So how did things go on Thursday?
Eggs from Loyd Family Farms (Williamsville), with colby cheese from from Ropp Jersey Cheese (Normal).
Green beans from Voss Pecans (Carlyle), strawberries from Livesprings Berries & Produce (Chandlerville), challah bread and a chocolate chip cookie from Central Illinois Event Catering (Springfield). I also brought along a local salad, but I didn't have any salad dressing, so I saved it for another day.
Speaking of being out of something, when I got the the Illinois Products Farmers' Market, I realized that I was out of cash! Thus, "Farmers' Market Rule #1: Remember to bring cash." I had spent all of my cash on Wednesday at the Old Capitol Farmers' Market and had forgotten to get more. (It was a bit of a flashback to one of my very first locavore outings (in April 2008), when I showed up at the James Family Farm (in Sherman) to look into buying eggs and then realized that all I had was my debit card!)
On top of having no cash, it was wet, overcast, cool -- not exactly what I'd been hoping for after all of the rainy days we've been having! As a result, I wound up not staying very long.
However, it wasn't a completely wasted trip. Todd Vincent and family, of the Vincent Family Farm, were there!
He said he'd had a booth at the farmers' market a couple of years before, didn't have one last year, and then decided that very morning to get a booth at the fairgrounds. (Incidentally, if you'd like a pet bunny, his daughters were selling some.) We chatted for a bit about replacing septic systems, then I announced that, since I had no money, I was going somewhere warmer -- home!
Remember how our son was sick Wednesday, so we just threw a frozen pizza in the oven? Well, when I got home on Thursday, our son was fit as a fiddle, but now Dawn was sick. Well, not really sick, but with a splitting sinus headache, probably triggered by the weather. She'd been trying to take a nap for about 2 hours, but Lando, being a typical 5-year-old boy, would come into the bedroom every few minutes, saying "Hey, Mom! Look at this!" or "I'm hungry!" or "Are you getting up now?"
So we had pizza again. We suck.
Wednesday was an important day for us! First, it was the opening day for the Old Capitol Farmers' Market. Secondly, our 5-year-old, Lando, was "graduating" from Preschool in the Park. Both events were happening in the morning, so we had to scramble a bit to get everything done!
After dropping off our son at preschool, we stopped by the first day of the Old Capitol Farmers' Market. This market is held from 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM every Wednesday and Saturday from roughly mid-May until the end of October. They block off Capitol Avenue between 3rd and 5th Streets, so there's plenty of room for a wide variety of vendors. In addition to the locally grown produce, there are frequently special attractions, such as a band, a cooking demonstration, or an art show. It's always has just a little bit of a festival atmosphere, and I could easily spend a couple of hours wandering up and down the street talking to the vendors.
Unfortunately, I always seem to be too busy to do that! Today was no exception, as we had to finish up quickly so that we could make it to our son's "graduation" from preschool.
Incidentally, make sure you show up as early as possible, because sometimes "supplies are limited". Our usual strategy is to park our car and walk to the opposite end of the market, quickly checking out what's available as we go, then work our way back towards the car, buying stuff as we go. This minimizes how far we have to carry everything. Of course, if we were really smart, we would pick up a little shopping cart to make things easier!
From Central Illinois Event Catering (exiled over on Broadway Street, a new addition this year just off of Capitol Avenue) we got challah bread and chocolate chip cookies. I mentioned that I had bought several of their products the day before at the Seaney Farms store in Sherman, including their roasted garlic & herb butter. I asked where they got their butter and was told that they get it from Gordon Food Service (GFS), although the garlic and herbs are local. That's pretty much what I expected.
Oak Tree Organics was over on Broadway Street as well. I had intended to get some stuff from them on our way back to the car, but we ran out of time and I forgot. Oops.
Our son Lando absolutely loves the donuts from Mileur Orchard (in Murphysboro, IL). We simply cannot go to the farmers' market and leave without buying him some donuts, even if he's not there personally! We also bought a chocolate chip cookie, just because. :-)
From Livesprings Berries & Produce we bought 6 quarts of strawberries, with the intention of freezing some for later. We use frozen strawberries to make smoothies. If we use, say 1/3 of a quart of strawberries each time, and if we make smoothies once per week, that means we need about 17 quarts of strawberries to last us until next year. If we guess that they'll have strawberries for 4 weeks, then that means we need to freeze about 4-5 quarts of strawberries each week. Time to get freezing! Of course, I prefer my strawberries fresh, and I suspect I could go through 4 quarts of strawberries in a week all by myself. :-)
From Veenstra's Vegetables & Heck's Harvest we got lettuce, chives, and spring onions, plus some tomato plants (Brandywine and Okra Paste). Garrick Veenstra wasn't there, but Andy Heck and Nancy were. I don't think I've mentioned yet that I'm not in their CSA this year. I was a member in 2008 and 2009, but after lots of waffling decided not to join this year. I'll explain why in a later post. (Don't worry; I wasn't at all unhappy with the CSA!)
From Bluestem Bake Shop (in Elkhart) we got some key lime cookies. Lando loves their lemon cookies nearly as much as he loves the donuts from Mileur Orchard. Unfortunately they were out of the lemon, so Dawn picked up some key lime ones for herself.
After confirming with Ropp Jersey Cheese that they didn't have any mozzarella today (nope), I was ready to pass on by, since we had just bought 3 packages of their colby cheese on Thursday. Dawn then informed me that we had in fact already used up all 3 packages! So we bought a package of their cojack cheese and 2 packages of their colby cheese.
Remember my post the other day lamenting the fact that we couldn't find local pasta? Guess what we found? Yes! Local pasta! There was a new vendor there, Pasta Alley (in Decatur, IL). They had a large variety of pasta available, as well as soup mixes, bread mixes, and more. We picked up a package of spinach herb fettuccine and a package of lemon pepper fettuccine. Unfortunately they didn't seem to have elbow pasta (macaroni) or shell pasta; everything seemed to be straight pasta (e.g. fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti, angel hair), with the exception of rotini. Of course, I realize that this is really only produced locally; the ingredients are most likely very non-local. Nevertheless, it's one step closer! (Also, the business apparently employs numerous developmentally disabled people, which is nice.) The Decatur Herald-Review ran an article in October 2008, Right up their alley: Pasta company creates jobs for developmentally
disabled adults, that provides some additional information.
From Voss Pecans (in Carlyle, IL) we bought sugared pecans (naturally) and green beans (they have a small greenhouse). Our family is addicted to their sugared pecans, as they make a great snack! Voss Pecans is the only commercial pecan grove in Illinois. I have a special interest simply because they are located about 20 miles from where I grew up. If you'd like to learn more, after visiting their web site, here are a few other articles about them:
Was that everything? I think so. By the end I had $2 left in my pocket. :-)
After finishing up at the farmers' market, we scurried home to put things in the refrigerator, then hurried off to our son's preschool "graduation". After the unbearably cute ceremony, the teachers, children, and parents went outside to have a picnic on the porch of the Washington Park preschool.
Our lunch consisted of stuff from the farmers' market -- donuts (from Mileur Orchard), strawberries (from Livesprings Berries & Produce), and sugared pecans (from Voss Pecans). Not exactly a balanced meal, I know, but we were aiming for this picnic to be "easy" rather than "healthy". Besides, we knew Lando would be far more interested in playing with his friends than in eating! :-)
Unfortunately, in the afternoon, while playing at the park after preschool, Lando told Dawn that he was tired, his teeth hurt (?!), and he wasn't feeling well. It felt like he had a fever, and Dawn suspected strep throat, since another preschooler had recently had strep.
She took him to the pediatrician. While he was at the doctor's office, Lando threw up. The doctor found no initial signs of strep, but final lab results won't be available until tomorrow. For now, it looks like it's just a stomach bug of some type.
When I got home from work, Lando was lying on the couch, while Dawn entertained him by playing Mario Kart. Anyone who knows our son knows that "lying on the couch" is just not something he does. He is Mr. Energy at all times! In short, he was definitely sick.
Given that we had a sick child in the house, cooking just wasn't appealing, so we wimped out and threw a frozen pizza in the oven. It was a bit disappointing, because I was looking forward to having that pasta and those green beans (not to mention the challah bread and the roasted garlic & herb butter)! Oh well. We'll be eating again tomorrow!
When my alarm clock went off, I hit the snooze button to get a few more minutes of sleep. The next time I woke up it was an hour later. Yikes! I'd overslept!
(Actually, if you think about it, getting up when you've had enough sleep shouldn't be called "oversleeping". Instead, waking up before then should be called "undersleeping". But I digress.)
Anyway, as a result of my late start to the day, I didn't have time to cook breakfast and barely had time to pack lunch!
Donuts from the vending machine, washed down with a soda. Not what I had planned.
Pretty much a repeat of yesterday. Leftover macaroni & cheese and a salad, plus the last of the challah bread. Again, the macaroni was non-local, but the cheese was local colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal). The salad was mesclun mix and waldmans dark green lettuce (both from Oak Tree Organics in Ashland), with non-local dressing. The challah bread was from Central Illinois Event Catering in Elkhart. For dessert I had strawberries from our garden, as well as a non-local orange.
After work, I took a detour northwest and stopped by the Seaney Farms store in Sherman. I picked up some eggs from Loyd Family Farms in Williamsville; roasted garlic herb butter, sweet cinnamon honey butter, and a triple chocolate gooey butter cake from Central Illinois Event Catering; plus some bell pepper plants and broccoli plants. They also carried various meats from Toohill Beef, but a sign indicated it was corn-fed. Since watching "King Corn", I prefer pastured, so I decided to skip the meats.
Of course, I fully realize that the butter and the cake, while created locally, might not be made from local ingredients. That's okay. One thing I learned over the course of the last year is that it's okay not to be perfect at this!
When I got home, Dawn told me that she had gone out to the garden and picked another 2 quarts of strawberries! That was good, because we'd just about finished up the previous quart!
So, for dinner we had non-local baked potatoes with local roasted garlic & herb butter (from Central Illinois Event Catering), a salad of mesclun mix and waldmans dark green lettuce (both from Oak Tree Organics), with non-local dressing, non-local broccoli, strawberries from our garden, and a triple chocolate gooey butter cake (from Central Illinois Event Catering).
On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped by Roberts Seafood Market and bought local milk (from Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury, IL). This milk is pasteurized, but non-homogenized. That means that, before you open it, you are supposed to shake it well to distribute the cream.
There are 2 problems with shaking a bottle of non-homogenized milk. First, it doesn't shake very well. When the bottle is completely full, it pretty much doesn't shake at all! Second, if it does happen to shake well enough to actually mix the contents, you won't be able to strain out all of that nice cream from the top! You've heard the expression "the cream rises to the top"? Well, here's where that phrase comes from!
We generally crack open a new bottle of milk and pour it through a strainer to capture as much of the cream as we can. We then use that cream (along with some of the milk) to make homemade ice cream! Despite my comment in the previous post about Ben & Jerry's, my favorite ice cream has always been homemade!
If you would like to try Kilgus Farmstead milk, they deliver to Roberts Seafood every Friday, so plan accordingly to get the milk when it's freshest.
You can read more about Kilgus Farmstead milk in several newspaper articles:
In addition, you can see video of the Kilgus Farmstead bottling operation. (Alas, there doesn't seem to be a way to embed the video here, so you'll need to follow the link.)
P.S. Separating out the cream from the milk has always been a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition for us. Sometimes we get plenty of cream, but other times not. Is there a better way to separate the cream from the milk? Maybe! You can buy a jar with a spigot on the bottom, allowing you to easily access the milk until nothing is left but cream. What a great idea! We'll have to look into this!
I just stumbled upon Epiphany Farms in Downs, IL (about 70 miles northeast of Springfield, 10 miles southeast of Bloomington). Next year they will be opening a "farm to fork" restaurant in Bloomington, where the food from the farm will be served. Here's some info from their web site:
Combining their culinary and hospitality educations and vast restaurant experiences, the members of Epiphany Farms Enterprise are enacting the “Farm to Fork” concept by producing hundreds of varieties of vegetables and herbs alongside grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, pigs, turkeys, ducks, hens, and eggs that will be on the ever-changing, seasonal menus of their restaurant, to be opened in Bloomington, IL, in 2011.
In addition to visiting their web site and reading the Epiphany Farms blog, you might want to read these newspaper articles:
(The article in the Chicago Tribune is longer and more detailed.)
Today was my first day of eating local on a normal work schedule.
We were a bit late getting up this morning, but I still managed to make cheese omelets, using local eggs (from Bear Creek Farm & Ranch in Palmer) and local colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal).
For lunch, I had leftover macaroni & cheese and a salad. Again, the macaroni was non-local, but the cheese was local colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal). The salad was mesclun mix and waldmans dark green lettuce (both from Oak Tree Organics in Ashland), with non-local dressing. For dessert I had strawberries from our garden, as well as a non-local orange.
Dawn, on the other hand, picked up Lando from preschool and then went on a shopping trip, so they had a very non-local lunch at Target!
For dinner we had non-local pasta with our Brandywine pasta sauce from last year's garden, as well as more of the salad of mesclun mix and waldmans dark green lettuce (both from Oak Tree Organics in Ashland), with non-local dressing. I finished up with non-local ice cream. (Hey, it was Ben & Jerry's!)
If you're thinking, "This is sounding awful repetitive", you're right. Early in the season, variety is a bit limited. Don't worry, it gets better!
How'd we do on Day 2?
For breakfast I made cheese omelets. This time the eggs were all local (from Bear Creek Farm & Ranch in Palmer), as was the colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal). We finished things off with a few strawberries from our garden, while our son Lando had a smoothie made with local strawberries (from Livesprings Berries & Produce in Chandlerville), but with non-local bananas, yogurt, and apple juice.
For lunch we had macaroni & cheese and a salad. The macaroni was non-local, but the cheese was local colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal). The salad was the same as yesterday: mesclun mix, waldmans dark green lettuce, cherry belle radish (all from Oak Tree Organics in Ashland), and colby cheese (from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal), with non-local dressing. For dessert we had a bit of non-local kettle corn from yesterday's Highland Games.
For dinner... well, for dinner we pretty much struck out in terms of eating local. We'd already had pasta and salad for lunch, and that was about all we had available that was local, given that it's so early in the season. I settled for non-local soup and crackers with a peanut butter & honey sandwich. The only local part of my dinner was the honey, which was in a honey bear from Mackinaw Valley Apiaries (in Mackinaw, IL), but may well have been from a refill from Sasse's Apiary (in Chestnut, IL). Everything else was non-local, even the bread. We do have a little bit of challah bread left, but I'm saving that for tomorrow's lunch!
Finding a source of local pasta is something we weren't able to do last year. There is Oakland Noodle Company (in Oakland, IL), but noodles and pasta aren't exactly the same thing. We're big fans of pasta, so at the moment we're compromising, settling for non-local pasta with local sauces. We'll keep looking for a better solution, however. If you know of any sources, please share!