Potatoes are here!

Gardening in WA has been a huge learning curve for me. In WI I would throw seeds into the ground, walk away and eventually stuff would grow. EVERYTHING grew there because of the heat and the sun that lasted about five months out of the year; the rest of the year was dedicated to ice and Baltic winds. Nonetheless, I began to feel like a gardening pro out there due to the status and prolific nature of my garden.

Then I came to the Pacific Northwest, eager to get my garden on. It’s a bit more tricky now that the sun doesn’t come out for as many consecutive months during the year and the heat doesn’t melt your face off. Needless to say I didn’t even attempt eggplant or bell peppers out here unless I wanted to gain maybe one dinky eggplant after watering it for three months. My butternut squash plant yielded a whopping three squash while I once plucked 15 squash from two plants a few years back (in WI, that is).

I did grow a few new items that I haven’t attempted in the past and, well….I’m still learning. My potatoes did well, other than the fact that some lil’ pots on the root were the size of a chicklet. Still, I dug up half of my plants and gained a colander full of dirt-covered, waxy yellow potatoes. Chloe helped me and it couldn’t have been a more exciting birthday gift for her. I love for my kids to see how we grow food in the middle of the city. As a side note, our chickens have finally started to poop out their eggs! Omelet anyone?

God Bless This Feast

Easter

 

There is an  online literary magazine  that I subscribe to, and LOVE, whose latest issue is about feasting. Reading the poems and prose in this issue has brought back a lot of memories from Wisconsin. Some days I really miss our community dinner crew. Now that there is some distance and time between all of us I feel I have this perspective of how profound and simple our meals together were. I’m pleased to hear that they are all still meeting together, being a loving community, eating and making good food and raising children together. I’m sad we aren’t a part of that anymore and some days I long for another ‘group’ to feast with.

We cooked lamb and drank red wine on a Thursday.

In the Springtime we roasted asparagus and made fresh bread to hold our cured meat.

There was a small farm which gave us ribs and raw milk.

Manuel fried crepes, Brandy tried her luck at her first turkey, Sarah gave us her culture infused into spring rolls and spicy noodles. Tiffany’s desserts….bliss. Something I always looked forward to. Chocolate spread over a sponge cake, silky and brown. I remember the Passover that was our gift from David and the nan and chorizo from Danielle.

Red wine, mojitos and summer ales. Fire side chats, swatting mosquitos while our skin sweated and our hair frizzed in the humidity. We talked about politics, art, children, culture, missions, movies, music, and our own personal spiritual journeys of faith.

What came out of our times together was the sweet smell of feasting. Enjoying and savoring rather than consuming and rushing. Five years of feasting together,  taking time to slow cook the ribs from the freshly killed pig off the Trautman farm. Rolling out the dough by hand. Picking the herbs from our hand grown gardens. Juicing the watermelon to make the adult, summer drinks. Cranking out the noodles made from floury, pale dough and gooey, yellow eggs yolks. While others may eat out of the can, standing over the sink, we wanted it slow, together. Grabbing a snickers bar while you drive is normal these days but the flavor of real food, enjoyed by friends who laugh and yawn together as the night stretches out is rare.

Thank you, old friends for the feasting. I see cast iron skillets and think of you. Red wine reminds me of our winter nights and pork on a stick over the fire makes me think of our summers together. Enjoy the late nights together still. Bon Appetit and God Bless your feast!

Eating right from the source

Food has been a huge issue with me for decades now.  Having children will also put a new spin on food conscientiousness. The city I live in can be very proactive in the local food movement and after we bought a house five years ago I decided to start a garden. This was more for practical reasons than from the ‘eating local’ perspective. I saw having a lawn without growing food as being a huge waste of space for me personally, plus we were so very poor and paying for organic produce was just breaking us.  So I researched and worked VERY hard to make our garden happen. I now grow several varieties of veggies and even some fruit.  The more I became involved with the food we ate the more fascinating food became to me. My husband and I have read a lot of books on the food system and seen quite a few movies dedicated to exposing the wickedness of huge agribusiness. So… more thinking about food.

For years our family has eaten meat but I’ve been very lean (no pun intended) on how much meat we eat mainly because I shudder to think of where it comes from, how it was raised and then the procedure of getting it onto my table. So black beans have been our family staple for a few years now. Then last summer I decided that I wanted to go straight to the source of where our food comes from and buy directly from them. We live in a great farming state so there are a lot of local family run farms to choose from, tons of CSA programs and a farmer’s market located somewhere all over the city each day of the week. We also have one of the nation’s best and biggest weekly farmer’s market. Whoop-Whoop!

Seeing animals roam free, being cared for and, the biggest thing for me, allowed to be healthy was a huge deciding factor for me in buying meat from our local farmers. We now try to buy farm-to-table as much as possible. We even found an amazing farm that sold raw milk, cheeses, butter, beef, pork, eggs…. Since we aren’t going to invest into buying a city cow to grace in our 30 sq ft yard anytime soon we buy from a local farm. I have to say that I understand the vegetarian decision that is based on health and humane reasons. Feed lots are generally despicable, unhealthy, and completely profit driven.  For years we were almost a vegetarian family for those reasons.

After we’ve visited the farms I was pretty certain the I found a sustainable, healthy and humane option for our family. I firmly believe in supporting local farms! It’s great for the economy, for the environment and grass fed, pastured roaming animals are so much healthier.  And while I totally understand someone’s decision to still remain vegetarian, even in the light of this particular argument, my conscience is clean about how I feed my family.

We also eat as seasonally as we can but I’m still visiting the grocery store to purchase my wheat flour to make my bread and I even buy the occasional avocado in February to make guacamole. Baby steps! But we do most of our veggies out of the garden and now about 80% of our meat is from the farm. We were even getting our milk from the farm until “the man” came and busted them for selling raw. We live in The Dairy State but you can’t buy or sell raw milk. Go figure!

If you are interested in eating more locally and sustainably here are just a few places to start:

Join a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) This is a great site to find a local harvest in your area

Buy straight from the farm (A great way to get to know where your food comes from and develop relationships in the community….you may even be able to barter)

Plant a garden (Even if you only have a small bit of space try some tomatoes or just greens. Start small and get hooked on organic produce-power to the people!!!)

Shop at a co-op and buy local and seasonal (This is my least favorite option because they tend to be pricey and a bit elitist. Hey, I’m being honest. But if you can’t do any of the above this place can help you out)

Pick your own (berries and other produce) in the summer and then freeze what you get to enjoy all winter.

Finally, if you can’t do any of the above mentioned, find your nearest wild bull, wrestle it to the ground with your bare hands, kill it and eat its heart raw! Repeat as necessary! (sorry, no link for that one)

Here’s to the whole of life! Food, health, community, family, faith and love!

Berry picking with the kids

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For the love of (real) food

In Celebration of Food Part ll

More fun to eat

So I have been doing a lot of baking and cooking now that the weather is keeping me inside. I started sprouting again just to see some life growing in our house while I’m waiting for gardening season. Bread and granola, along with black beans, are staples in our house and this time I made a trough full of granola. Here’s an easy recipe:

3 c rolled oats

cinnamon

dash of salt

1/2 c pumpkin raw seeds

1/2 c chopped raw walnuts

1/2 c raw flax seeds

1/2 c raw sunflower seeds

1/4 c melted butter or melted coconut oil

1/2 c honey

1. Mix all ingredients together and cook at 325 for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally

2. After granola has cooled add 1/4 c dried cranberries, raisins or dates and 1/4 chopped apricots. I usually add about 1/2 c fresh, uncooked oats just to give it a muesli texture

My kids love this with homemade yogurt and a bit ‘o honey


Fresh Loaf

There are a few amazing bread blogs that I have found over the years that have inspired me in my quest for fresh, artisian bread. I first started making bread about five years ago but the standard recipes left me fairly disappointed. I wanted more out of bread than an average sandwich loaf that was a bit dry and bland. I read The Bread Bible and found one recipe that I just loved and since then have tweaked it to make a healthier, whole grain version that our family LOVES! You can give it a try:

Ingredients:

For the Sponge (I’ll explain later)

1/4 c. whole wheat flour- best quality. I use Hodgson Mills

1 c. bread flour

1/4+1/8 t. instant yeast

1 1/3 c warm water

2 T. molasses

* a “Sponge” is when you whisk  the above ingredients together, turing it into a pancake like consistency then you mix another batch of dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour the dry over the wet, covering the wet ingredients. It’s best to let it sit overnight in a cool place. Otherwise let it sit at least an hour to ferment.

Dry ingredients:

3/4 c bread flour

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t instant yeast

* mix all dry ingredients together and sprinkle on top of the Sponge, covering it completely. Now let all ingredients stand, in a covered bowl, overnight in a cool place or for at least an hour to ferment and bubble.

1. Mix all ingredients togethther to make a ‘rough dough’. That just means mix with a wooden spoon but you’re not kneading or mixing all the way yet. Now pour just over 1 t salt on top and let sit, covered, for about 20 min. You aren’t really suppose to add salt to direct yeast b/c it sort of kills the yeast.

2. Now either put in a kitchen aid mixer for about 6 min on low-med speed or hand knead on a floured surface for about 5-7 min. Put back into a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place (I turn the oven on up to about 80F then turn it off and let the bread rise in the warm oven- the winter is so cold here) for 1.5 hours.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and push down to get some bubbles out. Fold up and return to bowl. Cover and let rise for another hour.

4. Turn out again onto a floured surface, press down gently (you’re not getting all the bubbles out this time). Fold over and return to bowl. Let rise another hour.

5. Turn out AGAIN (this process ferments the bread and the long rise time gives better flavor and more air bubbles. This time either put the bread in a greased loaf pan or flour a napkin that sits inside of a narrow bowl and put the ball of dough inside to rise. This shape will give it more of an artisian look but it all tastes the same to me. Cover either method with a towel to let rise (not in the oven this time). It needs to rise another hour but about half way through you need to start heating the oven to 490F.

6. Once your hour is up and oven is at 490F spray the top of the bread with water (I use a water bottle) and put it in the oven. If you aren’t using a loaf pan you’re going to have to invert the bread to a pan. Flour the  top of the bread to avoid sticking. I use cornmeal. Now put your pan over your bread bowl, flip upside down (invert) and put the bread and pan in the oven. Spray with water first.

7. Bake at 490F for 10 min. Then turn down to 425F and bake for 20 min.

8. Take out of loaf pan to cool. Let bread cool for at least 15 min. Trust me. If you try to slice right away it will all collapse and smoosh.

A taste of Ghana

My friend Janice sent a recipe that is well common in Ghana. This is to go along with my post from last week.

Bon Appetite

“Hi Tracie,
This is such a great idea! I just love it and think it has real potential.
One of the dishes which is everyone’s favourite at least everyone we have prepared for loves it. The ingredients can be found wherever and that is the peanut sauce or soup dish. It can be eaten with rice, couscous, and just about anything. It is also good for anyone who is allergic to gluten and dairy.
Peanut butter sauce

1. 1 Chopped large onion
2. Four chopped garlic cloves ( you can use as much garlic as you like)
3. 350 grams peanut butter smooth or crunchy without sugar
4. 1 and half litre water plain or with chicken stock
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 500 grams chicken
7. four large tomatoes diced
8. Salt and pepper to taste

a. Fry onion, garlic and diced tomatoes in olive oil for five minutes.
b. Add chicken and steam fry until sealed.
c. Mix peanut butter in water separately until you get a smooth consistency ( this can be achieved using your hand or blender)
d. Add mixture to chicken add salt and pepper to taste, bring to the boil and simmer for one hour or until there is a bit of oil from the peanut butter on top. It will be medium thick once cooked.

This can be served with rice, boiled potatoes ect.

Hope this helps, Tracie and feel free to edit it.
Lots of love and all the best

Janice”

In celebration of food Part II

Blue dishes

Today food has become more of a necessity, a fuel for our bodies, that we consume in odd places like cars, at a desk, standing alone over a sink or while quickly walking to various appointments. With our liquid lunch in a paper Starbucks cup the other hand is free to hail a cab, type out a proposal or drive while consuming quick calories and energy, not missing a beat in the race. Families go from class to class eating from paper bags with lovely yellow arches on them as mom drives them out of hockey practice and onto dance rehersal. Food is a necessary evil that we must endure for our very survival but I’m sure if many of us could take a pill to get all of the vitamins and nutrients needed, we might opt for something that fits in our hand which can be swooshed down with water rather than a cumbersome sandwich or a dish that you have to use a fork to consume.

Convience has won out over quality. Have you even been in line at any sort of ‘fast food’ chain and had to wait a few minutes for the person in front of you? It’s like being slapped in the face. How could they make us wait this long? Unfortunately I think there is something greatly missing in the art of making and eating food.
Every week I meet with a group of friends who have been dining together for almost four years now. We rarely miss a week. Sometimes we even do holidays together. I set it up four years ago potluck style and each family rotates as the host. This way we would each have responsibility rather than it all falling on my shoulders. Plus, if people have ownership of the event they are likely to be more involved and take it more seriously, which is exactly how it has happened. I think there are many who have learned to cook better as a result and I know of at least one family that mentioned to me how these weekly events have taught them how to host people in their home. There is a beauty in cooking and a celebration that happens as we gather together around food. As a person of faith I had come across a verse in the BIble that strengthened, in my mind, how God values the aspect of celebration:

“If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you,

then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

“You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; andthere you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (boo-yeah!)

Deut 14: 24-26 my added parenthesis

Wine and glasses

What I have learned making my own food:
1. Patience. It sucks to try things that fail, ie food that you hoped would be good but tastes as if it should be in a nappy that washed up by the sea. How disappointing! But I keep trying new things and getting better and better at judging what works, such as spices that go well together (fyi: basil and cumin in the same dish will kill your guests!). I’m usually pleased with my efforts but that was not the case about 10 years ago when I started my commitment to cooking. I remember one meal in an attempt to impress a guy who loved calzones. I made those bready Italian bastards with low fat cheese and instead of fresh basil I used dried bay leaves thinking they would rehydrate whilst baking. They didn’t. It sucked. I was mortified.
2. I appreciate the process of cooking and all that goes into making a fine meal and I am more interested in the finer things in life because of good food. My meal can be as simple as grilled cheese but there is a way to make it good and healthy.  There is a lot that goes into the process of making quality food and there are loads of people who throw their love into a dish.
3. Cooking has the potential to create community! This is a huge one today because we are all crying out for community. We want a tribe and like minded people to gather with. Food is one of the best and most practical ways to do this. Look at most culutures who still stay away from a Western, convience diet. They eat together as a family or with neighbors. Food is a central part to a lot of cultures and the process of cooking and eating will often last hours as people gather together. The ritual of eating is sadly dying but I do think it can be revived.
4. I’ve had to think more about what I am putting in my mouth as I watch “how much sugar I just used to make those lemon bars”. When I can’t see it being made I’m more likely to consume freely without even thinking about what I’m putting into by body.
As a woman of faith I am convinced God is about community, family and celebration. If I were Jewish I could use all of my childhood memories to prove that to you. Those people can get down! I’m impressed how much I read about an historical Yahweh giving instruction on how to gather together to celebrate, remember and to create bonds of solidarity within their network of community (Network of community? How’s that for a 21st century cliche?).
Thanksgiving 2008
There is something profound and beautiful in slowing down to cook and slowing down even more to enjoy the meal in which you labored. I highly recommend gathering people together to eat. The opportunities to creating community, friendships and a taste for something better are all there. Try hosting a meal this month, even if it’s just for one other person. If you have wanted to have someone over but felt silly asking them out to ‘just hang’, ask them if they want to come over for dinner or a weekend brunch. Pick out a simple menu and don’t forget to read the whole thing before you start cooking. Sometimes you run into problems if you were suppose to let something chill for 3 hours and your guest is coming in one hour. If they ask if they can bring something let them bring the wine. If it’s too weird with one person invite three people and put some music on or play a game after dinner. Try to stay away from watching a movie. If it’s awkward just eat and hang out for a bit then tell them you’d love to do this again but really have an early morning. If that doesn’t work, break out the scotch and tell them deep, dark things about yourself in attempts to scare them back home. Works every time… except if they’re even creepier than you. Could go either way really. Here are a few easy meals to test your food sharing experience.

Bon Appétit

*all photos by Tracie Bonjour


Easy Spaghetti Bolognase sauce:

Serves four


1. Chopped medium-large yellow onion (they are a bit sweeter than purple)

2. two cloves of fresh garlic, chopped (don’t used crushed, it burns too quickly)

5. balsamic vinegar

oliver oil

3. 1 lb ground beef or chuck (chuck is less fatty)

4. 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes or four large tomatoes, diced.

6. handful of fresh basil or dried if it’s out of season

7. salt and pepper to taste

8. serve with angel hair pasta and a LOT of freshly grated parmesan. Goes with with Pinot Noir or Bordeaux


a. Fry up your meat until completely cooked and set aside. Add a few T. of olive oil and sautee onions and garlic together over med. Try not to let garlic get brown. After about 3 min add 1T of Balsamic vinegar or red wine. This helps the onions carmelize. Fry a few more minutes.

b. add cooked meat. Stir. Add tomatoes and stir. Add basil, salt and pepper. After you form a slight boil set to low and let simmer with it’s lid on for 20 min.

c. boil noodles and grate cheese. This should be served soon after noodles are done.

*My friend Anima lives in India and I asked her to send a recipe. If you’d love to try out a simple, healthy Indian meal, dig in! Thanks Anima.

Mixed-green stir fry

Serves 5

Cut up the following vegetables in the size and shape of your choice.
1/2 bunch spinach
1 small size cabbage. If there is no small size then 1/2 of the medium size cabbage is good.
2 medium size carrot to make it look pretty
1/2 bunch mastered green ( if mastered green is not available radish green or beat root greens also may be used).
5 garlic pod cut up.
(Usually I put dry whole chilly with the garlic. It gives different a flavor to the vegetable.)

Directions:
In a wok heat a little oil and brown the garlic till it is fragrant. Take care so that the garlic does not turn black. Put all the cut up vegetables in to the wok then add a little salt to taste. Mix well and cover and cook till just cooked – for about 15 minute. It should be cooked just 15 minutes before the meal is served for the best taste.