Monday, March 29, 2010

The Monroe Farm Market is looking for more customers.

That's right.

During the week of April 5th through 8th, representatives from the Monroe Farm Market will be in Charleston and Beckley to meet with folks interested in signing up for the online farmers market--both individuals and restaurants.

I've been buying from them for almost a year, and I LOVE the online farmers market. They have this website. On Mondays (twice a month now, but in high season, every week) you get an email telling you the market is open and a little about what's new this weeek. You log onto the website and pick out what you want to buy and go to "check out." The products you ordered are delivered on the following Thursday from 4 to 6pm at a church parking lot on Kanawha Blvd. (here in Charleston). Easy as pie!

As far as prices go, the products are competitve with what you'd find at the grocery store for organic products (maybe even a little cheaper). For example, the pasture-raised eggs are $3.00 a dozen. If you buy Eggland's Best Cage Free eggs, you'll pay $2.99, and you might not know this, but "cage free" isn't necessarily the same as "pasture-raised. "

I buy all my eggs and meat there, now, and other veggies that I don't grow in my garden. All the meat I've tried from there has been AWESOME. Just this past Friday night, I made NY Strip steaks on the grill from Sarver Hertigate Farm that I bought through the online market. Un-freakin-believable. Trust me, I will never go back to steaks from Krogers ever again. The taste doesn't even compare.

The chicken wings are pretty good, too, and run about $2 a pound. This is cheaper than Krogers, and way better all around--health, environment, and for the animal. There is A LOT of data out there about how much better pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs are for us. In case you've been under a rock the last six months, see here, here and here.

This year, the Monroe Farm Market actually LOWERED their membership fees. Before, there were two tiers of membership: Annual membership of $80 with no weekly delivery fees, or annual membership of $25 with a $5 per delivery fee. Now, there is only one type of membership for $60 with no weekly delivery fees.

One of the nicest things about the online market is that one of the farmers makes the weekly deliveries. I've actually met the farmer who raises the chickens that lay the eggs I buy, met the guy who grows the herbs and potatoes I've bought, and talked to the guy who runs Reeds Mill on the phone. All of them were so nice, and the guy from Spangler's Greenhouse was a hoot! I can't wait to take a day trip down to his farm for a tour. He actually invited me.

If anyone is interested in meeting with the folks at Monroe Farm Market, call or email the manager, Keveney Bair at or 304-772-3003 or 304-647-8017 (cell) by April 1st to arrange an appointment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dark Days Challenge: Week???

By my calculation, this is the last post, but I lost track a few weeks ago amid 12 hour work days and even a couple Saturdays logged at the office. But, alas, it's over!

I made the most amazing meal I've had in a while on Sunday (that's no sayin' much since with all those late hours I ate a lot of take out). And, I realized without really planning it, the meal was about 99% local.

Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence -- Serves 4 to 6
(Y'all know how much I love my Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a go-to for simple comfort food)

1 heavy 10-inch casserole or fire proof skillet
1/4 lb. (1 stick) of butter
2 1/2 to 3 lbs of cut-up frying chicken, rinsed and dried with paper towels
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp ground fennel
salt and pepper to taste
3 unpeeled cloves of garlic
2/3 c dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
2 egg yolks
1 Tb lemon juice
1 Tb dry white wine
A small enameled saucepan
A wire whip
Optional: 2 or 3 Tb softened butter
2 Tb minced basil, fresh fennel tops or parsley

Heat the stick of butter until it is foaming, then turn the chicken pieces in it for 7 to 8 minutes, not letting them color more than deep yellow. Remove the white meat. Season the dark meat with herbs, salt and pepper, and add the garlic to the casserole. Cover and cook slowly for 8 to 9 minutes. Season the white meat and add it to the casserole, basting the chicken with the butter. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning and basting 2 or 3 times until the chicken is tender and its juices run pale yellow when the chicken is pricked.

When the chicken is done, remove it to a hot platter, cover and keep warm.

Mash the garlic cloves in the casserole with a spoon, and remove the skin. Add the 2/3 cup of wine and boil it down over high heat, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the casserole, until the wine has been reduced by half.

Beat the egg yolks in the saucepan until they are thick and sticky. Beat in the lemon juice and 1 Tb wine. Then beat in the casserole liquid, a half-teaspoon at a time to make a thick creamy sauce like hollandaise.

Beat the sauce over very low heat for 4 to 5 seconds to warm and thicken it. Remove from heat and add optional butter and remaining herbs. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

I served the chicken with Pommes De Terre Sautes.

2 lbs "boiling" potatoes or new potatoes
2 Tb butter
1 Tb oil (I used canola)
1 10-inch heavy skillet big enough to hold the potatoes in one layer, with a tight fitting lid
1/4 tsp salt

If you use regular potatoes, cut them so they are about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches at the widest part. Do not wash them after they are peeled and cut, but pat them dry with a paper towel. Add the butter and oil to the skillet, and turn it on high heat. Once the skillet is hot, roll it to coat the entire bottom with the butter and oil. Do not let the butter begin to brown. Put potatoes in the skillet and leave them for 2 minutes to sear the outside. Shake after a couple minutes to sear all sides of the potato. Continue until potatoes are pale and golden on all sides. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and shake skillet again. Reduce heat and cover skillet. Cook the potatoes about 15 mintues, shaking the skillet occassionally to ensure an even coloring. They are done when they appear soft when pricked with a fork.

So, both of these recipes seem pretty involved, but they are surprisingly easy. Especially the potatoes. And the sauce on the chicken was MONEY.

Sources: chicken from Almost Heaven Farms in Monroe County; butter from Homestead Creamery, in Wirtz, VA; spices from far away; garlic from Spangler's Greenhouse in Monroe County; white wine probably from California (way far away); egg yolks from Cozy Hollow Farm in Monroe County; fresh fennel tops from the grocery store, but they were organic; potatoes from Byrnside Branch Farm in Monroe County; canola oil from far away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A post not so much about gardening, but a lot about food policy.

Specifically, school food.

I don't know anyone who had an overall positive experience with lunches at the school cafeteria, but it seems things are much worse than when I was in school.

I've recently gotten sucked into this blog. I find it fascinating. I read it every day. But, today's post takes the cake...

It was written by a high school senior. For her English class, she had to give a speech to the school board on a topic of her choosing. She decided on nutrition in the school cafeteria, and the events that transpired after she began her research are appalling. I won't spoil it for you, just read the post, and if you're so inclined, sign her petition.

Now, I'm going to add my two cents. Jeremy's mom is a school cook. And she's told me a few horror stories over the past couple years since she started a new school. Apparently, these problems are either just recently getting worse, or more likely, concentrated in this school she's at now.

I'm talking about expired food, people. Gross. First, please understand, his mom is "the low person on the totem pole," as we say, and has little influence over cafeteria policy. She doesn't condone what's going on, but has little choice in the matter, and is outraged. But she likes getting a pay check, so she's spoken up and pushed the envelope as much as she can while staying employed.

The weekend before Christmas, a huge snow storm knocked out power in Clay for about 8 days. Her school is the only school that didn't "have to" throw out and food from the freezers. She said the bags of shredded cheese were all swelled up where they thawed out and got warm. They just threw them back in the freezer.

Also, the biscuits. Oh, the biscuits. Made from biscuit mix that was purchased by the School Lunch Director for pennies on the dollar because it was expired. He said "it's biscuit mix, it's not going to spoil or anything." I guess he hadn't heard about this, which snopes confirmed. She said they've tried adding a boatload of baking powder to the mix, but it still won't rise. Biscuits = hockey pucks. The kids throw them out. Which is really sad, because most of the kids in that area on are free or reduced lunch. The only good meals they get are the one's the school provides.

The latest thing she told me about was some carrots the School Lunch Director bought cheap because they were expired. They opened the boxes the day after they arrived and the carrots were pretty much mush. Liquified because they were rotten. He expects them to cook with what he provides, so they don't have much choice. You'll be relieved to know, they drew the line at using those carrots.

Where does all this money go that he's "saving" by buying expired food? In the general fund of the school system. To be used for who knows what.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's the March Can Jam!

Actually, it's the March Can Jam that almost wasn't.

Since the last week of February, I've been working until at least 6 or 7pm every evening, and even one weekend. That doesn't leave much time for anything else--including stuff I need to get done like laundry and get to the grocery store. With what precious little free time I did have left I just didn't feel like spending in the kitchen over a hot stove.

But, the work gods were smiling today, the last day to post for this month. I left work at 4:30. And came home and canned.

The March ingredient has been the most exciting yet. In February, I had trouble finding recipes that were suitable for canning, as carrots are ultra low-acid. (Thanks to the Can Jam Roundup, I've got several now, though). Alliums are so versatile. And there's so many varieties. I first thought I would do something with ramps, since they're a little more off the beaten path. But I wasn't sure I could get enough by today (and I would have had some trouble, as they are just beginning to pop up here in West Virginia). And, I think garlic should be it's own food group, so that would be a good choice for me. But I picked Vinegared Red Onions, instead. It sounded interresting, but mostly because I had everything I needed in the pantry.

Vinegared Red Onions
(from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving)

3 pounds red onions
4 cups red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic

Peel onions and slice into 1/4 " rings. Bring vinegar and garlic to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add onion rings to vinegar. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Discard garlic (or not. I forgot to.) Pack hot onions into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 " head space. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jars. Remove air bubbles. Adjust 2-piece caps Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

getting ready to can

getting the air bubbles out

finished jars--Beautiful!