Look Up from Your Latte and See the Change

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My pumpkin buddy is helping me write today!

In the midst of a hail storm a few weeks ago, my husband ran out to cover the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Meanwhile, I grabbed my scissors dashed out into the darkness and found the one bright orange pumpkin that I kept meaning to pick. Out of the twelve nearly ready for Halloween volunteer pumpkins, I could save at least one, right?

I suspect my husbands efforts were more substantial, at least comparatively, but the pumpkin sitting on the table next to me as I write is rather perfect looking, without a hail pock in sight. Not that a hail pocked pumpkin wouldn’t be delightful roasted down into all sorts of treats, but really… Hail comes and for some reason my husband and I fling ourselves out into the elements to save whatever we can, whether there is a rational reason or not.

The pumpkins arrived in our garden as volunteers. No, they didn’t help me weed or mulch, rather they made themselves comfortable in our tended soil, then spurted, grew and spun around the garden that I had an actual plan for. It took a while for me to guess what they might be and honestly it wasn’t until they were round, orange and obvious did I finally succumb to… yes, that is a pumpkin. The transformation was well over a month ago, but leaving it on the vine the extra week or so just had this irresistible Cinderella effect and with a ton of other stuff to harvest, I felt in no rush to snip it to freedom until the weather threatened to make it unrecognizable.

Around the time my squash went from random-green-gourd thing to pumpkin, there was another change of season: from regular lattes to pumpkin spice lattes.

Gotta be honest… I just don’t get it.

It isn’t because I do not care to drink them, or that I even care if you drink them or not. I actually really appreciate a bit of pumpkin-pie-spiced up food on my plate. Rather my ire is with the fact that a commercial change of beverage suddenly has a greater impact on our society than the fact that actual, real life nature is changing. And it is magnificent.

Why don’t we talk about the smell that ever so slightly lets on that autumn has begun. What about the leaves!? What about the wild temperature fluctuations, because seriously what is going on with that, this time of year?

Instead there is an argument about the joys or annoyances of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I realize this post shamelessly is included in the latter, but please get your face out of your sweet coffee preferences and look around at the actual change of season. It is actually changing. Gasp. And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with a corporation’s marketing strategy either.

Okay. I get it: cinnamon + ginger + allspice + nutmeg + cloves = comfort. I also imagine you do feel a temperature change that makes these spices a bit more inviting. Maybe you have also noticed a leaf or two falling, and at the least you can’t deny the sun is going to sleep a bit sooner than usual. Of course, I have lived places (looking at you Central Coast of California) where the change of season is a bit less dramatic, but even in the places that lack a definable four seasons: change is happening. I believe in my heart, that despite flipping a calendar to a month that ends in ‘BER’ and the appearance of fall’s most fashionable beverage, your internal clock craves feeling in sync with nature’s transition.

For the love of pumpkin pie spice, please just look up from your latte, whether it is in style or not, gaze out a window, and ask yourself “what is actually in season… from the earth?”

Now that my friends is where the magic can begin. Pumpkins are just the beginning. What about all of the goodness that is coming to an end: tomatoes in deepening shades of red or simply green and ready to fry, eggplant that will soften soon enough, peppers in various stages of heat or sweetness, the end of summer squash, spaghetti squash, delicata, butternut, apples, onions, pears, carrots, beets, roots, and shoots. This is the time to hit the farm stands, while the harvest is heavy and before farmers start to prepare their land for winter. This is the time to squirrel up the goodness into freezers, cans, jars or at the very least fill your belly with the local stuff before your food once again is shipped from who knows where.

I hope I haven’t shamed my Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers, whomever you may be, the truth is I feel sadness for all of our sake that a corporation has yet again a better marketing plan than Mother Nature. There is only one way we can change that. Look up and then seek the goodness that is growing all around you and let that be your guide this crisp, bliss-inducing autumn season.

Summer Sunset Supper Club

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What is the Summer Sunset Supper Club?
The Summer Sunset Supper Club (SSSC) is an urban backyard soiree, pairing cultured conversation with hyper-local cuisine in support of a good cause.
So what does that look like?
Join fellow food lovers in an elegant backyard setting for a professionally crafted four-course meal, derived from 99% Colorado-sourced ingredients, and a curated conversation about the future of our food.
When?
Sunday, August 28th, 2016
Time?
5:00pm–please be prompt!
Where?
The dinner takes place in an urban backyard garden in southwest Denver, exact location to be announced a week in advance.

Tickets: $55/person Buy your tickets now before all of the seats are taken! saveyourseat

FAQ’s
 
Who is hosting this event?
Lilly Steirer, of Lilly’s Table, will be your chef.
RB Fast, of Beeline Consulting, will be the evening’s hostess.
Alex Kuisis, of AlexOrganize, is your event planner.
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Lilly, RB + Alex

What does my ticket price include?
  • Membership to the August 28th Denver Supper Club event
  • A four-course dinner
  • A selection of local beverages
  • Networking with like-minded people
What do I bring?
Just yourself, your photo id, and your appetite!
Can I bring my kids?
No, this is an adults-only event for 21+.
What should I wear?
Festive summer dinner attire with appropriate backyard footwear (no heels!)
What’s the “good cause” we’re supporting?
Did you know that one in seven Coloradans don’t know where they’ll find their next meal? ACS Community LIFT, located on 1st Avenue in Denver, offers food, emergency clothing, utility assistance, emergency shelter, and domestic violence assistance in a quest to build a platform of stability for families in crisis situations. All proceeds from the SSSC will directly benefit this organization. 
Are there a limited number of seats available?
Yes! We can only accommodate 10 members on a first come, first serve basis. Buy your ticket today to save your seat!
Talk to me about allergies.
The homeowners at the dinner location have a dog, a cat, and chickens.
The dinner will be prepared in a kitchen that regularly uses peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat.
If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know, and we will accommodate you to the best of our abilities.
Can I get a refund if it turns out I can’t make it? 
Nope, no refunds will be issued, but you are welcome to email us the name of the guest who will be taking your place.
What if I have additional questions?
Please contact your hostess, RB Fast, at rbfast@beelineconsulting.net
saveyourseat

Reflections on June… our first month of Local Food.

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Loving his Rhubarb Yogurt Parfait Snack

The first month of our local food year was beautiful, trying and full of a few surprises as well. We have received so many questions about it so far that I am excited to share what felt great and what we are still working to improve. It should be worth noting that while I love to plan and write lists and figure out all the details in advance, this adventure has had some outlining, but it was more about diving in and seeing what might transpire.

At the start, we quickly realized we needed to gobble up the existing food in our kitchen even if it was lacking local origin. This was a bit of a godsend as the month was busy with two different camps that kept the kids and I driving around the metro area every day for a couple of weeks and because fruit and vegetables are not quite abundant yet. I really thought we would have finished all of this non-local food by now, but we are still nibbling away on a few things.

The month also felt rather ‘built around meat‘. I realize the Standard American Diet practically requires meat at nearly every meal, but our family’s normal diet is a bit more on the semi-vegetarian side. Personally, while our delicious grass-fed beef and a handful of other options have been delightful, I plan to embrace more beans that I have been acquiring recently. Both for the sake of our tummies and our wallets.IMG_6187

In many ways, I have felt strapped to the kitchen. I have a feeling this is no surprise to most of you. I hesitate to lay this out as a complaint, but seriously dining out once a week (or more!?) has been missed by both of us if only for the break from cooking and cleaning. Part of this is because I have felt seriously uncertainty about the food that is coming and going. I must humbly share that I have not been effectively meal planning. I feel a bit ashamed to admit this publicly, since I meal plan as a profession, but, the transition to all local has thrown off my game. July is leaving me a lot of hope that if I make one change, just one significant improvement, it is to focus on meal planning. For reals!

As much as we miss the break offered by dining out, we do NOT miss the food received from restaurants. We have enjoyed some incredibly satisfying, goofy smile producing, do a little food dance in celebration meals. In many ways this was a driving force of this whole year. To be forced into creative new meals and ways of eating. This has been the best part by far.

IMG_6220Some of our favorite meals, include:
Meatball Sliders
Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad
Whole Wheat Tortillas stuffed with beans + grilled veggies
Sourdough Waffles (OMG… where have these been our whole lives!?)
Veggie Packed Sloppy Joes (tasty, but so simple to make no wonder lunch ladies love these!)
Lentil + Beet Salad
Rhubarb Coffee Cake

The kids favorites:
Eggs in a Hole
Strawberry Steamers
Donut Muffins stuffed with Creme Fraiche + Grape Jelly
Peanut Butter + Honey Ice Cream
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Pancakes ‘in shapes’
Homemade Pickles (made by our visiting Tucson buddies!)
Cherries (not a meal, but their faces have become permanently stained, so worth noting their love)

We have also explored our food system in cool ways. On the second day of our Local Food Year, we drove to the Western Slope of Colorado. It made us reevaluate what we eat when we travel and I wrote about it here.

IMG_6268The kids and I also went berry picking twice. The first time came in the nick of time before our son’s 3rd birthday. Strawberry is his favorite for pretty much anything and thank goodness his birthday was the day after the first strawberry picking day at the Berry Patch Farm. The cake was delightful, all-local and sweetened only with honey.

We had a couple of meals with friends this first month and what was so delightful was how they were eager to figure out this local food thing with us. Our first meal with friends they brought the most delicious meat from their Uncle’s ranch that we grilled into burgers. Then dear friends were brave enough to have us over for dinner at their house where they served a gorgeous grilled Tri-Tip from Western Daughters, Fruition Cheese, a salad from their garden, tomatoes and we brought the Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad.

We also camped for about 24+ hours with our farming friends from Tucson who were visiting. They made homemade Colorado pickles and we collaborated on several meals including a Sausage Dinner made under a tarp in a heavy downpour, a scrumptious local Lentil + Potato Salad, a veggie hash with scrambled eggs for breakfast and a couple of lunches featuring local goodness and veggies to go on top of my Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough.

The garden was coming along quite nicely, we were excited about the possibilities and then we were hit hard by hail. We were not wiped out, but heartsick as we were excited to rely on our own produce. Fortunately, there are farms beyond our small area that were not damaged and we can continue to buy produce as needed. We are also starting to see some leaves that are giving us hope.

This is what we missed the most in our first month:
Xerxes: Convenience. Being able to buy food in a pinch.
Juliette: Sweet Cow (our favorite nearby ice cream shop)
Zed: Kombucha (This is confusing as we actually have been drinking it on occasion. 3-year olds are goofballs!)
Lilly: Eating out occasionally to take a cooking break.

What we most loved in June:
Xerxes: Sourdough Waffles and the delicious steaks + burgers
Juliette: Homemade Ice Creams
Zed: Homemade Ice creams and Yogurt Parfaits (see top photo).
Lilly: Whole Wheat Tortilla Tacos (although, I think I am going to make them sourdough soon) and the Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad

Things I am still figuring out and plan to work on in July:
snack plans for the kids
meal planning!
sourdough everything… well, if it is wheat based, but seriously those waffles made me want to sourdough everything up!

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Donut Muffins Filled with Creme Fraiche + Grape Jelly

What questions do you have about our first month of eating local?

Heal after Hail.

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Onions torn apart by our June hailstorm.

Through this local food year, gaining wisdom around food and life is one of our many desires. It feels much of this can only be attained through a full dive-in experience, allowing the good with the bad. We planted our garden in between all of the cool and nearly freezing days of May, only to experience the heatwave that was June.

Our garden responded in kind and it was only in the last week that I thought… yup, I think we might get some deliciousness soon as I spied the first teeny cucumbers and peppers. We even harvested our first three cherry tomatoes, popping them in our mouth and tasting the juice of a promise: summer has arrived.

I am not sure we fancy ourselves ‘farmers’ although several friends grant us this title. That being said, a couple evenings ago we felt one of the many hardships that a farmer endures. The devastation of weather.

Just writing that makes me tear up a bit. Not because our garden has been completely wiped out, but because I know that as intense and abusive as that hailstorm felt with its sideways wind, rain and the golfballs ricocheting against anything they touch, rather, I know how often weather is much worse for a farmer whose livelihood depends on their land.

I do not feel sadness because of my own loss, rather looking at our coleslaw of a garden I think of farmers past and present whose crops have been completely eliminated by the unforeseen. That depth of empathy, swallows me up as I assess the damage that is thankfully not that awful.

The truth is that hail, tornados, wind, fire, hurricanes, heat waves and all the possible or impossible seeming storms, are a part of life for a farmer, but as humans we have our own disasters that strike in large or small ways. When life is torn down, the force to start over gives fuel to the next attempt. And that is the important part, to rise up and try again.

A friend a few houses away commented about how the plants have become mulch for his garden. I was struck by his quick thought to honor this moment and recognize that while us modern gardeners can easily find mulch to buy, nature loves to get in and assist when possible. Actually, even before this storm, composting the devastation has been on my mind a lot as I consider recent dramas both personal and global. Finding ways to mulch our catastrophe can create the nutrients needed for the next harvest, or the next life cycle of growth.

The morning of the storm, when all was well in our gardens, I emailed a friend inquiring as to whether she had any produce to share at my city’s farmers market for our little Neighbor to Market stand. She responded that late evening letting me know she was wiped out by the hail. Then she said “I expect that with some time and lots of love, there will be plenty of offerings.” As I look below the chopped up foliage and leaves, I see that for some plants they had tented the baby growth below. Through that young growth, our garden will rebuild itself. But really…

Time and lots of love.  Isn’t that what everything needs to heal?

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

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For Father’s Day this year, Xerxes requested the day to begin with coffee cake. When he made this request, the kids started dancing around cracking up. Cake for breakfast Papa!? Followed by… I don’t drink coffee! I don’t want coffee in my cake!! 

The explanation of “It is just a breakfast dish that you eat at the same time you drink coffee” did not seem to satisfy their hilarious inquiry, but once the cake was in front of them, they were gleefully satisfied that it did not contain coffee and was just sweet enough to feel a bit like dessert.

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Since fruit is not exactly easy to find at this point in our local food year, I chopped up a good pile of rhubarb from our yard and let it soak in a little honey bath over night. The next goal was to find a recipe that uses honey rather than sugar as the sweetener. A recipe from the Honey Board did the trick. We also wanted a simple ode to the crumble you see on top of NY Crumb Cakes and that seem to be the final flourish.

Quick tip: As we have baked with honey much more in the last few weeks, one thing I keep trying to remember is to have the oven temperature a bit lower as the color can get dark faster. IMG_5810

Honey Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Inspired by the Honey Board’s Blueberry Coffee Cake

3 cups minced rhubarb
1 cup honey, divided
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose gluten-free blend could work, too!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond

For the crumble:
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, very soft
1/4 cup minced almonds
1/4 cup flour
pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

The night before or about an hour prior, toss together the rhubarb and honey. Place in the fridge to soften and sweeten up.

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Turn on the oven to 350.

Melt the butter. Stir in the honey and milk. Making sure this mixture is not too hot, whisk in the eggs, apple cider vinegar and vanilla. If the honey-butter is hot, place in the fridge until it is closer to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the crumbs by mixing together the softened butter, honey, nuts, flour and spices. The goal is to be able to clump it together, if it is too moist, add more flour, if it is too dry and not coming together add a drizzle more melted butter. Set aside.

Butter the dish for the coffee cake up on the sides until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle with flour and shake around until it is thinly distributed and dump the remaining flour.

Fold together the dry flour ingredients with the honey-butter-egg ingredients and the honey soaked rhubarb. Pour into the coffee cake pan. Spread it out with a spatula until it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top in clumps.

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So happy his coffee cake contains no coffee!

Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Eat hot, cool or room temperature. It lasts a few days as well.

Traveling Local Food!

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Brie + Jam Sandwiches as we drove up into the mountains!

On the 2nd day of our local food year, we thought, hey- this isn’t challenging enough, let’s drive 5 hours out of town and see how we manage. I suppose that wasn’t really the motivation, but that sarcastic phrase kept popping up in my head as I packed nearly every morsel we would consume on this trip.

Actually, Xerxes volunteered to help build the largest low-income solar installation in the state of Colorado through GRID Alternatives. That was the true motivation, but to get his family on board to join his adventure, he enticed me with promises of tasting local Colorado wines and hitting the Farmers Market in Montrose.

The original plan was to go camping, but when we attempted to get a site with the other GRID volunteers we had an awkward encounter with the owner who refused to let us camp because we had small children. There is a scary river nearby apparently. Our kids were disappointed until we promised a hotel with a pool instead.

As this promise was made, I suddenly had visions of standing in a hotel parking lot cooking up eggs, bacon + coffee on our Coleman and wondering again… what were we thinking!? 

But, after some more planning we actually had some of the best travel food we have ever enjoyed. I started by making way too many sausage size Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls which served not only the local brats + sauerkraut we had one evening, but sliced thin they become perfect little breads to top with the local cheese + salami I stocked up on at St. Killians in Denver. There was also a bag of baby lettuce from our greenhouse that we nursed through various types of sandwiches up until the last meal on our drive home.

For breakfasts in the hotel we had slices of bread with butter, hardboiled eggs and yogurt with apricot honey puree a friend gave me from last year’s harvest. For the coffee, Xerxes brought his personal sized press pot from work that we filled with hot water we simmered in the room’s coffee pot. Alas I forgot milk for the coffee, so we decided a slight slip up with hotel creamer wouldn’t hurt. But, it made our otherwise delightful coffee seriously nasty, so I opted for black and was quite content. I always thought that hotel coffee was bad because of the beans, but apparently the creamer punishes the entire cup as well. (BTW- coffee has fallen on the exception list, that I will be writing up in a post soon!)

We had a few non-local items join us as well since per my last post we decided to eat rather than trash them, but for the most part it was a very local travel food supply.

While in Montrose, we hit up a great little indoor market that had some local cheeses (hey- cheddar!) and other goodies. Then on Saturday while Xerxes was volunteering, we went to the Farmers Market which was small but mighty with a limited selection of beautiful spring produce. I bought a bag of snap peas for each of my kiddos and they followed along after me munching away delighted. The kids also selected a small bag of dehydrated local fruit they enjoyed on the drive back, while I took some dry strawberries that are still on standby in my purse. I also snagged up some gorgeous pine nuts, a bundle of radishes, a freshly ground bag of colorful cornmeal and a couple pounds of itty-bitty popcorn kernels that I can’t wait to see all fluffed up.

We also chatted with a local hog farmer and he invited us back to his farm later that afternoon to meet the baby piglets. More on that adventure later!IMG_6103We tried some lovely wines as well and were blessed with a sale on some of our favorites so we have a little stock of Colorado wines to enjoy throughout this season and probably next.

Probably the goofiest part was in the final hours of our drive back through the mountains, as the sun set Xerxes decided coffee would help him stay alert through the winding roads. Understandable, right!? As we pondered the possibilities of pulling out the Coleman, I suggested we just grab some hot water from a gas station and fill the press pot. Not long after this whim of a suggestion, I was stealthily walking out of the convenience mart with a steaming mini press pot of coffee and a bag of ice for our rapidly melting cooler. Even though all I was grabbing was essentially no more than 3 pints of water in various states of matter, all in my own containers, it felt a bit like I was in violation… of what I am not sure.

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It wasn’t the longest trip, but in that final meal, at the fabulous rest stop with Solar Panel Flowers and a playground, as we scrounged together the odds and ends of all the weekend’s food, we both found ourselves feeling pretty blessed that this initial trip was so delicious and fairly uncomplicated.

Do you pack nearly all your food for road trips or do you wing it with a cooler and stops at restaurants?

May our local food adventure continue! If you want to see quick and periodic snap shots of our adventure follow us on Instagram or join our Facebook Group.

Cheers,

Lilly

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Let’s Talk About Food Waste + Going Local

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A few of our non-local foods we are working through…

The weeks leading up to our local food year, we were most focused on checking off all the restaurants where we will not get to eat for the year. In the month of May, I did my best to only buy local food with the exception of a few things we just knew we would miss (such as our fave cheeses!) knowing we would gobble up them up within days. Never the less, when the first day of our big year arrived, we still had a LOT of non-local food leftover.
What to do, what to do!?

In the United States, it is estimated up to 40% of safe, good to eat food is never consumed. 40 million tons of that food goes directly into landfills where instead of decomposing as it would if this food was composted or better yet given to those who could eat it, this tossed food converts into methane and becomes a potent greenhouse gas. Double jeopardy.

Even though all of my family’s food waste goes to our happy hens in our backyard, it still seemed crazy to give them food that was otherwise good enough for my family to eat. The list of random leftovers included:

From the fridge:
a bag of carrots
a half bag of shredded mozzarella
a nub of St. Andre’s brie… (my cheese weakness– oh will I miss you!)
mayo

From the pantry:
flours
random grains
nice sustainably caught tuna + sardines (we’ll replace with Colorado Trout, hopefully)
onions + a little garlic
sweet potatoes
some random nuts + dried fruit, these seem worth keeping as fruit season slowly enters and we figure out what our nut + seed situation might be (more on that in another post!)

We discussed tossing all the unwanted food, starting fresh and not looking back. But, since our efforts are to eat food that is produced with less energy it suddenly seemed tricky, even if this food would end up in our chickens’ bellies and subsequently in our eggs. It still seemed worth finishing our own food.

So, here we go. Over a week into our local food year and we are still eating a fair share of non-local items, but this little crutch has helped as I am busy making bread, salads, treats, breakfasts, packing snacks + lunches, dinners and all of it pretty much from scratch. There will continue to be non-local items that I am eager to discuss as we finalize the exceptions (such as olive oil!) but it has been kind of nice to slowly wean ourselves away rather than dumping out perfectly good food.

We do have some opened bottles of ketchup, yellow mustard and a few other condiments that we plan to give to friends. There are also a few items I plan to drop off at a Food Bank. We are pretty comfortable with this decision to eat the ends of our non-local items, but we welcome alternative suggestions!

We also would love to hear how you deal with food waste in your home and how you feel about the vast quantity of food waste in developed countries. For more information on food waste check out this website: End Food Waste Now for some fascinating fun facts. Also, if you don’t already compost food that you can no longer eat, it is one of the easiest things you can do to help reduce methane. If you are hesitant to compost, let’s chat about the possibilities on our newly formed Facebook Group: LocalFood.Love just click to join and we’ll add you in!

Thanks for being a part of our Local Food Year journey… we appreciate your support,

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Utah Onions are not from Colorado ;-)

Lilly

Almost to our Year of Local Food

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It is the night before our Local Food Year begins and I think it is time to admit, I am getting nervous. Or as my overly positive husband likes to say… You know what nervousness is, right!? Excitement in disguise. Recently, I read somewhere that fear is excitement without the breath, so I am trying to breath into the possibilities of this year without listening to all the naysayers, especially those nasty little voices in my head.

The what were we thinking? question has been coming up especially frequently as we attempt to unload or gobble up food that we won’t be eating for the year, figure out what we will actually eat starting on June 1st and then pack up for a camping trip soon after all the while not super certain about what we are eating for the 8+ meals that I will be cooking on the side of the road, campsite and in a hotel parking lot. This is also compounded by the rather limited produce in Colorado at the start of June– basically, we have lettuce and herbs. I could whine for days, but thankfully we will be tasting some Colorado wines in the near future to help bring a bit of delight to the start of our year.

In finishing up our year of normal food, we have dined out at an embarrassingly high rate. Every time shrugging it off with It’s gonna be a loooong while until we go here again. And no, that stomach ache from yesterday’s restaurant experience is totally gone… at least for the last five minutes. The two+ weeks of this sudo-mardi gras has been quite the binge!  

Meanwhile, I have been letting myself roll around in the fear + uncertainty of this upcoming year, drowning it in the convenience foods I claim I will miss. We shall see what I will actually miss! Sifting through that insanity, I also find myself ready to surrender to the possibilities. There very well be some crazy moments, awkward social encounters, random food decisions and even some unprepared growling bellies, but the intention will still be there.

Through this intention of discovering the source of our food and celebrating our Colorado Food System, I am looking forward to new answers to new questions. I am craving what you discover when you narrow your food system down to that which is grown within a limited proximity and uses only an essential amount of resources to produce. This is something rarely experienced in our modern American culture, but it is something that shaped communities past and continues to shape many societies around the world.

As I get nervous… err… excited about this year, I am trying to focus on what we will GET to eat rather than all of the convenience foods we will miss (so long prepackaged pasta and sliced bread– it’s been fun!) I also spent a small fortune on some local cheese + salami today to help toast us into the new year, but realized that is not financially sustainable at all. Thankfully, we have some other long term strategies in mind, including limiting our cheese consumption and making our own. There is some creme fraiche and yogurt being cultured in the kitchen as I type! Also, the dramatically discounted bulk flour was an upfront investment, but as I make more bread and baked goods, I think we will go through it quickly.

I hope as the anxiety of all the year’s ‘what ifs’ come and go, this journey will be full of more pleasant surprises than not. As it is, we have had so much support from friends who are ‘eager to follow our adventure’, which inspires me to not give up before we have begun… but, seriously folks, I have been tempted!

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Announcing Our Year of Eating Local!

LocalfoodyearannouncementMission: Eat as local as possible
Duration: June 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017
Participants: Xerxes, Lilly + our kiddos
Location: Colorado

The idea of going 100% (or let’s be real, maybe 95.5%) local, certainly came from reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about 7+ years ago. The seed was quickly planted over glasses of cheap wine watching the sunset over Lookout Mountain while my husband finished his PhD and I ran a Personal Chef business.

Since then, we have journeyed closer to the local food world, but we are hardly fully there. Life has been a whirlwind since I read Kingsolver’s book. We started a family. I started Lilly’s Table. Xerxes graduated triggering a move to Arizona, where we were schooled on the beautiful possibilities for food, both local + native. We moved back, had another babe, bought a house, started gardening (again) and let’s just say the mere thought of doing anything more was overwhelming at best. But recent frustrations, including questions about what the hell we are even doing here on this earth, have tilled up emotions and that idea from years ago has now been germinated.

What exactly does eating local food mean for our family?

It means we will do the best we can to source all of our food from our mountain state or wherever we may be, since travel is totally a possibility this year. We will be focusing on ingredients, not just the “made in Colorado” products, which we completely respect, but even these products will be examined with a magnify glass as we want to better understand where + how they were grown before we consume them.

Going local means we want to have better questions about our food. Instead of asking, how quickly can we get something on the table and into the mouths of our family, we want to ask:

Who grew it?
Who raised it?
Can we grow it or produce it?

Where does it come from?
Why does it matter?
Who produced it?
Will my children like it?
How much energy does it take to make it?
Is this a lifestyle we can sustain in the long run? 

Overall we want to know what is the true cost of the food that we put on our plates. The costs to the producers, our land, our fellow citizens, our country, our health and of course our own wallets.

As we have slowly leaked the idea of our year long project to friends and family, there have naturally been lots of questions and thankfully a lot of support (thanks buddies- you’re bestest!)

We hope to share the answers to their questions, such as:

‘”Are there any exceptions to the geographic parameters?” (Yes, I am looking at you olive oil!)
“What will your kids eat at birthday parties or at school?”
“Are you just going to eat a lot of meat?” (Colorado does have some great meat!)

But, we also welcome your questions! Please ask them in the comments and if we have a long answer, it may even inspire a future post from my husband or me.

One of my favorite questions or shall I say comments I have received from nearly everyone is “Will you be sharing your journey!?” And yes! We are going to do our best to track the year and share all that we find out during this mission. Here is where you can find us on social media, talking up all that we are striving towards. Please follow us and share the local food LOVE:

Instagram: localfood.love
Facebook group: LocalFood.Love
This bloggy: cheflilly.com, of course.

And… I will be emailing Lilly’s Table newsletter subscribers with our updates. Subscribe at the top to be a part of the fun. My goal is weekly, but between canning, sourcing and curating our entire food system this year, I hope y’all can give me some grace. Regardless, to get news in your inbox and a nifty 5-day meal planning mini-class, sign up HERE… in the above right box!

It’s gonna be quite a year and we hope you join us on this adventure!

Cheers! Love,

Lilly

Dan Moore of Farmshares Interview (part 1)

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Spring has sprung and if you are curious as to how you can eat better and support your local farmer, a CSA might be the perfect solution for your family. Recently, I asked Dan Moore of Farmshares.info a series of questions that will help you dive further into whether a CSA is the right choice for your family.  I also asked a few of you in the community if you had further questions about CSA’s and those questions and answers will be in the next post.

danscsaLilly: What is a CSA and what is the main reason to join one?

Dan: CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is a direct relationship between a farmer or rancher and the end customer with a risk sharing component.  You give the farmer money early in the year, and they give you produce, meat or other food throughout the growing season.

The main reason to join a CSA is to learn more about who grows your food and how it is done.  CSA provides a level of involvement with your food that is deeper than anything other than gardening.

Lilly: What is the most common question or concern you hear from people interested in starting a CSA?

Dan: The most common question is “how do I pick the right farm?”.  Just as with any major purchase (share prices are typically in the hundreds of dollars and can be up to three thousand) you have to both know what you are looking for and do your research.  

To the first point, many people are romantic about “getting food directly from the farmer” and ignore that they don’t like to cook, or travel often during the season, or work a job that will make a weekly pickup hard.  There is enough variety in CSAs available, so think about what you need. If you want to learn the basics of CSA, I have put together a free email course

To the second, while there are similarities, each CSA differs in what they expect of their members, the types of food they provide, and where you can pick up the share.  So while tools like farmshares.info can help, you really need to review each farm’s website, talk to current and past members and mesh what the farm/ranch offers with your needs.

Lilly: What has been the biggest change you have noticed since you first became a CSA member in 2007?

Dan: Two big changes: 1) the widening of the CSA market, both in number of farms and products offered.  It’s amazing to see new farms and new products be available in the CSA risk sharing model. 2) the turnover of CSA farms.  I think the skills needed to be a successful CSA farmer include all the skills of a regular farmer, plus marketing and sales skills (plus management once the farm is a certain size).  I see a lot of CSAs start up and run for 4-5 years and then shut down, either because the farmer is moving off the land or because they are focusing on other markets (farmer’s market, direct sales of a product, wholesale markets).

Lilly: How soon after joining a CSA did you realize the need to create coloradocsa.info which has recently expanded to become farmshares.info? What was the driving motivator?

Dan: I started out with a list of farms on which I had done research, and quickly realized that it would be helpful to others.  A friend also joined a CSA in Denver about the same time and shared her list.  After combining the two, I had a simple web page that received some traffic, indicating there was interest.  After about two years of updating that page and fielding questions about CSAs in Colorado, I decided to build ColoradoCSAs.info in 2010.  In 2015, my wife and I decided that the existing national directories were not as useful as they should be, and spent some time and money re-working and re-launching ColoradoCSAs.info as FarmShares.info, as well as pursuing affiliates and sponsorships.  

The driving motivation for the redesign is that CSA membership, for me, was a fundamental shift in how I viewed food and the food system.  I wanted to share that with people beyond Colorado.photo-52

Lilly: What is the advantage of using a tool such as farmshares.info versus just jumping on the Google?

Dan: Farmshares.info gathers data from farms, standardizes it, and makes it very easy to compare farms that meet your needs.  I always advocate contacting the farmer directly once you have narrowed your choices to two or three, since CSA information can change from day to day (for example, shares can sell out).  

When you start at Google, you find farms that are best at showing up in Google, as opposed to the farm that might be closest to you, or have the type of share you want.

Lilly: How has the transition from coloradocsa.info to farmshares.info been? Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect in the coming months or years?

Dan: The transition from coloradocsas.info to farmshares.info has been smooth–the launch affected our traffic slightly, but it has bounced back as we head into the prime signup season for the mountain west (Jan-May).  

In the future, you can expect more features, greater coverage of the mountain west and eventually the entire USA, and more partnerships with companies that support local food.  

Lilly: Most of us now think of CSAs in terms of produce, but ‘community supported’ has evolved in recent years to include other products. What are some of those changes?

Dan: I’ve seen two main changes in the offerings from CSA farms over the years.  The first is a far wider selection of  farm-to-consumer products available.  These range from soap to meat to fish to bread to coffee–at least 40 different types of food are available via CSA.  This is fantastic because it lets consumers support local farmers and ranchers even if they can’t commit to a season of vegetables.

The second is the rise, especially in farms selling produce, of the market share.  Instead of the farmer picking out vegetables and boxing them up for you, you pre-pay for credit at farm stands and farmer’s markets.  It’s a way to support a farm and share the risk of poor crops without losing choice.  (The customer still shares the risk because if the farm has a poor season, or doesn’t produce much of a popular crop like tomatoes, the customer is still committed to purchase from that farm.)

Lilly: Can you forecast any predictions for the future of CSA’s in the US?

Dan: I think that CSAs will rise and fall as interest in home cooking rises and falls.  CSAs just don’t make sense if you aren’t eating at home.  The recent trend of people re-learning how to cook (see Michael Pollan’s books) makes me optimistic about the long term future of CSAs.danpam