooking!

i’m out

Speck and Parma… Unna and Jr and a gobbler in between

speck going for a jog

yum apples and parma, our pig

It’s long overdue that I post about our piggie venture for the year.  Warning, there will be a lot of photos of meat or butchering in this post.

thirsty piggie

speck and parma, our pigs eating the garden veggies we brought them

I have mentioned our pig share in the past.  Last year’s pig’s name was Pancetta.  She was tasty but we ran out of our pork supplies in the spring, so this time we thought we would go whole hog – literally.  Last year we split one.  Now we have not just the whole hog, but 1.5 hogs and our freezers are full.  Add to the freezers 20 free range organic chickens raised by my brother (Leelanau Farm and Game) and you see I mean really full.  Oh and we still have part of the 1/4 of grass fed steer in there too and now a local leg of lamb.  Sounds like we are carnivores.  Yep, we are, esp Eby.  But to show you our versatilty we also eat tofu and have a pantry full of canned tomatoes from our garden.    By now you should have time to leave the blog before we get to the photos, I have given you ample warning.

thirsty piggie

parma and speck getting a shower

Those were all pictures of our pigs in July and about one month before we butchered them.  As you can see, they are happy.  They have treats, mud to wallow in and lots of water to play in or drink.

Ginger with her sides of pork

Here’s our co butcher Julius with the ban saw behind him. Note the honey boxes, yes we were in the honey house as it is full of stainless steel and easy to bleach after wards.

butching our pigs in the honey shack

making ground pork in the honey shack

We have about 45 pounds of ground pork now.  A lot you may think, but many cuisines use ground pork and we cook a lot of Asian and Mexican food.

For a little variety, below is a shot of my brother butchering our Thanksgiving Turkey (it was a small one) by hand (not his favorite thing to do) as we needed our a bit early to bring home with us. I watched the process from start (catching the turkey and killing it) to finish (de-feathering, gutting and putting it in a bag for transport home). I am glad I did as it makes me appreciate even more what it takes to put healthy, sustainably raised food on the table.
Our turkey is the black and white one on the right:

heritage turkeys

our thanksgiving turkey

Next up: Dexter cow and half Dexter/jersey steer. Stay tuned for the adventures of Unna and Jr.  Unna will be kept and bred, Jr will be many dinners of grass fed beef.
the new kids on the farm, Dexter cow and steer Unna's hut

This will be their winter home as soon as it is fixed up (it is structurally sound, but needs some minor adjustments):

old shed, changed landscape - no trees

i’m out

Menu Swap Dec 8th Bitter, no not me, the ingredient

The secret ingredient is not an ingredient this week, it is a taste:  bitter!  I think it is great, we are moving on from grounded items to the philosophy of eating this week.  I love bitter things, and sour things too.  Our lovely host this week is Manda of Asparagus Thin, who ironically has a new job as a cake decorator, ironic because it is not a GF bakery, but maybe it will be soon!

Saturday: Spicy grass fed beef and chorizo chile with hominy and cheese arepas

Sunday: Spinach and cheese stuffed shells (Tinkyada) with tomato sauce

Monday: Vietnamese Banh Xeo with our pork, bean sprouts, onions and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  I love these coconut rice crepes!

Tuesday: Lunch:  beans and greens – let the bitter begin! I have to make this for lunch as Eby will never eat it with beans in it.

Dinner: 1/2 organic free range chicken (raised by my bro) roasted on a bed of leeks and served with a dijon cream sauce, brussel sprouts (also a bit on the bitter side)and salad.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunch:  At a convention – crossing my fingers the chef pulls through with GF meals for me.

Friday:  My birthday!  Giant shrimp with dill butter as an app or maybe dinner and perhaps a gluten free pizza from the new place on the other side of town.  Feuerzangenbowle for after dinner – a German version of hot spiced wine with kick.

i’m out

Menu Swap Thursday, I missed Monday :Chocolate

First, I would like to mention that in honor of chocolate, Eby ( my boyfriend’s name, I am tired of typing BF and think Manda has the right idea) and I will be making bourbon chocolate truffles.

Now to the menu.  Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness is temporarily taking over the Gluten Free Menu Swap as Natalie is feeling very under the weather with her pregnancy.  So, even though it is Thursday, go over to GFG and check out the other menus for inspiration and see what is growing still in Cheryl’s (to be envious) Southern Bell garden. This is what I have been cooking and plan to cook for the rest of the week:

Monday: Braised pork (the last piece from our pork share from the depths of the freezer) with potatoes in a tomato, rosemary, garlic sage broth and polenta with sage, shallots and pancetta, oh and broccoli.

Tuesday: Got back late – cocktail hour at my friends!  Mrs Leepers Cheeseburger Mac – gluten free and tasted just like my hamburger helper college days.  For emergencies, I would by this again!  But don’t tell anybody.  We did at least use grass fed beef.

Wednesday: Roasted 1/2 Tarragon Chicken on a bed of leeks with marjoram risotto.  The chicken was raised by my brother and was free range, organic and very good! Local leeks too.  I will try to post this creation when I get a chance.

Thursday: Grilled eggplant cannelloni stuffed with sausage and cheese sitting on a bed of fresh marinara – side of pasta is pending.

Friday:  Indian!  Oh I love me some Indian cooking.  Dosas with coconut chutney and saag paneer and the other dishes are yet to be determined.  Perhaps aloo pakora with a cilantro mint chutney and some raita.

i’m out