May 07, 2011

Community Gardening

I'm slowly but surely working on adding items to all of the tabs on the site.  In the meantime I wanted to mention a cool project I found out about that is going on in Atlantic County on Saturday, May 14th:

Atlantic County Community Garden Project

Each person who wants to participate has his/her own plot for which they are responsible, as well as a sponsor to help guide them through the process.  They even have volunteers and a help line people can call if they have questions.  The whole project has been funded through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids. 

Could you imagine if every low-income working family living in an urban area had access to their own plot of land to grow a bit of their own food, as well as a sponsor to teach and guide them? 

On a somewhat related note, I wanted to share about a woman I heard speak at a recent Fortune Conference.  She is an economic consultant who runs her own organization- Majora Carter Group. One of the main focuses of her business is how to involve low-income people and families (usually in urban areas) in the "green living" movement.  You know, the people who don't have yards to grow vegetables or cars to drive to Trader Joe's.  The people who work three jobs and send their children to a low-income daycare that-- gasp!-- doesn't have a tolerance for cloth-diapered children.  The people who don't have cloth diapers to begin with because they have to take public transportation just to get to a laundromat.  The people who don't own spice racks or kitchen islands or immersion blenders... who travel each day along a bus route that passes four McDonald's and zero Whole Foods. 

That's a lot of people, and one mission of Ms. Carter is to make environmentally-friendly life options affordable and accessible to them. 

May 04, 2011

Greens, Eggs & Ham

Hopefully everyone is fully recovered from the holidays and spring break (just in time for...Cinco de Mayo)!  

In this first "real" edition (i.e. the one where we actually cook something), we focused our efforts on all of that leftover ham, eggs, and the first bounties of the spring season, spinach and asparagus.  It was early in the season for asparagus, but we were able to obtain some at our local grocer that buys from Sorbello and Wheeler farm in Swedesboro.   The rest of the produce came from G & G Stecker Farm.  I was also thrilled to be able to obtain both the anitbiotic-free ham and prosciutto locally from Applegate Farms.  Their website offers online ordering as well, and you can even enter the UPC code from your purchase to get more details about your particular product.  The Italian breads were baked right before my eyes at our local Wegman's. If you're not from the tri-state area you probably haven't heard of this regional chain, but either way I would recommend a visit to their site.  If Heaven has a grocery store, I'm sure it looks like this.  Now on to the food...

Oh...pardon the interruption from our "kitchen helpers"... if you're anything like me, you are also addicted to GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's charming little weekly newsletter.  But I am just now beginning to understand why her little cooking segments are so organized, professional and successful.  She seems to employ a simple three step process:
1) Start with a big giant celebrity kitchen
2) Pay a nanny to watch your children for hours while you cook and write about cooking.
3) While the nanny is still watching the children, pay a personal trainer to work out all of the stress you've surely built up from all of that cooking and writing.

Given that us Jersey Girls are working under such confines as a limited budget, limited time, limited square footage and the constant presence of little people, doesn't that make our kitchen feats all the more astounding?!  Hopefully it will make you confident that you can pull it off too. Starting with...

**Baked Eggs and Spinach**
 This recipe is courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. I have to confess that I am not a huge spinach fan, so I wasn't sure about this dish at first.  The baby spinach was definitely a hit as it made the dish more mild overall and less, well, "spinachy"... we debated adding more cream or seasoning than the recipe called for but in the end I think that would have taken away from the overall freshness.  To me this is a quintissential early Spring dish. 
The only drawback as far as I'm concerned is that it's not exactly a dish that lends itself to leftovers.  Of course our children, being who they are, ate the entire dish so it wasn't really an issue for us. 

The finished product is below. Also, this is my first real attempt at "food photography" so hopefully I'll get better as we go along.  My main goal is to get you to lust after the food so you're compelled to immediately run out the door to the farmer's market.  Is it working yet?

**Asparagus and Prosciutto**
 This recipe is courtesy of The Food Network.

  My advice firstly would be to go heavy on the butter.  You won't be disappointed.  Also I felt that in this case it doesn't take away from the freshness of the asparagus, because that flavor is so strong.  We happened to use smoked prosciutto and although the recipe doesn't call for the prosciutto to be cooked, I thought this tasted better the next day with the prosciutto toasted. 

**Funked Out Bloody Mary**
Recipe here.  Why?  ...Because we can.

 These were the best where I'm concerned, as far as bloody marys go.  Warning:  they are spicy though and not for the faint of heart.  We even used spicy hot horseradish which made the drink in my opinion.

Oh, and this isn't in the recipe but... if you have any left over that you want to store, make sure you put it in a pitcher labeled "Not For The Kids!"


**Asparagus Ham and Cheese Melts**
This recipe is from Epicurious.  What started out as our grilled cheese sandwich contribution ended up as an open-face broiled melt.  But it was fantastic.  

I think the parmesan-mayo spread was the best "why have I never thought of that?" addition to a sandwich that i've had in a long time.  Plus as soon as we tasted it we were thinking about other ways to incorporate the same combo-- as a dip?  As a dressing?  On a burger?  The possibilities are endless. 

 Hungry yet?  Oh, in case you haven't noticed, while this site does promote farm fresh ingredients, it is most definitely NOT a diet blog. 

Stay tuned for our next installment featuring Cinco de Mayo-inspired food fare for our "ladies' weekend" get together. 

(Spoiler Alert:   There will be tequila)