Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chico Bags

At the beginning of 2008, I decided to quit using grocery bags. I was shocked to discover that the average American uses between 300 and 700 plastic bags per year and that
according to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees to be cut down. I checked out all the reusable bags for sale in Ann Arbor, and I found them to be bulky.

I had asked many people for advice on what is the best kind of reusable grocery bag and someone suggested Chico Bags . I fell in love with them! I'm participating in this year's Dexter Relay for Life, which is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and my team is selling Chico Bags for a fundraiser for our team. If you are interested, please let me know.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Kapusta and kielbasa in the crockpot is great for a crowd.

Here's how I make it:
1 big onion, diced
1/2 lb bacon, cut up in small pieces and fried crisp, reserve the grease
1 lb. of the best kielbasa you can find, smoked or fresh, cut up in 2 inch chunks *
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large can of Silver Floss sauerkraut drained, reserve juice (this is the best brand of sauerkraut I know of)

Put the potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot, and top with bacon. Add onion to the bacon grease and saute until tender, and pour the onion and bacon fat on top the potatoes. Add the sausage chunks, and then top with kraut. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. If it gets dry while cooking, taste it...if it is not sour enough for your taste, add kraut juice, if it tastes right, add water.

* In Ann Arbor, try Copernicus deli. A very garlicky sausage tastes best in this recipe. The Kowalski special holiday kielbasa you can sometimes get at the grocery store near Christmas or Easter is good, too. Kopytco's in Hamtramck is the very best.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sunshine Farm and Garden

There's a great herb and dried flower farm in Wixom that I have visited and taken classes at called Sunshine Farm and Garden. They have a wonderful collection of herbs for your garden and also teach some great herbal craft classes. I've taken a few wreath making classes there and learned quite a bit. Many of their classes are free. It's located near Proud Lake Recreation area, which I haven't been to since I was a Girl Scout camper, and I need to remember to visit it when I go to buy herbs this year. I just got their 2008 catalog, and it features some recipes I am eager to try:

2 C water
2/3 C sugar
3 tablespoons fresh mint (cut up)
1 C orange juice
1/2 C lemon juice
2 C strong brewed regular tea
1 liter bottle club soda, chilled
1 large stem of lavender, or borage flowers
rose, calendula or pansy petals
Flower Ice Cubes or Ice Ring

Place water, sugar, mint and lavender or borage in a large stainless steel pan. Bring to boiling, Remove and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth lined colander. Add orange juice, lemon juice and tea to flavored water, chill. Just before serving, add chilled club soda. Sprinkle punch with edible flowers and serve with ice cubes or ring. Makes about 3 qts or 16 servings.


2 eggs
3 c. flour
1 c. butter
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 T. lavender flowers, crushed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, dry ingredients, and flavorings. Drop a teaspoon at a time on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes at 350° . Makes 5 or 6 dozen

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thrifty Locavore

I guess I’m a “thrifty locavore”, which means I don’t like to spend a fortune to eat locally, but try to do it whenever possible. In the summer, I shop at a farmer’s market nearly every weekend, and for produce, I can do it exclusively during the summer. I have also had a CSA share before, but since no CSA grows every single thing I want, I would also go to the farmer’s market, too

Best prices for local food:

  • I have found local eggs are about $2.50 a dozen, which are comparable to store bought cage free prices. I buy all local eggs – they taste so much better.
  • Dexter, Chelsea or Ypsi farmer’s markets have better prices, especially if you are buying in bulk for home canning, which I do a great deal of. Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market is year round and has the best selection, but the prices are higher than other farmer’s markets around. The Westside Farmer's Market is small, but nice to go to on Thursday night after work and closer to home for me.
  • Needle Lane has the best CSA prices that I have found.
  • U pick farms are good deals, too, especially for canning
  • I like to buy Zingerman’s bread day old – you can get it at the deli next to the front door on Detroit Street in a bin for a discount
  • I buy bulk locally grown beef from TMZ Farms in Pinckney. Still more expensive than grocery store beef, but a much better deal buying in bulk. I go to Pinckney to pick it up at the hardware store after I call in my order.
  • Hannewald Farms has good lamb at a decent price for sale at the AA Farmer’s Market, but my kids don’t like the taste of lamb. Occasionally I will buy some for the grown ups to eat.
    I grow my own herbs…I’d grow more stuff, but the animals that live around my house will eat it.

    Stuff I still buy at the grocery store:
  • I don’t buy Guernsey or Calder milk, because it cost double what Prairie Farms cost, which is a local dairy co-op that doesn’t use hormones. To me, Guernsey/Calder isn’t worth the money.
  • Butter – haven’t found a local source for butter. Has anyone? I occasionally buy Amish butter that comes in a big blob from Indiana somewhere at Alexander Farm Market.
  • Coffee beans – I like to buy fair trade beans. Target’s Archer Farms has great fair trade coffee that is half the price of others I like (Roos Roast, Zingermans)
  • Poultry – I haven’t found a local source that I can afford, although John Harnois raises some delicious poultry.
  • Bacon – I love Nueske’s bacon, and haven’t found any locally that tastes that good. Besides, Wisconsin is somewhat local, isn't it?
  • Flour – although I might start buying more Westwind Milling stuff, which can be found at the People’s Food Co-op.