Monday, August 31, 2009

Drinks, anyone?

Some hope for people missing beer because the local stuff doesn't have local hops. Link

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Halfway there!

Wow- time flies, doesn't it? I have to say that so far, the 100-mile challenge has been an adventure to say the least. There have been some ups and downs, but I'd say that overall it's been a good experience.

Right now I'm listening to my husband make 2 loaves of 100-mi. sourdough in the kitchen. We've come a long way from the first breadmaker loaf (aka the brick!)

I can't honestly say that we've done as well as I'd hoped (on average, we're doing around 70% local), which is less than the original all local except fair trade coffee & chocolate, but we're still in the game at least. We're still making our own bread, buying 100% local veggies, meat and dairy, and trying our best to eat as local as possible whenever we can.

I think the hardest things for us has been eating out- we did go for chinese food more than was good for us before the challenge, and although we've resisted the siren song of Lai Lai's more than not, there have been a couple of times when we couldn't resist. Another problem has been at work- when I don't bring enough food for lunch (which has happened from time to time), or people ask me to go for coffee, it's hard to resist grabbing something. Luckily, the dining hall carries fair trade coffee, and since switching, I have to say Tim's just isn't tasty anymore. Candy is another problem as I have a coworker who likes to wander the halls on afternoons offering people licorice and other sweets. So hard to resist! The candy issue got so bad that I'm essentially in day 3 of sugar-detox. It was a stressful 2 weeks and there were skittles involved, what can I say? It's tough though, because with sugar, once I start eating it, I feel horrible for a week or so afterwards unless I eat more.

This afternoon we went to Herrle's to pick up some fruit and vegs (incuding corn which they grow on site). Yum! Let's hope the corn and nectarines in my house will help fight off the skittles cravings at least until I go camping next weekend!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

100 Mile Bread Experiences: Guest Post

Hi everyone. I'm Shara's husband, Rick, and I've been asked to do a guest post about my bread making experiences. In mid-July I had taken a bread making workshop at a local bakery, the Golden Hearth. The workshop was totally amazing! Organized by Rachel and Michael at the HealingPathCentre, we learned how to make our own sourdough starter and bread as well as a 90% rye which has lasts a bit longer than other breads.

I do almost no baking (until now), and I knew nothing about bread before taking the workshop. I had seen my grandmother bake bread years ago I think, that's about it. I had always wondered what sourdough was... now I know it's just a mixture of flour and water! There's a lot of chemistry involved, but basically, the sour part comes from the fermentation of the naturally occurring yeast that's already in the air and on the flour itself. Sourdough was chosen because it's 100% local since it doesn't require added yeast. It takes longer to prepare because the process of letting the dough rise or proof takes longer without adding yeast.

At the end of the two day workshop we came away with two loaves of sourdough bread and two loaves of 90% rye. We also were given the recipes so we can make our own sourdough from scratch (equal parts flour and water - 100 grams of each) but the baker at Golden Hearth was nice enough to give us a small sample of his sourdough starter culture to start off our own sourdough bread in the future. Although you can store the culture in the fridge until you're ready to prep it for making bread, he's used the same starter for more than 3 years (you have to feed it more flour and water each day- kind of like having a pet!).

My own bread making experiences since the workshop have been pretty successful. After eating all the bread that I came home with, I made one loaf of sourdough on my own and it was really good! I was SO nervous... I had put the salt into the mixture at the wrong time so I thought we'd end up with a brick instead of a loaf. Then I was worried I'd fed the starter wrong and we'd end up with a brick. Then I was worried I would under-knead it and we'd end up with a brick! Well, we didn't end up with a brick. I was very happy when it came out of the oven, I felt like I was the proud father of this loaf of bread!

It's been a few weeks since that incredible day, and I've just finished working on my second loaf. This time I waited to put the salt in at the right time. I'm still a bit nervous about how it'll turn out. The dough is in the fridge for the night, and I'll proof it out in room temperature for about 2 hours tomorrow, and then into the oven it goes! I'll ask Shara to let you know how it turns out :)

If you have any bread making tips or even horror stories, I'd like to hear them. Please post a comment below!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Millbank Adventures

Since we were out of cheese, we decided to take a road trip to Millbank to visit the Millbank Cheese Outlet, and to stop off at Anna Mae's (also in Millbank) for some of their yummy tarts which we had first come across at Herrle's. Turns out it's not a long drive at all- 40mins or so. Anna Mae's was PACKED, so we just ducked in, got our baked goods (butter tarts for Rick, raspberry ones for me, plus some cheese buns that looked too good to pass up), then went straight to the cheese store. The cheese place was the total opposite of Anna Mae's- not a single car in the parking lot and only us and the girl behind the counter in the store. We got some nice cheese though (and local!), some monterrey jack, cheddar, and brick with hot pepper flakes. Yummy in sandwiches (especially since Rick's been making his sourdough), omlettes, and for snacking!

We also went to Stemmler's on the way back to get some more ham for sandwiches and bacon (Rick's been craving it since we were there a month ago picking up our freezer order). We also peeked into Martin's Family Fruit Farm- looks like a neat place, but we already had enough peaches & berries in the fridge at home. Something to keep in mind when we want apples in the fall though. With the weather my thoughts are starting to turn towards fall with it's yummy apples, squash & pumpkins!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Foccacia Recipe

Here's the foccacia recipe I used. I made the dough in the breadmaker to save time, but if you're making it by hand, mix the water and yeast together first, then about 10 mins later add the other ingredients. Once the ingredients are mixed, knead until it's elastic (5-7 mins or so), then let rise in a covered bowl for 30 mins. Then follow this recipe starting at step 3.

1.5 cups warm water
1tbsp honey
2tbsp canola oil (the cold-pressed oil I got from Bailey's is awesome- frankly, it's nicer and more flavourful than a lot of grocery store olive oils out there, pricey though)
1.5tsp salt
4.5 cups flour
2tsp active dry yeast (I consider this part of the 99% rule)

1) place all ingredients in the above order into the breadmaker & make on dough setting
2) turn out onto a floured surface, invert large mixing bowl over dough and let rest 10 minutes
3) coat a large raised edge cookie sheet with canola oil
4) roll out dough until it fits the pan
5) place in warm oven (I turned it on to about 200 for 3-4 mins then turned it off before putting the dough in) and leave until it's doubled in size (appox. 40 minutes)
5) using your fingers, press holes into the foccacia
6) drizzle with canola oil and sprinkle with whatever chopped herbs you have- I used rosemary, oregano & basil but others would work too. Minced garlic & shredded parmesan would be yummy!
7) Bake in oven at 450 for 20mins.
8) Let cool, the eat!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Month 1 Done!

That's right- one month down, 3-ish more to go! 4 weeks in, things are chugging along pretty nicely for the most part. Thinking ahead and making sure we have bread made and meat defrosted for the next day is becoming second nature (almost), and the last couple of weeks have really brought our little deck garden to life. We have more lettuce, cherry tomatoes and green and red peppers ready to harvest daily and the beans are coming along nicely. I'm actually having trouble keeping up with the herbs, and think that I'll have to stop harvesting all of it because I already have quite a lot of it dried or drying.

Last night I surprised even me by making a really nice focacchia topped with chopped fresh rosemary, basil and oregano from our garden. I made it from scratch, and it is SO good! This is something I don't think I'd even dream of trying before, but since I'm getting to be an old hand at buns and such, I thought I'd give it a go.

We've gotten into a good pattern of eating 100% local at home (minus fair trade coffee and chocolate- for medicinal purposes), and bringing 100% local lunches and snacks to work. This leaves a little wiggle room for going to friends' places and eating their food from time to time. It works for us, and I have to say that drinking local wine instead of the usual Irish cider while sitting in someone's backyard is almost just as good!

Right now I'm turning my thoughts to our camping trip in a couple of weeks. Should be ok, although I'm not sure if I can give up s'mores. I know they're nutritionally void at best, but there's something about fire roasted marshmallows that are just so tasty!