UPDATED! – Think About What’s In Season Now and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera

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Posted: September 25, 2015 at 9:37 am

Plan Ahead

drying

 UPDATE:

Various commitments and adventures have taken us away from the Beet this week. We apologize for the dearth of postings. What we wrote last week about what’s in season and where to find it, mostly applies this week, but we’ve added and updated as necessary.

There’s a great event this weekend of interest to local food fans. Taste Talks at Morgan on Fulton, brings together a stellar group of chefs, butchers, and foodarati. Of special interest at this point of year, Paul Virant and others will be talking about preservation. In addition to the local stars like Virant we’ve come to expect at events like this, Taste Talks brings in some names you may only know from their cookbooks such as April Bloomfield, and if you have any inkling of how the food world evolved over the last twenty of so years, you will know the name, Fergus Henderson, here to talk with our guys on whole animal butchery.

It looks like fall fully settled into the area. This means two things for us locavores. Foremost, grab those tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and summer squash still around in the markets. They won’t be here very long. Then, you can start more safely stocking and storing. Build your supplies of potatoes, onions, garlic, and shallots for winter cooking. Dry some herbs and peppers to make your future dishes taste more your own. Find the unique and special apples that won’t be around later. As we keep on saying, these things take about zero effort. Ideas for cold storage include porches, crawl spaces, basements, and garages. Use coolers, garbage cans, CSA boxes (but turn them in!) to keep your stored produce dark and away from animals.

What’s in season now is exactly why it’s time to think ahead. We told you last week that it does not take much effort to get a little local food for later. You can be a locavore a little more often just by drying some peppers as we show above. Still, you might ask yourself, why now. We have Chicago area farmer’s markets year round, and more and more stores specialize in local food. Yes, there was a time when stocking and putting away were the only ways of assuring continued local eating. Do I have to do all that now?

We offer two good reasons to make now the season of hording, of stocking, of filling the larders, building the root cellar and being ready.

  1. You won’t be able to find it later
  2. You won’t be able to get it for less

You Won’t Be Able to Find it Later

Like we said, it’s a lot easier to eat local over the course of the year now in Chicagoland.  We can shop winter markets, hit various stores, and go on-line with our friends Irv and Shelly.  Will we find what’s there now? Take apples: you will be able to get local apples for many months to come, but in the months that come, what varieties will there be?  Will you find an especially cool pie apple like our Midwestern Spy?  Or potatoes:, in the dead of winter as farmer’s clear out their bins, will the come in blue, pink and magenta as well as dirty brown?  Onions too, you want trorpea or cipollini, don’t think they’ll be around later.  Buy the unique, the fancy, the fun stuff now.

You Won’t Be Able to Get It for Less

Now’s the time farmer’s are pushing stuff out.  There’s only so much stuff you can take with you, so to speak, if you’re a farmer.  A lot of great tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, and more gets turned into animal feed this time of year.  Now is the time to make that great deal on a bushel of tomatoes.  Stock up on local grapes because they’ll last a long time in your fridge.  Buy too many peppers so you can roast them, cover them with oil and keep them for a while in jars.  We tend to focus on when local food is expensive, but this time of year it can be pretty cheap.

Thinking about doing more to put away, here’s our guide to making the most of the seasonal bounty.

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UPDATE: Chef Mendez at our sponsor,Vera, has embraced fall on his menu with dishes like brussels sprouts and bacon and marinated beets.

The full depth of the local food scene is always on display in Jeannie’s Local Calendar.

last oak park - 2013

 

What’s In Season Now

It’s fall.  For farmer’s it’s been fall for nearly a month; on the calendar, it just happened.  It means there’s squash and lots of root vegetables now at the market, but summer still holds a place in our menu hearts, and there’s no reason yet to give up on it’s bounty.

From the Ground

  • Cukes and zukes
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet peppers – try the longer “carmen” peppers for variety
  • Poblano peppers – as Michel Morowitz once said, whatever a green [bell] pepper can do, a poblano pepper can do it better
  • Various “frying” peppers – melrose, shishito, padron
  • Hot peppers – jalapenos, serranos, cayenne, etc.
  • Tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Lettuce
  • Shelling beans
  • Green beans
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Winter squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Fennel
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Rutabaga
  • Celery root
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes
  • Greens including collards, turnips (often with turnip roots attached), and mustard

From the Trees and Bushes

  • Raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Plums – mostly the purple “Italian” varieties
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Asian pears a/k/a papples

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

UPDATE: Markets are winding down, and your neighborhood market may be over.  The ones listed below are still hoppin’, and over the next several weeks, we will highlight markets running.   If you need no other reason to stock up, ask yourself, will my market be there next week?  Note, many of the away markets we highlighted in this post extend far into the fall (and beyond).  In addition to the markets, check out the Sugar Beet Coop and these other stores for local food.

Chicago

Good salumi at a farmer’s market is just one of the reasons we love the Logan Square Farmer’s Market.  Sundays 10 AM – 3 PM (yes!) – Logan Boulevard, just east of Milwaukee

Down at 61st our friends at Experimental Station run a diverse, well stocked market on Saturdays – 9 AM to 2 PM - This market accepts the LINK card – 6100 S. Blackstone

Looking for the Condiment Queen and her sun golds and you cannot make it to Oak Park because you live in the Big City.  Well, Tomato Mountain and some of the other Oak Park Farmer’s Market faves like Geneva Lakes produce and Hardin Farms Michigan fruit are at the Andersonville Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays from 3 PM to 7 PM (note, in the fall the market closes an hour earlier).  This market accepts the LINK card – 1500 Berwyn

Green City Market  is overflowing right now.   Saturday  from 7 AM to 1  PM –  Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark)

It it’s Thursday and we’re in the Loop, you cannot do wrong with Daley Plaza, which is filled with vendors including produce, breads and prepared foods.   7 AM – 2 PM - This market accepts the LINK card. - 50 W. Washington

We’ve always been impressed by what they’re doing at the Glenwood Market This market accepts the LINK card.  Sundays from 9AM to 2 PM - Southbound Glenwood Avenue between Morse & Lunt

Oak Park

Have we mentioned donuts.  Family ties?  Well, what about one of the few area markets with locally tapped maple syrup?  Jim the Vinegar Guy?  Sadly, no Hazzard Free grains this year.  Saturdays from 8 AM to 1 PM - 460 Lake

Evanston

There are often times, when we think about these things, quantify these things, we say this is the best there is in the Chicago area.  There’s the heirlooms, the regular, meats, cheeses, breads, the unique and the mundane, about all you could want in one market.  Saturdays from 730 AM to 1 PM - University Street & Oak Avenue

Morton Grove

Very close Beet ties to this one, so get there on Saturday and shop, shop, shop.  Saturdays 8 AM to Noon - 6210 Dempster

Geneva

Do you think we’re not gonna include something way far away?  The Geneva Green Market has been focusing on organic and sustainable farmers for a while and is worth the visit if you are anywhere close (or not as it’s a great drive or a great train ride).  Thursdays 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton Street

Northbrook

In memory of Mom.  She was a volunteer hereWednesdays from 7 AM to 1 Pm –  Cherry Lane and Meadow Road

Glenview

Why not a farmer’s market by a farm?  Glenview lets you do that on Saturdays from 9 AM – 12 PM - This market accepts the LINK card. - 1510 Wagner Road

 

What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago




This Week There’s a Harvest of Eat Local Links

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Posted: September 24, 2015 at 9:46 am

It’s Always Good to Ask Why

 

Boston strong demand (for local food).

Eat more types of local vegetables.

See old local film clips (not really food, but we don’t care, we love this stuff).

Only about 10 percent of the fossil fuel energy used in the world’s food system is used for producing the food; the other 90 percent goes into packaging, transporting, and marketing. Locally produced food is more energy-efficient, with the majority of energy use going toward food production.”  Some good reasons to eat local.

And Dan Barber on changing how we eat.

Some of the places your vegetarian friend can take you to are pretty good.

All the other links we could not bother to harvest ourselves.

 




Growing the Ground: My Weekend on an Organic Farm Retreat, Part 2

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Posted: September 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Jessica Avoids the New Age

I told you last week of my healthy sense of adventure, a tenderness for excellent produce, and affinity for free stuff, all of which I parlayed into a recent weekend retreat at the Angelic Organics farm in Caledonia, Ill  My weekend continues on a more mindful path as I explain below.

I will not detail my evening at the Clock Tower Resort. All I will say is; do not stay there. You have been warned. You are welcome.

 I arrive at the farm the next morning shortly after 9 am. I snack on a very sour slice of apple harvested yesterday and mentally ready myself for the hour of yoga that is next on the schedule. I have long tried to convince myself that I like yoga, purchasing a mat and a towel and suffering through numerous hot yoga classes.

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Like every other session, the one at Angelic Organics is no different. I take the opportunity to take lots of pictures just so I can stop doing yoga. I’ve tried. It’s boring. I’m sorry. Don’t throw your chakras at me. As I lie in corpse pose listening to the sounds of the farm, I am struck by two thoughts. One, I could be playing with animals right now. Two, is it time to eat yet?

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Finally, we chant our last ohm and say namaste to our yoga leader and I fairly race to the Learning Center to retrieve my mason jar of overnight oats (made yesterday) from the fridge. Chewy with spoonfuls of chia seeds and crushed walnuts, the oats are redolent with the raw almond milk Amanda made yesterday and a hefty shake of cinnamon. They are gone far too soon, as are the hard-boiled eggs with yolks the color of marigolds.

We then start on a “hike” or, more accurately, walk, around the farm. We head down the dusty path and pass an inexplicable yellow and back Volkswagen Beetle surrounded by herbs. Katie doesn’t know exactly why it’s there but reckons it has something to do with Farmer John’s anti-pesticide bent.

It’s at least 90 degrees and the humidity is like being smothered with a hot washcloth. We walk along the long gravel drive that leads up to Angelic Organics proper as Katie points out the neat rows of corn on the monoculture farm directly on the other side of the road. They don’t have any qualms about using pesticides, Katie notes, and the farmers at Angelic Organics have had some issues when it comes to spraying crops if the wind is blowing.

Shortly, we arrive at a tiny cemetery at the foot of the Angelic Organics property. Nobody has been buried there in at least a century and a half. The headstones are tilted crazily and nearly worn smooth by the endless cycle of harsh Illinois weather. Just across the road is a tiny schoolhouse where Farmer John’s mother once taught.

We cross the road to see the Learning Center’s newest acquisition: 70 acres of as-yet unplanted land, named Kinnikinnick Fields and donated to the non-profit. It has to rest for another four years, Katie tells us, because it was used for conventional farming before the Learning Center purchased it. Land needs to rest for a minimum of seven years, Katie says, in order for it to be considered organic. It is a great labor of love to wait so many years to use the land. The Learning Center at Angelic Organics only manages thanks to the generous donations of those who recognize good things are worth the wait.

Gesturing out at the gently rolling land, Katie tells us how she and the other members of the Learning Center envision more wooly Scottish Highland cattle grazing there one day, along with an overnight immersion center for students where they can stay for a weekend and see what it’s like to work on an organic, biodynamic farm.

IMG_4866We turn back to the farm for some mindfulness meditation and lunch. Amanda leads us in a conversation about practicing mindfulness while eating; actually enjoying our food and not just gulping down calories. We then meditate for seven minutes. Well, everyone else meditates. I take a seven-minute nap.

After lunch, we join Amanda in making several delicious recipes including two kinds of raw date balls with cocoa powder and cinnamon. A salty-sweet seaweed nut brittle wafts bewitching fumes from the oven as it turns crispy and golden brown.IMG_4873

While the brittle bakes, we go around in a circle and share some last thoughts and what Katie calls appreciations. Thanks for an incredible weekend are shared across the circle, and one of the participants notes that she has now learned to always massage her kale.

Another woman takes this opportunity to thank the entire group for maintaining an interest in good and wholesome food. “It is so difficult to find people who care about the good things,” she tells us. “Thank you.”

Katie closes the circle by telling us how happy she is that we all came to visit Angelic Organics. “Once you’ve been here, it’s your farm,” she tells us. “And we hope you come back and visit again and see what things are growing and working.”

Almost everyone clears out quite quickly after the circle breaks up. Reluctant to leave, I head back outside to say a final goodbye to the goats, who are very pleased to receive a few more head scratches, and the chickens who scurry madly away from my outstretched hand.

Finally, after helping Amanda load her car with the cooking supplies she brought, I can no longer prolong the moment and must say my goodbyes. Katie and I exchange emails and promise to discuss further volunteering opportunities this fall. Amanda follows me on Instagram and Twitter. We hug.

IMG_4875I take fifteen more selfies with the chickens and the goats and the rolling fields in the background and set my Google Maps app to avoid freeways. I take county roads home; driving at a leisurely pace and covering my car in dust, watching the farmland recede behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Jessica’s visit to the Organic Farm Retreat was sponsored by Angelic Organics Learning Center.

 

 

 




What’s In Season Can Be Had Later & Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera

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Posted: September 18, 2015 at 9:06 am

Eat Local Later

 

hanging onions

The harvest piles up. You cannot get to it all now. Put some away for later. You do not need to can or do anything involved. Just buy a little extra. Onions, garlic, shallots can all go in a hanging basket in your cool basement. Leave some hot peppers or herbs lying around to dry.  Shove some apples to the back of your fridge and forget about them until February.  A little bit of anything will give you a sense you can eat more local. Who knows where that will lead.

Inspired? Here’s our basic guide for preserving the seasonal bounty.

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The harvest brings you the rest of summer and the start of fall. Chef Mendez Vera menu speaks to completeness of this season. There’s still his wonderful escalivada, using peppers, tomatoes, and such, but there is also beets, combined with burrata. You have plenty of choices this time of year.  Do note, though that much of summer’s fruit has run its course.  You may not find any peaches this week.

What’s In Season Now

From the Ground

  • Tons of peppers in bright orange and red, long and bell, hot and sweet
  • Sweet corn remains
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Field peas a/k/a black eye peas, crowder peas, etc.
  • Shelling beans eg, pinto, shelly, etc.
  • Okra
  • Celery
  • Melons
  • Greens including chard, kale, collards, mustard and turnip
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Winter AND summer squashes

From the Trees and Bushes

  • Peaches – Last varieties
  • Plums – Mostly the purple types
  • Apples – Find new varieties each week
  • Pears
  • Asian pears
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

We have a few more weeks where all markets are running now.  We’ve highlighted some of our favorites.  For some adventures look at this post.  In addition to markets, there are several stores in the Chicago area that focus on selling local foods.  We also still believe that local food is everywhere.  You can also go to Jeannie’s Local Calendar for resources, events and other happenings.

Chicago

It may not be the biggest market in the Chicago area, but it is the only market with a free breakfast of Eli’s Cheesecake Cafe (and the only market where you can gorge on cheesecake samples).  We maintain a special place in our heart for this market, Thursdays – 7 AM – 1 PM - 6701 West Forest Preserve Drive

Green City Market  is overflowing right now.   Saturday  from 7 AM to 1  PM –  Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark) 

It it’s Thursday and we’re in the Loop, you cannot do wrong with Daley Plaza, which is filled with vendors including produce, breads and prepared foods.   7 AM – 2 PM - This market accepts the LINK card. - 50 W. Washington

We’ve always been impressed by what they’re doing at the Glenwood Market.  Sundays from 9AM to 2 PM - Southbound Glenwood Avenue between Morse & Lunt

Oak Park

Have we mentioned donuts.  Family ties?  Well, what about one of the few area markets with locally tapped maple syrup?  Jim the Vinegar Guy?  Sadly, no Hazzard Free grains this year.  Saturdays from 8 AM to 1 PM - 460 Lake

Evanston

There are often times, when we think about these things, quantify these things, we say this is the best there is in the Chicago area.  There’s the heirlooms, the regular, meats, cheeses, breads, the unique and the mundane, about all you could want in one market.  Saturdays from 730 AM to 1 PM - University Street & Oak Avenue

Morton Grove

Very close Beet ties to this one, so get there on Saturday and shop, shop, shop.  Saturdays 8 AM to Noon - 6210 Dempster

Geneva

Do you think we’re not gonna include something way far away?  The Geneva Green Market has been focusing on organic and sustainable farmers for a while and is worth the visit if you are anywhere close (or not as it’s a great drive or a great train ride).  Thursdays 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton Street

Northbrook

In memory of Mom.  She was a volunteer here - Wednesdays from 7 AM to 1 Pm –  Cherry Lane and Meadow Road

 

What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago




Chicagoland Brewery Updates

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Posted: September 16, 2015 at 4:10 am

There are a few new updates to our list of the top 148 breweries in Chicagoland. Here they are:

Umgawa Brewing – We’re no longer considering this as a brewery “in planning.” As of 6/9/2015, the trademark application was officially considered “abandoned.”

Lagunitas Brewing – Announced 9/8/2015 Heineken has acquired a 50% interest in the brewery, but Chicagoan Tony Magee has stated that he and the rest of the current management team will remain in charge.

Finch’s Beer Company – Plans for a large new brewery along the Chicago River fell through; still looking for new brewery space

Fraternite of Notre Dame – County Board overwhelmingly rejected the Catholic order’s plans for a brewery, winery, and other operations on their property near Huntley, IL, because it “didn’t fit with the character of the area.”

We’ll try our best to keep the list, here, up to date.




Downstate fundraiser benefits local food awareness

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Posted: September 15, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Featuring small plates from chefs representing several prominent Central Illinois restaurants, the 2015 Annual Harvest Celebration took place at the State House Inn in Springfield Sunday night. The annual celebration of the use of locally sourced ingredients benefits the Illinois Stewardship Alliance in their quest to get the word out about local food and sustainable farming. The restaurants included in the event are well known for serving locally produced and sourced food and farm products.

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Included in the fare were entrees and desserts by

Chef Ryan Lewis of Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery, Springfield

Chefs Jordan and Aurora Coffey of American Harvest Eatery, Springfield

Chef Greg Christian of Beyond Green Partners, Chicago

Brent Schoewer of Engrained Brewing Company, Springfield

Chef Dustin Allen of Edge by Chef Dustin Allen, Peoria

Chef Denise Perry of Copper Pot Cooking Studio, Springfield

Chef Pateick Groth of Incredibly Delicious, Springfield

And Chef Corey Faucon of Augie’s Front Burner, Springfield

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The creations the chefs served spanned everywhere from Zucchini Agrodolce with Flank Steak, Corn Custard with Pork Rillette, Peach & Pork Belly Marmalade, Vietnamese Bun Thit, and Winter Squash Tamale with Grilled Pumpkin Crema.

Dave Bishop of PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, Illinois was the featured speaker.

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Growing the Ground: My Weekend on an Organic Farm Retreat – Part One

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Posted: September 15, 2015 at 6:23 am

Jessica Goes Farming

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Because I have a healthy sense of adventure, a tenderness for excellent produce, and a similar affinity for free stuff, I jumped at the chance to go on a weekend retreat to Angelic Organics farm in Caledonia, Ill. Sent by The Local Beet*, I expected to meet some friendly animals, take some pretty pictures, eat some tasty things and do some yoga. I didn’t expect to sample the best produce I’ve had outside of Europe. But funny things happen on an organic, biodynamic farm.

My mother has always claimed that I am going to grow up to live on a farm due to a deep-seated love for animals (see: birthday requests for a chicken named Penny the Henny since age four). If I ever make that commitment, I hope it’s a farm like Angelic.

Only 90 minutes away from my home in Deerfield, Angelic Organics might as well be another world. A mile off of I-90, the farm smell starts: dense, rich, sweetly rotten. I roll my windows down all the way, breathing in the stench of growth in harmony.

Kicking up dust, I pull into the visitor’s center parking 15 minutes late – courtesy of a forgotten wallet. A wall of corn (as high as an elephant’s eye) blocks my vision on one side as I walk down the gravel path. The squawk of a rooster jars me from my reverie and the smells of wet grass, hay and manure gust in on a soft breeze. The air feels different out here, lighter and softer somehow.

I stop to pet a cat with white boots and a belly swollen with field mice and chipmunks outside the Learn Grow Connect center, the non-profit partner of Angelic Organics; I am one of the last there. We go around in a circle and say our names and why we are there. I say that I am covering the retreat for a website called The Local Beet and please excuse my scribbling. Nobody looks as impressed as I would like.

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We begin the day with a tour of the farm, starting inside the Learning Center itself. With walls made of straw and plaster, it has a lumpy, fairy-tale appeal from the outside. On the inside, twisted tree trunks take the place of load-bearing beams. The floor is uneven and the hot water smells violently of eggs, but like the farm, it is real and unrefined.

We begin to walk around the goat pen, towards a shady grove of large burr oak trees. As we walk, trip leader Katie Townsend begins to tell us about the land itself – how Illinois and much of the Midwest is home to some of the best soil in the world.

“If you haven’t thanked a glacier in a while, you should,” Katie tells us. “The glaciers are responsible for all the mineral deposits that make this soil so dark and healthy.” A five-year veteran of Angelic Organics, she left a comfortable job of two decades in recreation management in order to join Angelic’s Urban Initiative, bringing gardens to nearby cities. During the fall, she spends most of her time on the farm leading school trips and loves her renewed relationship with people and the land.

Katie gestures at some absurdly wooly cows – a Scottish Highland/longhorn stock breed meant to stay out of doors in the winter – and explains how the cattle are moved around the farm so as to evenly distribute the valuable manure they deposit. The animals at Angelic Organics are there for three reasons, Katie explains: meat, milk and manure. Perhaps the most valuable of those is the manure, which helps keeps the soil rich and healthy. The cows laze in what Katie calls the oak savannah, chewing their cud and eyeing us beadily. They are not cute up close.

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Angelic Organics comprises 20-odd acres of farmland as well as grazing space for a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, geese and two very fat cats. Not only is the farm organic, it is biodynamic as well; all parts of the farm work in synchronicity with each other so that everything has input. Food scraps are either composted or fed to the livestock, livestock is paddocked on a rotating basis to enrich the soil, the soil grows some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever seen and the cycle goes on.

We stop at a small grove of gnarled fruit trees: Asian and Bartlett pears, Granny Smith apples and an unknown varietal that could be a cousin of the McIntosh. The fruits are just as wizened as the trees, with many blemishes and dark spots, but the sweet smell of the apples is strong in the air and they are jewel-bright shades of red and green.

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We pick two dozen or so and then collect fallen fruits to give to the pigs. Five squealing, pink tanks run to the fence inanticipation, shouldering each other out of the way to nose at half-rotted apples and pears. Katie points out their sharp teeth and cautions against presenting the fruit like a present. When all the fruit is gone, the pigs remain at the fence, smiling benignly up at us and waiting for more. That’ll do pigs, that’ll do.

Continuing our tour of the farm, we pass two goat pens; currently the males are separated from the females as it is nearly mating season. Come spring, there will be a host of new goat kids wandering around the large enclosures, snacking on burdock and brush.

Near a small room filled entirely with garlic, we meet Farmer John Peterson, the owner. Bought by his parents, the farm originally centered on dairy and poultry and expanded to crops in the 60s. When the financial crisis came only a few decades later, the Petersons nearly lost everything. Acres upon acres were sold off until only about 20 remained. Today, the farm is back up to nearly 200 acres, thanks in great part to the community of shareholders and donors that have bought and leased  land – but with a much different purpose than the acres of Farmer John’s childhood. In 1990, Farmer John began his quest to turn the farm into Angelic Organics – a farm rooted in biodynamic strategies and community supported agriculture. Today, the farm sends 2,200 boxes of produce a week to shareholders all over Illinois.

Farmer John looks the part as he climbs out of his olive green pickup truck. His straw hat is battered and ripped at the brim, his sandals (paired with black socks) are starting to part way with their soles and the edge of a cigar peeks over the top of his shirt pocket. He begins to tell us about his efforts to feed people real food without chemicals or pesticides in it and how much opposition he faced.

“It’s amazing how distraught people were about paying more for healthy food,” he says despairingly. He has since stopped trying to convert people and lets the produce speak for itself. Conventional farms grow crops, we learn, but organic farms grow soil. Without good soil, there’s no chance for good produce.

Suddenly, Farmer John decides to lead us on a backstage tour of the farm, taking us into the old barn, which is still under construction to become a small visitor’s center, and explaining how it takes into account Rudolph Steiner’s scientific philosophy. Often considered the father of biodynamic farming, Steiner also combined practices of spirituality with his scientific work.  Farmer John’s interpretation of Steiner’s views and his descriptions of the spaces we see are meandering, confusing and I find myself less than illuminated.

IMG_4782Trooping out into the hazy sunlight, Farmer John takes us next to his private office. The space is light and airy. High, arched windows lend a churchlike feel, and the walls are painted with layers of watery color: starting with pale pink in the east and ending with blues and greens in the west to mimic the trajectory of the sun. It’s a space that makes you have thoughts you might not experience otherwise, Farmer John says, and this time I truly agree. Closing his private tour, Farmer John speaks of the importance of intention – being very certain of whom you let into your space and your life, what you eat and why you eat it. With these words of wisdom, he climbs back into his pickup truck and trundles away. I am hungry. I am ready to get out into the fields, something I’ve been waiting to do pretty much my whole life.

IMG_4777We walk past a large patch of what looks like corn but is actually a mixture of sorghum, burdock and other plants, meant to revitalize the soil in between crop rotations. We are led first to a tiny forest of curly kale plants. They grow like palm trees, sticking straight up out of the soil. I would be enamored, but I despise kale with an almost indescribably visceral hatred. There is not enough Sriracha in the world to cover up the dirt taste that is kale. We also pluck beautiful, pale green heads of lettuce – much more up my alley – and peppery arugula. Leftovers, Katie tells us, from the first harvest for the community supported agriculture boxes.

IMG_4779 Rotating every two to three years, the fields rest so as to revitalize the nutrients found naturally within the soil. As we tote our vegetable haul back to the learning center, we are surrounded by the silent regeneration of the land around us.

Lunch is mostly vegetables, ordered in from a caterer, as well as some store-bought hummus and cheese and a densely seeded loaf of wholegrain bread. Sticks and stones bread, my cousins and I used to call it when we were little. I am ravenous and there are not nearly enough calories to satisfy me.

After our meal, some of the group goes to harvest peppers, carrots and tomatoes while others stay behind to begin prepping for dinner. Quinoa is simmering on the stove and our chef in residence, Amanda Skrip, is issuing friendly directives for kale massaging and lettuce washing.

Slight, and looking not at all her 32 years, Skrip is a natural foods private chef and wellness coach. She is here to help lead us on a culinary excursion using the produce we have harvested from the farm, as well as show us some new recipes to bring home with us.

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Clad in beat-up Chuck Taylor shoes and a plaid shirt, Skrip is welcoming and incredibly approachable. I grill her about her descent into the world of clean food and her responses are refreshing in their lack of bullshit. She doesn’t espouse an all-organic diet, juicing or a return to millet. She just thinks everyone should focus more on what comes out of the ground as opposed to what comes out of a factory.

Additionally, I like Amanda very much because she lets me eat some of the almonds we will use later to make nut milk. I take the given inch and run a mile, dumping a giant handful of almonds into a cup and spooning a chunk of gritty raw honey onto the side. It is floral and intensely sweet, the best honey I’ve ever tasted. I am entranced and totally useless for the next 15 minutes as I snack.

Eventually, I get with the program and help wash lettuce, chop carrots and squash and photograph the chickpea mixture that will soon become our baked falafel. As I rinse carrots and chop peppers, I am struck by the physical imperfections and the intense flavor of the produce. Although there are no v-shaped carrots at the grocery store, there are also no carrots so orange they look fluorescent and so sweet they could be dessert. The arugula may be slightly careworn but the flavor is so intense and peppery that one can easily forgive its tattered appearance. The tomatoes, splitting at their seams, lumpy and irregular, spill juice onto the cutting board. They are an entirely different species from the pale, mealy hothouse tomatoes from Jewel-Osco. In preparing dinner, the true purpose of Angelic Organics shines through. If you want to eat well, grow carefully.

IMG_4792While the falafel bakes, we go see the henhouse. As a person who is wholly entranced by chickens, I am nearly delirious with joy. Not only do I get to hold an actual chicken (who sprints away from me as though I have done her a grievous wrong as soon as I let go) but we collect gorgeous tan and pale-blue eggs from the hutch Katie calls the EggMobile. The brown chickens, called Americanas, are the ones responsible for laying the Easter egg-hued clutch we find in one of the nests. Later, a Brahma chicken with feather-festooned feet pecks at my bright orange Nikes and is upset to find they are not actually slices of tomato.

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Dinner comes early, at six, and we eat outdoors. Magic hour illuminates the fields and our plates with a buttery glow. On the menu: a lemony tabouleh salad (with the massaged kale that I do not hate, presumably because hunger is the best condiment), baked falafel with a zesty avocado sauce, a crisp salad with carrot ribbons and a mustardy vinaigrette and raw heirloom tomatoes, the best I’ve tasted outside of Spain, with a pinch of salt. It is, in a word, sublime.

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After dinner comes goat’s milk ice cream. It’s funky, but tempered by heavy cream and floral honey. I feed two spoonfuls of it to the barn cat, Ribbons, who attempts to nurse from the spoon as she would a teat.

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Katie then takes me to the goat enclosure to make some new friends. We hop a barn gate and trek through some low brush to where the kids are grazing. I meet Floppy, Pretzel and Feta, whose twin brother Gyro is conspicuously absent. The kids are sweet and playful, jumping onto our thighs and nibbling my fingers when I attempt to take pictures with them. Hay and gorse release their sweet scents into the air as I scratch first one goat and then another behind the ears.

Katie and I chat as we play with the goats. I ask whether all these kids will stay at the farm for breeding purposes and she says probably not. Katie is in no way a vegetarian, she tells me, but she wouldn’t feel bad to eat an animal from this farm.

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“For these animals, there’s just one bad day,” she tells me. “One bad day compared to hundreds of happy ones? That seems a fair price to pay.” And indeed, the goats are seemingly as happy as goats can be. I am enamored by their square eyes and the funny nickering sounds they make. I fully intend to take one home while Katie isn’t looking but the plan goes to pot when the kids troop off to their mothers.

Eventually, it’s time to head out for the evening. I snap countless pictures of the glorious sunset over the fields and unhappily head back out onto the freeway for a night’s stay in nearby Rockford.

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Up next: Part 2 of Growing the Ground

*Jessica’s visit to the Organic Farm Retreat was sponsored by Angelic Organics.




Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

By
Posted: September 11, 2015 at 8:20 am

Sending You to a Few Places

 

Can you take the eat local challenge?

Lessons on sweet corn.

Another reason to visit our sponsor, Vera.

Defining Madison, WI in the food world–in progress.

Drink local Michigan booze.

Eat local Utah.

Eat local rice?

Someone else does all the linking for us.




The Local Calendar 9/10/15 Know Your Funding, Farm Aid 30, Spence Harvest Feast, Chicago Gourmet, Heritage BBQ, TOTN

By
Posted: September 10, 2015 at 10:11 am

RedZebrasApplescorn15

The harvest has begun its decline. There may still be harvest dinners but in my opinion the peak of the harvest is really August in the midwest. Goodby tomatoes, like these red zebras, hello apples! Savor every market. Soon squash, gourds, pumpkins and all the rest of the curcubits will be lined up on the tables. There is still the last of the remnants of summer, tomatoes, eggplants, melons and the stonefruits. September is the swan song of the markets. Most of the markets will be open the month of September so take advantage of it. Once we hit October, as you know, they start closing down for the colder months except for a few like Green City, Logan Square and 61st.

Lots on the September calendar, the USDA and the Illinois Farm Bureau has their annual Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food and they added Know Your Funding event tomorrow. Farm-Aid in Chicago is going to be huge. Not only is the Farm-Aid 30 concert coming to Chicago 9/19 but there is a 2 day conference titled “Strength From Our Roots” held at Fourth Presbyterian Church 9/17-18 and a slew of other dinners and tours.  The Spence Farm Harvest Feast 9/20The Talking Farm is holding its 5th Annual Hullabaloo at their Howard St Farm 9/26. For the first time the Chicago Gourmet Festival is holding a kid friendly event, Rise and Shine on 9/27 where families can exercise together, yoga, walk or jog and then enjoy a healthy local breakfast provided by chefs like Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe. The Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ takes place the afternoon of 9/27 at Morgan Manufacturing. Finally, keep October 11 on your plate for the Taste of the Nation which this year includes families of all kinds. Sorry, 4-legged family members are not included this year but maybe next time.

Have you bought your tickets for?

Spence Farm Harvest Feast Tickets on Sale! 9/20
Chicagogourmet tickets, The main event is sold out but there are still tickets available for 9/25 lunch with Emeril, a 9/26 Tiki-inspired throwdown and a family friendly event helping to support Pilot Light

Chicago Taste of the Nation 2015 10/11 tickets here a family friendly event where you can support childhood hunger and make a difference.

Great resources for advocating, cooking, urban gardening, farming and gaining new skills and knowledge are: Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Angelics Organics Learning CenterGrowing Home ChicagoGrowing Power Chicago Iron Street Farm, Illinois Stewardship Alliance (their Harvest Feast is 9/13), The Land ConnectionThe Peterson Garden Project( PGP has so many classes and events going on, there are too many to list on the calendar but go to their link) and our friends at The Talking Farm in Skokie. Local Foods is another business that now has a whole program going on of demos and classes about learning and utilizing food grown within the midwest foodshed. So be sure to check their calendar. Dukes Alehouse in Crystal Lake has a calendar chockablock full of sustainable food and beverage events for all ages!!

Lots on the calendar, so far the weather has started off great. Onto the weeks ahead:

 The Week Ahead

September 10

Chicago (Logan Square) – Meet the Market at Bang Bang Pie Shop  6-8pm Summer is nearly over but the Green City Market Junior Board is partnering with Bang Bang Pie Shop to savor the last of patio weather season. Join them for a BYOB Meet the Market in the Pie Garden.

Chicago (River North)Cooking Up A Cure – Galleria Marchetti A fundraising event combining Chicago’s greatest chefs, breweries, wineries and distilleries to raise money for the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater Chicago Chapter.

September 11

Chicago - Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, Know Your Funding Union League Club Chicago 8am – 3:30pm Hosted by USDA’s Illinois Rural Development and Food & Nutrition Service Midwest, Illinois Farm Bureau & Fresh Taste, this unique conference offers farmers, businesses, organizations, state and federal agencies, institutions and others involved with agriculture an opportunity to learn about USDA agencies, programs, grants and other possibilities.

ChicagoShaw’s Oyster Fest – Oysters may not be local but Shaw’s is an institution.

September 12-13

Chicago (Andersonville)Andersonville City Made Fest - Celebrate local businesses, brewers, performers, and makers from across Chicago in Andersonville’s 3rd annual City Made Fest, exclusively featuring Chicago craft beers, Chicago music, Chicago food, and a Chicago-made artisan marketplace to showcase all things local. Located on Clark Street between Argyle and Carmen (5000-5100N).

September 12

Chicago - Windy City BBQ Classic  is back!

Chicago - Mod Mix and Mod Mex – The New Face of Mexican Food 9am – 4pm Kendall College Four chefs. Four styles. One cuisine. At this friendly face-off, each chef defends his vision of Mexican cooking while emcee  Ana Belaval, of WGN referees. Includes food, beverages, cooking demonstrations, tastings of tequila, wines and more!

FM - Chicago (Hyde Park/Woodlawn) - 61st Farmers Market Outdoor (Through Dec. 19) 9am -2pm 61st and Dorchester Accepting Senior Coupons  and doubling LINK up to $25 The Chicago Southside’s premier farmers market, straddling the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

FM - Chicago (Lincoln Park) Green City Market (Through 10/31) The market is located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark) Doubling LINK up to $15 7am – 1pm Chef demo 10:30am – 11:30am Michael Taus Taus Authentic 

FM - Chicago (West Loop)  Green City Market -Fulton  (Through 10/31) 9am – 2pm Located in a lot at the SE corner of N. Halsted and W Fulton Streets, 799 W. Fulton Market.

FM - Evanston Downtown Evanston Farmers Market -(Through Nov. 7)  7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Intersection of University Place and Oak Ave. (just east of East Railroad Ave.) Free parking is available in the adjacent 1800 Maple Avenue Self Park Fifty-seven vendors : fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese, milk, eggs and bakery items. Reusable and biodegradable bags are sold on site. LINK cards are accepted, and the Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets offers matching funds.

FM - Glenview Glenview Farmers Market - 8am – 12pm (Through October 10) Wagner Farm

Libertyville - Supper in a Barn on the Rad Root Farm with Middlebrow Beer

FM - Morton Grove - Morton Grove Farmers Market (Through 10/10)- 8am – Noon -6210 Dempster St.

FM - Oak Park - Oak Park Farmers Market (Through 10/31) 7am – 1pm - Pilgrim Church Parking Lot 460 Lake St For a limited time, the Market offers a Link Double Coupon matching program, which gives Link card users $1 in coupons for each $1 in Market purchases, up to $20. Many vendors also accept the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program $3 coupons

September 13

FM - Chicago (Logan Square) - Logan Square Outside Market (Through Oct. 25) 10am – 3pm 3107 West Logan Blvd.

FM - Chicago (Rogers Park) Glenwood Outdoor Market (Through 10/25) 9am – 2pm On Glenwood Ave. between Morse and Lunt

Springfield - Illinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Harvest Dinner

FM - Chicago (West Loop) GCM Soho House (2nd Sunday of the month next one 10/11) in the lot behind Soho House on Halsted (south of Randolph) 9am – 2pm

September 15

FM - Chicago (Loop) - Federal Plaza Market  (Through 10/27) 7am – 3pm Sponsored by the City of Chicago and COUNTRY Financial This year, all of the City of Chicago managed markets will accept LINK and will distribute double value coupons with every LINK purchase. Don’t forget to pick up your reusable bag from COUNTRY Financial at Daley Plaza or a market near you.

FM - Chicago (Streeterville) MCA Chicago Farmers Market (Through 10/27) 7am -3pm Managed by S.O.A.R.(Streeterville Organization of Active Residents)

Chicago (West Loop) - Publican Quality Meat Burger Night 6pm-9pm 825 West Fulton

September 16

FM Chicago (Andersonville) Andersonville’s Farmers Market - Located on Berwyn between Clark and Ashland (Through 10/14) 3-7pm

FM Chicago (Lincoln Park) - Green City Market (Through 10/28) 7am – 1pm 10:30am – 11:30am Chef demo Brian Huston Boltwood  The market is located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark)

September 17-18

Chicago - Farm Aid 30: Strength from Our Roots Fourth Presbyterian Church 126 E. Chestnut Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary is a milestone that celebrates more than America’s longest running concert for a cause; it marks an evolution in our shared work to advance family farm agriculture and to ground our food system in the values of justice, democracy, diversity and sustainability.

September 17

FM - Chicago (Loop) - Daley Plaza Farmers Market  (Through 10/29) 7am – 3pm Sponsored by the City of Chicago and COUNTRY Financial This year, all of the City of Chicago managed markets will accept LINK and will distribute double value coupons with every LINK purchase. Don’t forget to pick up your reusable bag from COUNTRY Financial at Daley Plaza or at a market near you.

FM Chicago (South Loop) - South Loop Farmers Market (Through Oct. 8)- 4-8pm 1936 S. Michigan Ave. Michigan and Cullerton

September 19

Chicago - Farm Aid 30 The Concert Northerly Island

FM - Chicago (Hyde Park/Woodlawn) - 61st Farmers Market Outdoor (Through Dec. 19) 9am -2pm 61st and Dorchester  The Chicago Southside’s premier farmers market, straddling the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

FM - Chicago (Lincoln Park) Green City Market (Through 10/31) The market is located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark) Doubling LINK up to $15 7am – 1pm Chef demo 10:30am – 11:30am Paul Virant Perennial Virant

FM - Chicago (West Loop)  Green City Market -Fulton  (Through 10/31) 9am – 2pm Located in a lot at the SE corner of N. Halsted and W Fulton Streets, 799 W. Fulton Market.

Chicago (West Town) - Green Grocer’s 8th Annual BBQ

FM - Evanston Downtown Evanston Farmers Market -(Through Nov. 7)  7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Intersection of University Place and Oak Ave. (just east of East Railroad Ave.) Free parking is available in the adjacent 1800 Maple Avenue Self Park

FM - Glenview Glenview Farmers Market - 8am – 12pm (Through October 10) Wagner Farm

FM - Morton Grove - Morton Grove Farmers Market (Through 10/10)- 8am – Noon -6210 Dempster St.

FM - Oak Park - Oak Park Farmers Market (Through 10/31) 7am – 1pm - Pilgrim Church Parking Lot 460 Lake St

September 20

FM - Chicago (Logan Square) - Logan Square Outside Market (Through Oct. 25) 10am – 3pm 3107 West Logan Blvd.

FM - Chicago (Rogers Park) Glenwood Outdoor Market (Through 10/25) 9am – 2pm On Glenwood Ave. between Morse and Lunt

Fairbury - Spence Farm Foundation Harvest Feast

MantenoBand of Farmers – Blue Sky & Bloom at the Farm – Peasant Plot Farm 10:30am – 1:30pm

September 25-27

ChicagoChicago Gourmet Festival sponsored by Bon Appetit There are still tickets available for lunch with Emeril 9/25, Pigs & Tiki 9/26 and the new family friendly event Rise & Shine Gourmet benefiting Pilot Light. 

September 26

ChampaignPrairie Fruit Farms Dinner “For The Love of Cucurbits”

Chicago (Englewood)Ground Breaking Ceremony Eat To Live Incubator Angelics Organics Incubator 5-6:30pm 7029 S. Princeton Ave.

FairburySlagel Family Farm Dinner with Nightwood, Lula and Rootstock

SandwichBand of Farmers Farm Tour at Montalbano Farms 10am – 3pm

Skokie5th Annual Talking Farm Hullabaloo at Howard Street Farm 2-6pm

September 27

Chicago (West Loop) - Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ

Edgewater - Chicago Food Swap at the Fearless Food Kitchen

October 1

Garfield Park – Wines Under Glass – A Celebration of Food and Wine at the Garfield Park Conservatory Purchase tickets here

October 2

Chicago (West Loop) – A Mostly Veggie Affair – Green City Market Junior Board Annual Fund Raiser

October 11

 ChicagoTaste of the Nation – Support Childhood Hunger and dine with Chicago’s Top Chefs!!! Let’s let Every Kid Have Healthy Food Every Day! At the beautiful Navy Pier Ballroom

FM - Chicago (West Loop) GCM Soho House in the lot behind Soho House on Halsted (south of Randolph) 9am – 2pm

October 23

ChicagoJames Beard Foundation Taste America Tour Chicago




Lagunitas – Craft Beer’s Next Phase?

By
Posted: September 9, 2015 at 9:50 pm

According to Wikipedia: “The Lagunitas Brewing Company is a brewery founded in 1993 in Lagunitas, California, USA. The brewery is known for iconoclastic interpretations of traditional beer styles, and irreverent descriptive text and stories on its packaging. The company is the fifth top selling craft brewery in the US, as of 2014.” Lagunitas is at the forefront of the craft brewing industry an industry founded mainly by rebels and those who were seeking a brew created more, as its moniker suggests, as a “craft” than a manufactured product.

Photo: Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Photo: Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Lagunitas is one of the breakout stars of the industry. Its Petaluma, California brewery grew so fast it caught the attention of local authorities, in the marijuana growing region, who thought more business than meets the eye may be taking place. It was even shut down briefly in its early years during a sting operation when an undercover cop was offered a toke on a joint during one of the many celebrations put on by the company.

Its founder, Tony Magee started Lagunitas after his first batch of home brew spilled over and ruined his stove. His wife suggested that he take the brewing elsewhere. He did and became well known in the industry as a person who according BeerPulse.com “drew a line in the sand between what he perceives as “us” (craft brewers/beer people) and “them” (A-B InBev and MillerCoors).” Lagunitas grew a large following and expanded, eventually opening a Chicago brewery with another on the way in Azusa California.

I just happened to have visited the Chicago Taproom in the Douglas Park brewing facility last Saturday. I sampled the food, which they do source locally whenever possible. I also took the tour of the brewery. The brewery is located in a huge old Ryerson Steel plant. The plant came with several large overhead cranes and thousands of square feet.  Neighboring buildings house film studios where movie shoots and television shows, such as Chicago Fire are filmed.

The tour consisted of a very animated tour guide who told several interesting and funny stories about the beginnings of Lagunitas. Another thing the tour guide mentioned many times as we moved around catwalks above the numerous large fermenting tanks was the growth of Lagunitas. It seemed like they were really into getting big really fast. There are other breweries in the works similar to the Douglas Park facility including one in London, according to the guide.  The thought that came to my mind was, are they still, or should they still be considered a “craft brewer.”

Fermenting Tanks at Lagunitas Brewing in Douglas Park, Chicago

Fermenting Tanks at Lagunitas Brewing in Douglas Park, Chicago

Ironically, a friend I was with bought me a book on the history of craft brewing from the Lagunitas gift shop at the brewery. In it the author has a small bio on Tony Magee where he says how much Tony is fighting the good fight against “the tyranny of fast growth!” Then the news came on Tuesday that Lagunitas sold a 50% stake in the company to Heineken.

Kegs lined up at Lagunitas Brewing in Douglas Park, Chicago

Kegs lined up at Lagunitas Brewing in Douglas Park, Chicago

There are some who feel that the Heineken deal is, in Tony Magee’s words, just “craft beer’s next phase.” Others caught up in the world of small craft brewers doing their thing, sticking it to man in the guise of international faceless corporations, fear it is something more ominous.

Tony Magee  Photo:www.pressdemocrat.com

Tony Magee
Photo:www.pressdemocrat.com

Posts and comments from various sites across the web seem to take both positions. “RIP LAGUNITAS. Can’t believe you sold out to Heineken!!!! LOSERS!!!!!” reads one post and “WTF, you just sold your soul!” reads another. One just referenced the name of one of Lagunitas’ products with “ Lagunitas sucks!” Some have another take. A commenter named Gary on a social media site said “I have no problem with your deal with Heineken. A lot of silly over-reaction in these comments. The deal with Goose Island and AB hasn’t done them any damage. In fact, I think it has worked out well for Goose Island. The deal will help people around the world enjoy Lagunitas. What’s so bad about that?”

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Of course, all of this is nothing new in the craft brew world. As Gary mentioned, in 2011, Chicago-based Goose Island was bought out by Anheuser-Busch in a deal worth $38.8 million. Later, in 2014, Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased New York-based craft brewery Blue Point Brewing Co. Also, many other industries started out in a similar fashion to the craft brewing industry. Nothing more than small entrepreneurs, working in sheds and garages, growing and then consolidating into behemoths. The auto industry started out this way, as did the computer and software industry. But, some would add that along the way both of those industries lost that early spirit and became faceless profit-first corporations seen in so many television shows like The Office and in Dilbert cartoons.

One thing is certain though, the craft brewing industry has come of age. It has caught the attention of the beer drinking public who had, until recently, been content with Bud, Coors, and Keystone Light. The industry giants have taken note, too that there is much more to beer than putting out a product just to make a profit. The newfound pride stemming from hometown and regional beer brewers and styles and beer brewing as a “craft” instead of something that is just manufactured has changed the large corporate brewing world in a good way.

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As a side note, an analogous story in the local food movement would someday see ConAgra using products from small local farmers and buying a 50% stake in small craft cannery that grew beyond its ability to distribute its product. Craft brewing is really a part of the local food movement and hopefully will continue to be supported by the people who made it grow. It would be a shame if the Heineken deal is a sign that craft brewing is following earlier industries and will become just another bunch of giants chasing profits.

Photo: Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Photo: Lagunitas Brewing Co.




Making the Most of the Seasonal Bounty

By
Posted: September 9, 2015 at 7:13 am

Editor’s Note: It’s that time of year where we think you need to think about how you can continue to eat local the rest of the year.  As we explain in our guide, there’s good reasons for doing your thinking now.  Looking for special tomato advice?  Look here and here.

Make Plans to Eat Local Later

Freezing, canning, drying, pickling, and cellaring are all methods for making plentiful local foods last through the hard fall and winter months. Eating locally does not need to be a hobby during market season. Preserve and store so you can eat locally all year long. The reasons for eating local do not diminish with the temperature.

There are simple ways to make the harvest last, like throwing some food in the freezer. There are also complicated ways to preserve summer’s bounty (have you ever tried canning tomatoes?). Some methods take investment and space, like buying a spare freezer. Other methods require ingenuity, like finding a cold spot for a root cellar. In this article we’ll introduce the concepts, techniques and issues related to food preservation and storage. Look forward to future features on these topics as well as blog posts and forum discussions. We look forward to your questions and comments, and we want you to share your experiences.

Watch the calendar

Mother Nature does not fool around with Chicago. The calendar flips a page, the weather flips a switch. Oppressive humidity leaves while clouds and rain arrive (more often). The end of the summer is harvest time, the peak of local food supplies. As consumers, we can find local food as accessible and as affordable as it will be all year in mid September. Likewise, the farmer’s markets are so full you cannot eat all that is there. As harvest time ends, we enter an extended period, from November through to May, where the Chicago-based locavore will need to draw upon storage in order to stay local. You’re at an advantage if you can do something with the seasonal bounty to make it last throughout the colder months.

Harvest Time Action

Preservation and storage need not begin at harvest time. Peas, broccoli, blueberries, available mid-summer, freeze well. Nevertheless, the bulk of saving starts as summer ends. Local is more accessible and affordable during peak times. Take advantage of the $16 bushel of tomatoes. It is also at this time of year that the best keeping crops, the apples and potatoes and onions meant for the long-term, come into the markets. Plus, you probably don’t have a cool spot in your house the middle of summer. Thus, now is the time to focus on preservation and storage.

Choose the right foods

Good storage and preservation begins with the right produce. Certain varieties of fruits and vegetables are bred for storage. In addition, potatoes and onions need to be “cured” to enable them to last. Ensure you start with the right stuff. Summer apples like Lodi and Transparents are not meant to keep (unless made into sauce), while colder-weather apples like Rome Beauties or Granny Smiths store very well. Likewise, some tomatoes, especially the plum types, are better for canning. Talk to your farmer about storage. Ask them about which apples, pears and onions are best for storing and preserving. No one knows what foods keep in storage better than the person growing them.

Choose the right method

There are several methods to preserve and store the harvest. Different methods work best for different types of foods and different methods produce different kinds of dishes. A pickled green bean is very different from a frozen green bean. Don’t pickle everything unless that’s what you want to be eating.

Some methods require specialized equipment, skills, space, or simply an investment of time. The desire to freeze is tempered only by the amount of freezer space you own. The desire to can is often tempered by free time.

Food can last two ways: It can be kept at the right temperature and humidity to slow it from spoiling or it can be treated in a way to eliminate the bacteria that cause spoilage. Listed below are the most common methods of food preservation and storage.

Freezing

The US Department of Agriculture sums up freezing with this statement, “You can freeze almost any food.” They also add that freezing works because “freezing to 0 F inactivates any microbes–bacteria, yeasts and molds–present”. Finally, the USDA notes that freezing “prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and food borne illness.” Not only does freezing work, it is easy. After minimal processing, the freezer does all the work. On top of all that, vegetables frozen at the peak of their freshness have more nutrients than many vegetables on the grocer’s shelves in Winter.

Freezing keeps fruits and vegetables closer to fresh than through canning. Compare a canned green bean to a properly frozen green bean and you will taste a difference. While any fruit or vegetable can be frozen, the best vegetables to freeze are those that are eaten cooked. Vegetables eaten raw like cucumbers and lettuces are not good candidates for freezing, although you can freeze something like a cucumber after juicing it. A few vegetables like onions and potatoes are better stored than frozen. The rule here would be, if you can store in a cellar (so to speak), store it there. On the other hand, there are certain vegetables that are especially suited to freezing including peas, sweet corn and various beans. Corn frozen immediately is generally going to taste fresher and sweeter than corn left around for days. Most fruits freeze well too.

Freezing is an excellent tool for preservation but for one key fact, it requires freezer space and electricity. The ability to freeze much depends on the ability to invest in freezer capacity, and just as important, having space for freezer capacity. Room for a freezer may be especially limited for apartment dwellers. The good news, freezers themselves are not exorbitant. Chest style freezers can be had for less than $300 and full size freezers can be had for less that $500 based on a recent visit to Sears.com. Energy-effiicent models will not introduce a significant increase to your energy bill.

Freezing vegetables require one small bit of preparation. Vegetables must be blanched, a process of quickly boiling and then cooling the vegetables. Blanching deactivates enzymes in vegetables that cause vegetables to mature, i.e., get tough or otherwise have off-flavors. (Instead of blanching, vegetables may also be briefly nuked in your microwave.) Fruits do not need to be blanched, but can be packed by themselves: “dry pack” or in a sugar syrup. Packing in syrup may lessen freezer burn, but it is not necessary. Fruits can be frozen with their skin on, even whole. Two good rules to follow when freezing anything : 1)spread items on trays to initially freeze; the flow of cold air over the food will enable the items to freeze faster and prevent them from freezing in blocks. 2) do not put hot foods straight in the freezer, such as just blanched veg; this will warm up your freezer.

Do not forget that another way to store items in the freezer is to convert them to ice creams, sorbets and ices. It is not much work to make a watermelon granita. This can provide nearly the experience of eating watermelon long after summer ends.

Other freezing resources:

Cold Storage

Cold storage, whether in true root cellars or not, is the another way to store food. We use “cold storage” as a catch-all phrase to cover foods that can last with decent care and not much else. Cold storage may seem the easiest step of all as no processing is required–in fact many foods for storage, like onions and potatoes, are processed or “cured” for storage by the farmer. The apparent drawback to cold storage, obviously is: who the hell has a root cellar these days? There are ways around that, and besides, there are some items that do not need real cool conditions to last. Food can last a surprisingly long time with good storage habits.

There are two classes of foods that can be stored. First, there are foods that need a cold setting (ideally between 32 and 40 F) and moist environment to stay vital. Then, their are foods that need a dry environment and generally should be kept around 50 F (or lowe). Onions, garlic and winter, or hard squash, fall into the latter category. They need to be kept dry. Onions should also be kept dark to prevent sprouting. Fruits and vegetables to be stored the other way, the cold way, include most root vegetables (turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, horseradish, beets, etc.); cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, sunchokes, apples, celery and grapes. As discussed, make sure to choose the right types of apples and potatoes for storage. If in doubt ask the farmer. Many sources suggest wrapping tomatoes in newspaper for storage. Also, items like celery and grapes will last a long time in good cold conditions, but taken up a few degrees will quickly fade. Other items, like apples and potatoes have more wiggle-room when it comes to conditions.

Finding storage for onions and squash is easy because they do not require as cool conditions. Most homes in the North are plenty dry for these things. It’s the other fruits and veg that are harder to store. The first step to home storage is to identify a place or a way to keep food in that 32 to 40 range. The obvious location that stays in that range is a refrigerator, an excellent tool for long term storage. There may be other places in your house or apartment. An un-heated attic works very well. Food can also be placed in containers just outside the house such as in a window well, the stairs leading to a basement or an apartment porch. The residual heat of the house is usually enough to keep food from freezing, but if food is kept in containers, it can also be moved inside on truly cold days. A little ingenuity can find the cool spot.

A cool spot works only so well. The other critical step to keeping foods edible is to keep them moist. Traditional root cellars were dank. Modern takes on root cellars need the dankness added. This can be done by keeping pans of water in your improvised cellar, using wet burlap, or by placing the items in sand. Items kept in the refrigerator are especially vulnerable to dry conditions.

If there is one step to cold storage it is to visit your food. The best storage methods will not protect all. An apple here, a potato there, will spoil, and as the cliche knows, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch. It important to keep a vigilant eye on the food put-away in cold storage.

Cold storage resources:

Canning

Canning is the antithesis of freezing. It requires a significant amount work. Foods for canning must be chopped and peeled and stemmed and seeded. Before getting to canning, recipes must be followed, food prepared. Then, there is the work creating a good and clean environment. Jars must be sterilized. It seems scary and mysterious. Those recipes have to be followed or canning can produce un-wanted results. Canning, however, also allows for storage without the investment and space of a freezer. A few items like tomatoes may come out better canned than froze. Canning also allows the Chef to extend their harvest with all sorts of pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams and jellies. These foods add variety and vigor to a bland winter diet.

Food can be stored in cans (glass jars) because of steps taken to inhibit bacteria growth and steps taken to seal food off from all the bad things floating unseen in the air. There are two ways of canning: hot water canning and pressure canning.

Bacteria growth can be inhibited by the acids in foods or by introducing acids such as the vinegar in pickling solutions. In high acid situations, a hot water can is enough. When foods are low in acid, typically most vegetables, something else is needed to control bacteria: heat. The pressure in a pressure-canner makes water boil at a temperature over 212 F. This higher temperature kills bacteria. After this, proper use of hot water or pressure-canners will produce sealed jars. What started safe will remain safe.

Canning resources:

Drying

Drying allows food to last by making it harder for bacteria to prosper. Bacteria needs water. Dried foods are not fully safe from spoilage. After drying it might still be necessary to freeze or seal the foods or at least kept in good storage conditions. Good candidates for drying are tomatoes, plums, and hot peppers. Many herbs can be dried for future use.

Home drying can be done with a dehydrator, a microwave or an oven. Like canning, dried foods, at least some dried foods, need some work before the actual preservation. Dried tomatoes should be cored and halved, although opinions differ on the need to seed tomatoes when drying. Fruits need to be pitted. Fruit leathers take more work.

Drying resources:

Other Food Preservation Methods

Canners and freezers are wonders of modern innovation. Traditionally, many foods were preserved through fermentation. Fermentation flips the principles already discussed on their head. Canning, drying and freezing thwart microorganisms. Fermentation fosters them. Good bacteria’s and yeasts that can make food last. Fermentation is used to create products like pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut. Still, once fermented, products are often then processed, via canning or freezing, for additional storage.

Like fermentation, there are other ways to prolong food life without fully preserving it. In other words, if you pickle or jam, the new food will last a good long time in the refrigerator, but it will not last outside the fridge, let alone forever in the fridge. There are traditional cooked dishes that also serve to semi-preserve foods. For instance, the Sicilian caponata mixes eggplants and other summer vegetables in a sweet-sour-salty recipe that can be used in various ways on the table. Pestos, combining herbs, nuts and cheeses, are another way of making things last.

Other ancient methods for preserving foods used oils or vinegars. Oil makes a decent barrier to spoilage. In older times, meat was often preserved under fat. Now, we can keep roasted peppers or dried tomatoes around for longer periods by keeping them in oil. Flavored oils and vinegars may not keep a food, but they will keep the essence of a food. Likewise, fruits can be kept in alcohol. The most treasured method of saving fruit is to juice it and then make that juice last by making wine.

There are many ways to preserve the bounty of the harvest. Which way you chose will depend on what you want to preserve as well as the ways you have to save it. The more you eat local, the more you are going to want to eat local after the harvest ends. Over time, you will find preservation methods that work for you. You will invariably learn new ones. It is impossible to know how much to store and preserve without living through a Fall, Winter, and Spring with limited fresh foods. Try. Try using the methods discussed here. The reasons that have you eating local now, should have you eating local then. So give it a try.


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Let’s Give Every Child Healthy Food Every Day! Get to the Taste of the Nation 10/11

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Posted: September 8, 2015 at 12:26 pm

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One thing assumed here at the Local Beet, is that you have access to local food and farmers markets. But some families just don’t have access to or the money to buy food.  643,000 children in Illinois are food insecure according to Bob Dolgan of Illinois No Kid HungryThe Greater Chicago Food Depository provided 67 millions pounds of food in response to this need in Chicago last year. No Kid Hungry, Share Our Strength Illinois funds programs like Cooking Matters and works with the Greater Chicago Food Depository in Chicago that addresses these deficits so that eventually every child can get healthy food every day! The programs range from school breakfasts, summer meals to after-school meals to address kids and hunger. The major fund-raising event to support their programs is the Taste of the Nation at Navy Pier which takes place Sunday, October 11.

Chicago’s Taste of the Nation returns in 2015 with a new format – bringing all of Chicago together to celebrate community, family, friends and the work to end childhood hunger in Chicago, Illinois and America like Chef Paul Virant and his family above.  Chicago’s most sophisticated and acclaimed culinary event will once again feature over 50 of the city’s top chefs and restaurants, 25 of the city’s top bars, bartenders and mixologists, craft beers, wines and spirits.  The event will also feature hands-on family culinary activities, chef demos, entertainment and a dream auction with many once-in-a-lifetime culinary experiences.  VIP guests will be treated to a variety of delights, including early admission to the VIP Preview Hour presented by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, special sampling opportunities, and much more.

Help make “every child,  healthy food, every day” a reality and get to the Taste of the Nation with your family on October 11. Sorry, four-legged family members are not allowed this year but maybe next year!

 




Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

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Posted: September 4, 2015 at 9:58 am

From Me to Nothing to Do with Me or Food

 

 

Upcoming Good Food Accelerator event and more from our friends at FamilyFarmed.

More on eat local Richmond, Virginia.

What will the Sugar Beet and other Chicago area co-ops be like in 40 years?

Another way at looking at what’s local.

Might have linked already to this article, this is not the original source; it tries to swat down some anti-locavore arguments, pretty good I’ll say, but it also buys into too many dumb tropes to appear serious undermining its case.

Does Minnesota count as local cheese?

Eat local universities, rah!

Eating local at the other end of our state.

Can foodies succeed where environmentalists failed?

Have I linked to me yet?

The other day we had lunch with a friend who was recently in Italy.  His pics volleyed between food and buildings.  Is is a common shared interest?  We think so.  A few weeks ago, we linked to a piece on Chicago housing styles.  Here’s another one, a bit more grounded in its orientation.




Local Food Still in Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera

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Posted: September 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Local Food Everywhere

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august - whole foods

 

This remains the season when local food is in season. Yes, we want you to visit a farmer’s market–we’ve provided some good ones below. Yes, patronage the growing number of stores in the Chicago area that specialize in local food. We also want you to get local food where you can find it. See, yes it can be accessible and affordable to get your local food at the grocery store, but by doing so, you are also improving the whole local food system. You encourage all stores to stock local foods, and you make it possible for more farmer’s to prosper.

Our intel this week tells us that Whole Foods had, amongst other things, locally grown watermelons and apples. Meijers had locally grown tomatoes and corn. You can also see the local produce Angelo Caputo has right now here, and this ad for A&G International Fresh Market shows they have Michigan peaches.  What else can you spot?

 

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We told you that Chef Mendez at our sponsor,Vera, knows that you can do no worse than rubbing in-season tomatoes across country bread, a/k/a tomato bread a/k/a pa amb tomàquet.  He still has the roasted vegetable dish escalivada on the menu, and we encourage you to try this dish at peak season too.

The full depth of the local food scene is always on display in Jeannie’s Local Calendar.

shes tomatoes

 

What’s In Season Now

The tables remain stacked with tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and colors.  And finally, the peppers are coming in, in colors other than green.  Eggplants can be green, white or orange; round, long, or squat.  Apples are yellow, pears are red, and plums deep purple.  Don’t settle for anything the way you thought it should be this time of year.

From the Ground

  • Eggplant
  • Sweet peppers – try the longer “carmen” peppers for variety
  • Poblano peppers – as Michel Morowitz once said, whatever a green [bell] pepper can do, a poblano pepper can do it better
  • Various “frying” peppers – melrose, shishito, padron
  • Hot peppers – jalapenos, serranos, cayenne, etc.
  • Sweet corn
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Summer squashes
  • Shelling beans
  • Green beans
  • Fresh “peas” a/k/a black eye peas, crowder peas, etc.

From the Trees and Bushes

  • Blackberries
  • Peaches – nearing the end of the season!
  • Melons – and nearly all those orange ones around here are muskmelons, not canteloupe!
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Asian pears
  • Summer strawberries

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

Almost all markets are running now.  We’ve highlighted some of our favorites.  If you want to roam, go back to this post for some interesting markets within a short drive.  What about the Sugar Beet Coop?  They got lots of local food as do these other stores.

 

Chicago

There’s a good chance the Condiment Queen will have the justly famous Tomato Mountain sun golds this Sunday at Independence Park – 9 AM – 1 PM – Springfield and Irving Park

It may not be the biggest market in the Chicago area, but it is the only market with a free breakfast of Eli’s Cheesecake Cafe (and the only market where you can gorge on cheesecake samples).  We maintain a special place in our heart for this market, Thursdays – 7 AM – 1 PM - 6701 West Forest Preserve Drive

Good salumi at a farmer’s market is just one of the reasons we love the Logan Square Farmer’s Market.  Sundays 10 AM – 3 PM (yes!) – Logan Boulevard, just east of Milwaukee

What did you forget?  Well, there’s a Monday market by Loyola in the afternoon – 3 PM – 7 PM - This market accepts the LINK card. - 1200 W. Loyola Ave

Looking for the Condiment Queen and her sun golds and you cannot make it to Oak Park because you live in the Big City.  Well, Tomato Mountain and some of the other Oak Park Farmer’s Market faves like Geneva Lakes produce and Hardin Farms Michigan fruit are at the Andersonville Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays from 3 PM to 8 PM.  This market accepts the LINK card – 1500 Berwyn

Green City Market  is overflowing right now.   Saturday  from 7 AM to 1  PM –  Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark)

 

Oak Park

Have we mentioned donuts.  Family ties?  Well, what about one of the few area markets with locally tapped maple syrup?  Jim the Vinegar Guy?  Sadly, no Hazzard Free grains this year.  Saturdays from 8 AM to 1 PM - 460 Lake

 

Evanston

There are often times, when we think about these things, quantify these things, we say this is the best there is in the Chicago area.  There’s the heirlooms, the regular, meats, cheeses, breads, the unique and the mundane, about all you could want in one market.  Saturdays from 730 AM to 1 PM - University Street & Oak Avenue

 

Morton Grove

Very close Beet ties to this one, so get there on Saturday and shop, shop, shop.  Saturdays 8 AM to Noon - 6210 Dempster

 

Geneva

Do you think we’re not gonna include something way far away?  The Geneva Green Market has been focusing on organic and sustainable farmers for a while and is worth the visit if you are anywhere close (or not as it’s a great drive or a great train ride).  Thursdays 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton Street

 

Northbrook

In memory of Mom.  She was a volunteer hereWednesdays from 7 AM to 1 Pm –  Cherry Lane and Meadow Road

 

Schaumburg

Did you want to get a head start on the weekend by hitting a Friday market?  How about this one which runs from 930 AM to 1130 AM - 190 S. Roselle Road

 

Glenview

Why not a farmer’s market by a farm?  Glenview lets you do that on Saturdays from 9 AM – 12 PM - This market accepts the LINK card. - 1510 Wagner Road

 

What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago




The Beet Goes on a Retreat

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Posted: September 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm

This Labor Day weekend, I will be submerging myself in farm life at the Angelic Organics farm in Caledonia, Ill. The two-day Weekend Wellness Retreat will combine both food and farm “immersion,” including morning yoga and meditation, nature walks, farm tours and cooking instruction from Chicago health coach and natural foods chef Amanda Skrip.

I’ll be live-tweeting the weekend as much as possible so follow me on twitter: @jessicalsuss and look for the hashtag #BeetRetreat.

Looking forward to mindful meditation with an organic carrot in each hand…stay tuned!




RECYCLED – The Many Ways to Put Away Tomatoes Tuesday, September 1st, 2015