Locavore Eating, Cheeky Monkey Style

I’ve blogged about these guys before but tonight I am working and eating at the Cheeky Monkey in Narragansett, RI. Jeff Cruf, chef owner, embodies all that is great about local eating. Jeff sources local fare from RI and other NE farms and always looks to get the freshest catch of fish, littlenecks and oysters daily. With a regular menu and a host of nightly specials, there is range of options and something for everyone on the menu.

Tonight’s special salad is locally grown organic baby greens, a mix of red leaf, green leaf, and butter lettuces tossed with goat cheese, cranberries, pecans, apples and a dressing that is a subtle hint of creamy white baslamic and shallots. For dinner I am having striped bass caught and delivered from our coastal waters. Jeff’s sauce is a lobster and local mushrooms  that are harvested from beneath the deck of a home in Bonnet Shores (researched for safety) and  gently poured over the delicate white fish and served with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies.

The food was amazing. Everything was prepared and presented delightfully and gave this locavore a favorite foodie night out.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter:newscaster

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A Year of Greener Living

Earth Day 2009 marks the one year anniversary of our family’s transition to sustainable living. For us, this meant more than simply taking advantage of our town’s recycling program; it is the one year mark of changing the entire way we live and how our family will impact the earth. Some of our changes were simple, some of our changes were massive, some were inexpensive, some have upped our budgets; all of our changes are innate now and that was always my goal.

 

Pictured below: Abby and Max after one year of green living.

 

 Max and Abby on 4.18.09

 When we decided to build our new house environmentally friendly and sustainable in April 2008, I realized that we there were things we weren’t doing that we could be doing. Our family has made a lot of changes this past year, and I decided that our Earth Day post 2009 could serve  to review how we’ve gone green and to challenge others to review their lifestyles and see if there were more things they could be doing.

 

1.       No more bottled water. Seems simple right? We had always recycled all our plastic bottles but I never thought about the waste stream we were creating. We all bought Kleen Kanteens or equivalent and have switched completely to tap water.

2.       Switched to CFLs. Again, simple enough but I had a hard time justifying getting rid of light bulbs that worked to make the switch. Ultimately I couldn’t ignore the statistics that stated things like “a global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world’s electricity bill by nearly one-tenth”. We’re not global but in one year we’ve lowered our monthly kWh usage by an average of 180 kWh per month.

3.       Organic eating. This is one place we have increased costs. I used to shop at our local Belmont but they just do not carry enough organic produce, so out of season I head to Whole Foods. On average I spend $100 more per grocery shopping trip (which is about 2 times per month) but I have the whole family on board on the importance of eating foods free of preservatives, hormones, pesticides, trans fats and processed sugars. I’ve changes family recipes, even creating some that are simply better than they were before. I think over time, these costs will level out, but this change was worth it.

4.       Going local. From shopping at local farms to buying from local retail shops, I have dedicated myself to buying things from gifts to clothes within our community. I’m kind of lucky in that I live in a small state and nearly everything is local to me, but when it comes to this I really focus on shopping in Wakefield and Narragansett. It’s really not that hard and I’ve gotten to know so many of my neighbors!

5.       Conserving water. We added aerators to all our faucets and I only run the dishwasher when full. I scrape, don’t rinse. We pee 3 times before we flush (TMI, sorry, but we still have 1.6 gpf toilets and can’t afford buying new ones). Jeans get worn three times before washing, pajamas get the same treatment. If we have water left in a glass or a pan, we use it to water the plants. Being green means not wasting blue!!!

6.       No paper. No plastic. I always use my own bags. I don’t think about it, I always have one with me, no matter where I am from a local shop to the grocery store to the mall or the pharmacy, I always have them with me and even keep 2 EnviroSaks in my “World’s Greatest Mom” bag.

7.       Less driving. In total, since April of last year, I have only driven 7211 miles in my car. My husband and I commute together 2 days per week as our schedules allow. I shop locally when I am at work and all the shops are within walking distance or at least within a mile of my office. When I do have a lot of places to go in one day, I drive in a sensible pattern to minimize the distance travelled.   My two biggest offenses: my parents live 40 miles away (but on the way to Whole Foods!) and sometimes I have to drive for a business trip. I try not to drive needlessly and I think, do we need it before I get in a car. My gas bill is 68% less than the same period the year before, granted gas is cheaper, but I also drove almost 3000 less miles than the previous year!

8.       Educating my children about how they can help the earth. My daughter loves to pick up trash. She reminds her brother to turn off the water. They both shut off the lights. She looks for the word organic on the food she picks and will turn down treats that have been proclaimed by me as junk. When she outgrows clothes, she lists who they can be given to and she makes the same suggestions for toys. For her birthday we agreed to a home-grown party with no presents but donations to help our local animal shelter. She is turning six and she gets it; she doesn’t feel like she’s giving anything up while living a greener, healthier life. She just lives and this will change our world.

9.       I started a Green Blog. We have logged more than 18,000 readers to our website since our launch six months ago, we have shared our ideas, our views, and our knowledge with others and hopefully we have inspired them. Our green community is alive and it is growing and I hope it will continue to be a sustainable force.

10.   Building a green home. This is the biggie; this blog, our website is dedicated to our journey through building a green home. It is what has made me undergo the changes we have and preach to anyone who will listen. We are still 4-5 months from project completion, but it has taught me so much about what we can all do to green our homes.

 

This year has really improved me and I am proud of the commitment that I have made to living sustainably. Making the decision to build a green home was all about my children, but it changed me in a way that makes me a better inhabitant of this planet. I try to remember I am just passing through; my footprint should be in the good I can do.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Where to Find Farm Fresh

As we gear up for spring, flowers and plants won’t be the only thing that will be in full bloom soon.  One of my personal favorite parts of spring and summer are the reopening of farmers markets across the state.   If you live in Southern New England and are wondering where to find info on local farms and markets near you, www.farmfresh.org is a fantastic resource.  Just type in your zip code and an interactive map will appear with a listing of all the farms, stands and markets available in your area as well as when they open and their hours of operation. 

Community supported agriculture is another great way to ensure you and your family have fresh produce all season long.  Also known as a CSA,  community supported agriculture is  a prepaid subscription to a farm’s produce for the season. Most CSAs give shareholders a weekly supply of veggies, herbs, fruits and sometimes even eggs and meat. You know it’s fresh and you get to meet the farm and people who grew your food. The prepaid CSA arrangements also makes it a source of financial security for the farmer. Some CSAs also incorporate farm workdays for shareholders for those interested in getting their hands dirty. 

Most farmers markets in the Northeast start in May – t-minus 1 month to go!

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Local Foodie Reviews

Though it’s not brand new, the fairly recent opening of a restaurant in Providence dedicated to providing locally grown, sustainable foods cooked and prepared in an intensely delicious fashion made me (and many local foodies I know) very happy. 

Local 121 is located in the heart of downtown Providence and is housed in the former Dryfus Hotel which has been transformed into a beautiful live/work space for artists care of local art group AS220 (upstairs) and an equally stunning dining room and accompanying bar next door.  For me, the biggest draw was the promise of everything on the menu being both locally harvested and incredibly savory. 

Kim and I had dinner there Friday night and I have to say, all the expectations I had going into the dining experience were far surpassed.  We started off with Point Judith fried calamari (to which I replied – squid live in Narragansett Bay?), carrot and turnip soup and red baby romaine casaer salad with a creamy lemon dressing.  The calamari was great, the soup wasn’t necessarily the best dish of the night but still tasty and the salad?  Amazing.  The dressing with the pine nuts was just a phenomenal combination.  For the main course, Kim ordered steamed Matunuck Littleneck Clams (living in a coastal state has incredible benefits…)  with fingerling potatoes, bacon lardons, Pernod, chives and creme fraiche.  I can safely say that the combination of the bacon, potatoes and tasty clams made for one of the best experiences I’ve had with littlenecks. 

My favorite dish of the night was, luckily, my own.  I ordered mustard crusted Gloucester grey sole with brown butter, carrots and parsnips.  The combination of the slightly crunchy mustard glaze with the tenderness of the sole, paired with the carrots and parsnips was genius.   I ate until I almost burst but made a point to save some for Kim to enjoy too.  We also had some completely delicious organic chardonnay, some Pinot with dinner (locally harvested from Kim’s husband’s wine cellar) and with dessert, some Newport Vineyard ice wine (there is a special place in my heart for ice wine). 

Speaking of dessert, we ordered bread pudding – which is always a must try when we go out and the roasted apple & cranberry oat crisp, though we opted to ask for vanilla ice cream instead of maple walnut because, well, we’re under 65.  No offense. 

The bonus part of dining there repeatedly is that the menu changes frequently due to the nature of where and when the food is harvested.  You can be tasting completely new flavors every season.  Overall, the experience was amazing (have I said that already?) and I’d go back there in a heartbeat.  

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

Can’t Decide on Blue or Red, Vote Green

Validly, most of the politics around green issues have focused on energy, but there is another equally important issue, one that impacts all of us on a personal scale in terms of our family’s health, our environment and the sustainability of locally grown food.

 

McCain’s platform to support rural farming opens with “establishing a comprehensive energy strategy” and then continues onto  topics like preserving property rights (only in rural America?) and common-sense conservation and food safety measures (if it’s common sense can’t I handle this one without the government?). McCain wants to secure America’s borders and implement a fair and practical immigration policy; and one of my favorite programs for rural farmers:  “Strengthen America’s economic competitiveness by eliminating wasteful government spending”. To show his support and enthusiasm for these programs, McCain didn’t show up for the Farm Bill vote and despite his insistent threat to repeal the bill, hasn’t proposed how he’d stop big agribusiness from profiting off programs that by name, sound like they’re designed to help farmers (not billionaires with racing horses).

 

Obama’s rural agribusiness platform also centers heavily on energy and biofuels but takes a solid stance on federal farm programs to help family farms get the credit and funding they need to operate or expand. He calls for regulation from the EPA to monitor pollution from CAFOS with real fines for those who violate air and water quality standards. Obama has pledged to  provide incentives for new, young farmers and will increase funding for the “National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to help farmers afford the costs of compliance with national organic certification standards”. If elected, Obama also promised to provide capital for farmers to create value-added enterprises, like cooperative marketing initiatives and farmer-owned processing plants.

 

I live in RI and without exception I believe we have access to some of the greatest native food: oysters, lobsters, cheese, milk, heirloom tomatoes, apples, pumpkins and I am so sad when our farmer’s market rolls around every season and I hear about another local farm that just didn’t make it. When it comes to buying food, I think we should all think local, and if you can find local organic all the better. But ultimately, buying your food locally is good for your local economy, good for family farmers, good for your health, and good for the environment.

 

 

This vote for me is not about red or blue, it is about green. As a mom and believer in eating green (that goes beyond your veggies), I want my children to eat food that is fresh and food that is local because I believe it is as good for them as much as it for the world I hope they change someday.

 Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster