Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 30: The Last Day: 1 Oyster, 2 Cocktails and 3 Scoops of Ice Cream

At the Eat Local finale party, I ate a grilled oyster! It had butter, garlic and Parmesan on it and was quite tasty. I can understand why folks love these, but - I saw a platter of raw oysters and THOSE looked gross. I have my limits.

I also tried Kleinpeter's Pralines and Cream ice cream, served by a dreamy older man from Sydney who still has his accent. The two cocktails were the winners of the Garden to Glass contest, one with rum and one with vodka. Sooo good.

Despite the end of Eat Local month, I will continue to eat local whenever possible. I just won't feel so guilty if I can't do it.

Happy eating!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Second to Last Day: There's Good News and Bad News

Today I made pizza from scratch. The finished product was delicious, despite my dough being too thick so the pizza kind of falls apart. I can't eat it in a slice like you're supposed to, but isn't that what God made forks for?

Kneading the dough was really therapeutic. I probably added more flour than called for, but the dough was so sticky. Is there a way to keep your hands from getting covered in dough? I felt bad when I washed it all down the drain. 

This was another one of my "I have stuff that needs to be eaten!" recipes. I used a Fairytale eggplant that I'd brought home from a sustainability seminar two weeks ago, pictured below. They're really tiny, like index-finger-length and taste great when sauteed in olive oil. My problem with eggplant though is that it's rubbery. I'm not a huge fan. I paired the eggplant with a clove of garlic I bought last weekend. 

I used the last half of the jar of spaghetti sauce I had in the fridge to dress the pizza and paired a baby Vidalia onion and wrinkled green pepper that I bought off the clearance table at Hollygrove Market last weekend on the other half of the pizza. Feta cheese from Jessica's house and cheddar cheese that I bought when I got here two months ago (which is still good!) finished off the pie. I covered each topping with half of each cheese, so I actually have four different types of pizza. When I cut the pie, I got between 2 and 4 slices of each type. 

I baked the pie in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes and the crust was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Pretty damn delicious! 

The best part about it is that I not only learned how to make pizza dough (although you have to divide the dough you make into two parts, save one part and roll the other part out THINLY on the perforated sheet), I also learned how to make whole wheat dough. I will make it again, into bread, once I buy a bread pan or two. My roommate doesn't cook or bake very often, so the kitchen is pretty bare. I miss my Philadelphia kitchen so much some times! 

I have been eating a whole lot of non-local watermelon and boy do I love it...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 26: Wait What?

First off I'd like to just say, where the heck did the time go? I can't believe I'm already thisclose to July. (And my birthday... I've already got a couple recipe ideas for a cake...) I'm still trying to eat local, but over the last few days, my diet has gone to crap because of Hands@Work projects. I've been eating a lot of PopTarts, tea sandwiches from Liberty's Kitchen (a local business, at least), Sweet N Salty nut bars, and other processed crap. To be fair, I have been eating my own yogurt, local peaches and granola for breakfast, but, y'know... ugh. 

Before the week got crazy though, I baked an egg frittata using my own yogurt and local green peppers. It's an Iranian recipe with yogurt and green peppers. I omitted the chives/scallions because I didn't have any and substituted curry powder for saffron. It was delicious! I took a shot of it when it puffed up in the oven because it looked cool.

Last Friday, in celebration of the solstice, I weeded the volleyball courts with my Mid-City volleyball friends and then enjoyed po-boys with them for dinner. We went to Parkway Tavern on the Bayou and I split a large golden shrimp po-boy with Melissa. It was, in a word, sublime. Definitely the best po-boy I've had since I came here. We got it dressed with tomato, lettuce, mayo and a pickle. It was so good I didn't even put ketchup on it. 

I will reflect more closer to the last day of my local eating challenge, but as of right now I am happy with what I used out of my pantry and the discipline I've acquired for shopping at farmer's markets and for buying local products whenever possible. Convenient food is still a temptation that I struggle with. I wonder what it would take for me to resist... 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two Milestones Reached!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who reads this blog! Not only have you helped me get to 40 page views today, which is the most I've ever had in one day, but I've also had more than 500 page views since I started writing this blog in April! You guys ROCK.

Thanks for following me on my culinary journey in New Orleans. I'm happy to cook for you if you ever come visit! =)

Very sincerely, your friend,


Day 19: I Can Have My Potatoes and Eat Out, Too

Potato Croquettes
Adapted from Southern Food

5 small new red potatoes
1 mini Vidalia onion, peeled
2 eggs, beaten
(all local so far!)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon flax seed
1 tablespoon (or so) of GrapeNuts
(the above three ingredients substitute for bread crumbs, and none of them are local)
2 tablespoons yogurt (substitute for milk; adds a tanginess and a little more hold)
1/2 clove of garlic, chopped (local)
Sea salt and peppercorn medley, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil per six pancakes; add more as necessary

I have always wanted to make potato pancakes but haven't had the opportunity or ingredients until now. There have been six new red potatoes sitting in my fruit bowl for almost three weeks now and I made one of them into microwaved potato chips over the weekend. I was stumped on what to do with the others. Last time I bought potatoes I made potato salad and the time before that I made potato soup... so what now? Then I found a recipe I could work with for potato croquettes or pancakes. The time was right!

Once I figured out how long to let them fry, I didn't have any problems. I made 14 pancakes and have 12 in my fridge; one got flipped down the crack between the oven and the counter by accident (don't you HATE that crack?) and the other was eaten with homemade hummus from 100% Cajun in the Marigny. Delicious! I love how the GrapeNuts add some crunch and the yogurt adds a nice tang. There're a lot of flavors going on there.

Today was crazy at work - a group of 68 people who're coming to the city to volunteer got dropped in our laps yesterday and we've been scrambling to find projects for them all next week, Saturday through Thursday. (But we might close the office Friday - HALLELUJAH!) So I spent the morning calling and emailing and going nuts thinking, when is lunch coming sweet Jesus so I can get out of here for a little bit? Then, my co-worker mentioned she was checking out a burger place called TruBurger. I thought, but I have a lunch upstairs... then I looked at the menu online and saw that the burgers were $4.99 for a single. "YES!" I shouted to the other office! So we went out and had a delicious lunch, including a dynamite chocolate milkshake. Lots of laughs were had as well, and I'm satisfied knowing that lunch is waiting for me to eat it tomorrow.

On a personal note, I am excited to say that ice cream doesn't seem to be bothering my stomach like it did in college. Wahoo!

On a sad note, my Icelandic chocolate has all been eaten. Boo.

Now we'll just have to see if those potato pancakes microwave well...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Making Yogurt, Attempt #1

1/2 gallon of Kleinpeter Dairy Whole Milk
1/2 cup of Horizon Organic Plain Yogurt with live and active cultures
Sauce pot
#4 on the dial (gas stove)
started at 2:29 p.m.

At 2:50, the milk was heated to 180-185 and a film started to form. I turned off the heat and changed the pot to another burner. This source says that the right temperature is the one at which milk starts to froth, like in a latte. It sure was frothing! I'll let it sit for 30 minutes to see what temperature it is then. (While I call my mother...) At 3:25 the milk is at about 115 so I'm going to inoculate.

At 3:27 I set the oven to pre-heat to 350. At 3:31 the oven was heated to 150 so I turned it off. It really doesn't take that long for it to heat up! I'm going to wait a few more minutes in the hope that it will cool. I'm afraid of killing my little bacteria! I have the oven door open and I'm hoping that the oven will cool... the thermometer went up after I turned the oven off. Oy. As I wait I'm eating too-crusty bread with Vegemite...

And I made this for a "lunch" snack: it's bread soaked in milk with garam masala, cinnamon and honey with warmed peaches. Definitely comfort food.

At 3:44 p.m. the temperature was around 115 so I wrapped up the saucepan in my Boston Red Sox towel and put it in the oven. 

Thank you to The Kitchn, Salad in a Jar, and Micheal W. Reeps for your helpful tips! 

I came home at about 9 p.m. and checked on the yogurt. It pulled away from the pan when I tipped it, but it wasn't as tangy as I'd like. But, I was tired so instead of putting it back into the oven I stirred it and chilled it overnight. In the morning I made a smoothie with it, adding strawberries, peaches and flaxseed. It made my tummy a little unhappy, but then when I had it with granola this evening it was delicious! So maybe it'll get better with age. =) 

Here's to next time! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Apple Cider Potato Chips

I have a bunch of new red potatoes that I need to eat and don't know what to do with, so I went looking for potato recipes and found this one! Potato chips, wow. I haven't had potato chips in ages for two reasons: 1 they're so so bad for me and 2 they're really not that tasty when it boils down to it. But, for the sake of culinary adventures and to use up at least one of my potatoes, I thought what the heck.

I adapted this recipe, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar when I shook the potato slices in the produce bag. I sliced them as thin as I could with a knife, so these are rather thick. Three minutes didn't seem done enough but five burned them; four wasn't enough either. They need to brown but I want them to brown without burning, which is what five minutes almost did.

Sprinkle sea salt into another produce bag to coat the chips with salt. Pretty good!

Right out of the microwave (plus one with a big bubble!) and then the finished product! Woohoo!

Day 16 1/2: I Guess I'm a Good Cook

Although we were uninspired to cook breakfast, my co-worker and I did cook on Friday night at her house in New Orleans East (where I swam in her pool: ooooooh yeah). She had some penne and Pomi chopped tomatoes so I bought a baguette from Gracious Bakery (local, bamf) and garlic, basil and peaches from Hollygrove Market and Farm (SO local, bamf x 2) to make pasta al fresco and baked peaches. She doesn't like raw peaches because of the texture, but they were so ripe and perfect I baked them so she could eat them.

I started the pasta first, then sauteed a clove of garlic with olive oil. After the garlic started browning, I added the Pomi and shredded fresh basil leaves into the mixture. Then I let it simmer for awhile, stirring occasionally. It needed something so I added garlic pepper and Italian seasoning. Apparently I'm amazing at making sauce because my co-worker ate seconds and she doesn't eat much. I was very happy! 

The peaches were super simple; I cut them in half and pulled them off the pits. Then I sprinkled them with Sugar in the Raw (maybe a bit too liberally but hey) and some pumpkin pie spice. I would have preferred cinnamon and nutmeg but that was the only sweet spice that was in the house. Everything else was Cajun! I baked them at 350 for just under 20 minutes. Some of the sugar melted over and got caramelized. The best part was eating the caramel with a fork off the pan. 

Then I smothered the peaches with Neopolitan ice cream and went to heaven.

Tune in soon for yogurt results!

Day 16: Getting a Little Better, but Still Not Keeping Track

There's a blogger with who is doing the challenge, and each day he starts with:

Meals eaten: #
Vices: and lists all the vices he's eaten that day, usually beer, coffee, etc

If I started my blogs that way, I'd be screwed! But I have to remind myself of my rules back at the beginning, that my pantry counts as local because I'm not buying new non-local things and that if I'm out and about and there's food available, I'm going to eat it.

Yesterday my co-worker and I went out to Cake Cafe in the Marigny for breakfast, and though I have no idea where the ingredients came from, I shared a delicious brunch with her that included the first coffee I've drank in over a month! (Still not going back, but it was a nice treat.)

I can hope that the bread is fresh from the bakery, but the eggs, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, jalapenos and all else in this Spanish omelet? No idea. And most likely that's a California orange slice.

But it was yummy!

Now the French toast, which is challah with an orange pecan maple syrup, was also yummy but WAAAAAAY too sweet. Oh my God too sweet. If I ever get it again, I'm getting the syrup on the side.

On Thursday, I went looking for the Marketplace at Armstrong Park, another farmer's market that I'd been wanting to check out for awhile. I had a meeting at 6 and it was the last Jazz in the Park of the season, so I left work a little early to go check things out. Although I had a nice conversation with a young man and signed a petition in favor of Planned Parenthood's new clinic, I did not find any farmers, nor any produce. So I got shrimp and grits instead. The cost not only paid for some yummy dinner, but also helped to fund a sports trip for a local team. I can support that!

It doesn't look like much, but it was buttery and delicious and I had some leftover for lunch the next day. Plus, charitable food counts, right?

This one really doesn't look like much but it's a black bean burger from Liberty's Kitchen. Probably not locally sourced, but Liberty's Kitchen is a local non-profit business that EVERYBODY for catering and whatnot. And this lunch was bought for me by the Creative Alliance for New Orleans (CANO), who emailed me about two art openings last night where I met some kooky friends. I stayed out until 10:30 (which is late for me) and had the most New Orleans-esque night since moving here. Red wine, champagne, Mike's Margarita, "Philadelphia cheese" (though why they didn't have Creole Cream Cheese instead I'm not sure), Ritz crackers, gnocci, roast beef, blueberries, pineapples, both lemon and regular pound cake, chocolate chip cookies and brownies? Oh my, the food I ate! And the art, wow. I met some fabulous folks.

The best part about all this delicious food is that I'm still in the best shape of my life! WOO biking everywhere yay...

Going to make some yogurt today, yes indeed!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cajun breakfast - MUST TRY

I'm reposting this from Stuff Cajun People Like, which hasn't been updated in four years, sadly, but is a great resource for folks like me who've moved into Cajun country with no idea what they're getting into.

I made couscous tonight, but I have never heard of this before... some weekend morning, it's gonna happen!

Coush Coush (From
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
 6 Servings
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 tsps salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups milk
In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, salt, baking powder and milk. Using a wire whisk, blend ingredients until well incorporated. When oil is hot, pour in cornmeal mixture. Do not stir. Allow a crust to form. Once formed, stir well and lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook approximately 15 minutes, stirring often. Serve with milk and sugar or with hot coffee milk as cereal.
Even though it's 11 o'clock at night, this has just made me hungry. Mm... I'm going to dream of crunchy deliciousness... 

Day 10: Pickles and Rainbow Chard

I am being bad. Despite the fact that I was gifted about two dozen locally grown grapefruits today, I have been eating a whole lot of non-local foods. So to make up for it, I made myself cook tonight.

When You Don't Have White Vinegar Pickles

2 tablespoons sea salt (about 1 oz)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (about 1 oz)
2 cups water
6 small pickling cucumbers, sliced
dried dill weed
(Adapted from The Food Network's recipe)

I may have refrigerated them too soon. I poured the brine over the pickles after cooling for 5-10 minutes, sealed the jars and put them into the fridge. According to Pick Your Own, you're supposed to let the jars cool to room temp and then put them in the fridge. (They also suggest you pick your own cucumbers and then buy pickle seasoning, oy vey.) Well, I'm going to wait a week and taste them and see how they turn out...

Sweet and Spicy Rainbow Chard with Couscous

3/4 bunch of rainbow chard
olive oil
garam masala
maple syrup
"instant" couscous

I'm not one for measurements, but I wanted to mock a sweet and spicy rainbow chard without ginger. I used maple sugar and garam masala to taste. It's amazing! Saute the rainbow chard, stems and leaves, in the olive oil. Sprinkle the garam masala and drizzle (okay, splash) the maple syrup on the couscous. Stir and then spoon the rainbow chard on top. Add more maple syrup and caram masala if you like.

Rainbow Chard with Smoked Mozzarella

1/4 bunch of rainbow chard
olive oil
smoked mozzarella (from Whole Foods - a friend gave it to me)

Saute the rainbow chard, stems and leaves, in the olive oil. Place the mozzarella on top so that it melts. I wonder how this would taste on crispy toast? Hm...

And as a final note: I completely threw local food out the window and bought 600 grams of Vegemite, which arrived on my doorstep today. SO happy!

Now I just have to make sure I'm home eating this yummy food. That's the next important thing to figure out: how to eat local on the go, prepping meals ahead that I can take with me.

Away I go a'pondering...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day 7: If Only They Were Bigger...

Today I found a banana tree that actually has fruit on it! I have been craving bananas, having eaten one with my smoothie breakfast every day for over a year. For Eat Local month I'm trying to go without. I was so excited to find trees that actually fruit, but the bananas are small and hard and probably take a long time to grow. So no dice.

On a good note, I finally got local yogurt on Thursday at the farmer's market. Mauthe's Farm dairy is in Mississippi, which is better than nothing. I'm going to try making my own yogurt because it's so much cheaper. I think I paid $3.50 for a medium container. The nice thing about making your own yogurt is that you get the same amount of yogurt as the amount of milk you use, so if you buy a half gallon for say $3.50 you get a half gallon of yogurt, which is probably twice as much as I got for $3.50. But I ate it with GrapeNuts (pantry), maple syrup (pantry), and strawberries (local, frozen). Very yummy! 

Anyone know of any substitutes for bananas? Thanks!

Happy munching!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 2: Delicious (Mostly Local) Soup and Flavored Honey

I knew I had to use up some vegetables to make room for the new ones I'm planning on buying on Thursday and wanted to freeze something I could eat in a pinch, so I went looking for soup recipes. A couple had peanut butter in them, which I found very interesting. I almost cooked a Zimbabwe soup with peanut butter and red pepper flakes, but then I decided to go with this one instead. I modified the recipe below and it is EXCELLENT. Incredibly easy and very tasty. I wish it was more filling, but I have lots more of it in the fridge! 8 cups of stock makes between 10 and 12 cups of soup. This is a vegetarian version but it would be wonderful with chicken. This is a great "what do I have in the fridge/pantry that I can use up?" soup.

Peanut Butter Potato, Carrot and Cabbage Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable Better than Bouillon for 8 oz stock
5 new red potatoes, cubed (with the skins)
3 carrots, diced (1 cup)
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
2 tablespoons minced dried onions (equal to about 1/3 cup of fresh chopped onions)
1/2 tsp minced dried garlic (equal to 2 whole cloves)
a little more than 1/4 cup dehydrated peanut butter PB2 
a dash of red pepper flakes

Today I also caved to the heat and bought a snowball at Rouse's. It's root beer and it was fantastic.

This picture doesn't look too appetizing, but it's flavored honey that I tried this morning at the cheese making class I attended. It's part of the Eat Local Challenge I'm participating in. Aviva, the fabulous young woman who taught the class, flavored this honey with watermelon rind (which is amazing) and cinnamon sticks. 

 I'm happy that I have soup in my fridge and freezer, potato salad and coleslaw for a few days' lunch, and delicious produce that I'll be buying on Thursday! Yay!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Local Challenge: Day 1 - Set Parameters

Dawn broke on my Eat Local Challenge Day 1 and I still had not answered some crucial questions:

What about condiments?
What about my fully-stocked pantry?
How will I get around my lactose intolerance?
What if I'm at someone else's house for dinner?

Although I am always trying to eat/buy local and organic whenever possible, there are certain rules and parameters that I have come up with to make this fun while still challenging.

1. I will eat the condiments that I already have including Heinz ketchup from God knows where, spices from all over the world, and jams from Whole Foods until they're gone. If they run out before the end of the month, I will buy local options or go without. I do have Rouse's mayonnaise, which is manufactured in LA.
2. My pantry contains items from all over, including the food I brought with me from Philadelphia. In order to not buy non-local foods, I will eat what is already in my pantry: quinoa, cous cous, bulgur, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, chocolate chips, some cereal, peanuts, and other miscellaneous stuff. But I will not make anything out of boxes, i.e. no Annie's Macaroni and Cheese or Mrs. Grass's Chicken Soup until July.
3. I have been drinking soy milk or almond milk exclusively for almost five years, since I began associating my tummy troubles with the 1% milk I grew up on. I know that neither soy milk nor almond milk are local, but I'm still weary of regular milk. Because this is a special occasion, I will try local 1% or skim milk and see if it still bothers me. I had ice cream two days in a row last week with little problem, so perhaps my metabolism is changing again. I can and will buy local cheese and yogurt or make my own. I am taking a cheese-making class tomorrow and have wanted to try making yogurt for some time now.
4. Because I'm on a budget and because I don't want to be rude, if I am out at someone's house or food is offered to me, I will eat it and keep track of it. These meals will fall under my "vices."

Below are the rules for the Bienville, or Strict, level. Please help me stick to them!

On this level you are allowed all of the foods on the Ultrastrict Level plus will allow you to eat or drink three “vices” ( non-local food items). On this level participants can still go 95% of the way all local but can still have a few of some of the things that are hard to grow here, whether it be coffee, chocolate, pineapples, French Wines, imported cheeses etc.  You can keep your diet varied and change your three non-local food choices from week to week.
On the Bienville level you are also allowed 3 meals a week to be completely unregulated and off the wagon. Whether at a restaurant with friends, or a business lunch or just in your own kitchen you can fix your favorite non-local meal. This will allow you to go to business lunches and dinner parties.

As I sit here and eat Vegemite (Australia) on toast (Nature's Own) which are not local but in my pantry, I say: Let the games begin!