Hello from sunny but chilly Atlanta! It's a perfect Sunday here at the And Topher Too house. Started the day with a bowl of oatmeal. Walked to the Grant Park Farmer's Market with mugs of coffee. Enjoyed all the super cute kids and dogs in Halloween costumes. Picked up a loaf of bread. Back at home I've been working on designs for my etsy shop while Oliver cooks. White bean soup and fried green tomatoes are in the works!
To the left you see a screenshot of the seasonal prints I'm working on. The type in the background lists in-season foods and the images are my watercolor paintings. They'll come in a set of four. I may also make them into magnets and/or notecards. This may not be the final design (I'm struggling with the layout).
As I write this post about my fall vegetable garden the "historic October snowfall" is just getting started in Philadelphia and NYC. If I lived there I'd be so disappointed to see all my work disappear so early in the season! Thankfully the weather here in Atlanta is still conducive to growing and my only challenge seems to be squirrels.
The chicken wire cage I improvised on Tuesday night is successfully guarding my plants from whatever animals might like to eat them and I think the bok choy will eventually rebound. The lettuce sprouts are delicate but growing quickly. And I added two kale plants from a local nursery. I can't tell a thing about the onions.
There is still a good amount of room for more vegetables so I'm on the look out for more plants to add.
I came home from work Tuesday night and discovered our beautiful bok choy and budding kale had been decimated by squirrels! Those little fancy rats had finally gone far enough. Within an hour I'd whipped up a chicken wire cover for our vegetable garden. We'll make something a little more sophisticated soon. But for now, I hope this works.
There is no one quite like an Atlanta girl when it comes to defending a vegetable garden! It was the immortal Scarlett O'hara stood who stood in her strampled carrot patch and declared "as God as my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
KW and I met in 2003 at one of my favorite old haunts, Fontaines. We spent countless nights sitting at the bar eating raw oysters, drinking Miller Lites and becoming very close friends. Over the last eight years both of our lives have changed significantly. One of the less obvious changes has been our relationship to food. We've both moved towards "real food diets" but our motivations were independent of one another and quite different.
KW was the first person I thought of when I decided to host a "real food" dinner party. Afterwards she offered to share her recipe for homemade bread. I asked if she'd also share the story of how her food choices have changed over the years. I was happy she said yes; her story follows:
I don't think I evolved into eating real food as much as I evolved into eating. I am by no means a Foodie. As I child in Michigan I ate vegetables from our garden, was not allowed to eat processed snacks and always had home cooked meals. As an adult, I would skip meals and only eat when necessary. Sometimes this was a LeanCuisineothers times it was tuna in vinegar and oil. I didn't really put much thought into what I was eating.
All of that changed five years ago when my body faced an unknown medical crisis and startedrebellingagainst me. After lots ofblood workand doctors appointments, I still can't say for sure what happened. I suspect the culprit was some medicine I was taking. This suspicion led to a parallel suspicion of FDA approved GMOs and processed foods. I recognize that for some people it may seem like a giant leap from pharmacologytoagricultural practices but the truth is nutritional science is still too young to know what effects Big Ag chemicals and methods are having on our bodies.
I now look to food as fuel for my body. Not just calories, but also nutrients and vitamins. More importantly, nutrients and vitamins not modified by science and the poison we use to "grow" our food. I only have one body and I am determined to treat it right. I may not be able to control the air quality or the type of material being used in building supplies, but I can control my food intake. For me, eating real foods is a no brainer!
KW's Homemade Bread (the one she made for our Food Day pot luck dinner party)
3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
5 cups bread flour (KW uses Hodgson Mill Premium Unbleached, All Purpose Naturally white Flour)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup honey (KW usesuse dark organic honey)
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Punch down, and divide into 2 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely
Tips and tricks:
1.You can use your Kitchen Aid mixer to knead the dough (step 2). Use the hook attachment and knead the dough on 1 or 2 for about 8 minutes. The result is dough that is smooth like a babies butt.
2. This is a gluten free recipe that will yield a slightly more dense loaf of bread. To make a lighter sandwich bread you can add some gluten. I used about 4 tbs. for the the whole recipe and added in step 1.
3. Take the loaves out of the pans to cool. This allows the bread to "air out" and prevents early mold growth.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thanks to my friends who participated in my Food Day pot luck dinner party. Not only did we all eat tremendously delicious food but we also had a great time. I couldn't have asked for a more laid back, friendly evening. I really appreciate everyone being so game when I suggested we get together for a "real food" pot luck dinner. Your food was Wow! Fresh-baked homemade bread, sauteed peppers, roasted kale, mashed sweet potatoes, soon-to-be-award winning chili, beets with bacon, pasta with sausage and apple cake. Real food and real friends at their best. THANK YOU. I hope we get together and do it all again sometime soon.
XO - Cullen
An article from the New York Times Sunday Review has been lingering in my mind for three weeks. It's the story of a mother in Brooklyn, broke because of extenuating circumstances, turning to the land to feed her family. I was struck by how similar our diets are: homegrown veggies supplemented with dried beans and stretching one big piece of meat to last for a week's worth of meals. I'm full of admiration for the ways she has further immersed herself into the locavore lifestyle. She has chickens and makes bread and cheese. She is the model of where I hope to be if I continue to change my life bit by bit, day by day.
"Even if things turn around financially, I don’t think I could stomach going to Whole Foods (except maybe for olive oil) because my biggest revelation in terms of self-sufficiency is this: It is no big deal. You can tell yourself anything is too difficult, or you can just do it." Susan Gregory Thomas
The days may be shorter and cooler but there is one good thing about this time of year - GUMBO! Ok, not just one good thing. This time of year it's wonderful to curl up with a warm bowl any type of winter stew. Chili, butternut squash, lentil - yum!
Being married to a Louisiana man has many perks. His bone fide gumbo is one of them. Oliver used the carcass from last week's roast chicken, and several chicken backs from the freezer, to create a foundation stock for the soup. He then made a roux and added the food "trinity" (onions, bell peppers and celery). Once everything had cooked down it was combined with the stock, a freshly browned chicken and some andouille. The gumbo was left to simmer for a couple of hours in our cast iron pot.
The weather forecast for tonight predicts the first frost of the season. Frost combined with several blustery days and sustained cool temperatures meant we had to face the facts. Tomato season is over. It is time for the tomatoes to give up their real estate.
Oliver pulled up our two plants today and separated the fruit into grocery bags for me to see. We had 5lbs 3oz of growing heirloom tomatoes and ANOTHER 2.5 lbs of grape tomatoes. Oh what might have been!
This summer we learned a lot about fertilizing tomato plants. I'm really looking forward to applying this year's lessons to next years crop. Onward tasty kale!
Skirt steak grilled indoors on our cast iron grill top, pico de gallo made from homegrown tomatos, store bought onions, peppers and an avocado. Easy to make, real food, low on meat, heavy on the veggies, utilized a bit of our garden and delicious too!
If you've been putting off making a lifestyle change involving food then next Monday, October 24 is the day you've been waiting for. If you're already in the habit of eating and ejoying real food then next Monday is a day for celebration! National Food Day is a day to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. The goal is "nothing less then to transform the American diet".
The more people talk about a real food diet the more accepted it will become. Change starts with you! If you believe in real food mention it in passing to someone you care about. Thanks!
The six principles of food day are: 1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods. 2. Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness 3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger 4. Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms 5. Promot health by curbing junk-good marketing to kids 6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.
The foundation work for my pending Etsy shop is going very well. There are currently seasonal prints, holiday table place settings and greetings cards in the works. Hope to have everything ready to go by the first of November. Making it happen means I need to take some time away from blog writing.
If you check back and don't see any news posts it doesn't mean I've given up the blog! It just means I'm busy in the art studio. Thank you for your patience and please help spread the word about And Topher Too!
PS - Anyone have a favorite winter vegetable? I'm trying to decide what to paint to represent winter. So far kale is the winner.
Quick post from a quick dinner. Tomato sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Just a dab of mayo. Perfect tomatoes. Red and flavorful all the way through. Never seen the inside of a refrigerator. Picked them up on Sunday at the Grant Park farmers market from my favorite vendor, Mountain Earth Farms. This is what tomatoes were meant to be.
*and by "feed yourself" I mean "produce your own food".
On my drive home from work this evening I listened to an NPR All things considered segment that both worried and energized me. "Facing Planetary Enemy Number One: Agriculture" highlighted the vexing reality that: 1."Farming accounts for a third of all the emissions of greenhouse gases that humans release into the environment." 2. Demand for food is expected to double over the next forty years due to population increase.
Damage done to the environment by big agriculture is a topic that comes up in the news at least twice a week. (But at the moment I can't remember where I've read the most recent articles. New York Times? NPR? If YOU, my attractive and intellectual reader, if you remember please post it as a comment.) The answer to the inevitable head-butt seems consistent: we cannot feed the world with an agricultural system based on petroleum and mass deforestation. The solution lies in local food systems based on time tested crop rotations and a diet dominated by plants.
This is as good a time as any to start living by the Boyscout's motto: be prepared. All you have to do is learn how to grow and eat some plants. If I can do it, you can do it too!
Roast chicken is a fantastic choice for making multiple affordable meals that don't taste redundant. The same roast chicken can be Mexican style tacos one night and Italian inspired pasta the next.
This chicken came from YDFM. For dinner it was paired with curried cauliflower and half of a baked sweet potato. For lunch it was pulled apart and mixed with raisins, dried cherries, nuts and parsley (aka: chicken salad).
Overall it made four individual dinners and two individual lunches. Not bad for something that only required one night of cooking. (Oliver kept the bones and carcus to use in a stock for gumbo later this fall.)
If you're a beer enthusiast, or are friends with a beer enthusiast, then you already know: it's beer season. In Atlanta that means a month of non-stop beer events. Hoptoberfest, the Great Atlanta Beer Fest, Beer Week and Decatur Beer Fest have beer geeks city-wide Twittering their thumbs off with crazed anticipation (seriously, the threads about Founder's CBS were unstoppable).
A home brewing/craft beer drinking family that also adheres to a heart healthy lifestyle might seem like a contridiction in terms. But one of my most important life rules is: everything in moderation, including moderation. What better way to give moderation the occasional boot then an all you drink, seven hour, beer tasting?
Besides, we have met so many of our closest friends through the beer community. Without them our lives would be considerably less fun. A healthy heart is also a happy one. Rather then limit our attendance (or our consumption) we accept the fact that some weekends are going to be "bad weekends".
Do it, enjoy it, make up for it later. Don't let it become a habit.
Perhaps the key words there are "make up for it later". We plan ahead for how to offset all extra calories we consume at a beer fest. For the last two fests we biked to and from the festival and then spent an extra half hour at the gym the following day. I upped the length and intensity of my cardio workout and didn't cut any corners when lifting weights. We were also conscious about drinking less in the days before the beer festivals.
Wow. So there is currently a lot going on in our little garden. I'll start in the back of the house with the fall salad greens.
The bok choy, romaine and bibb lettuce plants we purchased at the Grant Park farmers market are doing great. They're getting bigger by the day. When we returned to market two weeks later for more the vendor wasn't there (he was probably at the Field of Green's Festival). Instead of waiting another week for plants we decided to try a row of seeds. I'm very excited to report the seeds have sprouted! Yay! We may even need to thin them a few weeks down the road.
On the side of the house the peppers and tomatos are going nuts. If you read the "Fall Planting - Round One" post you might remember the fish emulsion fertilizer we used when planting the salad greens in the back. Well we used the left over fertilizer to water the tomatos and peppers. BOOM. Almost overnight we had triple the number of tomatos that we've over the last five months. There are at least two dozen tomatos on the plant right now. But of course, it can't possibly be that easy to have and keep such a profilic plant. Now the tomato plant has caterpillars.
Before you scroll down to the tomato photos (and the rest of the tomato/caterpillar story) I want to admit that our tomato plant is ugly, unkempt and out of control. New branches are resting on (and blocking) our stone pathway. It wasn't always like this... but we also weren't expecting it to go on into October.
We've had tomato caterpillar problems before. But it was a different sort of destruction (think locust-type annihilation). So when we began to notice green tomatos with small chunks missing I thought it must be squirrels. The damage seemed like just the right size for a rodent snack. Every few days we'd notice another tomato had been ruined. This morning I spotted what I think is probably caterpillar poo. (Ew, caterpillar poo!) I took a photo of the poo and the ruined tomato and came inside to upload them.
It wasn't until I had the tomato photo enlarged on my computer screen that I noticed the teeny tiny, camouflaged caterpillar. The little pest was eating my tomato while I watched and I didn't even see him! I ran back outside with a bottle of Ortho Max. Our tomato plant is no longer organic but hopefully we will eventually get to eat a few of these late season tomatos before the little caterpillars do!
"Studies have shown that if you can avoid the conditions that put you at risk for heart disease until you turn 50, chances are good that you may never develop heart disease. The payoff is well worth your investment." - Go Red for Women
The Go Red for Women campaign has a great website with helpful, easy to understand information directed specifically towards women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Information is broken up into: Prevention, Eat Well, Be Active, Watching Your Weight and Visit Your Doctor. Seriously, check it out. It is worth five more minutes on the internet. Click here.
When Oliver biked to YDFM last Friday he picked up a two and half pound chuck roast. On Sunday he dropped into our crockpot and let it roast for eight hours. We've been enjoying it ever since.
When slow cooking a chuck roast keep the left over juice; it's the key to making the most of the roast in subsequent meals. Here's how: after braising strain the remaining juice into a clean container and chill to separate the fat. Once the fat has hardened scrape it off and throw it away. Cover the remaining gelatin and store in the fridge. When you're ready to eat add a spoonful or two of the gelatin to the meat and reheat in a skillet.
This week's roast was eaten on rice with leeks, in a ciabatta roll with pickled vegetables, mixed into homemade fried rice and as a main course with sides of new potato and kale.
I've been thinking about other ways I can increase my heart health awareness - and emergency training continues to be one of the first things that comes to mind. I want to take a CPR/AED/Heart Attack response class. The one I've found is around $100 which means I need to wait until after the holiday season to sign up. But for anyone who has the money and wants to do it now - please do! If anyone else wants to join me when I sign up in January let me know. We can do it together.
Happy Sunday morning everyone! I just opened my New York Times newspaper and was super excited to see that this week's magazine is all about food! After enjoying the paper and a cup of coffee Oliver and I are going to walk down to the Grant Park Farmers' Market and pick up some more greens to add to the garden.
Another reason today is great day to be a foodie? The Field of Greens Festival at Whippoorwill Hollow Farm! It's today from 11am to 5pm. Live music and tastings from many of Atlanta's best restaurants all happening on a 74 acre working organic farm just 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. If you need a reason to get out and enjoy the sunshine today - this is it. More info on their website: www.fieldofgreensfestival.com
Side note: After I finishing reading the NYT magazine I'll post links to my favorite articles. Check back for it.
Ok, I'm back!
Michael Pollan answers your food questions: click here
Food Curiosities (be sure to look at the 67 types of Pringles illustration) click here How can food change your life? And how can food change the world?Allow Mark Bittman to tell you
It happens to everyone: you wake up one morning to realize all the food is gone. The milk, the cereal, the lunch options - eaten up and gone. Friday that was my day.
The alarm clock rang and I instantly realized I'd forgotten to buy breakfast foods on my way home the day before. No breakfast, no reason to get out of bed. I rolled over and pulled the covers up. But Oliver siezed the opportunity and insisted this was the time for me to try his delicious oatmeal concoction. (Need I point out he is a morning person?) I said no, I'd skip breakfast and sleep a little more. Fifteen minutes later when I finally rolled out of bed there was a piping hot bowl of oatmeal topped with half and half, golden raisins, walnuts and maple syrup waiting for me on the kitchen table.
It was amazing. I thought I hated oatmeal. I realize now, I hate those creepy factory flavored packets of instant Quaker Oats. The real stuff with real toppings is WOW.
At the office work kept pushing my lunchtime later and later. By 1:15 I was very hungry. I drove past the Moes, Panera and Wendys to reach Alon's (one of Atlanta's local bakery cafes). I picked up a $3.50 container of their tuna salad, a $.69 fresh baked multigrain roll and a $1.30 Orangina. I sat on the worn wooden bench in the front and enjoyed my traveler's style meal while catching up on Sunday's New York Times. (I admit, preserved tuna and mayo is not the healthiest - but it is better then Wendy's.)
Oliver commutes on his bike. Friday he decided it was a nice enough day that he didn't mind riding all the way from Georgia Tech to YDFM for a few of the groceries we were in such need of. Round trip it was just shy of twenty five miles. The last minute dinner he whipped up was a beef bourgogne made with Omaha steak tips from a gift basket I'd recieved earlier in the year. (Thank goodness for meat in the freezer!) He combined the thawed steak tips with mushrooms and a bottle of cheap red wine. Walla! Romantic dinner for two!
For a day without a meal plan I feel ok with how we managed. Granted, we didn't eat anything green; but we also didn't eat anything fake. Sometimes it's all about those last minute choices!