Marriage, Mystery Food (lucky 13!) and More…

3 Sep

What an absolutely amazing and fabulous vacation. I could not have asked for more happiness to somehow have crammed its way into this past week. It still boggles my mind a little that my brother is a married man now. He and Jessica both looked amazing at the wedding and truly happy to be with one another. Both of them were so alive with joy the whole time that you really couldn’t help but have it rub off on you.

Joe and I had a really fun time in Pittsburgh and I’ve been missing everyone terribly since we got back. It’s always hard to come down from something that you looked forward to for so long. Ah, we’ll just have to find another reason to celebrate soon and get together again! Fall is almost here, and that means holidays so I’m sure it won’t be too long.

Anyway, I’m back in action here in Arlington and went to pick up some goodies from Leigh last night:Sweet corn, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, Thai basil, Italian basil, chives, sorrel, sweet potatoes, peaches, apples, and garlic. Yum! Everything looks so vibrant. This is likely the last week we’ll get big tomatoes though, so I’m rationing those.

I haven’t done much cooking yet this week aside from a little bit of flatbread with various vegetable/meat toppings last night. I did, however have a nectarine and a few apples left over from last week and a craving for sweets. It led to this:

Spiced Nectarine-Applesauce

The great thing about fruit sauces is that it takes very little effort to make them delicious. In-season fruit is a candy all its own and combining it with a few spices makes a great treat. You can even spread it out on some puff pastry and bake for a fast tart.

This particular sauce was made from some Ozark gold apples and nectarines. The method is fairly simple. Cut the fruit and treat it to prevent browning, then put it in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Add some spices if you like. This batch had a few cinnamon sticks (remove before pureeing) and a few sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice (a blend of cloves, nutmeg, lemon peel, cinnamon..). Set the heat to medium-low and cover. Let it cook until all of the fruit is nice and soft and then use a potato masher, immersion blender, or food mill to process to your desired consistency. Sweeten only if you think it needs it. The nectarine I had was really ripe and almost tooth-achingly sweet. Some types of apples benefit from a teaspoon or so of honey added to the mix.

Over the holiday, I had the great fortune to receive some wonderful plates, platters and bowls from the folks at Riverside Design Group in Pittsburgh, PA. The sauce in the above picture was photographed in a 7” bowl in amethyst over a 10” bowl in gold from their Sea Glass collection.

From their website:

“Since 1996, RIVERSIDE has been passionate about creating a more sustainable global community. We remain committed to both responsive and responsible design. We use post-industrial/preconsumer recycled glass and other sustainable materials, our packaging and promotional items are environmentally friendly, and our offices are located in a LEED certified building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design).”

Look for more of their unique, earth-friendly designs to pop up in future posts…

We have a long weekend for the Labor Day holiday, and I’m really hoping to make some homemade pasta this weekend to enjoy with those magnificent orange tomatoes from Leigh.

And before I disappear for the holiday, here’s a really important plug for Slow Food regarding the Child Nutrition Act and their “Time for Lunch” campaign.

So far, over 16,800 people have signed the Time For Lunch petition to get real, quality food back into America’s schools. Every 4 to 5 years, the Child Nutrition Act (which governs the National School Lunch program) comes up for renewal in Congress. This program sets the standard for what over 30 million children eat at lunch every day. In the past decade, school budgets have been slashed over and over again, leaving our nation’s schools struggling to provide nutritious, wholesome food to the next generation.

The deadline for renewing the Child Nutrition Act is coming up at the end of September. Congress and the Obama administration must renew this act in a way that benefits children and provides them with healthy, sustainable food. Here is the official platform from the Slow Food website:

1. Invest in children’s health.
Give schools just one dollar more per day for each child’s lunch. Under the National School Lunch Program, the USDA reimburses schools for every meal served: $2.57 for a free lunch, $2.17 for a reduced-price lunch and 24 cents for a paid lunch. Since these reimbursements must also pay for labor, equipment and overhead costs, schools are left with only $1.00 to spend on food. How can schools be expected to feed our children and protect their health with only a dollar a day? It’s time to build a strong foundation for our children’s health by raising the reimbursement rate to $3.57.
2. Protect against food that puts children at risk.
Establish strong standards for all food sold at school, including food from vending machines and school fast food. At most schools, children can buy junk food in vending machines, at on-campus stores and in the cafeteria as “a la carte” items. These overly processed, high-calorie “fast” foods sneak under the radar of federal nutrition standards. They undermine the National School Lunch Program’s investment in children’s health and allow food companies to profit from selling obesity. It’s time to take the first step towards making real food the standard by approving Rep. Woolsey’s and Sen. Harkin’s Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009.
3. Teach children healthy habits that will last through life.
Fund grants for innovative Farm to School programs and school gardens. This spring, 30 fifth-graders joined Michelle Obama in planting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. “What I found with my kids [is that] if they were involved in planting and picking it, they were much more curious to give it a try,” Mrs. Obama says. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn healthy eating habits at school. In 2004, a section was added to the Child Nutrition Act to provide schools with grants to cover one-time grants that enable them to purchase local foods and to teach lessons on healthy eating in kitchen and garden classrooms – but Congress never appropriated funds for it. This year, it’s time for Congress to guarantee $50 million of mandatory funding for Farm to School programs.

We also ask that Congress and the Obama Administration:

1. Give schools the incentive to buy local.
Establish financial incentives that encourage schools to buy food from local farms for all child nutrition programs. Buying fruits and vegetables from local farms is an economic engine for creating jobs in our communities, rebuilding rural economies, and supporting family farmers. By shortening the distance food travels – from farm to table – it also saves oil and ensures school foods are as fresh and healthy as possible.
2. Create green jobs with a School Lunch Corps.
Train underemployed Americans to be the teachers, farmers, cooks, and administrators our school cafeterias need. We can’t serve real food in schools without investing in school kitchens and the people who prepare and serve lunch. This spring, President Obama signed the Serve America Act, which expanded Americorps and reinforced his call for Americans to serve their country. Right now, our nation has an opportunity to train young and unemployed Americans to be the teachers, farmers, cooks and administrators we need to ensure the National School Lunch Program is protecting children’s health. President Obama has called for an end to childhood hunger by 2015; let’s answer that call by putting Americans to work building and working in school kitchens nationwide.

Please go to www.slowfoodusa.org to sign the petition or sign up to host or attend a Labor Day Eat-In. An “Eat-In” is simply a potluck held in a public place like a park. Let people know that you’re showing your support for real food in schools by gathering community members, family, and friends together for a shared meal. If you can’t make it to an Eat-In on Labor Day, there are many other ways to help out, like a telephone call or letter to your state representative. A PDF version of Slow Food’s platform is available on their website and is great to use as a starting point if you aren’t sure what to say.

Enjoy a local Labor Day weekend everyone!

-Neen

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2 Responses to “Marriage, Mystery Food (lucky 13!) and More…”

  1. agoldste September 10, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    How do you treat fruit to prevent browning? Is this like putting lemon juice on it as you would for fruit salad? I want to make this!

  2. Neen September 10, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    Yep, just give it a quick squeeze of lemon juice. Sometimes in the baking aisle at the grocery you can find a product called "Fruit Fresh" that also works. I'm pretty sure it's just ascorbic acid of some kind.

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