New Year, New Blog (Posts)

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It’s been a busy time at the Harlem Homestead.  Between:  

  • canning 300 pounds of food
  • learning how to make several dairy products including: 
    • yogurt (well) 
    • cheese (tastes great if you don’t call it cheese)
  • making 90% of our food from scratch
  • making new body products
  • infusing booze (oh, the hardship!)
  • Surviving (heck, why be modest – having a blast doing!) my first semester of my masters in Clinical Psych, 

I’ve been able to keep up with nearly everything but two things.  Namely, sewing (a bag of gorgeous fabric we bought in August to make napkins and placemats is sitting sweetly in the closet) and blogging.

Sewing is probably going to wait for a while, but this blog has been an amazing outlet for me and a great way to connect to something outside of neuromarkers for PTSD, which is taking up a tremendous amount of my time at the moment. 

However, sustainability is the name of the game here, and writing lengthy instructional and data driven posts is not sustainable in my data driven life.  As much as I wish I could continue with the way this blog started, it’s just not my path. Instead, I hope you will still join for insights, recipes when we can share them, and ridiculous photos of the dog.

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My new years resolution is to blog 250 days this year.  I hope you join me for them – it should be an interesting one!

Cheers all,

Kat

Oh hey there…

Do you know that awkward moment when you’ve had a friend you’ve been meaning to call, but always forget to do so?  And then you run into them at your sister’s friend’s cousins bridal shower, and there they are? And you feel like, “Oh crap, I can’t really call them now because there’s so much to catch up on, and I don’t really have the time to do that because I’m so busy, which is why I haven’t called them in the first place?

Yeah, that’s this blog.

awkward Kat

I’ve wanted to be writing, but it felt like each post would have to take up so much time to write to apologize for my absence, and would take an update on the photos and the projects and the editing and I just couldn’t do it because of grad school EATING MY LIFE.

So, I don’t really have time to do a major update, but suffice it to say that future posts include the fact that we’ve infused about 7 liters of booze in a variety of flavors, made vanilla extract, shampoo, cheese, canned about 300 pounds of food (that’s a real number) and finally succumbed to ordering tahini off of the internet because inspite of several attempts ours just isn’t as good as the Lebanese variety.

I promise, I’ll be back. 

Until then, sending love and happiness to all of you. 

Commitment to your Fruit

Buying a bushel and a half of apples (about 100 pounds?) is a commitment. Don’t let any orchard tell you otherwise.

apples

apples

apple sauce

Over the course of 5 days, we processed around 100lbs of apples into 22 pints of apple sauce (traditional, raspberry balsamic, and vanilla wild blueberry and lemon) plus 38 half-pints of apple butter (traditional, and vanilla bourbon).  Plus, we used the cores to make around  gallon of apple cider vinegar. Up next is apple vanilla infused vodka.

The crazy thing about is is we are truly not sure that we bought enough.  We bought them mostly for gifts, but the unfortunate thing about making so many delicious things is realizing just how much you, the cook, enjoys them. So now, we want to make more for our own “larder.”

So, all that cooking, plus studying for a midterm, preparing a presentation, and rocking out a child observation…whew!

I no longer have calluses from CrossFit, just from holding a chef’s knife and chopping.

Pluck The Fruit

On our first day in upstate NY, we went apple picking at Hicks Orchard, near Cambridge.

apple picking

apple picking

apple picking

apple picking

The last photo is from Jenna’s farm.  She didn’t want us wasting our “bought apples” on her horse, so we shook her centuries old apple tree and got some gorgeous Northern Spy apples.  The horses (and pigs, and sheep) positively gorged themselves.

A One Woman Farm – a day at Cold Antler

Concrete is a taxing substance.  It seems so innocuous, but in reality, in great quantities, it can pull parts of your soul out and drain your spirit dry.  Some days it feels like I live in a concrete box, the trees of the park an artificial distraction of the constant energy drain of this island of skyscrapers.  New York is the city of dreams for so many, but for us, our hearts are longing for open air, for horse shit, and a day amongst the animals.

Luckily for us, we always have options. Unlike so many, we can get out of Manhattan, and in a few short hours be in a remarkable tree-lined, fiercely spirited town chock-full of inspiring, quirky and independent people who band together to make a community. This weekend was spent meeting and learning from one of my favorite authors, bloggers, and generally awesome human beings, Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm fame.  (Fame, of course is relative – as Jenna described it, “being a famous farm blogger is like being a famous dentist – you’re only famous to other people doing exactly what you’re doing.”)

Jenna, Kat and Gibson

Jenna, if you don’t know her or read her prolific books or work, is definitively a renaissance woman.  She writes, runs a farm with about 30 animals ranging from chickens to horses, teaches workshops on everything from butchering rabbits to plucking the dulcimer, is an archer, a falconer, a hunter, a graphics and web designer, a shepherdess, a horsewoman, a spinner, a knitter – she seems to be happy to give anything a try. She’s been an inspiration for passion, for dedication, and for never, ever saying “I can’t.”

We decided to do an “indie day” with her – one of her totally ingenious ways of both being of service and supporting her farm. In an indie day, you tell her what you want to learn, and she teaches you. We wanted to learn the basics of livestock, goat care, and farming, and she arranged an amazing day for us.

Bonita the goat

We first went over to Common Sense farm, to see how a full-fledge goat-based operation works (Common Sense farm feeds 90 people who live and work there, as well as makes amazing soaps, body products, runs a farm stand, among countless other endeavors.)  We met Achniel, one of the farmers, who gave us a in depth tour. We got to see their chicken breeding program set up, and met their dairy goats, whose romantic names includes Esmerelda, Iris and Opal.

After lunch at Round House bakery, we headed back to Jenna’s homestead.  We had some seriously hands on experience with the goats, Bonita and Ida, which was more than a bit of fun – clipping their hooves, feeding them, milking them, and watching them be endearingly absurd.  I knew goats had personality, but these guys are RIDICULOUS.  Loud, silly, and very intelligent.  They love playing with Gibson, Jenna’s border collie; kicking up their heels and chasing him around the yard.

bonita and ida

More than anything, we learned so many valuable tips from Jenna about how to be scrappy. Anthony and I are not scrappy.  We’ve never had to be. Jenna could be living a remarkably cushier life – she is fiercely intelligent, a talented designer, and obviously a remarkably resourceful woman. However, she’s chosen a life for herself that involves making hard sacrifices, though you’d never know it from talking to her – she seems to celebrate each moment of her life with relish and humor. Her whole farm is an homage to stretching a dollar and ingenuity and creativity.  The day affirmed our knowledge of how much work a farm is, but also continued to fuel our dream of creating one ourselves.

Cold Antler farm

Coming back to Manhattan, after an encounter with my other favorite author (more on that soon) my heart felt a bit broken.  Leaving the trees to re-enter our world of concrete and sirens and constant need felt achingly sad. However, I am so happy to have made a new friend, bought 30 pounds of meat for half the price and twice the freshness of what’s easily available in New York City, and have such hope and vision for the future. Whenever I feel down in the mouth, I can always flip over to Jenna’s blog or open one of her fantastic books, pour a cup of coffee, and treasure the connections we make and the paths we follow.

Quick Question: How do you milk an almond?

Hi strangers!  I mean, friends!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9QbC41oQRo <– “How do you milk an oat?”

It’s been a bit of a wild ride at the new Harlem homestead, starting graduate school during the day, canning 21 quarts of tomatoes by night. (Seriously.)

canned tomatoes

However, it’s been an amazing experience, and so wonderful to have a full, albeit 3x smaller than our original Australian, kitchen again.

I’m not super tolerant of cows milk, so almond milk is one of my favorite alternatives for a white liquid I can put in smoothies or in tea. I’ve used almond breeze almond milk for years.  It’s lower in calories than cows milk by between 2/3rd and 4/5ths, depending on the fat content of your milk (which doesn’t bother me one way or the other, but if you’re just using it as an additive for color or flavor, it’s a nice side effect)…and that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t have much in it besides a milky flavor and texture, that adds nice body to smoothies. Not too much by way of nutrition, but not every food needs to be a macronutrient powerhouse – sometimes, we just eat to enjoy.

Since learning more about the dangers of carrageen and how inflammatory it can be to the system, we’ve decided to try to consume less of it. Considering we often have smoothies, and Anthony has almond milk every day in his breakfast, the first way to have less would be to make our own almond milk.  Was it great, or a disaster? Check back in on Wednesday to find out!

Peace, love and tomato sauce!

Kat

Highlights to Come!

The rest of my trip was spent in a blur, as was heading back home and starting school. Here’s just a few snaps of things we have to look forward to together!

tomatoes

breastfeeding article

cheese making class

water falls

beet carpaccio

wine

Can’t wait to share more!

Enjoy yourself with great spirit and glee

Kat

Since When Does Lemon Have Ingredients? A Mild Rant on Travel

To get to Seattle, we had to fly from New York. Two things amazed me about this, and every plane trip I’ve taken lately – 1) how truly unsustainable airplane travel is, simply in terms of passenger service, and 2) How it took me this freakin’ long to notice. It was only when reading Joel Salatin that I really stopped and thought about the tremendous waste that goes into airplane travel, and it extend so far beyond the gasoline and carbon costs. 

It really hit home when I ordered a soda water with lemon. In every other flight I’ve been on, they’ve always had a sliced lemon, or not had it at all. (Now, I know that ordering lemon slices from New York airport is about as non-local as physically possible, but – well – I like my citrus.  I also know that ordering canned soda water isn’t the most sustainable option either. I was thirsty. I’m not a saint.)

Instead of a sliced piece of fruit, however, they gave me packets of powdered and crystalized lemon.  It was, of course “100% natural” – but looking at the ingredients?

lemon packets

true lemon

If it now takes paper packets to serve lemon, we’re in trouble. Not to mention, the tremendous amount of plastic associated with each drink and snack.  

As a consumer, I have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to either bring my cup (which I forgot at home, along with the frittata disaster of 2013) or at least, save it and not throw it away between service. You can’t bring your own beverages on flights through the airport, but I could have had a water bottle and filled it at the airport water fountain.  However, even when I do my part, I can’t understand why the policy is to collect the cups after service, only to re-distribute out new cups afterwards. Is there something inherently unhygienic about sipping from the same cup, naught but two hours later? Not to mention, isn’t this less financially viable?  I mean, they loose twice as many cups as necessary!

Also, the hermetically sealed, many varietal processed snacks frustrate me. I’m a gluten-free and refined sugar-free person, so I carry my own snacks. For most people with specialized dietary requirements, they don’t rely on the airline to provide for their needs.  For everyone else, having such a tremendous variety of processed, package snacks is unnecessary, and just creates so much garbage and waste, in their digestive system and the landfills.

 So I wonder, what would happen if we had either reusable and washable bowls, or if that’s not feasible, compostable bowls, with a vegetarian and a meat-based soup and a hearty bread (and of course, gluten-free bread, for those who need).  Have the airline attendants ladle them out individually to each person, so there’s no cross-contamination of anything. At the end, collect the scraps for compost, and use the compost to grow attractive plants alongside the runway (I thought of saying food trees, but that seems like overkill, considering the amount of pollution and fumes. Not to mention, probably don’t want anything high too near a runway.)

On shorter flights, the same could be done with nuts (I know this may be questionable for those with nut allergies, but they now serve packaged nuts, and from what I understand, the hermetic seal really doesn’t makes all that much of a difference once the package is open.  If anyone reading has a severe nut allergy, please correct me.)  They could hand out either compostable or metal tins of raw or roasted nuts, and throw them in the dishwasher at the end of the flight, or compost the containers.  

Alternatively, they could have the local fruit of the season, which would be a dramatically cost and health effective option – local apples in New York right now were around $2.00 a pound (for about 3-4 apples) while chips, cookies, etc., retail for $1-2 per pack – they could cut the cost by 4, and increase health and sustainability!

I know these ideas may seem ridiculous at this point, but remember, a few years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a “local” label, and the idea of canning supplies in the local Target would have been comical. This changed because consumers demanded it. What if we demanded something that was cheaper for the airlines, and healthier for our waist line and our waste?

I imagine things would change, and quickly too.

I know this seems a bit rant-y, and for that, I apologize.  It’s more just a wonderance – what would happen if we came together, and instead of continuing to follow the most obvious and unsustainable patterns, we really paused, thought about new options, and tried them out? I really believe it would be amazing what we could accomplish collectively. 

Cooking Local on Vacation

One of the most fabulous and fun ways that Anthony and I eat locally and also save money on vacation is to always rent a place with a kitchen, and aim to cook 2/3rds of our meals. That seems like a reasonable and sustainable goal, that still allows us to eat out, try local restaurants (food carts in Portland, anyone?) but also have moderate portions of healthy meals, which can be really hard to find.

When we first got to Seattle, the first thing we did the first morning was to go to the nearby Madison Market food co-op to shop for the ingredients to make special meals on the trip.

Madison Market food co-op

I love this place. It was like what Whole Foods wants to appear to be – it really stocks only sustainable produce, meat and fish. We asked the fish counter for which fish was wild, and the Fishmonger looked a bit disgusted and said, “they’re all wild. We don’t sell farmed fish here.” How cool is that?

wild fish counter

They also had a shelf devoted to gluten-free beer, also known as my personal heaven.

GF beer

They also sold tons of local cheeses, which looked great, although we skipped them, having sampled so many at farmers markets, etc.

local cheese

We ended up leaving with:

  • Local wild snapper
  • Organic canned refried beans
  • green apples
  • local goats yogurt
  • red cabbage
  • limes from California
  • chipotle paste
  • carrots
  • ground local elk
  • swiss chard
  • local tomato sauce (I think!)
  • Beer for me :-)

Now, don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t cheap. We could have eaten out at cheaper restaurants for about the same cost. However, we had meals that highlighted local ingredients that would have cost 3-4x more in a restaurant, plus we had the delight of preparing it exactly the way we wanted to.

If you’re not used to cooking while on vacation, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s such a great way to live like a local – shopping and eating in the same places they do.  Not to mention, it was such a blast to get to experiment with ingredients that I’ve never had before, such as elk – so delicious, and not at all gamey when minced, if you’re curious.

Ever Eaten a Pigs Ear? Restaurant Review: Local 360

We decided, before we left, that each city would have one fun night out at a restaurant.  We asked for recommendations from everyone from Microsoft employees to the Barista at Caffe Vita, and the results were unanimous – we had to try Local 360.

Local 360

Local 360 is one of Seattle’s answers to the farm-to-table delicious trend that is getting more and more popular. They focus on sustainable food from nearby farms, and serve seasonal and rustic fair with a definite flair for fun and quirk.

Local 360 menu

The appetizers included such delicacies as a Pigs Ear (unfortunately, not gluten-free, or you know I would have tried it) and PB&J bon bons (too sweet for me.) However, they did have some of the best Deviled Eggs I’ve ever tasted.  The menu was varied for all dietary preferences, and included most welcome markings for Vegetarian Friendly and Gluten Free – I am so grateful when a restaurant does the work for me and tells me what’s gluten-free up front.

devilled eggs

We also ordered a wine flight to share of local wines – it was like having a wine tasting at dinner, so much fun!

wine flight

After that, unfortunately, we stopped taking photos.  Anthony ordered the Wednesday ribs special, which was really delicious, with a lot of decadent goodies with a fresh twist, such as a cornbread waffle, and sweet potato salad.  I ordered something that I am not permitted to say on this blog in case my mother ever found out, but I found it a bit tough and not particularly thoughtfully prepared.

I would definitely visit Local 360 again, but would veer more towards their appetizers and small plates in lieu of their mains – the small plates all looked so delicious and creative.  Isn’t that always the way?

I’d also stop by for a drink and their beautiful wooden bar, and enjoy the ambiance and scene of people wanting to support local food, a great restaurant, and have a good time.