Saturday, December 27, 2008

Trying New Things

To everyone who recently celebrated Christmas or Hanukkah, I hope you had a wonderful celebration. I hosted Christmas dinner at my house for a large group of my in laws, and it was a wonderful day. I wanted to incorporate more local foods into my feast, but I did not plan enough in advance to make it happen. I did, however, try a few new recipes and make everything from scratch.
One of the main dishes was Swiss Chard and Italian Sausage Lasagna. I had never cooked with swiss chard before, and only tested it once before. I thought it looked rather Christmas-y all red and and green as it was. I was able to buy local italian sausage for the dish, which was the only really local component of the meal. It did turn out to be quite tasty. I made it on Christmas Eve and reheated it before the actual feast. It was my first successful attempt at making bechamel sauce (there were several previous disasters years ago that left me with a fear of making it--turns out all you really need is patience and a good whisk).
The second dish that was a bit of successful experimentation was Curried Cauliflower.
Here is the recipe, my own invention:
Curried Cauliflower
Serves 6
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces roughly equal in size--about 1 inch
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil.
2. Cut the cauliflower as directed and put it in a gallon size plastic bag.
3. Drizzle the oil and shake the curry powder over the cauliflower.
4. Seal the bag and shake it so the curry powder and oil cover each floret.
5. Spread the cauliflower in one layer on the cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
It's very fragrant, and even people who usually don't like cauliflower (including me!) will love it.
I also got a pasta maker for Christmas, so you can expect to see some fresh pasta recipes over the next few months. If you have any suggestions, they would be most welcome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Interesting Article on Obama and Food

The New York Times has a good article up about Obama and various people's hopes and wishes for a more progressive, sustainable food policy push once the new administration takes office. Find it here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Plastic Bagless in 2009?

As 2009 approaches, it is time to start thinking about making resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. The writers at Buffalo Locavore have all committed ourselves to trying to make food choices that are more local, more sustainable, and less processed as much as is possible. If you are reading our blog, you have probably made the same commitment.

I would like to propose another resolution for the readers and writers at Buffalo Locavore--no more plastic bags in 2009. Let's think of it as a challenge to see how well we can do when we try to shop solely using reusable bags. Capacious but foldable fabric bags are readily available at a number of places, Wegmans and Tops each sell fabric grocery bags that hold a lot and are inexpensive, and the Lexington Co-Op has great canvas bags. If you carry a large tote bag for work or are just buying a few small things, you won't even need an additional bag.

I always bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, and people often stop me to ask how it is I manage to remember to bring them. I have a basket near my door where I keep them all neatly folded, ready to grab when I head out the door. My husband keeps an extra one in his car so he always has one on hand. I also bought some foldable bags made out of ripstop nylon that fit in my purse and go with me everywhere.

So, if you want to join the challenge, post a comment below and we'll check in periodically to see how far we can go.

Friday, December 12, 2008

NY Food Trader

From a stronger sense of community to a healthier planet to local economic advantages, the movement to eat locally is spurring the growth of farmers' markets throughout the nation — the number operating in the U.S. grew 6.8 percent from 2006 to mid-2008. Now, a new virtual farmers' market in New York State is taking that growth online. provides a free, quick and easy online sales outlet for farmers who want to advertise their products to local customers. Modeled after a similar site in Maryland,, the New York site lets farmers leave contact information with their listings for pesticide-free apple cider and organic pork, chicken and turkey, among other things, so consumers can contact them directly and arrange their own transactions. It's ideal for farmers who have small quantities to sell, eliminating waste and making local agriculture more sustainable. The site is run by the government-funded Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University. In the future, the center hopes to add a farm-to-farm agricultural exchange where farmers can advertise manure, hay and other items for sale or barter.

I Borrowed this from the Governing Website!!! Here is the direct link:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Give Local as a Gift

If you are looking for local-centric holiday gifts, here are two that fit the bill.

1. Edible Buffalo is offering a subscription special--5 issues for the price of 4. Please note "Holiday Gift" when placing your order. All holiday subscriptions will begin with the winter 2008/2009 issue, which comes out this month. They will also include a special gift card with the first issue. Offer expires December 22, 2009! Go here to order.

2. Buffalo First has created coupon books that will be offered for sale at local retailers starting tomorrow. The book offers great discounts at a huge array of local businesses. The books cost $10, with the proceeds going to both Buffalo First and the local business where you buy the coupon book. You can find the list of businesses selling the book here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Fudge

Christmas is a great time to focus on homemade treats that add a little something special to holiday parties and gatherings.

I have never been much of a Christmas cookie baker, but one thing I always make is our family recipe fudge. (I say it is our family recipe, but it is really from the Kendall County Farmer's Cookbook from 1952 or something--we have just been making it for 50+ years). I cannot remember a year where I didn't help prepare the fudge--even little ones can help stir in the chocolate. So, here is our family recipe. Follow the directions exactly, and it is foolproof.

Grudge Fudge (a silly name, I know, but that is what it has always been called--maybe because people will hold a grudge if you don't offer them any?)

Combine in a heavy (and large) saucepan:

4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
12oz can of unsweetened evaporated milk

Stir the milk and sugar until blended.

Heat the milk and sugar mixture on medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture starts to boil. It will be kind of foamy on top as it is heating up and you are stirring, but the bubbles will get bigger once it reaches boiling point.

Boil for EXACTLY 9 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture scorches really easily if you don't keep stirring. Also, the mixture really increases in volume when you are boiling and you definitely don't want it to boil over!!

After 9 minutes, remove the pot from the heat.

Add 2 sticks of butter (1/2 pound), 28 large marshmallows, 2 tsp. vanilla, and 3 cups of chocolate chips (or peanut butter chips or butterscotch or whatever chip combination you like, just so long as it equals 3 cups).

Stir the mixture until it is well blended. If you want to add nuts, you can stir two cups in at this point. You could probably also stir in some crushed candy canes for a minty kick, but it is totally a matter of personal preference.

Pour everything into either a 15X9 jelly roll pan (greased) or several smaller containers (not plastic, as it could melt or get soft). If you pour it into other containers, make sure it is about 1 inch deep.

The fudge starts to firm up as soon as it begins to cool, but I like to give it three or four days to really solidify so it cuts into nice squares.

Voila--rich, delicious, homemade fudge. And it takes less than half an hour.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Joy of Cookbooks

Even though I have not been much of a home cook for the last few years, I barely remember a time in my life when I didn't know how to cook. My brother is a professional chef, and both of my parents are great cooks always willing to experiment with new dishes and flavors. I remember canning corn, peas, beans, and tomatoes at my grandmother's house--and being foolish enough to think baking zucchini bread in 100-degree weather was a good idea. Some of my favorite memories from growing up are when we would have family crab rangoon night where all four of us would work together to make the filling, stuff the wontons, and fry up a mountain of crab rangoon for all of us to enjoy or when my Dad and I would work together making lasagna or manicotti for a special dinner.

Through all my growing-up years of cooking, our one go-to source (this being, of course, before the internet) was the Betty Crocker cookbook. I think we were using a version from the 1960s. I can still see the reddish orange cover. We had a few other cookbooks as well, but that was the one we always used. My aunt, a recreational baker and pastry chef, shared with us The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which is a great resource for everything from cupcake to wedding cake, but is certainly not for the faint of heart!

Today, I have probably a dozen or so cookbooks. My grandmother, who suffered a stroke 8 years ago and can no longer cook as she used to, loves to send cookbooks to her relatives as gifts. I have also picked up a few that I just found appealing for whatever reason--including my own copy of The Cake Bible and Beranbaum's other amazing reference, The Pie and Pastry Bible. Since college, my husband and I have used the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook as our standard reference. My husband has also made some amazing dishes from The Tabasco Cookbook (though I do NOT recommend the beer omelette--disaster).

I do not think that you need a good cookbook, or even a recipe, to create a good meal. Sometimes the creativity and play of just trying to put something together based on ingredients on-hand can create unexpected and delicious results. However, when I have had a long day--or a long week--and want to decompress with some light reading, there is nothing like a cookbook. The best ones share stories as well as meals, and after a hectic day there is something satisfying about the structure and simplicity of recipes. Plus, recipes represent potential. Potential to make something great, to try something new, to push your own limits.

Much to my surprise, I have since learned that the older generations of women in my family--mom, aunt, great aunts, and grandmother--all share this same habit of reading cookbooks as much for recreation as for cooking assistance. I like the continuity of that, though of course it is possible I picked up the habit from all of them over the years without even realizing it.

Does anyone else enjoy reading cookbooks just for the fun of it? If so, what are some of your favorite cookbooks?

One of my new favorites is The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham.