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Posts from the ‘food’ Category

#30daysofbiking – Day 2: bicycle dinner party/picnic

I consider it my catering van...

Big Dummy: a better kind of "catering van" ...

Day 2 of #30daysofbiking … Another glorious weather day, beautiful balmy evening.  Sons Mason and Ross are home for the long Easter weekend (while sons Dillon & Grant are off recording with The Band).  Decided to plan a lovely dinner picnic, transported by bicycle to a great little picnic spot along the local greenway.  Didn’t know if it was going to come together until nearly the last minute, due to Mark and Ross driving home from Johnson City … fortunately, it all worked out.

Undoubtedly due to the beautiful weather and school holiday, the greenway was packed with people – walkers, bikers, skaters, scooters.  Everybody out enjoying the beautiful evening.  It’s so wonderful to have a community gathering place – a place where we can all get outside for a while, out of our cars, and just take a walk, socialize.  Take a ride or have a picnic.  Or any combination of these things.

Our dinner next to the creek was lovely.  Our ride was fine.  Another great day of #30daysofbiking. 😀

Pass the salad, please.

Springtime dinner by bicycle: divine

Springtime dinner by bicycle: divine!

the others ...

the rest of the herd

bicycle soup

xtralaundry

We’re having one of those beautiful weeks of fall weather – cool, crisp, sunny and vibrant.  Today’s Monday routine: catch up on the never-ending back-log of laundry, ship a package off to Mason at college, do a little grocery shopping, and try to find something to sooth a sore throat that has taken hold of me since yesterday.  The cooler temps always make me crave a bowl of soup.  So when the laundry was all outside catching the breeze, my bicycle and I headed off to the store.

This “Bicycle” Broccoli-Cheddar Chowder is a family favorite that I concocted many years ago, and the perfect simple supper for fall and winter.  I added “Bicycle” to the name, because you should ride your bike to the market to get the ingredients – and hopefully you won’t feel too guilty about the dose of comfort-food after a nice long ride!

One thing to note: this recipe makes enough soup to feed a small town, so you may want to consider halving it to get a quantity more suited for 4 people.  I always make plenty, and the boys around here manage to never let the leftovers go to waste.

"Bicycle" Broccoli-Chedder Chowder

Bicycle” Broccoli-Cheddar Chowder

(tastes extra delicious after a long ride on a cold day!)

3/4 C onion, finely chopped

1/2 C carrot, grated

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

butter or oil (scant, to saute vegetables)

6 C vegetable broth (may substitute chicken broth, as desired)

1 tsp salt

3 C potatoes, small dice (I prefer small redskinned “new potatoes”, leaving skins on, but you can substitute other peeled potatoes)

3 C broccoli, lightly steamed and coarsely chopped (can substitute frozen chopped broccoli)

1/2 C butter

3/4 C flour

5 C milk

2 C good cheddar cheese, shredded

Sautee onion, carrot and celery in small amt. of butter or oil, until onion is translucent.  Set aside.  In large heavy covered stockpot, heat vegetable broth and potatoes, and bring to a slow boil. Stir in onion/celery/carrots and cook over medium heat until potatoes just become tender.  Stir in chopped broccoli and let simmer on low.

Meanwhile, in separate large saucepan, melt the 1/2 C butter and add, stirring, the 3/4 C flour.  Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until bubbly and golden.  To this, stir in milk and bring to almost boiling, stirring continually until smooth and thickened.  Turn head to low, add shredded cheese, and continue to stir over low heat until cheese is melted and incorporated.

Carefully pour the cheese mixture into the large stockpot (with broccoli & vegetables), stirring to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer, uncovered, over low/medium heat until soup reaches desired consistency (it will continue to thicken).

Serve with a simple tossed salad, and crusty bread. (After a long bike ride!)  Enjoy!

10-12 servings

no impact experiment – day 4: food

garden bounty

garden bounty

Today’s focus was on food.  And I have to admit that it was a pretty dismal failure on my part.  Dinner last night was pizza and salad.  The lettuce was organic, but nothing was local.  I prepared the pizza myself, but used an “all-natural rustic crust” that I had purchased earlier at the Market, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to make my own pizza dough.  The cheese was not local, the tomatoes not from our garden…  Like I said, other than being meat-free, a pretty dismal failure from a “foodprint” perspective.

I know the key things to lessening our “foodprint”:  eating local, organic, seasonal food;  no (or less) meat cconsumption; avoiding packaged and highly processed foods; passive cooking methods…

So where does our household stand?  On a daily basis I do try to avoid buying food that has been shipped a long distance, or that is highly processed or packaged.  I don’t buy or prepare meat, although Mark and the boys tend to eat it sometimes at school and work, or if we’re dining out.

I really try to be mindful when shopping for food, but it is frustrating when the only organic lettuce I can find is stuck in a plastic bag.  Although we have a once-weekly farmer’s market, I didn’t do alot of grocery shopping there – mostly due to hours of operation and location. Same goes with the Amish market that is nice, but a 50-mile round trip.

We grew a fair amount of vegetables in our garden, although I haven’t done much of any canning for several years now.   We ate most of what we harvested, although I still have a supply of squash we continue to enjoy.

My local grocery store of choice, Season’s Harvest Market, will frequently stock a few seasonal and local items.  Apples and cider from within our county have been the lastest and most abundant.  But some of the things – like a $2.99 almond/granola bar that was produced by a local in-home bakery – well, I just question where the ingredients came from?  Certainly the almonds were shipped in, and there was no indication that the ingredients were organic.  And given the price-tag, I just can’t justify buying one. So as much as I would like to support “local”, sometimes it is just not sensible or reasonable. (And I won’t even comment again on the imported bottled water from Norway that they still have on the shelves …)

I have found that I often tend to have “food-store envy” when I visit other cities.  Visiting my cousins in California last year, I was so jealous of the small fruit and vegetable stands that seemed to be everywhere, as well as the shopping choices that included Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.  Even where son Ross is in college, in Johnson City, TN, they have a great EarthFare grocery store, stocked full of organic and fair-trade items.  And although I know there are some “better” options in Chattanooga, I can’t justify making the drive on any kind of frequent basis.

It’s sad situation when the simple chore of shopping for food has become so complicated.  Trying to figure out how far a tomato has travelled to get into my salad, or determining if the corn in this product is GMO or not?  Can I actually find a locally-grown organic version of the cheese I want to buy?  Why can’t I purchase this vegetable without it being encased in a plastic bag?  It’s exhausting, frustrating, and I will admit there are times when I just give up.

From the Experiment Guide, I did find this pretty nifty on-line resource to help located nearby local, sustainable shopping choices – it’s called the Eat Well Guide.  I actually found several places that I didn’t know about, including one market in nearby Collegedale that might be do-able by bicycle(?).

One last thing from the Experiment Guide that I’d like to try: Cool Idea #3 – make-your-own food-scrap vinegar.

Food-Scrap Vinegar

Combine in-season fruit scraps and chop up coarsely.  Dissolve a quarter cup honey in one quart of water.  Throw the scraps in and cover with a cloth.  Let ferment for two to three weeks, stirring occasionally. (For more recipes like this, read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Our pizza dinner ... not such a great "foodprint", but still pretty tasty!

Our pizza dinner ... not such a great "foodprint", but still pretty tasty!

Comments Off on no impact experiment – day 4: food

pumpkin days


pumpkin Xtracycle

pumpkin Xtracycle

It’s getting to be that time of year.  Turning leaves, sunny crisp weather, pumpkins, and happy bike days.  The picture above was from last fall … still waiting for this year’s fall color.

Made first batch of pumpkin muffins yesterday, and thought I’d share the recipe – a favorite.  I kind of took a couple of different recipes and tweaked them into my own creation.  Orange glaze is optional, but I love the mingling of the citrus and spice flavors.

October Harvest Muffins

1 Cup brown sugar

1 Cup white sugar

1/2 Cup canola (or veg) oil

3 eggs, room temperature

1-1/2 Cups cooked pumpkin (canned will do)

1/2 Cup water

3 Cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 cup raisins

1/4 Cup quick-cooking oats*

1/4 Cup ground flax seed*

(* 1/2 Cup of walnut pieces would be a nice alternative, but my family is not big on nuts in baked goods)

Place raisins in small microwave-friendly bowl with 1 tsp water, cover, and microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Let sit and rest while preparing muffin batter.

In large mixing bowl, beat sugars, oil, eggs, pumpkin and water.  In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, soda, spices, salt, oats, flax seed.  Add to pumpkin mixture and blend well.  Fold in raisins.  Spoon into greased muffin tins (or paper-lined tins), filling 3/4 full.  Bake at 375’F for 15 minutes, rotating tray halfway through baking time, until toothpick or tester comes out clean.  Remove to rack and brush orange glaze (below, optional) over tops of warm muffins.

Orange Glaze

1 Cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp orange zest

2 T (?) orange juice

Combine sugar and zest with orange juice, mixing well, until desired glazing consistency.

Bake some muffins, put some tea or coffee in a thermos, and head out on your bike …

pumpkin muffin

October Harvest Muffins (perfect autumn bike picnic snack!)

obscene water

Why, exacly, do we need to be importing this from halfway around the world?

Earlier today, Mark and I rode to our local grocery store – Season’s Harvest Market.  While we were shopping, we saw this display of imported bottled water – designer bottles of “artesian” water from Norway, selling at nearly $5/pack of four bottles.  This goes beyond ridiculous.  Obscene is the word that comes to my mind.

The multi-million bottled water industry makes me ill.  From the tremendous amounts of resources used in the transporting and packaging of water, to lack of regulation and quality testing, to the destructive and abusive practices of the leading water bottling/privatization corporations – there is nothing palatable about the industry, least of all its water.

Check out these websites on bottled water:

Stop Nestle Waters

Inside the Bottle

NRDC: Bottled Water Contaminants (chart of contaminants, bacteria and viruses found in common brands of bottled water)

While Season’s Harvest Market will probably remain my local grocery store of choice, it’s disappointing to see them carrying items like this.  They try to promote their store as being the “healthy alternative” for groceries, and have one of the better selections of organic and locally grown items, but recently they seem to be slipping further and further into the mainstream highly-processed/junk-food inventory choices.  Fewer organics, lots of plastic packaging, and now ridiculously packaged “chic” imported water.  Green-washing at it’s finest.

The “story” behind the Norwegian Voss designer water – from their own website:

With the persistent conviction that they (founders Ole Sandberg and Christian Harlem) should provide only the highest quality water – to only the highest quality accounts – in the highest quality package, an idea was born: share this naturally tasting delicious water with the rest of the world in a bottle equally unique …

… They secured this artesian source in the middle of their beloved wilderness in Southern Norway.

Because we all know that we need another “beloved wilderness” spoiled by a designer water bottling corporation…

Voss goes on to point out how “green” and sustainable their product is – by their contribution to two carbon offset projects.  The more sensible carbon offset project?  Don’t export water around the globe in designer disposable plastic bottles!

Disappointing from every level – from the fact that people will buy and consume this stuff, to the fact that my local “green” market has stooped so low as to stock it.

If you want a “designer” bottle for your tap water, here’s an option I prefer:

Kor Hydration Vessel – BPA free, reusable, attractive

Finally, two excellent documentaries about water – from privatization to the highly unregulated bottled water industry:

Flow – the film

Tappedthe film

grapes for bikes

65 lbs. of concord grapes, ready for a trip on the Xtracycle

65 lbs. of concord grapes, ready for a trip on the Xtracycle

There were too many grapes.

Our vines were quite prolific this year, and we still had canned juice from prior years.  I hate to see them wither on the vine and go to waste on the ground, so I decided to cut what remained and take them to our local farmer’s market.  Rather than try and sell them – and to avoid messing with scales, or figuring out a way to package them in sellable amounts – I decided it would be a “grape give-away”.

Farmer's Market folks - getting some grapes, giving to a good cause (World Bicycle Relief)

Farmer's Market folks - getting some grapes, giving to a good cause (WorldBike)

I really wanted to figure out a way to add a bicycling element to this outing, so I decided to pick a bicycle charity, and give any donations I could gather at the market to one of these groups.  There are a number of smaller bicycle charities I was familiar with – and one in particular, WorldBike, which I believe was founded by one of the amazing folks at (Ross Evans?) at Xtracycle.  I did an informal survey with my cycling friends on Twitter, and in the end decided to donate to WorldBike.  Please take a minute to watch their very inspiring slideshow on Vimeo; it will move you!

So, I spent a few hours cutting grapes and loading them into the plastic window boxes that make great carriers on my Xtracycle – especially for “messy” loose cargo.  The weather had been kind of questionable, with storms in the forecast, but I new I either had to go for it, or give up on the idea.  Our fledgeling farmer’s market only takes place once a week on Thursday afternoons.  I knew if I had to wait another week, the grapes would be gone and on the ground.

I got everything loaded (including my rain gear) and rode into town, with the skies threatening to open up.  Sure enough, barely five minutes after I arrived at the market, the downpour started.  I managed to stay dry under the overhang of the nearest building, but I was afraid that the trip would be a waste – fearing that not many people would be inclined to be shopping in the rain.  And what would I do with all of the grapes?

... and the rains came

... and the rains came

To my delight and surprise, the people were amazing and most generous.  They stuck it out in the rain, were interested in the grapes and finding out about what I was trying to do for WorldBike.  They were intrigued by my Xtracycle – making jokes about it being the “most original pickup at the market”.  The rain also brought several offers of rides home – which I assured them was not necessary.

It was great getting to meet and talk with several of the sellers – a lady who brought in her beautiful tomatoes, and also sells home-made goat cheese, along with a very friendly gentlemen who sells his locally grown grass-fed beef.  We’d actually seen him at the Amish market back in June when we were bike-camping, and he said he remembered us by our unusual bikes.

People took the grapes for jam-, jelly-, juice- and wine-making, and made some very generous donations.  Even in the rain, there was a refreshing sense of community and hospitality around the marketplace; it was wonderful.

Within about two hours, most of the grapes had been claimed, and the remainder I left with the beef man and a couple of the other vendors.  In the end, I matched the dollars that I had collected, and sent WorldBike a decent donation. The whole afternoon left me with such a good feeling – to have participated in our local market, to see the grapes go to good use, and to have collected a small sum for a good cause.  I definitely plan to revisit the market – as a customer.

farmer's market flowers ...

farmer's market flowers ...

... and home-grown produce

... and home-grown produce

riding home on the greenway - after the rains

riding home on the greenway - after the rains

blueberry hill

One of the prettiest vistas in the county - Morris Vineyard

One of the prettiest vistas in the county - Morris Vineyard

Earlier this week I rode out to Morris Vineyard & Tennessee Mountainview Winery for my annual blueberry picking excursion.  Once out of town, I have to say it’s probably one of the prettiest rides around.  Some lovely shaded back roads wind up to the Vineyard, which has one of the prettiest views of the nearby mountains and Cherokee National Forest

Thanks to the Xtracooler to help be bring the fresh berries home.

Thanks to the Xtracooler to help be bring the fresh berries home.

I grabbed a bucket and hit the berry patch.  I think it was still maybe a week off of peak ripeness time, although I managed to get around 8 lbs. of beautiful plump blueberry goodness.  Only one other couple was out there with me, and they arrived just before I was finishing up.

Last year the boys and I went out twice to pick, bringing home around 17 lbs of berries.  I love blueberries – easy to pick, easy to bag up and freeze. I took along the Xtracooler – nice little narrow ice chest that fits perfectly in the Xtracycle slings – and it was just the thing to get the berries home, cool and undamaged.   I might head out for one more picking session, but we’ll see.  We have plans for heading out of town this next week, and not sure I will be able to squeeze it in.

While I froze most of the haul, I kept out a few cups to make a super-delicious “No-Bake Blueberry Pie”.  I adapted the recipe slightly from one that was published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.  It is very quick and easy, and I love that it maintains that fresh bluberry firmness and burst of flavor; it’s not as sweet/syrupy as a traditional pie.  Highly recommended!

NO-BAKE BLUEBERRY PIE

9-inch crumb pie crust (cookie crumb crust as follows, or other purchased crust – shortbread or graham would work well)

6 cups fresh blueberries, divided*

1/4 C sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

1 Tbs unsalted butter

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

sweetened whipped cream (optional)

*Note on blueberries: this pie will be exceptionally delicious when you pick your own local blueberries, and travel by bicycle to the blueberry patch!  Trust me – it really makes a difference! 🙂

Combine 2 cups blueberries, sugar and 2 Tbs water in a saucepan and bring to a full boil.  Stir in dissolved cornstarch/water mixture and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, butter, lemon juice and remaining blueberries.  Spoon into crust and let stand for 3 hours or until set.  Top with whip cream.

COOKIE CRUMB CRUST

2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (process in food processor)

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar

Combine crust ingredients and press into 9-inch pie plate (bottom & sides).  Bake at 400’F for 10 minutes and cool on rack.  Fill with No-Bake blueberry filling (above).

The No-Bake Blueberry Pie ... it's quite delicious!

The No-Bake Blueberry Pie ... it's quite delicious!