Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recipe: Pot au feu

Pot au feu sounds so much better than "stew", doesn't it? It should, because pot au feu resembles ordinary stew like a fine French wine looks like Boone's Farm. They both have the same basic shape and belong to the same family, but the resemblance ends there. In any case, the pot of fire is a wonderful choice in bitter weather and tough times. It's 'stick to your ribs' food combined with a velvety texture that is hard to beat.

2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 onion
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley and bay leaf tied together with a string) [I just added the thyme and parsley]
1 pound pork spareribs
3 fresh sausages
6 Brussels sprouts, halved
6 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
6 small potatoes
1 celery root, peeled and chopped
3 leeks, sliced into thick rings [you could substitute additional onions]
Horseradish or sharp mustard

1. Simmer: settle pork shoulder in a medium pot. Pour in cold water to cover. Boil and skim off foam. Add onion and bouquet garni. Reduce heat; simmer tender 2 1/2 hours.
2. Stew: Add ribs and sausage and continue to cook, 20 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and cook until tender, 25 minutes.
3. Sizzle: Pull out ribs and transfer to a broiler pan. Slide under hot broiler until tops turn crisp, 2 minutes.
4. Serve: Discard bouquet. Pull out shoulder and sausage and carve into big chunks; arrange on a platter. Arrange ribs and vegetables alongside. Service with horseradish and pickles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Crystal Lake Farmers Market

A bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, annuals, perennials, farm-fresh eggs, baked goods and more! The Crystal Lake Farmers Market is back at its original location in Depot Park and will be will be enhanced and expanded due to the addition of a beautiful new Gazebo. Ample, free parking available in the Metra commuter lots.

2009 Farmer's Market starts Saturday, June 6th
Every Saturday (June through October) 8:00AM - 1:00PM

Location & Contact Information:
86 N Williams St, Crystal Lake, IL
Diana Kenney
email at:

Featured Local Growers:

Farmer Nick's Pasture Raised Meat and Eggs
Harms Garden Center

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ohana Farms Inc

Family-owned (ohana means family in Hawaiian) 40-acre nursery located in rural Marengo, northwest McHenry County. This tree farm has been certified by the State of Illinois Department of Agriculture. Offering Evergreens, Native Plants, Shade & Ornamental Trees, and a variefy of Shrubs.

Ohana Farms Inc is a vendor at the Woodstock Farmers Market.

3511 Millstream Road
Marengo, Illinois 60152

View Larger Map

Monday, April 27, 2009

DIY: Set Up A Conservation Easement!

Setting up a conservation easement isn't a typical DIY project but if you own property that you would like to protect in perpetuity, such as a woodlot, farm or marshland, it may be a worthwhile endeavor.

First - what is a conservation easement?  Well, according to the Fox Valley Land Foundation, an easement is
"a way you can protect the environmental value of your land while continuing to own it. It is a legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit conservation group or public agency that limits use of the land to ensure that the owner’s conservation goals for the property are upheld."
In other words, an easement is a contract that allows you to retain ownership of your land while restricting certain types of development for as long as the US government and legal system remains intact.

Why set up an easement?  Well, there are two main reasons.  A conservation easement allows you the owner to permanently protect your property from certain types of unwanted development.  It can also confer some significant income tax and estate tax reductions as well because the easement affects the value of the property.

To summarize, an easement:
  • Allows you to protect your land permanently, yet retain ownership for you and your descendants,
  • Maintains flexibility - you can set up easements that protect your right to farm, cut wood, etc,
  • Can signficantly reduce your taxes.
Interested?  Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Video: More Uses for Strawberry Pots!

Including strawberries!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Curds & Whey Cheese Company

Curds & Whey specializes in unique regional artisan cheeses, fine imported international cheeses, dairy products including butter, farmstead milk, farm fresh local eggs and related local foodstuffs. 

C&W is also one of the only sources for hard to find artisan cheeses in Northern Illinois. Their cheeses can be found at local farmers markets, cheese specialty shops as well fine restaurants. See here for the full list of outlets.

Contact Info:
Debb and Rob Murphy
Curds & Whey Cheese
at Inglenook Pantry
11 N 5th Street
Geneva IL 60134
(630) 377-0373

View Larger Map

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recipe: Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's fast, not too complicated, tasty and fun! Because you can reuse the spaghetti squash shells as part of the presentation, it's also very visually appealing. 

NB: this recipe calls for ground veal, but you can easily substitute ground round, ground chuck or any other type of ground meat.

1 small spaghetti squash, about 1-1/2 lbs
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cut red pepper, diced
1 garlic clove
8 oz. ground veal
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
dash salt & pepper (to taste)
2 oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tbsp. parsley, chopped

1. Cut squash, removing flesh and separating into strands. Set aside.
2. In skillet, heat oil, add onion, red pepper, garlic and ground meat. Saute until mixture is golden and meat isn't pink. Add tomatoes, seasonings and reserved squash pulp; cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Spoon half of mixture into a shell.
3. Place halves in baking dish and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on each one, then broil until melted and browned. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

River District Farmers Market (Rockford IL)

River District Farmers Market

Featuring a variety of seasonal, locally grown plants, produce, and baked goods for sale. Local honey producer is at Saturday's market. Locally grown organic produce, plants, flowers, arts, crafts, baked goods, honey, processed meats/sausages and cookbooks.

Saturdays are family-friendly with a children's play area and face painting!

Time: May 27-Oct 25, Tue & Sat

Two Locations!
  • Tuesdays 8am-2pm at YMCA South lot, 200 Y Blvd (next to tennis courts)
  • Saturdays 8am-4pm at Trinity Learning Center lot, 210 N First St (across from Trinity Lutheran Church)
For More Information:

Kim Wheeler, Rockford IL 61110, (815) 964-6221,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Choices Natural Market

Choices Natural Market is an independent, family owned natural food store. Choices strives to provide customers with the finest quality fresh, natural, organic and whole foods, nutritional products, body care products and health information.

They work closely with small family farmers and local producers. Local farmers provide many of their products: including beef, poultry, produce, milk and even yogurt!

6551 E Riverside Blvd # 114
Rockford, IL 61114
(815) 282-1861

View Larger Map

Monday, April 20, 2009

DIY: An Easy Herb Garden In a Strawberry Pot!

This week's tip is a fun and creative way of organizing your herbs so they're in one convenient and gloriously fragrant place.  A 'strawberry pot' is one of those big pots that are studded with ledges around the side of the surface.

Before you get started, however, sit down and put together a list of what you'll need.  Start with the strawberry pot, of course, (and the bigger the better).  You'll also need a high-quality potting soil (not dirt - potting soil has better drainage, which is important in container gardening).  You'll also need enough gravel to place at the bottom of the container, also for drainage.  You may want to pick up a piece of lawn fabric as well, to place over the gravel so it doesn't mix into the soil.

Next, you'll have to decide what herbs to use.  You can plant whatever combination you want, although be careful of mint:  it's invasive and could take over the entire container.  

Popular choices include: 
  • thyme, 
  • chives, 
  • dill, 
  • basil, 
  • oregano, 
  • parsley, 
  • cilantro. 
There are many different varieties of the plants listed above - have fun experimenting!  Plant your favorite herb in the top hole where it has more room to grow.

As a final DIY hack:  You can install your own inexpensive drip irrigation system in a strawberry pot with a simple 20oz. plastic bottle.  Poke some small holes in the bottom of the bottle so that water just drips out when filled.  Situate the bottle so that merely the cap is above the surface of the soil - remove the cap and fill in the morning to add water throughout the day!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Salute! Farm

An organic farm selling lettuces, gourmet greens, carrots, radishes, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, chard, kale, melons, beets, broccoli, peas, beans, corn, eggplant, potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, pumpkins, gourds, leeks, brussel sprouts, basil along with access to a new herb cutting garden.

Salute! also sells at the historic Woodstock Farmers Market.

Haje Black
2615 E. Menlo Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

View Larger Map

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recipe: 30 Minute Minestrone

Minestrone is, along with pasta, one of the cornerstones of Italian cooking. There is no single recipe for minestrone (in Italian, "the big soup") because it is made with whatever vegetables you happen to have lying around. This makes it a wonderfully versatile and fast dish if you, like me, love to entertain on short notice!

This recipe is taken from, but you'll be able to play around and customize this delightful dish to your particular taste and circumstance.

2 medium carrots, chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian stewed or diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cubes beef bouillon
1 cup torn fresh spinach
2/3 cup cooked elbow macaroni
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a 3-qt. saucepan, saute carrots, cabbage, celery, onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add water, tomatoes and bouillon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Stir in spinach, macaroni and pepper; heat through.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grayslake Farmers Market

The Grayslake Farmers Market is located in historic Centennial Park and features homegrown & gourmet products like:
• Vegetables
• Fruits
• Flowers
• Perennials
• Sweets
• Breads
• Cheese
• Meat
• Fine Art
• Wine
• Cooking Demos
• Entertainment

2009 Dates - Spring Season
April 4 - May 30
Every Saturday
10 am to 2:00 pm

2009 Dates - Summer Season
June 10-Oct. 7
Every Wednesday
3:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Featured Local Grower:
Farmer Nick's Pasture-Raised Meat and Eggs

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Top O' The Hill Farm

Top O' the Hill Farm

Free-range, organic heritage turkeys (Narragansett, Slate, Black Spanish, and White Holland, Bourbon Red and Royal Palm). The farm also has pasture-raised pork (new last year), also fed certified organic feed and a small number of chickens (some heritage breeds), ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. They are all also free-range and organic.

Anthony and Mary Keisling
4320 Doty Rd.
Woodstock, Il 60098
(815) 260-1520

View Larger Map

Monday, April 13, 2009

DIY: Build a Custom Planter!

A custom planter is an excellent way to spruce up the side of your home, add some character or provide an excellent window showcase for some lovely plants!

You can select different options as well - planters can be painted or stained and the height and width is easily customizable for any configuration. Often made from cedar or pressure-treated wood (because it resists rotting), planters can be built to hold dirt directly, or they can be a decorative housing for a more utilitarian pot.

Free plans for planters abound on the internet, (try typing 'free garden planter plans' into your favorite search engine) but here is one of my favorites.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Le Petit Marche

Le Petit Marche (The Little Market)

Provides artisan breads, gourmet cheeses and fine wines. Located in historic downtown Crystal Lake across from the Raue Center.

Closed Sunday
Monday 11a - 5p
Tues and Weds 8:30a - 7:00p
Thurs thru Sat 8:30a - 8:00p

Directions and Contact Information:
19 N Williams St. Crystal Lake, Il 815-477-3296

View Larger Map

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cabbage and Hamburger Bake

This recipe is a great way to take advantage of that leftover head of cabbage (or the one on sale for $.19/lb in the grocery store). It's quick, easy and doesn't scream 'I'm cabbage'. In fact, with the Swiss cheese and caraway seed this recipe chimes with the faint taste of a Reuben. Thousand Island dressing would certainly work as an optional topper.

2 cups of chopped cabbage, steamed
1 lb hamburger, browned
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 oz Swiss cheese
1 tbsp onion
1/4 tsp caraway seed

1. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees.
2. Heat the milk and add swiss cheese and spices.
3. Stir until smooth.
4. Layer browned hamburger and steamed cabbage in casserole dish. Pour sauce over top.
5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Woodstock Farmers Market

The Woodstock Farmers Market is a producers’ market, allowing only product that was grown or produced by local farmers. Market vendors sell spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, and much more. You’ll also find baked goods, honey, natural beef, pork, poultry, and eggs; fine wines, plants and flowers and delicious cheeses as well as jewelry and craft items.

May - October, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
On Woodstock Square, Woodstock Illinois

Contact: Keith at 815-338-5164 or by e.mail at

Featured Local Vendors:
More Than Delicious Orchard
Von Bergen's Country Market
Willow Lea Stock Farm

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Than Delicious Orchard

Mike & Velma Downes
9905 Thompson Rd.
Woodstock, IL 60098

Offers over 80 varieties of apples and pears, including many antique heirloom apples. Also offers a selection on local honey.

U-pick hours September thru October. Price per bushel is $50.00, which is approximately $1.19 per pound. Cash or checks accepted.

View Larger Map

Monday, April 6, 2009

DIY: Making An Upside Down Tomato Planter

Why plant tomatoes (or anything else for that matter) upside down? Because it makes sense that's why!

For example, an upside down tomato plant eliminates:
  • Ground fungus
  • Harmful bacteria
  • Cutworm damage
  • Use of pesticides
  • Digging and weeding
  • Backbreaking work
Now, you could buy a hanging tomato planter, but what fun would that be? It's just as easy to do it yourself. See this step-by-step guide for building your own upside down tomato planter.

I did this last year for my tomatoes and it worked very well. As in the picture below, you can even engage in a little companion planting, with basil on top and your tomato plant underneath.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Eat More Illinois Food

A recent Illinois state task force recently concluded something that we here at Local Food in Northern Illinois have known all along: buying local isn't just good for the planet, or your health; it's good for our state economy too.

According to a recently published report by the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force, if Illinoisans purchased just 10% of their groceries from local farmers and producers, it could generate $20 - $30 billion in economic activity by 2030.

I love it when Main Street and Wall Street come together.

The task force also recommended:
  • That government set up infrastructure that makes it easier for farmers to get produce to the right people in the right condition.

  • That government help facilitate deals between Illinois farmers and potential customers including those who make chow for Illinois schools, hospitals,prisons, nursing homes, universities and more.

  • Improving health in the state by bringing fresh local produce to areas thatare overserved by fast food chains and underserved by greengrocers.

Support these bills as they move through the state legislature!

Friday, April 3, 2009

2009 Northern Illinois Planting Calendar

Plant Time Planting Dates
May 15-Jun 21
Beans(E)May 7-Jun 21

(L)Jun 15-Jul 15
Beets(E)May 1-15

(L)Jul 15-Aug 15
Broccoli plants(E)May 15-31

(L)Jun 15-Jul 7
Brussel sprouts
May 15-31
Cabbage plants
May 15-31
Carrots(E)May 15-31

(L)Jun 15-Jul 21
Cauliflower plants(E)May 15-31

(L)Jun 15-Jul 21
Celery plants(E)May 15-Jun 30

(L)Jul 15-Aug 15
Collards(E)May 15-31

(L)Jul 1-Aug 7
Corn, sweet(E)May 10-Jun 15

(L)Jun 15-30
May 7-Jun 20
Eggplant plants
Jun 1-30
Endive(E)May 15-31

(L)Jun 7-30
Kale(E)May 15-31

(L)Jul 1-Aug 7
May 15-31
May 15-Jun 30
May 15-Jun 30
Jun 15-Jul 10
Onion sets
May 15-Jun 7
May 15-31
Apr 1-30
Peas(E)Apr 15-May 7

(L)Jul 15-31
Pepper plants
May 15-Jun 30
May 1-31
May 15-31
Radishes(E)Apr 15-30

(L)Aug 15-31
Spinach(E)May 15-31

(L)Jul 17-Sep 7
May 15-Jun 15
Sweet potatoes
May 15-Jun 15
Swiss chard
May 1-31
Tomato plants
May 15-31
Turnips(E)Apr 7-30

(L)Jul 1-Aug 15
May 15-Jun 30
Wheat, spring
Apr 7-30
Wheat, winter
Aug 11-Sep 15

PS - If you're not based in north central illinois, try this website!