The first three weeks of the challenge are now complete, and starting tomorrow we are going into Week 4. As we have been for the challenge so far, we are not eating 100% locally yet. Instead, we have been eating more local food at each meal - such as cheese and milk from a local organic dairy farm, and pears, peaches, and applesauce that I canned last summer.
I also have continued to use up what I have on hand. As I looked in the freezer this week, there was a turkey that was from Minnesota. So, many of our dinners and lunches revolved around the turkey (e.g., turkey sandwiches; turkey dinner with potatoes and gravy; turkey casserole with brown rice, mushrooms, green peppers that I had cut and froze from a previous summer, and a homemade gravy).
During the second week of this challenge, I focused on looking online and in a past Minnesota Grown Directory for a list of farmers markets. I also ordered a free 2014-2015 Minnesota Grown directory. From that, I came up with a schedule for visiting 13 different markets throughout the summer - 12 within the Twin Cities and one in Duluth when we will be passing through on our way back home after a stay in Grand Marais.
Our seeds that we planted during Week 2 are doing very well. The cucumbers have reached the top of the small table-top greenhouse; the tomatoes seeds have all sprouted and are about an inch or so tall; and some of the peppers (sweet and hot) now are beginning to emerge.
We attended the dreamXchange event on May 1st (a fundraiser for the Ann Bancroft Foundation) and one of the appetizers was fresh mozzarella balls, a basil leaf, and cherry tomato.
Sophia and Olivia at the dreamXchange event.
Sophia and I enjoyed this appetizer, and she asked if we could make this at home. So, on our list of things to purchase at the farmers market will be a cherry tomato and basil plants. We also will be trying our hand at making fresh mozzarella this summer!
On Friday, after volunteering at the nursing home we went to the Osceola Landing (a park and camping area on the St. Croix River). There was a group of fishermen there - two local men and two men from out-of-state. They were trying to catch some fish that they have never caught before.
One of them caught a silver redhorse which I guess likes to be in the river at this particular spot. We had never seen one before, so it was interesting to have the opportunity to learn more about this species of fish.
The man who caught it says he has smoked this type of fish before. There are other species like it and each has a slightly different taste, he said. Here was someone who was definitely eating local!
On Saturday, we went on an art studio tour along the St. Croix River. One of the studios we visited had a wood-fired oven. They invited us to make pizza using the variety of ingredients they had on the table.
The oven baked the pizza in under five minutes. I could only imagine how great pizza like this would taste in the middle of the summer with pizza sauce made with tomatoes and herbs grown in the garden, and topped with fresh vegetables from the farmers market and cheese from the dairy farm.
At some point, I would like to have one of these ovens in the backyard to make pizza and bread. Until then, I can gather the ideas and instructions to make one, and hope that this can happen either this summer or next summer.
Local Ingredients Purchased This Week
I went to Autumnwood Farm again on Monday and purchased organic skim milk and organic chocolate milk.
Then I went to the grocery store and found cheese sticks, mozzarella cheese, and cheddar cheese from a dairy farm in Wisconsin.
I also went to the co-op and purchased a loaf of multi-grain/seed bread that was made at New French Bakery in Minneapolis.
Local Ingredients on Hand (Preserved During Summer 2013):
We continued to use several items that I canned last summer and fall: applesauce, pears, and peaches.
Looking Forward to Week 4
My goals this week are to:
1. Call the customer service numbers of local food companies and ask where the products are grown and manufactured. I keep putting this off...maybe because it seems so overwhelming to do. Yet, by doing this I will find more products that are readily available throughout the year.
2. Create another meal plan. This worked very well for the past two weeks, and I plan to do this again for the upcoming week. I'm finding that by using what we have on hand that I am not purchasing things that we don't need. There is an increasing amount of space in the freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards which is nice to have and is better preparing us for the transition to more vegetable- and fruit-based meals this summer.
3. Do the Local Bite Mini-Challenge. The challenge this week is to enjoy a meal in a cafe, coffee shop, or restaurant that sources at least some of their ingredients locally. It will be interesting to see what places use locally-grown and/or locally-produced items at this time of the year.
4. Find a new locally-made or locally-produced item to try. During the first week of the challenge, the mini-challenge was to try something new that is locally-made or produced. During the first week we tried elk sausage which everyone enjoyed.
During the second week we tried two pounds of butter and a small bottle of cream from Autumnwood Farm (a local, organic dairy farm). Sophia used the cream to make fresh butter which tasted very good. We used it on crackers as well as multi-grain/seed bread.
During the third week, we tried locally-made multi-grain/seed bread that was made at the New French Bakery in Minneapolis. It was delicious and perfect for toasting and making sandwiches. The grilled sandwiches that we made with locally-produced cheese and the bread was delicious, and everyone wanted to have it again.
Perhaps when doing the mini-challenge this week I'll find another new item to bring home and have everyone try.