Thursday, June 2, 2011

We've Moved!

Sorry, friends. Our blog has taken a journey to

Please come visit us there!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Classes in Canning and other Pioneer Arts

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

--Michael Pollan, Food Rules

Eating like our ancestors, whether Paleolithic or pioneer, is increasingly coming into vogue. For the true enthusiast, efforts to eat local food can be supported through the recovery of traditional practices, from fermentation to backyard gardening to canning.

While skills like canning, bread-making,freezing, and menu planning used to be handed on as "secret family" recipes and tips at grandma's stove, these days many grandmothers are as lost in the kitchen as the millennial generation. Enter Leni Sorensen, a local blogger, contributor to In the Kitchen online, and culinary historian, who wants to be your stand-in grandmother for instruction in the pioneer arts.

Leni teaches classes in traditional culinary techniques on summer weekends at her home, nestled in the nook of a mountain stream outside of Charlottesville. The opportunity to marvel at her productive garden/micro-farm is reason enough to take her classes!

Leni has seen food movements come and go. Peppered with the practical wisdom of her family and lifetime ("if you only offer your kids food that is good, you don't have to worry about what they eat"), her conversation celebrates eating while eschewing false solemnity and faddish pieties about food. Having farmed with her husband in South Dakota for a number of years, she embraces the authenticity of real food and friendly gatherings -- her reminiscences about potlucks of barbecue ribs and rich pies are still making me hungry a week later!

Equally at-home with the cerebral (how historically zoning restrictions for local markets reflected racial tension and the rise of supermarkets) and the practical (how would you prepare the meat if you bought half a pig?), Leni exudes curious engagement with the world and instructs with a captivating interweave of anecdote, fact, and maxim.

And of course she leads by delicious example with her mouth-watering canned goods, her bountiful garden, and the details of her own choices ("We only eat tomatoes when they're in season--and then we eat them every day").

Leni's Classes
Leni offers classes all summer, and is happy to create unique classes to suit your needs and curiosity. It's best to contact her and sign up through her blog.

May 21 / 22: Breadmaking
June 11 / 12: Breadmaking
July 16 / 17: Canning tomatoes and peaches
July 23 / 24: Canning tomatoes and peaches
August 13 / 14: Canning tomatoes and peaches
August 27 / 28: Canning tomatoes and peaches
September 10 / 11: Canning tomatoes and pickles
September 24 / 25: Canning tomatoes and pickles
November 12 / 13 / 19: Freezing meat, making sausage

Hope to see you there this summer!

And if you'd like to try out food preservation on your own before going to visit Leni, check out this fantastic one-click recipe for Spicy Pickled Carrots (or any other veggies, really) from our very own Bella Eats!

Relay products related to this post:

Local Hydroponic Greenhouse Tomatoes, about 1 lb.

Horse and Buggy Couples Share

Local Whole Wheat Bread Flour, 5 lbs

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Monday, April 25, 2011

School lunches: you CAN take it with you

"Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."
--Michael Pollan, Food Rules

post on the Fooducate blog illustrates another good reason to avoid airplane food (as if the quality isn't reason enough...). As I've grown to love healthy, local food, I find myself wanting to transport homemade meals in an increasing number of situations: to work, on the way out the door to an event, and especially on plane rides or long trips in the car. Gas station food, as Michael Pollan points out, is equally as questionable as airplane food.

Given all the furor surrounding
horrible institutional school lunches, and despite some signs of improvement, school is another place where taking a homemade lunch is probably a good option. Relay customer Lisa asked on our Facebook page,
Do you have any suggestions for school lunch alternatives? My middle schooler hates sandwiches, and prefers a hot lunch (they have a microwave in the lunchroom). What can she take that is easy to prepare, travels well, and doesn't involve a sandwich?
While individual tastes, especially for picky eaters, ultimately determine what works best in a school lunch, I've outlined a few strategies and suggestions below based largely on my own experience and ideas found around the web.

The Bento Box: As
artistic or slap-dash as you like, the bento box emphasizes fresh foods packed creatively into one box, sometimes divided into sections. Think TV-dinner but prepared with fresh foods. The possibilities are endless; type "bento" into Google or Tastespotting and you'll find inspiration that will last for years. and are fantastic resources as well. A few ideas:
  1. A simple bento consisting of steamed rice, salmon, and fresh veggies. Obviously a combination that could be taken in a lot of directions to use left-overs, suit tastes, etc.
  2. A summer-themed bento with fresh fruit, sausage, and seasonal vegetables.
  3. A creative bento decorated with "spring flowers" made from plums and carrots.
  4. An irresistible "brown bear bento."
The Salad: While eating a Caesar for lunch every day probably wouldn't get anyone too excited, with the onset of Spring, the possibilities for salad and salad-related meals only continue to become more deliciously appealing. A few ideas to spice up traditional salad offerings:
  1. Mark Bittman's Minimalist column on 101 Summer Salads. Definitely a classic in my book, this article outlines quick salads that require minimum cooking. Everything from a classic five-bean salad to watermelon and tomato.
  2. Make lettuce cups or wraps: fill a lettuce leaf with leftovers like stir-fried vegetables, the meat-cheese-rice-veggie fillings of a taco, or fruit, cheese, and nuts. Romaine, Bibb, and Escarole work well. Here's a beautiful example. And another.
  3. Grains, beans, and veggies: while it might not be everyone's idea of a salad, mixing whole grains with a high-quality protein and some vegetables is a terrific lunch that carries in one container. Added bonus? Make large portions of grains, beans, and prepped vegetables ahead of time, then toss together the day of. This lentil salad could be re-heated and served over rice at school. My roommates and I made the salad below, with lentils, carrots, cabbage, mozzarella, onion, and balsamic glaze over brown rice. Easy and delicious.

Leftovers: While most leftovers can be brought along and re-heated, having glass tupperware with locking lids (see the picture at the top) makes it significantly easier. Make your or your child's favorites in bulk, then send them along to school all week.
  1. Miso vegetables and tofu: pack the tofu separately so that it doesn't get soggy when the vegetables are re-heated. Sauce could also be packed separately for freshness.
  2. Vegetable fried rice from Bella Eats: probably one of the best ways to bring an egg along and not have it end up soggy. Also infinitely adaptable. Click here for the recipe if you're reading in Richmond.
  3. Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower over Pasta: this recipe highlights pasta as another great take-along and re-heat option. Add chicken or another protein if you like.
These ideas are just the beginning! As we at Relay continue to build out our website's capabilities, I hope we'll be able to provide you with even more tools to make school/work/airplane/in a hurry lunches easy.

As always, please share your ideas, questions, and comments to the comments section, to our Facebook page, or to Twitter!