Tag Archives: local

Girl Meets Cow

31 Aug

sirloin

Last night, we got a cow. Ok, part of a cow. It all happened so fast, and somehow I went from getting a random text message a few weeks ago to driving home with part of Betsy (that’s what we named her) in the back of my car.

I’ve been interested in buying part of a cow for a while. We actually don’t buy red meat very often because it’s hard to find local meat that isn’t extremely expensive. Buying a whole cow makes local, free-range beef much more affordable, but we’ve never had the freezer space to tackle one on our own. Mr. Jones and I had talked about splitting one with someone, but just hadn’t done the legwork to make it happen.

Cut to my friend Brenna sending me a text message at the beginning of the month asking if we wanted to go in on one. I was a little gun-shy at first, but we talked it over and decided to give it a shot. It meant a bigger up-front investment from our grocery budget (although not as much as you might think), but it also meant cutting our subsequent weekly food budget quite a bit. The cost per pound is incredibly low, and as long as you have a decent freezer (or at least, a friend/relative with a decent freezer), you’ll be set on your meat-buying for a good long time.

We didn’t know when exactly we were picking up “Betsy” (that’s the name she ended up with), but I figured we’d get the freezer space ready a few days ahead of time. Instead, due to some random events, I got another text on Monday telling me, “The cow is here!” I headed over to pick up my portion, which was 60 pounds of meat. I don’t know quite what I expected, but we ended up with a nice mix of cuts (sirloin, rib steak, ground beef, t-bone and more). They were each individually wrapped and neatly labelled, thanks to the local family butcher shop.

The cow came from a family who raises about 6 at a time, then sells them. They’re a mix of grass and grain fed, and only fed antibiotics for the last few weeks before being butchered (as required by state law). I love that we didn’t have to take care of that end of it, and that the butcher who did it was part of a small family shop that’s been around for a long, long time.

I was a little nervous about how well all of the meat would fit, but between a shelf in Caleb’s grandma’s freezer and some re-shuffling in ours, it all went in quite well. Overall, it was an amazingly smooth experience, even with the last-minute meat arrival. While it may seem overwhelming to purchase a quarter (or even an eighth) of a cow, if you can, give it a shot! You’ll save a good bit on meat in the long run, have the knowledge that it was raised in a healthy way, and enjoy the delicious taste that comes from real, fresh food. If you’re interested, my advice would be to contact your local Slow Food or WAPF chapter; or just start asking around!

Now, we just have to find a grill…

Real Food Wednesdays

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

1 Aug

I was at Barnes and Noble a few days ago, browsing through a table of books (as I frequently do), and happened to pick up the loveliest book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. As you know, I recently got an ice cream maker, so anything with ice cream on it immediately catches my attention.

delicious macaron ice cream sandwiches

Jeni’s book is a little different than the typical ice cream cookbook. First of all, there are macaron ice cream sandwiches on the cover. Genius. Second, she embraces local produce and focuses on seasonal recipes in a way that I’ve not yet seen when it comes to ice cream. Eating seasonally and locally is always a great way to support your community while enjoying food at the peak of freshness (and flavor), and ice cream is no different. Jeni does a number of sweet vignettes on her favorite local vendors, exploring how they grow or create the food they distribute.

The book is beautifully designed, and the recipes are easy to follow. Almost all are built around a “base” recipe that is meant for the typical 1 and 1/2 quart Cuisinart style ice cream maker (just like mine!). The recipes are incredibly varied, and feature flavor combinations that are definitely outside your supermarket shelves (Salty Caramel, Rhubarb & Lime Cardamom Yogurt, Wildberry Lavender–yum).

the people behind jeni's

While the design is beautiful and the flavors are amazing, my favorite thing about Jeni’s is the personality behind it. Jeni has been creating ice cream for nearly a decade, and is a great example of a business owner that takes great pride in both her product and the people who help her create it. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shops aren’t afraid to let their personality show, and that’s one of the things that keeps customers coming back again and again.

So check out the cookbook, and if you’re in Ohio or Tennessee, stop by one of the sweet little shops and grab an authentic Jeni’s treat!

Friday Faves, February 18th

18 Feb

friday faves feb 18

1 :: It’s finally (truly) starting to warm up here, and what better way to enjoy the warm weather than in this fun, bright Dolce Vita dress from Ruche

2 :: Last week, we made these Fish Tacos from CuisineNie. They’re super easy, and great when you’ve got extra fish in your freezer. I love the sour cream-lime sauce.

3 :: I was thrilled when I saw Amanda Jane Jones’ work on Design, Work, Life earlier this week. I love her color palettes and (of course) I’m always a fan of encouraging buying local–especially for my home state of Michigan!

4 :: I know Valentine’s Day is over, but any day is a good one to leave these DIY Post-It notes (via Eat Drink Chic) in your sweetheart’s lunch box.

5 :: I feel like I’m always getting book recommendations and then promptly forgetting them. This sweet book journal from Oh My Cavalier has space for 144 books, with room to write about each one. There’s something about the act of actually writing (vs. typing them in to my iPhone) that just seems to suit the written word better.

6 :: Okay, this bowl from Obol might be a little silly, but I think it’s brilliant! I love the idea of eating cookies and milk, or crackers and soup, without them getting soggy.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Farmers’ Market

26 Jan

farmers' market

Now that January is half over, I’m finally getting back in my normal “routine” of everyday life. I loved the break and the traveling of the holidays, but I definitely missed going through some of my weekly traditions. One of the things I was most excited about was getting back in the habit of going to our Old City Farmers’ Market. It’s such a great opportunity to interact with other people in our community, get inspired by all the local/seasonal food, and enjoy making new discoveries (from produce to plants).

Although I know some of you may be veteran farmers market shoppers, there are others who haven’t ventured out or found yours. It can also be a little overwhelming sometimes, with all the people hustling and bustling, so I want to share some tips to help you get the most out of your trip.

pickles and more

Find the Market That Works Best for You

While some towns may only have on farmers’ or produce market, many have multiple places that you can go, on different days of the week. Even in St. Augustine (which is a fairly small city), we have three, each on a different day of the week. Local Harvest has a great resource for locating your nearest farmers’ market. You’ll be surprised how many might be nearby that you had never known about. Be sure to check if there are seasonal dates–the further you get up north, the more likely that your markets are only open during certain months. Nonetheless, many markets are open well in to the fall and spring, even in the coldest climates.

Once you’ve located the nearest markets, try to visit each of them to get a feel for what the vendors are like. Pick the day that works best for you, and be aware of vendors that may only go to one market. If there’s someone you like who only sells at a market you can’t make it to, try and find a friend who visits that market who can help you stock up on what you need.

Each market is different, but even the smallest can offer some incredible deals and things that you’ll never find in a big-box store (or even local grocery).

locally grown

Go Early and Get to Know Your Vendors

Every vendor is different–whether they’re selling raw honey, local produce, or fresh homemade bread, they all have a story and (hopefully) a passion for their products. Take the time and ask about the things you’re looking at. Generally, vendors love to help and answer questions. Whether you have no idea how to cook the heirloom eggplants they’re selling, or you’re curious how they tend to the bees that make their honey, just ask! Getting to know the vendors you buy from not only gives you confidence in what you’re buying (and who you’re buying it from), it also makes it more likely that they’ll hook you up with a good deal now and then.

Remember, not all farmers market vendors are created equal, especially when it comes to produce. Find out where their food is grown and how they grow it. If there are specific concerns that you have (organic, free-range, sustainable, etc.), just ask! Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more if you know you’re getting a quality product, but if they’re buying the same stuff as the grocery store, it’s silly to pay a premium price. Most market vendors have incredibly reasonable prices (I usually get much more produce at the market than I do at the store, for the same amount of money), but the ones who do charge more usually have solid reasons for doing so.

The best way to build a rapport  with your vendors (and to make the best finds) is to go early. Try to hit the market within an hour or two of its opening time. It’s usually less crowded and you’re more able to chat and ask questions. Plus, the earlier you’re there, the better pick you’ll have of food/products!

folk band

Pack Accordingly

You don’t have to bring anything special to the market, but there are a few things that will make it easier:

Cash — You can’t get very far with a debit card: most vendors only take cash. And don’t just grab a twenty! Vendors love small bills, and giving them ones or a five will almost always guarantee a smile.

Your Own Bag (Canvas or Reusable) — Most vendors will have plastic bags if you need them, but bringing a larger canvas or reusable bag makes it easier to carry what you buy. It also eliminates waste and gives you more room for all your stuff.

Your Camera (even if it’s just your phone) — You never know what you’ll find at the market, from crazy produce to music or entertainment. Our market has a group of folk music players who get together and play a wide variety of bluegrass and folk music, and the RAM in Jacksonville has incredible street performers and musical acts. Take a moment to capture what you see, even if the only camera you have is your phone (I forgot to bring my “good” camera to this week’s market, so all of the photos on this post are from my iPhone).

sorbet cart

Make a Budget, But Don’t be Afraid to Treat Yourself!

It’s best to give yourself a budget when you go to the market. Decide on a set amount of cash that you’ll bring, and make a mental (or physical) list of the things you’re on the look out for. Sometimes you may not see the produce that you need and have more to spend on raw milk, local free-range meat or fresh caught seafood.

Finally, don’t be afraid to grab a treat! There’s always something tasty–we have a homemade sorbet vendor, fresh cut boardwalk fries, fish tacos, sweet potato burritos, custom juice blends, crab cakes and more. With the money you’ve saved and the investment you’ve made by buying local, you can spare a buck or two ever now and then for something to savor. Plus, sometimes it’s impossible to ignore the tantalizing smells that waft by as you walk through the market.

I hope these tips will help you venture out and enjoy your local market! It’s so much fun and such a great way to support your local economy and local farmers.

Do you regularly visit a farmers’ market? What’s your favorite market discovery?

Real Food Wednesdays

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