Monday, November 30, 2009

o christmas tree!

I've come across several articles about the merits of "real vs. fake" Christmas trees recently. Thought I'd share some of the info for those of you who celebrate Christmas and are wondering which is better for the world - a live tree, or a boxed one...

Number of real Christmas trees sold in the US in 2008 - 28.2 million
Number of artificial trees imported into the US in 2008 (mostly from China) - 8.9 million

Pounds of plastic (mostly PVC) contained in a typical artificial tree - 7.3

Number of years a person must reuse an artificial tree before it has a lower carbon footprint than a real tree (according to one study) - 20
Number of years an artificial tree is typically reused before being thrown into the landfill - 6 to 9

Most real Christmas trees come from farms, not forests. They are a crop that is designed to be harvested in "rounds" (each year as trees are cut, more are planted), and typically have little to no pesticides sprayed on them over their growing years.

And my favorite tidbit from my reading - "Artificial trees come in a cardboard box. Does that save a tree?" That one made me laugh!

We get a "cut your own" Christmas tree each year from Warren Farm in Barrington. Going out in the fields to choose a tree is one of my favorite Christmas activities - especially when there's snow on the ground and the fields are looking wintery and beautiful! When Christmas is over, we always lay the tree out in the woods in back of our house, and it becomes a hideout for critters like squirrels and birds. Many bigger towns offer Christmas tree pick-up, and turn the trees into compost or woodchips. All good!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

hello, goats!

We stopped by the Jenness Farm holiday open house today. It was fun to see the goats, and I bought a jar of goat milk hand cream to use this winter (even though it was beautiful and almost warm outside today, rumor has it there will indeed be winter again this year... (grin)). In addition to all the goat milk products, they had some beautiful locally-made knit and sewn items in their gift shop - I think I'll need to go back and do some serious Christmas shopping! The open house is running through December 5th - see their website for more details.

dark days challenge - week 2

Our local eating efforts this week have focused around Thanksgiving - and around the locally raised White Holland "heritage" turkey that graced us with its presence on our table this year, and continues to provide us with plenty of yummy leftovers.

In addition to our almost-all-local Thanksgiving meal (save for the flour, spices, oil, and condensed milk), over the last several days we have enjoyed leftover turkey in several mostly-local variations, a few of which I'll share here -

We made turkey nachos, using (non-local) store-bought organic corn chips, Cabot cheese, Meadow's Mirth black beans, Warren Farm corn frozen from this summer, and leftover turkey -

Turkey fried rice, using (non-local) rice, organic eggs from Stonewall Farm (purchased at the Rye winter market), scallions frozen from our summer CSA, (non-local) oil, and leftover turkey (see here for a post on how we make chicken fried rice - for this meal, we just substituted cooked, shredded turkey for the chicken) -

Turkey sandwiches using homemade bread (non-local ingredients), Cabot cheese, and (you guessed it!) leftover turkey... the list goes on (and a yummy list it is, too!).

Now we're almost out of meat, but we have the turkey bones frozen so we can use them to make stock after we pick up carrots at the December 5th winter farmers' market in Rollinsford that's coming up this weekend - and then I think we will have officially made good use of this fine bird.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it was a wonderful one, filled with family, good food, and fun!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

making pumpkin puree

Our kitchen is going to be busy this week, as we start getting ready for Thanksgiving. On the "to make" list for the next couple days are cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Today we're making pumpkin puree for the pie.

To make your own pumpkin puree (instead of using store-bought canned pumpkin), first wash the outside of the pumpkin, and remove the stem.

Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the strings and seeds (save the seeds for roasting!).


Place the 2 halves cut side down on a oiled pan that has a rim. Add 1/2 inch of water to the pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and pour off the water. Turn the pumpkin halves cut side up, and place back in the oven until the pumpkin is very soft and can be pierced easily with a fork.

Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it easily. Scoop out the flesh, and puree in a blender or food processor until the pumpkin is very smooth.

If you'd like the puree to be thicker, you can strain it using a cheesecloth (or similar), or you can spread the puree on a cookie sheet and bake until it thickens (be careful not to overcook if you use this method).

From what I've read, you can store the puree for about a week in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to a year. In our house, it doesn't last that long (grin)!!

fall colors

Last week I took this picture of the sunset off our back deck - the sky was glowing with amazing pinks and blues (I wish the photo did the colors more justice - it was truly an amazing sight in person!!).

I hadn't had a chance to share the photo yet, but when I read the Colors of November post over at Life Looms Large, I thought this would be fun to add to the MckLinky that Sue has set up for folks from around the world to share their own pictures of colors in nature. Thanks Sue, for the fun post - I'm looking forward to seeing what photos people share!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

dark days challenge - week 1

I read about the Dark Days Challenge hosted by the Urban Hennery blog, and decided it sounded like fun. I'll be highlighting one local meal each week over the "dark" winter months - and look forward to reading about the meals other participants prepare! Check out Urban Hennery for more info, and to read about the local eating adventures of lots of folks!

Today, in honor of the fabulous winter farmers' markets we went to yesterday, we had a stir-fry of broccoli, leeks, and garlic for dinner. I bought the broccoli yesterday from Heron Pond Farm, and I had bought the leeks and garlic at the Portsmouth market before the season ended. I think I have enough garlic stored right now to last until next summer... love garlic - can't be without it!! Leeks on the other hand, I need to pick up more of at the next market. They're on the list!

To go with the stir-fry, we had baked sweet potatoes from Ramsbotham's farm. Yum! No photos this week as my camera battery was charging - but next week I'll definitely include pictures...

Non-local ingredients for this meal were the oil and dark soy sauce - and everything else was straight from the farm!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

wonderful winter market day!

What a beautiful November day in New Hampshire - it's sunny - there's blue sky - just perfect for being out-and-about at the winter farmers' markets!

We started our day at the Newmarket market at the Stone Church, as it's closer to our house than Rollinsford, and we knew Tuckaway Farm would be there (I love their veggies!). In Newmarket, we bought potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, and bok choy.

Then we headed up to Rollinsford. The Wentworth greenhouse is an awesome place for the market - there were tons of people shopping, but it didn't feel overcrowded or loud - it was just a "happy, bustling busy little place," as we heard one person say. In Rollinsford, we picked up ground pork, broccoli, rutabaga, and more potatoes and onions.

Not only are we set for Thanksgiving now, but we should have plenty of local food to last til the next market (in Rollinsford, December 5th)!

Speaking of the farmers' markets, I realized last night as I was making my shopping list for today that I think our Thanksgiving is just about all locally-sourced this year. Our turkey, squash, turnips, potatoes, onions, and garlic are all from local New Hampshire farms. The pumpkin and eggs for the pumpkin pie are from local farms too. The cranberries for the cranberry sauce are from Massachusetts. And our butter is from Cabot (a cooperative that includes farms from New England and upstate New York). I think the only non-local items we'll be using are the condensed milk for the pie, flour, salt/pepper/spices, and oil. Pretty nifty - the opportunity to access local foods even in the "dark" months is definitely something I'm thankful for this year!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

the happiest little bowl of brussels sprouts

We tried growing our own Brussels sprouts for the first time this year. We bought nice little seedlings from a farm in Lee back in the Spring. But as the summer went on, our nice, healthy little starter-plants became sad - they were attacked by cabbage worms, flooded with rain, and just generally had a rough time making it out in the garden. As you can see, their leaves are decimated - and they're not particularly large plants.

Early this Fall, we thought about pulling them out and trying again next year, but then we decided to just leave them alone and see what happened.

And what happened was... actual Brussels sprouts started to grow! What had been tiny little pea-sized sprouts got larger and larger, and finally today they were ready to harvest!

Our first ever bowl of homegrown Brussels sprouts - a very, very happy thing!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

rye farmers' market trip

We decided to take a drive out to the Rye winter farmers' market in the rain this morning - it was a great little market, and I was excited to see not only broccoli, turnips, and Brussels sprouts, but also nice big sweet potatoes grown right in Madbury, NH. This is the first time we've come across New Hampshire-grown sweet potatoes, and I'm looking forward to trying them!

We also checked on the status of our Thanksgiving turkey, since the farmer who raised him was at the market today too. Our turkey is also coming from Madbury this year - and, as it turns out, is on his way to "the end" this very day (or as the farmer's mother said, "oh yep, he should be quite literally losing his head right now..." - gotta love a sense of humor!). Previous years we've bought our turkey from a farm in Deerfield, NH, but they're doing less farming (and no meat) this year - so we have a new turkey farm. Hard to believe Thanksgiving is really next week - where did 2009 go??

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

homemade hot chocolate mix

Since I can't drink coffee at night without risking being up til the morning (I don't drink decaf), I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner on a cold evening (and despite some nice warm days, the evenings here in New Hampshire are definitely getting chilly!!).

Thought I'd share the recipe we used to make our own hot chocolate mix this week. After making our own, I can see now why so many people give pretty jars of homemade mix for Christmas presents - it's quick and simple to make, and (my opinion) it tastes much better than store-bought!

We found the basic recipe on foodnetwork.com, and modified a little (we omitted the cayenne pepper and the corn starch). It makes 5 1/2 cups dry hot chocolate mix -

Ingredients
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
Hot water (or warm milk)

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.
2. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
3. Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water (or warm milk).
4. Stir to combine.
5. Seal the rest of the mix in an airtight container - keeps indefinitely in the pantry.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

last portsmouth market is today!

The Portsmouth farmers' market ends today - seems Winter really is just around the corner! We finally watched Food, Inc. last night (rented it in town) and after that reminder of what the industrial food system is all about, I'm definitely looking forward to going to the market and stocking up on enough fresh, local food to hopefully last me to the first of the winter markets!

Food, Inc. is definitely worth seeing if you haven't yet - I, for one, can't get the images of the sad, sick cows in the feedlots and at the slaughter houses out of my head. I'm so happy there are so many folks here in New Hampshire who offer local, humane-raised meats. Thank you farmers!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

food rules

I was reading the New York Times magazine online again today, and came across Food Rules: Your Dietary Dos and Don'ts. Michael Pollan picked 20 food rules from more than 2,500 that were submitted by readers from all over the world. Some made me laugh ("Don't eat egg salad from a vending machine.") and some echoed my own beliefs ("Never eat something that is pretending to be something else..."). It's a fun read if you have a minute to check it out!