Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to get started?

This question always seems to be the problem; people want to make changes but starting can seem so daunting. I guess in my case it's a little easier because I've been starting to slowly make changes in my lifestyle for the last several years.
From the time I was 12 until last year, I didn't eat beef or pork. This started out as kind of a fad (I had friends who were doing the same thing), but as I grew older there were so many reasons (health and the environment being the two biggest) that I kept it going. When I read the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, that was what made me decide that eating meat again wouldn't be such a bad idea. As long as it's local, without hormones, and pasture raised, I don't have a problem with it. (So many locavores and others will be apologetic about their meat eating, but I will stand firmly by my decision to eat meat.) Reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" took away any doubts I had about the ethics of eating meat. (No matter what I eat, it's an act of killing. So I might as well not be so selective about what I kill and instead be thankful that I have food and for the life that was given to sustain mine.)
But the question of where to find locally raised meat in Fairbanks, of all places, stymied me. It was purely by chance that a friend on Facebook mentioned HomeGrown Market. So I looked at their FB page, and finally went to the store. I explained my recent decision in favor of meat to the man behind the counter, and how long it had been since I'd had a steak (over half my life!). He very kindly wrapped up a small portion of New York cut steak and gave it to me for free to try. (I also bought some chicken for dinner on that trip.)
Well, it was amazing and I haven't looked back since. We get almost all of our meat and eggs from them, which is based on availability and in some ways that's really nice. I'll see something in the counter or hear someone else ask for something and think, I haven't eaten that in a long time! What could I make with it? (This is why I made pot roast last week--it was amazing!) And by watching the FB sales, we can stock up on things while they're cheap.
The one thing I'm trying to convince Shane we absolutely need to start buying there is bacon. That's the one meat product we consistently get from the grocery store and it has to stop. It doesn't even taste as good! But HG bacon is expensive. So today, what's their sale item? Bacon. Shane's going to stock up for us. And if I can save money in other ways, I can convince Shane good bacon is worth the price.
I've been gardening for the last couple of summers, since we moved into our current apartment, and it's been hit or miss for me. The summer before last I had zucchini practically growing out of my ears. (Not uncommon for zucchini.) Last summer, not so much. (Luckily, I've shredded and frozen it so I still haven't had to buy zucchini for over 2 years now.) This year, for the first time, I started my own plants from seeds. Of course, all I got was squash (btw, I love squash) and promptly forgot to label any of them. So somewhere in my army of squash starts, I have 8 zucchini plants, at least 5 yellow summer squash, 6 pumpkins, and any number of winter squashes (I got a mix packet). I still need to start my tomatoes, because I really would like to can as much of my own tomato sauce as possible. I've never done that before, so you'll get to hear all about my adventures in canning. (The only thing I've canned, plum jam, I burnt my face with boiling water. This year, I'm getting actual canning tools.)
So, I said in my last post that my first thought was about everything that I don't have. So I want to make a list of some things that I do have. The first is meat. Lots and lots and lots of meat. Moose, to be more specific. We have a chest freezer for all the moose that we get each fall. Shane's family goes hunting and whoever gets moose shares it around. It's in steaks, roasts, sausage, and ground up so we use it in place of beef most of the time. (I was even eating moose before I decided to eat beef again.) We also have another resource most people would love to get their hands on: wild Alaskan salmon. And it's free. In fact, we give leftovers to the dog. (She gets really excited when we pull a fillet out of the freezer, because she knows it means she'll at least get the skin.) Salmon, here, is so plentiful that one type (pinks) are even known as dog fish because it's oilier and "fit only for the dogs". (If you ever buy canned salmon, that's what you're getting.)
I also have my garden, as I mentioned, and a soon-to-be-mother-in-law who gardens. The kindergartners in Soldotna go to her house to plant or dig potatoes, depending on the time of year. So we rarely buy potatoes. (And that practice will stop soon.) Or rhubarb (which I still need to bake up, since we have plenty of leftovers from two summers ago....)
Things I want to do: can and freeze more of our grown and local veggies and fruits for winter. I went through our blueberries way too fast this last winter, and a lot of things I never froze. I could easily freeze things like broccoli.
I need to rearrange my recipes (I say that as if they're in some kind of order right now; so not true) so that they're more seasonally friendly. Shane made salmon chowder the other night, which is both hearty and yummy, but we ended up buying potatoes because the ones in our garage have grown huge roots (I'll plant them) and we didn't want to deal with them. It would be a recipe much better for autumn and winter, when we have a ton of potatoes and no idea what to do with all of them. Other recipes are better for spring and I need to dig those out. Of course, I'm always looking for new recipes.
And I bake. A lot. Who needs boxed cake mixes, chalky cookies, and cardboard-y bread? I made four loaves of bread just last night, and had both of the guys hovering until the white bread was out of the oven. (I make wheat bread for myself.)
One last thing I don't have: I'm not a great cook. I bake really well, not so much with cooking. Most women on these blogs say that, and then come out with amazing recipes that they've created using only what's on hand. And I'm getting a little better about being able to do that (or at least stocking up on things that can be used in multiple dishes and then making all of them) but I have to have a base recipe. I don't create my own. So don't expect that from me. I'll pass along great recipes that I've found, and send you to the source. Probably, a lot of them will have to do with squash. :)
Oh, as one final strike to me, I have a picky eater. Shane loves some things, and is willing to try just about anything once, but he doesn't like a lot of the same things as me. I love butternut squash soup, and he says it's like eating baby food. I love sweets, he loves salt. He's so adventurous in so many ways, such a risk-taker, who would've thought I'm the more adventurous eater?
The farmer's market here opens May 7th and I'll be totally ready by then to see what they have to offer. Usually not much the first week, but probably I could at least stock up on some more plants, like herbs. I think I'll even get my own rhubarb plant this year.


  1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed my eating life as well and encourages me to stand firm in our food choices. Freezing is such a great way to enjoy local produce all year long, I'm planning on doing more of that this year. And guess what? I just picked up a ton of local frozen rhubarb to make a punch/tea, so perhaps you'll like that recipe and will be able to use some of your rhubarb!

    Have fun experimenting and creating in the kitchen, and with cooking practice makes perfect. But having a picky eater makes things a little challenging.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I've loved seeing your recipes.
    I love rhubarb and I love tea, so I don't see where that could go wrong! :)