Guest Post: Adventures in Eating Locally with the Proctors: Week 3
Meet the Proctor Family! They're a family of four in Bloomington-Normal trying their best to eat entirely local food one day each week, and they've graciously agreed to share their adventures.
Follow Neal, Maggy, Lydia, and baby Adalyn as they shop, chop, dice, grill, and even grow local food this summer in an effort to not only eat fresh, wholesome meals, but to support their community, and live a little greener. Each week, they'll share their stories and their creations right here on our blog. Are you up for eating locally once a week? Follow the Proctor Family and find out.
Week 3: French Toast and Shepherd's Pie
May 21- 27
Adversity is part of life, right? Well that was kind of the motto of our week 3 adventure in our mission to eat local, delicious, economical food. Friday night we found out that both my family (mother, father, brother) and two of my good buddies from home would be visiting for the weekend. Our house, of course, is all inclusive, which meant we would be responsible for feeding these additional mouths on Sunday. The good news was that our meal plan (French toast and shepherd’s pie) would easily accommodate the extra company.
We woke up Saturday morning to just shy of a downpour, and the radar showed no signs of letting up. This sometimes spells trouble for the outdoor market, but Lydia and I thought we’d try our luck anyway. Maggy and Adalyn decided they would sit this one out. Lydia and I were one of maybe four other groups of people who chose to brave the elements that day. We made it just in time, as half of the vendors were already gone and the ones that remained were getting ready to pack it in. 50 degrees and rainy apparently isn’t ideal farmers market weather. With our plan in hand, we made quick work of the shopping trip and splashed our way back to the car. We still needed a few odds and ends, including some syrup and a dozen eggs. I felt good about all of our purchases this week except for the syrup. I was in a hurry and took the word of an employee at a “local foods” store who ensured me the Maple syrup I chose (they only had one type available) was local. I got home and found out that it was distributed out of a facility in Bloomingdale, IL and could have been harvested anywhere in the US. If it was truly local, I could have swallowed the $12.99 price tag. Enough with the syrup, on with the food.
I’m more of a “savory” guy when it comes to breakfast, but mixing things up every once and awhile is always good. Maggy thought French toast would be an easy way to feed the large group of people we had. A large loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from Plow Creek Bakery, a dozen eggs, 1/2lb of bacon, and some delicious but overpriced maple syrup left everyone full and with a smile on their face. I would definitely make this again, but I will do some shopping around for a truly local, more economical source of syrup.
After a tough day of patio work and cutting down trees (the reason for inviting all of our guests), a hearty dish like shepherd’s pie sure fit the bill. Maggy found a recipe which I believe was shared by Prairie Earth Farms (one of the main produce vendors at the market). The recipe called for beef, carrots, peas, onions, mashed potatoes and a gravy of red wine, Worcestershire, tomato paste, and chicken broth. The only things that weren’t available to us were onions and peas, which we substituted with turnips and asparagus. In hindsight, I think this kind of embodies the exact essence of shepherd’s pie; take whatever meat, veggies, potatoes and gravy you have available and throw it all together in one delicious, savory dish. We were able to gather all of the meat and veggies from the farmers market on Saturday. The wine was from a vineyard out of Michigan (most Illinois wines are too sweet for cooking). So while not truly “local”, at least we kept it in the Midwest ;). Maggy does a really good job of trying to squeeze every bit she can out of the food we eat. This being said, every time we eat bone in chicken, she saves the leftovers and makes chicken broth out of it. So, while not truly local (chickens we ate were not locally sourced), it always feels good to repurpose something that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
1 loaf Cinnamon Raisin bread (Plow Creek Bakery): $6.00
1 dozen eggs (Irwin Family farms, Bloomington, IL): $3.50
½ lb bacon (Destiny Meats, Danvers IL): $4.00
½ quart of organic, GMO free, non-locally sourced Maple Syrup: $6.50
Subtotal: $20.00 ($2.50/person)*
1 lb ground beef (Destiny meats, Danvers IL): $6.00
3 lb potatoes (Prairie Earth Farms): $7.00
1 lb carrots (Prairie Earth Farms): $3.00
Roughly 1 lb Turnips (Prairie Earth Farms): $3.00
1 Bundle of asparagus (Not sure on name, somewhere in North Central IL): $4.50
1/2 bottle of Tabor Hill Dry Red Wine (Michigan): $4.00
Subtotal: $27.50 ($4.58/person)*
*Breakfast we served 8 people, Dinner we served 6
For the 3rd week in a row we’ve been able to improve on our cost. While I’m fairly confident if you used grocery store costs on our menu items it would be cheaper, there are a few things we’ve noticed over the past few weeks. The quality of the food is unmatched. Whether it’s the dark orange yolks of the farm fresh eggs or the tender, juicy bone in pork chops, the food has been delicious. The other thing is that with the planning, effort, and money that go into producing our meals, we have had literally no wasted food over the past few weeks. When purchasing from a grocery store, it’s nothing for us to throw away a half loaf of bread or a couple veggies that have gone bad. The concern just isn’t there when you pay $1.99 for a loaf of bread that really isn’t that good. Whether it’s using fresh bread for sandwiches later in the week or making sure that none of our delicious leftovers go to waste, all of our food has been consumed.
That’s it for the week. We’ll see what next week brings!