Day 315–Starting Week 46–Budget and Menu

Well, here we are in the big lead up week to Thanksgiving! I can’t wait! I love Thanksgiving–love having my family together, love my house smelling like roasted turkey, love cooking up a storm. I have ordered a local turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm and will pick that up next week. Otherwise, I’m still planning! Until then, though, I have a great week of recipes that will lead us up to the big day!

Sadly, this is our last week of Produce Box delivery, so I’ll be back at the farmers markets pretty regularly after this. I like the markets, though, so it’s worth the effort and time it takes to get down there! Since it is our last week, I ordered extra, so our Produce Box bill is a bit larger than usual. Still, our weekly food bill is $92.17–under our projected budget for the week. Mostly, this is because I cooked so much last week that we are still eating leftovers! We are determined not to waste the food we purchase and are committed to getting the refrigerator cleaned out before we pick up the Bird!

Here is how our budget worked this week:

  • Produce Box (apples, double broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, rutabegas, butternut squash, double purple Irish potatoes, apple cider): $36.75
  • Mae Farm (pork loin roast, ground beef, fresh eggs): $29.00
  • Farmers Market (carrots, onion): $4.00
  • Trader Joes (pumpkin ale, frozen fruit, oatmeal, canned pumpkin) $22.42

Our menu this week looks like this:

  • Wednesday–Scout night; leftover sweet potato quesadillas
  • Thursday–Tom’s birthday leftovers
  • Friday–Spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce, salad
  • Saturday–Drunken pumpkin chili, homemade cornbread
  • Sunday–Pork loin roast, purple mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower
  • Monday–Purple potato pancakes and leftover pork roast
  • Tuesday–Leftover chili
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Day 307–Six Questions to Ask About Sustainable Meat

If you’ve been following the blog, you know how I feel about factory farmed meat. Not everyone has access to fresh, sustainable meat, but if you do, give it a try. Here is a nice article by the Sierra Club about questions to ask your local farmer about their meat products. Since we’re heading into turkey season, this seemed like a timely piece!

Sustainable Meat: 6 Questions to Ask a Farmer

6 Questions to Ask a FarmerLet’s face it, there’s nothing eco-friendly about factory farms. When servings of eggs, dairy, and meat come packaged with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, groundwater contamination, animal cruelty, and hormones, we wouldn’t blame you for losing your appetite. But there are still ways to eat meat without unduly burdening the earth. This week, we’ll offer hints for finding a “greener” pork roast or Thanksgiving turkey.

6 Questions to Ask a Farmer

One big advantage of getting your meat, eggs, and dairy from a local farm as opposed to a giant, faceless corporation, is that you can actually talk to the farmer. Visit your local farmers’ market or check out Eat Wild’s farm directory to find free-range livestock farmers in your state, many of whom sell shares in meat CSAs. You can ask them questions to find a farm that matches your own standards for land and livestock stewardship.

Here are six good questions to get the conversation started:

     1.) Are your animals fed with organic feed?

     2.) Are your animals raised on pasture?

All livestock will eat grass, and not only are they healthier for it, but their meat, milk, and eggs have been found to contain more omega-3s than animals that eat no grass. Pastured animals will also spread their manure out on fields, where it can decompose naturally.

     3.)  Are your cows and lambs “grass finished”?

“Finishing” is also known as “fattening up,” and grain is a healthy part of the diet of poultry and pigs, but wreaks havoc on the digestive systems of cows and sheep. “Corn-finished” or “grain-finished” meat comes from livestock that ate little but grain and other processed supplements for the last six months of their lives, while “grass-finished” animals were fattened up on the pasture. Even pastured dairy cows usually eat some grain for extra nutrients, but should still eat mostly grass.

     4.) How do you handle your animals’ manure?

Manure is a huge pollutant in feedlots, where it seeps into groundwater and rivers. If your farmer tells you that the manure is left in “lagoons,” then it means they’re leaving it untreated, where it can pollute local water systems.

     5.) Do you give antibiotics to healthy animals?

Often, antibiotics are used to keep farm animals healthy when they’re too overcrowded and stressed to fight off disease. This has caused a widespread rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If farmers only use antibiotics on animals that are actually sick, you know that they’ll have been raised in a healthier environment.

     6.) Do you use heritage breeds?

Many “modern” livestock breeds can’t even survive outside of climate-controlled cages, but ‘heritage” livestock are bred to live outside, and are healthier, heartier animals overall.

Feel free to ask about whatever other concerns you might have. The more we demand answers from our food providers, the better choices we’ll be able to make.

–Image credit iStockphoto/jabiru.

Rachael Monosson is an editorial intern for Sierra and a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems. She lives in San Mateo.

Day 300-Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

I love making a big, Sunday supper, especially if it involves some kind of roast or chicken. Not only do we all slow down and savor a quiet dinner before the next busy week begins, but we usually end up with leftovers that carry us through the beginning of the week. If I’m going to cook up a whole mess of green beans, field peas or collards, it’s going to be on Sunday. With the house clean, laundry done and football on, it’s my prime cooking time.

For these dinners, pork tenderloin is very popular in our house. Actually, any form of pork is popular, but tenderloins are great because they are flavorful and quick to prepare. We buy our pork from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC, and have never had anything that wasn’t amazing.

Side note: If you aren’t buying your meat directly from a local farmer, I urge you to find a source and give it a try. There is no comparison with how tender and full of flavor local meats are compared to store-bought. It will rock your world. Unless you’re a vegetarian.

I made and canned this Sticky Fig Jam over the summer, and the combination of the figs and balsamic vinegar are pretty incredible on pork! You could substitute fig jam and maybe add a little balsamic vinegar to it for a similar effect.

Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

  • 8 oz. jar of Sticky Fig Jam
  • 2 tbsp. minced, fresh rosemary
  • 4 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 3 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 12 or so slices of bacon (preferably not thick-cut for this)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove tenderloins from packaging and let sit on a plate for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat broiler to high.
  3. Mix the minced fresh herbes and dried herbs together in a small bowl. Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and stir.
  4. Rub tenderloins with the herb mixture to cover. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap tenderloins with bacon strips and tuck ends under the meat. Place tenderloins in a small roasting pan.
  6. Broil tenderloins close to heat source for about 3 minutes or until bacon is crisped.
  7. Set oven to 350 degrees, lower roasting pan to center of oven and top tenderloins with the Sticky Fig Jam.
  8. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
  9. Remove tenderloins from the over and let rest for 5 minutes. Carve and serve!