Thursday, August 26, 2010


It's hard to believe we've been in Tel Aviv for 4 days already. There is no easier place to eat locally than Israel, I've found, and this was only emphasized today after a walk through Ha Carmel market.

The market lifts your senses to new levels. Crowded and chaotic, people shove through the aisles, shouting niceties to vendors and wishing each other L'Shana Tova, or a happy new year, which is fast approaching.

Locals pull their two wheeled grocery carts behind them, loading up on local eggs, cheeses and vegetables for the coming Sabbath dinner. Sweet, warm bread smells linger in the air, so rich you can almost taste the honey.

A small woman in a turban uses what seems to be a steel drum and a large, hard pillow to hammer out long sheets of lavash. Deep purple eggplants entice, and herb stands tout piles of locally grown, locally ground herbs, the colors vibrant and stunning.

Fresh fruit stands overflow with bunches giant, hard grapes, and beautiful lavender figs line the whole of the market. Giant heaps of olives of different sizes and colors glisten in the breaks of sunlight. I asked a woman if the olive oil she was selling was from Israel, and she looked at me like I was a fool. "Of course ees frum Eesrael...everything eees."

I stocked up only on olives and grapes for our drive tomorrow, wishing I had more time to actually cook a meal with ingredients from this very market. But we're heading to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and soon we'll be leaving Israel, so there is no time to cook. While I'm excited to be out of the humidity and heat, and back to my kitchen in Seattle, I know part of me will miss Israel. The noise, the commotion, and all of those fresh, fresh ingredients.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A week of drying fruit...

...and this is what we yielded. Not too terribly much considering the hours and cost involved, but I'm hoping we can do another round with fruit I buy in Eastern Washington on my trip at the end of the month.

I'm heading east to Quincy, where I discovered an amazing dried bean resource. Central Bean in Quincy has "Food Alliance Certified" beans starting at $15 for 25 pounds. That's a whole lotta beans! Apparently the "Food Alliance Certified" refers to the way the beans are grown, including limited sprays, crops grown in wheat fields to prevent erosion of the soils, and paying fair wages to farmers. I can get behind that!

While I was on with the nice lady from Central Bean, I asked her if she happened to know of any tomato farmers near her. Boy, does she! She gave me two great leads, and while I'm in Quincy, I'll be buying 65 pounds of tomatoes for the remainder of our canning needs at $.80 a pound! I'm excited for my little road trip, and while I'm there, I might try to stock up on other local fruits and veggies for canning and freezing purposes. But in the mean time, I must start packing for....

That's right--Dan and I are heading to Israel on Sunday for a business trip. I'll be posting while I'm there, looking at what local is in Tel Aviv. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Canning - Take one!

I LOVE canning! Maybe it is a tad time consuming, but we turned out a beautiful product, and it was fun along the way.
Saturday morning, we went the the University Farmer's Market and bought 23 pounds of #2 tomatoes and headed up to my family home so my mom could guide us through the canning process. We ended up doing a mix--mostly whole tomatoes but some pureed for sauces. In the end, we turned out 13 jars of deep red and bright pink colored jars, more than we thought, but still at $5 a jar. We have 35 more jars to go to set us up properly for the winter, and on the next round, I'm going to road trip to Eastern Washington to see if I can get the price down on the tomatoes.

23 Pounds of gorgeous tomatoes:

After blanching the tomatoes and dropping in ice water, it was time to peel the tomatoes (as my amazing husband did to all of these!):

Then you fill the jars, top off with hot water, seal and drop in the boiling water for 45 minutes. After you do all that, you get the joy of pulling them out and seeing if they seal properly!

Our finished product, round one.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's been three days since I started panicking, and I mean REALLY panicking, about our upcoming tomato situation.

Again, my lazy, grocery store mentality thought, OH, Tomatoes? I'll just pop down to the farmers market, pick some up, and can them. No problem! Until I was reminded that I'm in Washington, where tomatoes are not necessarily plentiful (at least on my side of the mountains), and are very expensive when you can find them.

My back up? I'll just drive to Eastern Washington, pick up a couple flats of tomatoes, and can them, right?

Well, not exactly. I'm traveling for 16 days over the next month, also throwing a baby shower, and lets not forget my daily drying ritual which is time consuming to say the least.

And let's not forget the cost! We are trying to prove that this can be done on a budget, but first we had to estimate how many tomatoes we use on a regular basis.

We use about 2-14.5 oz cans a week, on average, and more when we have guests. That's a little under a quart a week. 52 Weeks in a year, and there you go, we'll need 52 Quarts of tomatoes.

But wait!

How many tomatoes go into a quart of home-canned tomatoes? 3 Pounds.

At $2.50 a pound (cheapest we've seen, for canning purposes), that comes out to be....OUCH....

$7.50 a quart.

Now, let's compare that to Costco, where we can get a box of 8, 14.5oz diced, ORGANIC, tomatoes, for $7.

That's right around $2 a quart!

When you are faced with evidence like that, you have to ask yourself, 1) WHY am I doing this, and 2) what is the incentive to find, can, and store 52 quarts of tomatoes, when I can pop down to Costco and get some Organic ones for less than a third of the cost?

Well, as I'm sure you've heard, tomatoes are a hot-bed (sorry for the pun!) of controversy. Here are some fun facts:

* Tomatoes are often grown in Mexico, where they are cheap to produce and cheap to hire farmers.
* Tomatoes are sprayed to control weeds and insects, sprays that have been attributed to many health ailments
* Soil is fed NPK to boot yields, and usually, they are picked green in order to last longer and ship better (meaning less flavor and vitamins)
* Tomatoes are trucked to your grocery store, which burns fossil fuels and costs a lot of money for the fuel, energy, materials, transportation, etc., etc..

These are definitely not things I think about when I pick up a case of tomatoes.

I'm definitely trying to figure out where to get them, when to get them, and how to find them cheap, but if not, we might be without tomato sauce for a whole year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pictorial View of Farmer's Market Life

Natures Bounty:

Our half flat of apricots for drying:

Prepping the apricots:

Our first milk in years, and guess what? It is DELICIOUS!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The financials begin.

So, our whole goal with this year long process is to see one thing: If eating local on a budget can be done. Our biggest deterrent with eating local and organic has always been cost, so we were faced with the question, can you eat local for less than shopping at Big Box grocers?

Currently, we are at about 80% local, and already it feels like we are saving money. Our weekly trips the farmers markets have been insightful, not to mention delicious.

Organic Red Cabbage from a local farm tastes almost like candy when eaten raw, and purple Kale looks vibrant in the scrambles we make with local eggs. Speaking of local eggs, did you know that grocery stores can keep eggs on their shelves for up to 6 months? One word: GROSS.

Even though we are technically starting this September 22nd, we have started our financial list with some of our prep items we'll be using/eating over the course of the winter. For instance, our brand-spankin'-new food dehydrator, which we'll be drying our flats of apricots and peaches with this week.

And milk. Oh, the dreaded milk. As long time rice and soy milk drinkers, the thought of farm fresh milk scares us slightly. But today we bit the bullet and bought our first bottle, the bottle we'll be returning next week for a fill up.

The biggest difference I'm noticing though is the lack of waste. Before, we would buy so much at the grocery store that we would inevitably throw a lot of food out, which always felt...American.

Now, we use nearly everything we buy, and are much more conscious about our meals and what we need for the week. From fresh Chevre to fresh pasta, everything feels clean and delicious and conscious. It's a lovely shift.

I think the American pursuit for Fast! and Cheap! has really helped us lose sight as to where our food comes from, and I love the feeling of reconnecting with age old techniques, like canning for the winter and flash freezing veggies. Yes, it takes a little more time, but isn't our collective health better for it?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Last Stand.

As natural planners, we thought it would be easier to have some lead time before making the 100% local leap. In some ways, it has been. And while I'm glad I get the chance to can my own tomatoes and freeze fresh berries for the winter months, I'm really ready to start.

Partly why I'm chomping at the bit is our eating habits lately have gone to pot. Usually, a dinner consists of Quinoa, veggies and tofu or maybe chicken, with dessert being a Skinny Cow Ice Cream Bar. Nothing crazy.

Occasionally, a fine dining experience with a few glasses of wine.

Lately, it's like we're squirrels burying nuts for the winter, only instead of nuts, we're burying saturated fats. Burgers. Fries. Milk Shakes. Our desperation knows no bounds. And when we confront our eating habits, we always fall back on "well, starting in September, we won't be able to do this sort of thing...."


But all of this prep time has been eye opening, and pretty helpful.

I spent all day around Seattle and the East Side yesterday, a full "car day" complete with shopping excursions, business meetings and lots of time in traffic. Now, I like to eat. I eat when I'm stressed, I eat when I'm bored, and I definitely like to grab quick snacks when I'm out and about. I realized quickly yesterday this could pose a problem heading into the winter months. What am I going to snack on? I nearly had a panic attack, until I consulted the Locavore Book I've been reading. She suggested dried fruits, which again, I hadn't even really thought of.

So, this weekend we're off to make our first purchase for our year long journey. A food dehydrator. Nothing special, just the 5 tray variety you can get at BB&B. Still, I think having good snacks around will end up saving us from ourselves, not to mention, keep us healthy.

Now, if I can find local popcorn...I'm set...