Saturday, July 16, 2011

Revamping the spice drawer

We all have them - stuffed full of faded labels and expired "use by" dates - the dreaded spice drawer or cabinet!

In the interest of full disclosure - here's mine - BEFORE!

We have only lived in our house 6 years, but we must have moved some spices from our old house, judging by the expiration dates. This seems to run in the family, because I remember Mom having a tin of mace from an A&P long after we had moved away from any branches of that famous chain grocery.

I admit it - this was a dysfunctional mess - I could never find anything, so I ended up either using whatever fresh herbs I had on hand or nothing at all - boring!!!

Judging by the cost of spice bottles in the grocery store, revamping the drawer and replacing the spices and herbs seemed overwhelming and too expensive, so I kept putting it off. And then along came Citizen's Co-op...

During their first day open, as I was browsing the shelves, I realized that all their stock of organic herbs and spices was brand new and super fresh. The bulk jars called my name and later at home I daydreamed ways to redo my spice drawer.

Since I happened to have a large number of very inexpensive small, clear plastic containers, I thought they would be perfect. I figured out how many would fit in the drawer, put them all in a box top, grabbed a Sharpie and headed off to the Co-op.

Once there, Gretchen put one of my containers, with the lid, on the scale to determine its weight so that when they weighed the full containers, the cashier could enter the tare and only weigh the spice or herb.

Choosing only 20 was fairly easy - and then I added a couple of new taste sensations to play with - for a total of 24 containers - just the right number to fill my drawer. I labeled the tops with the spice name and the price to make it easier to check out. And the payment was painless - the total for all the spices and herbs was only $9.00

So the total cost - a couple of hours and $10 - including the cost of the containers!

Once home, I just emptied and cleaned the drawer, lined it with a towel, and lined up my containers of fresh spices and herbs. So here's the AFTER!

It's worth the time and "expense" to have an organized drawer of fresh herbs and spices at your fingertips - and bulk spices and herbs make it oh so easy to do!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I had fun in the kitchen today. I roasted a spaghetti squash and since I had the oven on, I also roasted a pan of eggplant chunks and another of chopped san marzano tomatoes. When the eggplant was done, I tossed it with some chopped fresh basil and a little olive oil. The tomatoes were tossed in olive oil and oregano before their pan went in the oven. The cooked and shredded spaghetti squash was tossed with a little butter, some roasted garlic (hey, the oven was on, so I took advantage) and thai basil.

When everything was done, I layered it in a flat casserole dish with Thomasville Tomme from Sweet Grass Dairy and more fresh herbs.

Covered the pan with foil and baked it 45 minutes at 350 degrees - on a cookie sheet since I used a glass pan.

What a winner! Looks great - tastes great - can be easily made vegan, but I am a cheese lover, and the Tomme was just assertive enough to stand up to the eggplant and garlic.

I will publish the recipe in Hogtown HomeGrown eventually, but until then, play with your food and have fun in the kitchen - you'll be surprised what you can create.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Come eat my food this Sunday

So this Sunday is the Kickoff for the 2011 Eat Local Challenge and as part of the festivities we have 5 guest cooks (and yes, I am one of the cooks) who will do cooking demos every half hour from 12 - 3pm.

I've decided to cook Anna's African Greens

The recipe came from someone in Kenya via our very own Anna Prizzia. The combination of garlic, tomatoes and ginger just makes the greens melt in your mouth. It also has the added benefit of creating a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals all accessible in one tasty side-dish.

Hope you can come enjoy the Kickoff and Party at Kumarie's - but if you can't, get a bunch of greens and cook up a pot of yumminess tonight!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tips to get ready for the Challenge!

Well, just one week to go until the 2011 Eat Local Challenge begins. Since this is the 4th annual Challenge, I have learned a few tips to make sure I am ready to go on the very first day - which means we need to start now.

First, we need to eat up any non-local food we have in the house that we won't be eating during the Challenge - that little bit of ice cream in the freezer, those cheeses in the fridge and even the loaf of bread still in the breadbox. Not that we will go hungry with ice cream from Sweet Dreams, cheese from Cypress Point and bread from any of our locally-owned bakeries.

Next, we must make sure our pantry is stocked - basics like oil, vinegars, spices and herbs can make the difference between a bored locavore and a happy one! If you have decided to include them, also check your stock of grains, beans, flour, sugar and yes, butter. Consider using some substitutes during the Challenge - local ground corn products for cereals and flour, local honey in place of sugar, and while I suppose you could make your own butter - let's just not go there!

Finally, we check to see if we have enough pet food, dishwashing soap and paper products to last the month. I really try not to enter any big-box stores during the entire Challenge, although last year, I found myself doing late night runs (in disguise, of course) to get dog food and toilet paper. This year, I am stocking up in advance!

The Eat Local Challenge is not a road map to Locavore Nirvana, it is just a chance to see if you can eat a little closer to home, a chance to have fun with a new way of eating, and a chance to shake things up. Make the Challenge fun - get together family and friends to cook most of your meals at home, but be sure to visit some of our locally-owned restaurants that source local food.