Deep Soil

Brown. Black. Rich. Earth. This is where life begins. Life emerges from beneath the surface to sustain the world. Wet. Crumbly. Loamy. Volcanic. These geological phenomena occurred over hundreds of thousands of years. They burned, they cooled. They flooded, they dried. They thrived, they starved. All of these events created the soil of which we so often take advantage.

We don’t need to travel to a museum to see history. History is right under our feet. The earth we stand on tells more stories than a tour guide.

In wine, the French call it terroir, the essence that the environment gives to a wine. Wine grapes absorb the nature of the soil their roots live in, and that in turn lends itself to the finished product. That aroma of fresh rain, or minerals, or the hint of fresh herbs–that is the soil talking, of the work it did to create the perfected silvery-white to purple-red liquid in your glass.

Soil is the ingredient that gets the least recognition in any recipe. The dirt that we plant our edible plants in is the reason why we have plants in the first place. We live off of it. Animals live off of it. Soil is the most necessary tool in the earth’s design. Without it, roots would have no place to anchor themselves. Without plants, animals (and us) have no food source.

Granted, this is all a little deep, but it’s nevertheless true. And also, I am about half a bottle in to some very nice sauvignon blanc. So I will leave it there. Until next time.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Liquid Sunshine

Happy Bastille Day! A good day to drink good wine, eat good food, and celebrate freedom in all its forms. What is Bastille Day? It is a national holiday in France commemorating the storming of the prison known as the Bastille on July 14, 1789. The French citizens were fed up their government, their king, and their queen; Marie Antoinette had haughtily told her citizens who could not afford to buy flour for making bread to eat cake instead. Say Whaaat??!! Off with her head!!!!!! (Next time you make a cake, be thankful you have eggs–and flour. People died for those luxuries.)

The French citizens decided to take matters into their own hands, and quite literally, too. Women and men, about 1,000 strong, assaulted the Bastille. And so began the French Revolution. Vive la France!

I am not French, not even a little bit. C’est triste. But I am American, and the French did help us win the American Revolution (which, apart from the lavish lifestyle of King Louis XVI and Marie Antionette, was a reason why their finances were in such dire straits by 1789…je suis désolé). Remember Yorktown, VA. The French and the Americans are kindred spirits, as remembered by our Lady Liberty, who has stood in New York Harbor since 1886. I know my own ancestors peered at that statue as they disembarked on Ellis Island from Italy and Ireland, over a century ago. They hoped against hope that this country would be their salvation. I am a third generation citizen on my father’s mother’s side. I’d say they did pretty well for themselves.

The French and the Americans are kindred spirits, as remembered by our Lady Liberty, who has stood in New York Harbor since 1886, and was placed there by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. I know that my own ancestors peered at that statue as they disembarked on Ellis Island from Italy and possibly Irelandé, over a century ago. They hoped against hope that this country would be their salvation. I am a third generation citizen on my father’s mother’s side. I’d say they did pretty well for themselves, all alternatives considered.

So raise a toast to our French compatriots! Santé! Merci un million!

So how do you toast the French? With wine of course! Wine is a generally accepted beverage in France, non? Wine is a tremendous gift to us from the crafters of vines and vintages. The ancient Italian stargazer, physicist, and astronomer, Galileo Galilei, once said, “Wine is sunlight held together by water”. Wow. How incredibly poetic. And so true.

Good wines are like good music. Good wine will make you go WOW! This is amazing! And What Victor Hugo once said about music can also be attributed to wine, “Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent”. In Latin, in vino veritas. Wine does not lie. It only speaks truth. And if you drink enough of it, you will speak truth, too!

I am going to say something risky, and take this with a grain of salt, because I am only just learning about tasting wines. Forget all those posh (British word) wine tasters who can smell bouquets of this and that, and floral notes and vanilla (oak is always a dead giveaway for me), and all the rest. Your sense of taste is mostly olfactory and memory–what something reminds you of when you smell it. If a wine’s flavor reminds you of a food you’ve eaten or a berry you’ve tasted, or the smell of rubber (strange, but some wines do smell like rubber, apparently), then that is your memory working to figure out what in your past to which you can relate this flavor.

So if a wine’s flavor reminds you of a certain memory or food flavor, don’t discount it because a sommelier says that flavor profile doesn’t exist. Your palate is your palate; your memories are your memories, and only your palate can taste and smell what you have experienced.

At present, I am drinking a Portuguese wine (pardonne-moi, mes amies), by Seaside Cellars.

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If you like white wines that are light and crispy (this means a higher acid content), this is an excellent wine for you.

This wine does remind me of being by the ocean, whether the label is playing subliminally to my subconscious or not. It reminds me of what you would picture as a tropical vacation–white sandy beaches, crystal blue Mediterranean or Caribbean waters, palm trees swaying to the playing of a xylophone and bongos. The wine has a lot of citrus flavor to it–I would say more lemon and lime flavors. It kind of makes me want to grab some salt, tequila, and limes. Margaritas, anyone?

As I said earlier, I am still learning how to taste wine like a pro. But, here is one tool that is helping me fulfill that dream: 20170714_222731

Laugh all you want, it actually helps. Also, going around sniffing items helps too. Here is one tip–albeit a weird one–that I got from watching the documentary Somm (https://www.amazon.com/Somm-Brian-McClintic/dp/B01M27DQH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500086352&sr=8-1&keywords=somm): Go around smelling and tasting EVERYTHING! Even the weird things. If you want to know what a wet rock tastes like, embrace your inner three-year-old and lick a wet rock! Like I said, weird–but oddly helpful.

That is all I have for you today. I hope you are all enjoying your summer! A bientôt! Until next time!

 

“Little Miss Muffett” Makes Curds and Whey!

How’s it going out there? I hope no one has a case of the Mondays. My Monday is tomorrow. Yaaayyy. One thing that gets weird about working retail or in a non-typical 9-5 job is that days off tend to change from week to week, and are not always consecutive. Actually, if you do get two days off in a row, celebrate!

Anyway, today I decided to make cheese! No whey! That was a pun by the way. I decided to do this with milk that had just expired in my fridge, and I didn’t want to just pour it down the drain. I don’t like wasting things, and I always feel especially bad about spoiled milk. I always buy milk for a recipe and try to make an effort to use the rest of it somehow–and end up keeping it for far too long. I don’t put milk in my coffee…bleh. I like my coffee hot, strong, and straight up. No sugar either. Just pure brain juice.

The two by-products of cheesemaking are curds and whey. The curds are the milk solids that will be turned into cheese. This is where the lactose resides.

Whey protein is very healthy. It is considered a complete protein, as it contains all nine amino acids–don’t make me recite them all. Whey protein is used in exercise drinks and smoothies. Some people use it as an alternative to milk if they are lactose intolerant, and it can also be used as a dietary supplement.

A quick Google search for whey protein will bring up sites that sell huge jars of this dehydrated, synthesized powder for $30 or more (plus shipping and handling)! What?! Why buy it when you can make it at home for whey cheaper! (See what I did there? Puns are fun!) The organic whole milk I had bought was $3.99. A large jug of white vinegar is $2.99. It takes nothing to store the liquid form in your fridge. It will last for months!

So here is what you need:

1 Gallon Milk–any milk, but whole milk will give you more flavor

1/2 Cup White Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Lemon Juice

1 T Salt

1 T Chopped Herbs of your choice–optional

Cheesecloth

Something Heavy to weigh the cheese down

  1. If you are going to be saving the whey protein, place a large bowl in the sink. Set a strainer or colander over the bowl, and drape the cheesecloth over the strainer.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the milk over medium heat. Stir the milk often to keep it from burning or scalding, until it starts to boil.
  3. Take the pot off of the heat. Add the vinegar or lemon juice. The curds and whey will separate almost immediately.
  4. Pour the curds and whey into the strainer with the cheesecloth.
  5. The curds will be hot, so be careful. Carefully, squeeze out most of the remaining liquid from the cheese. Add in your salt and chopped herbs and stir around using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
  6. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth, twist them together, and knot them. Place your “something heavy” on top of the ball of cheese to weigh it down as it cools. Leave the cheese like this for about an hour to an hour and a half.
  7. Unwrap the cheese from the cheesecloth. The cheese will still have a crumbly texture, but it’s yummy! Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

So that is a basic cheese recipe. There are other more elaborate recipes and methods out there, but this is great for beginners, or for those looking to save money rather than throwing old food out. And as I said before, it’s so much more economical to make whey protein yourself rather than buying a pricey commercialized product.

Also, a shout out to Colleen, writer of the blog Lean Cuisine! I used her recipe Spanish Chicken and Potato Roast today, and it came out amazing! I added rosemary to the potatoes, but other than that, it was entirely hers. Great job! Here is the link to her post:  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/48447071/posts/1506553659

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Inspiration comes from everywhere! Enjoy, everyone! Until next time!

 

 

Stuffed Pepper Adventures and Shampoo Trials

Hi, everyone! Hope everything is going well with you all!

I decided to make stuffed peppers the other day. They’re super easy to make, and yes, they are healthy. Most importantly though, they’re delicious! What is the point of eating healthy if it doesn’t taste good, right? And excuse my lack of images of the finished product. I got too carried away with eating them that I forgot to take a picture first.

There are hundreds of variations of the recipe for stuffed peppers; I decided to go slightly TexMex on this one. I used ground turkey meat instead of ground beef, but either one works just fine.

You need:

6 Bell Peppers (color doesn’t matter, I just like red ones because they’re sweeter)      Note: make sure that the bottom of each pepper is level so it can stand on its own.

Note: make sure that the bottom of each pepper is level so it can stand on its own.

1-2 Pounds ground turkey or beef

2 Cups Brown Rice

1 8 oz Can Black Beans

1 6 oz Can Tomato Paste

Spices: Cumin, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder and Salt, all to taste

Cheddar, Pepperjack, or Monterey Jack Cheese for the topping

  1. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slice the tops of the peppers off and scoop out the seeds. Place the cleaned peppers upright in an oven-safe pan.
  3. Cook the rice according to the package directions.
  4. In a separate pot, cook the meat with the spices for about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the black beans. Add rice to the meat and mix together well.
  5. Portion out the meat and rice mixture into each hollowed-out pepper using a spoon. Fill each pepper to the top. Don’t put the cheese on yet.
  6. Place the pan of peppers in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Add cheese to the top of the peppers and place back in the oven for  more minutes, or until the cheese bubbles and turns slightly brown. Serve hot.

You probably won’t use all the meat and rice filling, so keep it as leftovers–or get more peppers and fill them.

I am not a huge fan of beans, I must confess. I’ve never really liked them–any of them. They have a gritty texture that I just don’t find appealing. But I have learned to tolerate them, because they are wonderfully good at assisting good health, as they help prevent against inflammation, diabetes, and certain cancers–colorectal cancer among them.

I do love sweet bell peppers! They are sweet and crunchy and refreshing! They are high in vitamin C and fiber, and like carrots, are very good for eye health.

In the news of DIY, I attempted to make my own shampoo. I used a little of the soap that I made the other day along with a few teaspoons of olive oil and some castile soap. I used it the other day and although my hair felt clean afterward, there was very little lather.  20170704_203734

It is an experiment in progress. I will be attempting to make my own conditioner next–my hair feels like it needs it. You would think that with all the humidity in the air lately, my hair would be soaking that moisture right up! Oh well.

Stay tuned for further adventures! Until next time!

 

Between the Orange and the Green

Hi, guys! Hope you all are enjoying your Fourth of July plans, whatever they may be. I’m working tomorrow (waaaaaahhhh!!!), but some of us must keep the store open, am I right?

I am off today, however, and I took the opportunity to make a big pot of Colcannon! What is colcannon, you ask? Colcannon is a happy, magical combination of two foods that have become stereotypically Irish–potatoes and cabbage. I love potatoes in general. Is there nothing more comforting than mashed potatoes? That is my go-to comfort food.

It’s healthy, too! It does have butter and milk (and bacon, if so desired) in it, but let’s not get carried away here. Potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium (more so than bananas), and iron. Cabbage is jam-packed with antioxidants and fiber. What’s not to love?

Colcannon is so terrifically simple! I became inspired after reading Mimi Sheraton’s 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, and even more so after taking a trip to Ireland last October. It’s such a beautiful country, and the people are lovely! I’m dying to go back!

There must be a wee drop of green in me genes! I am 30% Irish, and 48% British (no one is perfect). My Irish Catholic grandmother married my White Anglo-Saxon Protestant grandfather. My grandmother’s father was not too happy about it at first, but he warmed up to the prospect–or just realized he couldn’t do much about it. So you see, I’m caught between the orange and the green (but the green wins out more often).

I know I probably should be celebrating with burgers and fries and beer–I am drinking Yeungling–but what is more American than celebrating your roots? And today, Ireland be the theme.

A fun fact: potatoes are NOT native to Ireland! They originated in Peru and were introduced to Ireland and England by none other than Sir Walter Raleigh, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, founder of the Lost Colony of North Carolina. Literally, it’s lost. No one knows what happened to the colonists after Sir Walter Raleigh returned to England for supplies. There is a multitude of theories out there–disease, hurricane, ransacked by the indigenous neighbors–but no real proof has been found as to what really happened to them.

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Here is what it is:

6 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Quarts Chicken stock, or bouillon

1 Head green cabbage, sliced thinly

1/2 Package bacon

2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted

2-3 Tablespoons milk

Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

  1. Boil the potatoes in chicken stock or water with bouillon for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft. Pour out the boiling liquid.
  2.  Add butter, milk, garlic and onion powders, and pepper to the potatoes. Mash the mixture with a masher or whip with an electric mixer. Set aside.
  3. Place a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crispy. Set the bacon aside, and reserve most of the fat from cooking, keeping it in the same pot you cooked in. If you prefer not having bacon, use olive or vegetable oil.
  4.  Place cabbage in the same pot as the bacon fat. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is limp but still crunchy.
  5. Take the cabbage off of the heat. Add the mashed potatoes to the cabbage. Mix thoroughly. Serve hot.

Note: The bacon fat adds salt to the dish. If you use oil instead, add salt to taste.

What I made today looks nowhere near what it would have looked like if this were the mid-1800s in a tiny stone cottage in County Cork. Hardly any of the poorer people of Ireland could afford to grow cabbage during that time, let alone having butter or milk, or for heaven’s sake, bacon. It was potatoes and potatoes alone that these people lived on. You’d be lucky if you had salt, which was also a sought-after commodity in those days.

When the potato blight hit in 1845, these people lost their only source of food–at least the only source of food that they were allowed to have. Any other vegetables or animals were used as payment to the landlords. They were too poor to afford such luxuries as pork or chicken.

What makes the Potato Famine so devastating was that there was plenty of food for rations–all packed up on ships bound for Liverpool, England. And nary a one in England blinked an eye at the widespread starvation occurring across the narrow channel from them (a good reason to kick them out–eventually–mostly). Which is also why people decided to abandon their homes and head across the Atlantic–to a land of opportunity, a land of hope. By the time it was over, Ireland’s population had fallen to nearly half of what it had been in 1845.

 

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Mass Grave for all those that starved to death during the Potato Famine of 1845-1849

Food is another medium through which one can honor the past, and celebrate the present. Like many immigrants past and present, the Irish immigrants sought refuge and freedom from the hardships and devastation of what used to be home. It’s easy to take our way of life for granted if we don’t take the time to reflect on what got us here in the first place.

So on that sentimental note, I am going to go watch a movie–Independence Day is calling my name! Enjoy, everyone, and stay safe! Until next time!

With a Grain of Salt

Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or a health food specialist. This is strictly opinion.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine at work before I began my shift. She mentioned seeing a rerun of a Frontline documentary on PBS about dietary supplements, and how some are coming under scrutiny by the FDA and other parties due to having customer complaints about deteriorating health after taking these supplements.

I told my friend that there is a lot to be cautious about before taking any kind of capsule, whether it’s purely for health enhancement, or requested by a medical specialist. I am not a doctor, nor a food health specialist, but I like to be well informed about what I put into my body, and whether it truly helps versus hinders my personal well-being.

Here is what I know:

Before the vitamins and supplements are put on the market, the FDA does NO testing of the product to make sure it’s safe. It’s only after the fact if a problem arises, that testing may happen, and that depends upon how many consumers complain and seek medical and legal action. Manufacturers of these vitamins have to stick to good manufacturing practices, but as far as the content of the capsules goes, that is all up to the integrity of the people producing them. So those fish oil vitamins or those B12 capsules do contain those ingredients–but what else?

I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. As part of the curriculum, we have a Nutrition 101 class, along with Food Safety. It’s what any aspiring chef ought to know–what you’re cooking, good cooking and ordering practices, and what benefits these foods provide for your body’s function. For at least a week after that class, everyone was eating more fiber and vegetables–until beer and pizza reclaimed their rightful places in the dorms.

My other wealth of knowledge comes from somewhere a little closer to home–my mother. My mother had ambitions as a younger woman to be a medical professional. While her intentions changed and altered after becoming a mom (hello, world), the information I grew up learning and understanding about food has become an intrinsic part of my life. My mom is one of the healthiest people I know–mind, body, and spirit–and life has thrown her quite a few curveballs.

Because of my upbringing, and other influences that have come through my life, I made a promise to myself once I moved away from home–I make most of my meals from scratch from ingredients whose names I can pronounce–chicken, beef, pork, fish, rice, beans, olive oil, pasta, spinach, garlic, potatoes, asparagus, yogurt, eggs, flour, sugar. It’s not always easy cooking with the schedule I have, but I make time every week to make food–preferably something that can last a few days in the fridge. It’s good for the budget, too. Eating out can get expensive.

I don’t take any prescriptions or supplements. I drink teas, coffee, wine and beer (both, in moderation, have excellent health benefits). The closest I get to taking drugs is cold medicine if I have a cold, Ibuprofen if I have an ache, and allergy medicine if my nose decides to get itchy from pollen falling from trees. To date, I enjoy perfect health with some minor colds or allergy issues once in a while. My immune system is healthy and my body is in good shape.

Back to the conversation with my friend at work. My co-worker is from Japan, where soy is widely used for quite a lot of things. Soy has become all the rage here in the States in the last ten years or so for its ever-growing list of health benefits. I have family that uses soy products as an alternative milk and other foods. Sadly though, there is research emerging about some not-so-great health problems that may arise with a high consumption of soy products. It has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and may increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

I don’t believe that soy is inherently bad for you. I believe that eating in moderation and having a balanced diet is really the endgame. Soy can be consumed in smaller proportions which will help you reap all the good benefits. It seems to me (after reading some of the research) that it’s the people who eat tofu and other soy products with a high regularity that may have a problem. Eating some edamame at a sushi restaurant is not going to cause an issue.

I like growing my pharmaceuticals in the pots on my deck and fueling my body with the vitamins, protein, calories (yes, we do need some of those to function), and antioxidants through the food I cook and eat. Mediterranean style foods that are rich in plant-based items (salad, leafy greens, vegetables, etc) and paired with a protein are best. And don’t forget the “E” word–exercise.

So yes, I say pasta to all you gluten nay-sayers (except for those suffering from Celiac, or a true wheat allergy)! Pasta, rice, beans (beans are excellent for cleaning out your digestion), olives, olive oil, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, fish. Throw some parsley on top of your pasta! Parsley has antioxidants, is a diuretic, and antirheumatic. Basil is another antioxidant, an antidepressant, and a carminative–relieves gas and bloating. If you want the benefits of fish oil, cook some fish. Fish also have iodine, which is necessary for a healthy thyroid. Olive oil promotes healthy cardiovascular function and can help to reduce inflammation. And these all taste WAY better than those capsules!

Going natural seems to be a much better alternative to man-made. After all, why try to duplicate something that had already been perfected over thousands, millions, billions of years?

So that’s my shtick for this post. I hope this is helpful to anyone seeking a healthy lifestyle. My intention for all of you is to live the lives you truly desire, unencumbered by health issues. Here are some sites that I found helpful, and I hope they will be helpful for you too!

Until next time!

Trails

Whenever I would go hiking with my mom and my sisters growing up, we would each have our own sandwich bag of trail mix in our backpacks, next to our ever-available water bottles. This mix always consisted of nuts, peanuts, M&Ms, and raisins–except for my younger sister who hated raisins (why do raisins get such a bad rep?). This little bag was the powerhouse that kept our little legs trudging on– that and our mom coaxing us along with, “Just a little further”.

Now, whenever I decide to hit the trails, I always bring with me a bag of trail mix as a snack. I rarely bring any other food with me. Some things are not likely to change.

via Daily Prompt: Snack

Suds

Hi, Everyone! It’s been over a month since I started writing my blog, and I just wanted to say thank you to all my followers, and those who liked my posts! You’re all awesome!

I made handsoap! Once again, I sought out Pinterest for the recipe, and while there were a plethora to choose from, I used this: http://bbatemanmissions.blogspot.com/2011/11/homemade-liquid-handsoap.html. It is an excellent reference!

I followed the recipe almost to the letter, except I added a few leaves of aloe to my soapy mixture. There are recipes out there that use liquid castile soap as the base (which is probably more authentic), but I could only find the solid bars. I’ll have to try that at some other point.

I had to keep my soap waiting longer than ten hours since I had to work early (meh), but it was none the worse for the longer period of time. Once it was cooled and I had to stir it up again (I used a whisk to break it up), the soap took on a mucilaginous look and feel. It smells great, though! I used Tom’s brand soap, and it is scented with lavender and tea tree oil. Lavender is one of my favorite herbs!

I emptied out the remaining drips of my soap bottle from the bathroom and filled it about a quarter of the way up with my homemade soap, and then added more water to it, and gave it a mix. It works just as good thinned out. I’m also using it as my body wash! A little goes a long way. I’m pretty sure I will have soap for at least the next six months without breaking a sweat! What next? Shampoo?? Lotion?? Eek, I’m excited for this!

I would love to get more into the world of soaping. Right now, I don’t have the space for making a soap lab, and I have my roommates and my roommates’ pets to worry about. So strictly melt-and-pour recipes, or something along those lines. But if anyone has any recommendations as to what I should try next, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

Until next time!

Dessert Improvisation

I decided to make ice cream today. Everything is going according to plan, except that my ice cream maker keeps thawing too fast, so the freezing process is taking a tad longer than I expected it to. No matter.

I made mint ice cream (surprise, surprise) since mint is a surplus at the moment. I found a chocolate syrup recipe on Pinterest http://goodiegodmother.com/easy-chocolate-syrup/. Upon looking in the cabinets, I didn’t have enough cocoa powder for the recipe, but I had a couple squares of baking chocolate. So I combined the cocoa powder and the chocolate instead of giving up–why not, right? Improvise!

Also, it was too sweet (since the amount of chocolate I had was still not enough for the recipe) so I added a little more salt (flavor enhancer) and what was left at the bottom of a bottle of Jameson–barely a shot’s worth. It turned out not-so-bad for an improvised chocolate syrup! Now, if only the ice cream would freeze! I really need to update some of my equipment.

Also, I’m keeping the Jameson bottle for another DIY. Stay tuned!

Local

I love the phrase, “Think global, go local”. I’m not sure if that’s been coined or trademarked, but those four words speak volumes about how much our world has changed in only a matter of decades.

I am only thirty-years-old. My dad got his first cell phone–more like a paperweight–when I was maybe twelve. The internet? What was that? If you wanted to order something, there was a thing called a catalog mailed to your house. You had to use–wait for it–a phone to call in your order or mail in a pamphlet with your information on it. It took weeks to receive said order. Doing school projects involved going to the public library to use their computer to look up–wait for it–books that had the information you required.

Everything we could ever possibly want is at our fingertips with a mere press of a button–it’s not even a real button! Technology has become so advanced that it recognizes heat and pressure from your hand to activate that particular picture on your phone or your computer. One press of your finger brings you across town, across the country, across continents! It’s incredible! Amazing! to be able to interact with other people in other countries from your own living room is a modern marvel. And while it’s so wonderful, we tend to forget what is in our own backyards, particularly when it comes to food.

Getting into foraging has made me much more aware of what the local flora and fauna have to offer. I haven’t delved in too deep yet, for the sake of being extremely thorough in my knowledge of what is edible and what isn’t. I am excited about late summer and fall. I had no idea that you can use acorn flour as a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour! I got this idea from the book Southeast Foraging by Chris Bennett. It’s a great reference! I am definitely going to have to try that! Those with a tree nut allergy probably shouldn’t try it, but there are other alternatives out there.

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There is a walnut tree nearby that is already dropping green walnuts, and I am totally gathering some of those to use for baking! It’s best to wait until the shells are brown, so hopefully, patience will win out.

Supporting local farmers is important too. I have found that food I buy directly from the grower is much more flavorful and truer to its variety than were I to buy the same item at the grocery store. I only wish there were more local farmer’s markets open during the week since, like most food industry professionals, I work most weekends.

Supporting other local artisans and businesses is important as well. Local businesses give an area its own unique vibe, its own personality. The places I have come to visit most in Virginia are downtown Charlottesville and downtown Manassas.

Downtown Manassas has some incredible local restaurants–Okra and Zandras are my favorites–and an amazing bookstore called Prospero’s Books whose rows of tomes I could peruse all day long.

Charlottesville has a bit of a funkytown vibe to it, and plenty of bookstores and restaurants too. Citizen Burger boasts of all local ingredients, in-house baked burger buns, and locally crafted brews. Their burgers are amazing! Jeez, now I need to plan another trip there.

That’s all I have for you today! Enjoy the lovely weather wherever you are, and eat some good food! Until next time!