Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Small Change: July & August

My One Small Change for July and August has been to eat all locally-grown* food and cook with the solar oven as much as practicable.

*By locally-grown, I mean grown/produced in Maine.

So far, things have gone very well. I first tried the local-foods thing three summers ago, and it's gotten easier every year. For one thing, more and more grown in Maine foods have become available and/or I've become better at finding them. For another, I'm getting better at using ingredients at hand and modifying recipes when necessary.

I made this Bolivian corn chowder (from this gorgeous cookbook) for a party a couple of weeks ago:

Almost everything in it (carrots, corn, Swiss chard, potatoes, herbs) was from either our garden or the farmer's market. Even the sunflower oil was grown and processed in Maine (more on oil in a minute). I did used some bottled tomato puree instead of fresh tomatoes, because I happened to have some in the fridge that needed using. Other than that, some paprika, salt and one bullion cube were the only "away" foods (which I had already in the house and didn't buy for this purpose).

One of the side benefits (or challenges) of this project is to use up stored dry goods off the shelves. So far I've emptied:
-a baggie with a few tablespoons of wild rice (added to carrot top soup).
-a bag holding one pound of kidney beans
-a jar of coconut oil (I finally figured out what to do with that stuff which is supposed to be good for you but imparts a strange flavor to foods--use it in granola!)
-a jar of peanut butter (in some not well-received peanut sauce)
-a jar of cashew butter (also used up in the aid of making granola; now I'll have to try tahini)

I've also made a dent in a bag of garbanzo beans, a jar of no-longer-very-poppy popcorn, 25 pounds of brown rice, five pounds of quinoa. I'm eyeing yellow split peas, red lentils and soy beans. Suggestions?

The best part is now I rarely have to go to the Hannaford (i.e. big chain supermarket). All they carry that I can buy is toothpaste, mustard and butter (actually, they have a modest display of local produce that I'm glad to know about, in case I can't make it to the farmer's market some week and really need a yellow squash for some inexplicable reason).

I have had some cheats: lemons (I intentionally went into this planning on buying as many lemons as I want; what's summer without lemons??); sugar (for all that jam); three red onions (I needed them in recipes; really I did!); baking powder (a staple; exempt from all requirements).

The first time we did the 100-mile diet, our Waterloo was oil. After we ran out of both safflower and olive oil, we didn't last long (turns out not everything tastes good fried in butter, much to my surprise). So I was excited to find Maine-grown sunflower and canola oils through my co-op.

Unfortunately, the canola oil (despite coming in the groovy whisky bottle) smells horrible (C and I don't like canola to begin with, and this is very, very, unrefined canola oil). The sunflower oil is nice, and I'm getting less scared of using it (The World Food Cafe actually calls for it in many of their recipes). I think it could be used pretty much anywhere olive oil is used--dressings, low-temp sauteeing, that sort of thing. It is expensive, but so is olive oil (I haven't compared them on an ounce-to-ounce level). We'll see how long we last on the stinky oil once our olive oil can is depleted.

The second year we tried the 100-mile diet, I balked when planning a camping trip. I really, really wanted to just buy easy, packaged foods like granola bars and spaghetti sauce. We're going camping this weekend, so we'll see if I make it through (I'm thinking grilled pizza with blueberry pesto and chevre; local hot dogs and roasted veggies; french toast for breakfast; lots of blueberries for snacks. Sound good?)

I'll let you know how it goes. And part two of this already really long post was supposed to be about solar cooking. We're getting there...figuring out what it can and can't do (pinto beans...amazing! the most fantastic roasted eggplant ever! mushy rice. really, really hard bread. tasty potatoes!). I've gotten C in on the act, which works out great because he often works from home, so he's here during the day to monitor it and rotate it toward the sun.

So that's it for me. Don't forget, it's never too late to make One Small Change!


  1. It sounds like you're doing great. I'd LOVE to hear more about the solar oven. And I have to say that your camping menu sounds totally delicious. Enjoy your trip!

  2. The camping menu sounds better than our regular in-house meals. Go for it!

    Must admit that when I read such entries, I am feel a great mixture of being inspired by you & shamed (I know not YOUR intention, my own stuff clearly)....

    You guys are awesome. Truly awe-inspiring.

  3. Somehow I missed this post. SUPER DUPER cool! We're going to attempt something like this next month, but only for one day a week, so I'm really interested to see how it goes.
    So awesome that you kept to the plan while CAMPING!

  4. You cannot get local maple syrup in Colorado. And peaches do not entirely make up for that fact.


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