Chat Leftovers: Farm Market Meat Shopping, Afternoon Tea Party
Philly: My daughter wants to bake cookies to send to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you know how to do this? I don't mean how to pack the cookies but where to send them?
Philly, it’s my understanding that for security reasons, you must send overseas care packages to a specific individual rather than to a general catch-all address. If no one in your immediate family is currently serving, reach out to neighbors to find out if they’ve got loved ones overseas who might like a sweet treat. For some great insight on baking for the troops, read my recent q&a with AMA reader Louise Skinner, who’s been sending cookies to troops for the past three years.
Bethesda Mom: Congrats on 10 great years!! As someone who's followed the chat from the beginning, I can't believe it's been so long!
Here’s my question: I'm planning an afternoon tea to thank friends who cooked dinners for me and my family when I had an operation. I'm planning on three types of savory finger sandwiches (curried egg, cucumber, salmon) and several types of baked goods -- I've already made some scones, and want to have at least one fruit/veg bread, probably pumpkin, and two or three types of cookies.
I'll also be serving hot tea and champagne, and will have a bowl of strawberries or grapes, but no other food, and the event is 2-5 p.m.
How should I judge quantities?
Mom, think of this as a heavy hors d’oeuvre event, meaning 6-8 bites per person, total. For the sandwiches, I’d make enough so that every guest has an opportunity to nibble two of each kind. This is a good average, as some guests will have just one each and others will load up on sandwiches. As for pumpkin bread, I’d make two loaves, and for cookies, I’d do one batch of each type (which usually yields about three dozen). You may have leftovers, but cookies typically freeze well. Alternatively, you could package them up as party favors at the end of the soiree. For a mid-afternoon event, your guests will be well sated and may not even need supper that night. Have fun!
Arlington, Va.: I was inspired after reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan and I want to try to eat more locally produced food. Obviously with produce it is a little bit harder this time of year but I went to the Courthouse market Saturday to see what kinds of meat and dairy options were available. It was a little bit overwhelming. Any tips/suggestions on how to start buying more meat from the market? What kinds of questions should I ask? Do the products still have to meet any government standards? Thanks for any help you can offer.
Arlington, congratulations for venturing out and feeding your curiosity. I agree, getting schooled on humanely and locally raised meat and dairy can be overwhelming. Your instincts to head to the local farm market are good, even in the dead of winter, when the market pickins are slim.
At Courthouse market, there are a few meat vendors: Eco-friendly Foods, Smithfresh Meats (tell Forrest I sent ya) and Cibola Farms, if I’m not mistaken. Each farmer specializes in different animals; for example, Cibola offers bison and Smithfresh offers a slew of sausages, whole chickens (and turkeys during the holidays), eggs and goat, for starters. Last time I checked, Eco-friendly offered rabbit as part of its lineup. Although their products aren’t sold in conventional stores, these farmers must adhere to strict government standards if they want to stay in business.
And ask the farmers if you don’t believe me! They want to hear what’s on your mind and are happy to answer any and all of your burning questions; the more they can educate interested sustainable food shoppers such as yourself, the better it is for their bottom line. Unlike a giant industrial factory farm, a small, independent farmer will tell you as much as you want to know -- what the animals eat, how they’re raised, the life of a farmer -- you name it. In fact, many farms are open to the public, so be sure to ask about paying a visit.
Your question reminds me of a new title that recently landed on my desk: “Eat Where You Live” by Lou Bendrick. This is a small, hand-held guide filled with practical tips on navigating the world of sustainable eating. I think this would serve you well as you find your way at the market. Keep me posted of your adventures; I’m excited to hear what’s next!
The Last Word
Washington, D.C.: I know this is too late for the Jan. 6 chat, but just read the transcript and wanted to weigh in on the butternut squash. I (1) - save seeds for my garden, and have had several wonderful crops over the last few years without buying anything (2) compost the peels and (3) scatter the seeds that I don't save for wild animals to eat (birds, squirrels, etc). Nothing wasted!
/From an anonymous reader: This is a question for "Centre of Nowhere" -- any chance you can please post Olive Guy's recipe for vodka sauce? I always love having it out but have never been successful in my attempts to recreate it at home.
This week’s What’s Cooking transcript in entirety.
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