I’ve never been one to do the tourist thing. As much as I love to travel, to get out, to meet new people, to try new foods; I much prefer to do all of the above as if I were a local. I find it even more difficult to swallow when the tourist thing surrounds an activity so warmly familiar it seems routine. My children on the other hand find joyous fun in even the simplest Saturday afternoon outings. It’s with that in mind that I found myself this past Saturday frequenting an overly-crowded and even more overly-priced — albeit local — orchard and cider mill. And yes, I did have fun.
It seems I’m a bit behind in writing this column. Some of you overachievers — I’m looking at you, California — have already sent your kids back to school; last week even. The first week of August! And I’m not going to lie, I want to know how you managed it because my kids, who do not return to school until the second week in September, have interrupted me six times while I wrote this first paragraph. I’m ready for back to school.
As a matter of fact, if I’d known there were states out there who sent kids back to school in early August I may have settled elsewhere to raise my own. In the meantime all I can do is hope Michigan gets with the program and plan for the days when mine do go back. And, if you happen to be one of those parents wistfully thinking of school days ahead with me, I can share those plans I’m making. Especially those that have to do with food. Which is exactly what I plan to do. For the next three weeks we’ll be talking back-to-school food of the local, artisan and handmade types.
On the menu this week: breakfast! Experts agree it’s the most important meal of the day and corporate food giants expend a great deal of marketing moolah harking products that promise to get kids off to a great start — never pausing to divulge the sugar and preservatives that’ll accompany that breakfast, of course — without taking too much time from the precious few moments most families have. What isn’t widely publicized is that locally sourced, handmade breakfasts don’t have to take copious time either and they can be a whole lot healthier.
Here a few of our favorite simple breakfast pleasures that can be taken from farm (or farm market) to table in no time:
French Toast. You’ve eyed the homemade breads at the farmer’s market long enough. This weekend make your way to the booth and buy a few loaves. Yes, a few. Take them home, cut them into thick slices, coat them in egg and make french toast, removing them from the heat just before they’re done. Freeze them with a slip of wax paper between each slice and you can literally pull french toast from the freezer for a quick and easy breakfast all fall and winter. Just pop the slices in the toaster or toaster oven and warm. And remember, this is not your Grandma’s french toast. Experiment with herbed or onion bread dipped in garlic spiked egg and topped with sour cream rather than syrup, for instance.
Overnight Oatmeal. In a large bowl mix enough steel cut oats for the whole family with just enough soy milk to cover and leave the whole thing in the fridge. In the morning pull out the oatmeal, which will now be soft and thick, mix it with your favorite local fruit — dried or fresh — nuts, spices or honey and either eat cold or microwave just long enough to heat through.
Scrambled Eggs. I like mine topped with salsa; my husband likes his with sliced mushrooms and sharp cheddar; my oldest daughter likes her with just a dash of pepper and my youngest, well, she’s a purist, she likes them plain. No matter the fixin’s however, it never takes long to make them. I use the microwave. Yes, the microwave. And the bonus, very little clean up. My girls can even make eggs themselves this way. Just break an egg or two into a glass dish, microwave on high at thirty second intervals, stirring and fluffing with a fork each time until the eggs are done to your desired dryness.
Fruit Smoothies. Remember all those berries I told you to stock up on earlier in the season? Now is the time to pull them from their freezer resting spot and put them to good use. Add one of fall’s first apples to the mix and blend up a few cups of your favorite with a little ice and milk (soy, goat, cow, almond, the sky is the limit) and enjoy. For an added protein boost you don’t need powders from the health food store, drop in a handful of steel cut oats or pair the smoothie with a handful of nuts.
What’s your favorite on-the-go breakfast that doesn’t have your family relying heavily on corporate food giants and their products?
It’s no secret; I am a sucker for the Holiday Season. And, for me, that season kicks off on the first of October and officially begins with preparations for Halloween. As close to the first of October as possible I pull my inspiration folder from it’s year-round resting spot on the shelves behind the door in my office, wrap myself in my favorite chenille throw, snuggle into the sofa and start dreaming. I dream big, beautiful, impossibly perfect dreams about what sort of straight-from-a-50s-sitcom things our lives will hold in the next three months. There will be homemade costumes and handmade, vintage-y decorations that will set the mood in and around our home. There will be harvest parties with apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. There will be candles and wreaths. There will be family portraits on a brilliant background of firey yellow, orange and red leaves. And there will be food, oh, will there ever be food!
Invariably, only one-tenth of any of these dreams come to fruition — I’m only one woman with only so many hours in a day, after all — but that’s never stopped me from having them. When it comes to the food portion of those dreams I always seem to focus on a few flavors at a time; cranberry and sage during the month of November, for instance, or cinnamon and peppermint in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. As far as I’m concerned, apples and pumpkin are the stars of the show throughout the month of October though. So lately, they’re what I’ve found myself focusing on again this year. Scrumptious both together and apart their possibilities are endless. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinners and desserts can all be made from these two; my most adored treasures of the season’s bounty.
I have never met a creamy pumpkin soup recipe I couldn’t love; I’ve been known to spend entire Saturdays in the kitchen peeling, coring, cooking and smashing apples into a chunky applesauce that can only be accomplished at home; one blended with just the right amount of local honey and spices. But I can’t make it all. The real autumn lifesavers — the ones that make my season and relieve my stress when I’ve once again aimed far too high in my holiday planning — are drool-worthy handmade and artisan products that infuse the season’s best flavors into my celebrations with little effort on my part. This year my early searches for those products have landed me in the shops of both the Cookie Jar and The Girl & The Fig drooling over Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Apple, Raisin Fig Mostarda. (Pictured above along with Bekah Jennings’ Trick or Treat Banner)
Where have your early fall food searches led you?
It’s been a while since anything that grows in the dirt has been in-season here. It’s been a while, as a matter of fact, since anyone has even seen the dirt here. This past winter has been long and cold for many northerners — and cold for many southerners, too — so it really was with unspeakable joy that I picked up the “pen” to write March’s edition of What’s In Season Now. Truly, unspeakable.
March isn’t spring here yet, but it is the unofficial beginning to the transition between it and winter. It is a month of hope, of melting snow and renewed vigor for life. It’s a month when anything is possible and the whole growing season is before us. The countdown begins; less than two months until rhubarb and asparagus, less than three until strawberries. The pantry stocks may be dwindling and we may be growing quickly weary of the pasta, potatoes and beans that make up so much of the basis of meals these days, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is the prospect of bountiful harvest just there at the tip of our grasp. It’s coming.
In the meantime, cold season veggies should be cropping up as the farmer’s markets near you as they open up for the season. Be on the look-out for:
- Greens – Spinach, Lettuces, Chard, Kale, Collards and more.
- Meats & Dairy – Products ‘on the hoof’ are never out of season.
- Potatoes – Sweet and white, depending on your location.
- Apples – Not necessarily ‘in-season’ but they store well so last fall’s harvest may still be available from some suppliers in your area.
- And more…
Of course, you may also want to check out last year’s March Edition of What’s In Season Now and if you’re not sure where to find a farmer’s market near you, you can always depend on Local Harvest for help. And for newbies and seasoned shoppers alike the farmer’s market shopping guide that was featured right here at Try Handmade may also be a great resource! Happy shopping and happy spring!
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All of the stunning food photography featured in this post is available for purchase on Etsy. Click the photo you’re interested in above and you’ll be taken directly to the seller’s store. Personally, I think there is no better way to decorate a kitchen.