Catching up

Where to start when one has been away for multiple days?

After nine very blah days, I returned to [almost] full health in time to teach CyclingSavvy the first weekend in October.  For better or worse (perhaps better because my energy levels were still a bit low), the weather had other plans.

We made it through most of the “parking lot drill” portion of the class, including some low-speed drills on a freshly blacktopped parking lot that was quite slippery after a brief rain shower.  However, after two wet-pavement-related crashes (and with more storm clouds looming on the radar), we cancelled the afternoon road tour portion of the class.  I biked home, ate lunch, and passed out on the couch for two hours.

Found fruit
The following Monday, Gabriel and I visited a county park, where I just happened to come across some fresh persimmons.


We snacked on some in the park (Sir is a fan), and I gathered a small bag for later consumption.  After painstakingly processing many of them into pulp, which later became persimmon custard, I’ve concluded that persimmons are best in small quantities, enjoyed raw, unless you have some sort of awesome way to separate the flesh from the seeds.

I originally thought our Foley food mill would serve well, but some places advised against it due to risk of scraping bits of seed into the final product.  So I removed hundreds of seeds by hand.  The custard is okay, “interesting” is a decent description — not bad, but probably not worth the trouble in the future.

By the time we encountered a persimmon tree right next to our campsite during this past weekend’s camping adventure (more on that in an upcoming post), I had had my fill of the fruit.

Having used the trailer recently and having decided that it’s workable, but not ideal, I’m back to having Gabriel in the front seat, trying to maximize the time we have to ride that way before he really and truly outgrows the thing (he’s still a few pounds under the 38-pound weight limit, but height-wise, his legs are already scrunched).

Last Friday morning, I turned what could have been tedious errands, if done by car, into a lovely 6-mile ride, stopping at a bakery, then making milk and [Schlafly pumpkin] beer runs.

This morning marked my first chilly weather ride.  By the time I left the house shortly after ten, I assumed my gloves and under-helmet hat would be overkill, but I brought them along just in case and quite happily donned them before my ride.  Nothing like some crisp, cool, fall riding!

Friday free-for-all

All things go in cycles — for quite awhile there, my writing was very food-centric, almost to the exclusion of anything else.  My concerted effort to post more on the bicycling-side of things perhaps worked too well, as my food-related posting feels a bit sparse of late.

I blame this in part on my slightly blah feelings on cooking in general, as I’ve been feeling unmotivated and [finally] a bit tired of eating primarily from our frozen and root-cellared stores.  After a number of months, it began to feel like the same food all. the. time.

Fortunately, spring is here (today’s blustery weather notwithstanding), and abundant fresh, local produce is just around the corner.  We’ve already had a few small spinach harvests (from the plants that grew under the low tunnels all winter), and I can’t wait for more.

In the meantime, I finally caved and bought a head of broccoli at the grocery store.  That broccoli is the first non-garden, non-local produce (other than onions, garlic, and frozen corn and peas) that I have bought in I don’t know how long.  It’s easy to focus on the [still many] foods that we don’t grow ourselves or buy local, but in reality we’ve taken some pretty big steps to lighten our food footprint.

Back on the biking side of things, after debating whether it was worth thirty minutes in the car to meet a Craigslist seller (to buy a life jacket for Sir’s upcoming beach trip), I contacted the seller to set things in motion.  Rather then me going to her (over six miles away), she suggested a meeting point conveniently located about two miles from us.

I happily ditched the car for a lovely (though windy and chilly) bike ride and returned home with a worn-once (looks brand new) life vest.  Sir approved the purchase and happily wore the vest for the rest of the morning (you never know, our second story apartment could flood — better safe than sorry!).


He’s carrying the pump for my exercise ball, which he pretends is a vacuum cleaner (complete with cute sound effects).  Something about the life vest and pump-vacuum combination makes me think of Ghostbusters, though I can’t say quite what, having only watched the movie once, a long time ago.  For those of you more familiar with the movie, does my association make any sense?

Foodie Friday: Eating local in late winter

‘Tis the season for the annual, “What does a locavore eat in the winter?” post.  Quite a long list of things, actually.

We have our root cellared veggies: squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.  Then we have our canned tomatoes and tomato sauces, along with a small quantity of canned green beans.  Frozen garden goods include carrots, summer squash, eggplant, sweet (and hot!) peppers, beets, Swiss chard, kale, and sun dried tomatoes.  Oh, and let’s not forget the fresh carrots (from the low tunnels) and leeks (just out in the open) that we’re still harvesting!

We’ve supplemented our fresh and preserved produce with cruciferous veggies from farmers’ market: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and some delicious Brussels’ sprouts.  Those items are on their way out though, so pickings will be a bit slim until spring.

We supplement the local food with onions and some store-bought frozen veggies, including peas and corn.

So, those are the raw ingredients in my kitchen.  Here are some recent creations:

  • Vegetable upside-down cake with our carrots, peppers, herbs, and garlic; local cauliflower; and frozen peas and corn
  • Farinata with carmelized onions and a side of roasted winter squash
  • Black bean soup with our sweet potatoes and peppers
  • Baked potatoes with tempeh and sides of canned green beans and roasted beets
  • Split pea soup with our carrots and potatoes
  • Masaman curry with local cauliflower, our carrots and potatoes, and frozen peas
Sautéing veggies for black bean soup
Sauteing veggies for black bean soup

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be attending a vegetarian potluck tonight.  The theme is “colors of the rainbow.”  I’ll be making a winter squash dish or a roasted sweet potato dish — or perhaps both.  Any way you slice it, my color will be orange!

Market morning

I just returned from a lovely visit to the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market — the first of the season.  Their new eight o’clock opening time made it easy to beat the heat.

I don’t like the heat even in the summer, when it’s supposed to be hot, so you can imagine my feelings about kicking off May with a week of 90ish degree temps.  Since I can’t do anything about the heat, I may as well enjoy the earlier than usual produce that comes with it.

I filled the milk crate on my bike with strawberries, asparagus, and a small head of cabbage.  We have tons of greens (Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, arugula) from our garden right now, so I didn’t need to buy much else.

Back at home, I enjoyed breakfast number two — pancakes with fresh sliced strawberries.  Delicious!

I’d mostly avoided eating the imposters (i.e., berries trucked in from far, far away) over the last year.  The first strawberries of the year were worth the wait.

I found a farmer selling organic practices, no-spray berries, so I can eat them without wondering what else I’m eating along with them, extra important since Sir will no doubt be enjoying some of these berries.  (Sir would probably be perfectly happy to eat ALL of the strawberries — that kid can put it away!)

Eating through last year’s crops

Spring has sprung, and while we’re already enjoying freshly harvested produce, we’re still eating through the tail end of our 2011 harvest.

The cruciferous plot

We finished the last of the onions at the end of March.  We dug the onions at the end of June, which means we had garden onions nine months out of the year — not bad!  We made it that long even though some of the stored onions went bad, despite our drying and storing efforts.

We already have some Egyptian onions coming in from the garden, but not enough for our everyday needs.  Going to the store to buy a bag of onions the other day felt strange.  I guess if we were hardcore locavores, we would do without onions right now.

The potatoes lasted a similar period of time from harvest to depletion — harvested in late July and finished in early April.  They made their final stand in a delicious potato salad Matthew’s mom made for our Easter gathering.

So what’s left?

Non-processed, root cellar-type items

  • Two HUGE sweet potatoes
  • A few assorted winter squash


  • A few jars of green beans
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Catsup
  • The shelves are not as full as they were here!


  • Six one-quart bags of cooked, pureed winter squash
  • Six bags of Swiss chard
  • Maybe some other stuff that I’m not thinking of right now.  We have a very official system for tracking this that I will show you someday.

Matt’s mom also discovered some frozen garden veggies with 2010 dates on them in her deep freeze, so we’re helping take care of those.

Though I often bemoan the amount of Matthew’s time that goes into the garden, and his lack of free weekends during a majority of the year, we DO get quite a bit of food from his efforts.  Since he’s unlikely to give up gardening any time soon, it’s good to focus on the delicious results as much as possible.

Rainbow on my plate