Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores

I was raised by some serious gardeners. I’m talking, the garden took up a large chunk of the front yard, we had chickens and ducks, there was a brief stint with a pig, and I know my way around hot water bath canning. I knew from a young age how to pull weeds, make cut worm collars for young tomato plants, how to identify a squash bug, and that zucchini and squash plants make me itch. I guess you could say my parents were slow food before most people knew slow food was a thing. I got to college, somehow, without ever having had a frozen vegetable, and called my mom soon after my arrival wanting to know why the green beans in the cafeteria tasted so…weird. “Oh honey, they’re probably frozen,” she said, laughing a little bit at both me and herself for raising me this way.

As I became an adult cooking for myself and then for a family, I strayed a little bit from those slow food values. Big bags of frozen chicken breasts were a major staple, and I mostly shopped at the nearest grocery store. Then we saw the movie Food Inc. and got serious about changing the way we were eating. We largely gave up factory farmed meat, electing to eat less of it and save our money for the “good stuff,” sustainably-raised, pastured, humanely-processed beef, chicken, and pork. We realized that not only was eating less meat and more vegetables, with as much of it raised locally as possible, was better for our bodies and for the planet, but also better for the farmers and workers who grew and made our food, too. We joined a CSA and I found myself with a weekly Iron Chef challenge to use up an enormous bounty of often unfamiliar produce each week. I learned to love greens and accepted that I may never like beets. This weird way of eating became our norm. We even got into urban gardening and ran a community garden for a time.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Then we became parents, and we knew we wanted our kids to be raised eating the same kinds of food I grew up on: local, sustainable, whole foods. We did baby led weaning with Etta (not so much with Claire because she had some serious feeding issues related to spina bifida and ate only purees for a long time, before she got some amazing help from a speech therapist who helped her learn to eat), and from the start, she ate like we did, albeit with her meals often made from deconstructed components of our food. We just kept eating family meals, kept giving our kids real food, and now we have three year olds who constantly impress me with their palates and their willingness to try new things, and also with their curiosity about where their food comes from.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

This summer, my husband has taken our urban container garden to the next level with a fancy self-watering system he built. It’s only the beginning of June, and we’ve already been eating peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs from our garden. I believe there have been some strawberries, too, but the girls snatch those before I ever get a chance to have one. We have several baby cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers on the way, and our tomatoes are so covered with green tomatoes that their cages have been reinforced with rope to keep the plants from toppling over. Every day, the girls run outside to check the progress of our garden, point out new “babies” on the plants, and ask us a million questions about everything. As weird as I once thought my super-gardener parents were, my heart now bursts with pride to see my girls picking cherry tomatoes warm from the sun and popping them right in their mouths– and knowing they can, too, because our tomatoes have never been sprayed with pesticides.


Beyond the food we grow, the girls participate in procuring other local foods with us, too. Often we walk to our local Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, where we pick up our groceries for the week and enjoy breakfast from local food trucks. Increasingly, I’ve been using an online market, the Arkansas Local Food Network, to order our Arkansas Grown, Arkansas Made goodies in advance for pickup on Saturday. This allows me to make a meal plan for the week a little easier. We all take our bags to a church downtown and pick up our order on Saturday morning where everything is waiting for us, and then I can fill in with any components we might need from the grocery store.


Since local food is such a huge part of our life, I was super excited to go to the Farm2Home event at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm last week. The event was sponsored by the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit and existed to help raise awareness about the Arkansas Made and Arkansas Grown programs. The AAD knows most people would love to shop local, and would do more of it, if identifying locally grown, locally made products were easier to do. The Arkansas Made and Arkansas Grown logos can appear on products and in restaurants and businesses that sell products grown or made in the state, and they are also listed on the Arkansas Grown website to help people find local producers and growers near them. And this program will help reach people who might want to shop local but who aren’t scouting out new vendors at farmer’s markets on weekends– I’ve seen the Arkansas Grown signage at Walmart and other large retailers.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home


I left Farm2Home excited and inspired– worn out by traffic on my way home, I almost pulled through a drive through, but I came home and made pasta with local kale instead. I’m even more committed to buying local and raising our girls to love local foods, and I’m excited about programs that will help more folks buy local. I’ll be sharing more of what I learned at Farm2Home in other posts, too, so check back for those soon!

*Note: I attended an event to learn about the Arkansas Grown program, but was not compensated for this post.

tacos de mayo

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When we visited Austin for the first time, I knew I had found my kind of town when I realized they like to eat tacos for breakfast. When I first met my husband, I would have said pasta was my favorite food, but his love of all things salsa, taco, and burrito have changed my ways. We eat tacos all the time, and mostly vegetarian ones. Since tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would share some of our favorite taco recipes, and maybe a couple of drinks to go along with them. (Speaking of drinks, if you follow me on Instagram and have ever asked me for a drink recipe, you might check out the #buffloimbibes tag up top under the header.) (Another note: if you’re reading this via a reader like Feedly, you might need to click through to see the embedded recipes.)

Serve those tacos with salsa, guac, and this Mexican rice:

And to drink:

Let me know if you make any of these recipes for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations! As for us, we’ve got tickets to see one of my favorite bands, Hurray for the Riff Raff, so we won’t be partaking on the day of. I’ve got plans for tacos and margaritas at some point this week, though.

Side note: have you liked Ernie Bufflo on Facebook? Lately I’ve been sharing a lot of funny things the girls say, so don’t miss out if you’re a fan of the darnedest things kids say.

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I eat local. I also eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Hanging out at the play place with friends.
Hanging out at the play place with friends.

As has been the case for the past couple of years, the sales numbers for Little Rock-area restaurants have been released, and the local Chick-Fil-A franchises are in the top. This has our local alt-weekly foaming at the mouth pitting people who eat local against those who eat at Chick-Fil-A.

For one thing, as I learned when trying to decide if I, a huge supporter of marriage equality and gay rights, should boycott CFA, our CFAs are locally owned franchises. I don’t personally know the owners, but friends who do have told me that they are not homophobic and do not support anti-equality causes. In fact, they have supported friends’ ministries, like Young Life.

Still, I get the urge to shop local and eat local. I’m a largely vegetarian, farmer’s market shopping foodie. When we go out to eat, our favorites are local places like The Root, South on Main, Bruno’s, Big Orange, Local Lime, The Fold, La Hacienda, and Damgoode Pies. I haven’t eaten at a chain like an Applebee’s or Chili’s or Olive Garden in YEARS. I think eating locally grown, locally made food from locally owned places is absolutely the ideal.

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Farmer’s market babies with their local produce.

But as a mom with young kids? I also eat at Chick-Fil-A. Not because my kids only eat nuggets. Nope. I’m raising baby foodies who eat whatever we eat, every single meal. But because there is just no locally-owned equivalent to my usual CFA experience: going at breakfast time, sipping coffee with my mom friends and getting to socialize, while our kids play on a safe, clean, indoor playground. Plus, our local CFA’s always have more than enough high chairs, changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, free placemats, and a really excellent staff that usually helps me to my table with my food and highchair and kid. They have never ever ever looked askance at me and my mom posse dragging along a pack of short people.

In my wildest fantasies, there would be an indoor play place at someplace like Mylo Coffee, and I could eat delicious pastries while chatting with my mama friends and watching my kids play, and not a single hipster with a Macbook Air would give me a dirty look over my kids harshing their quiet coffee shop mellow.

But that doesn’t exist. So I’ll keep taking my kids out to eat hyper-local food for dinner, but I’m also not giving up my occasional mornings at CFA, either.

How I learned to cook

Before I get into how I learned to cook, I thought I’d point out that if you’re reading this somewhere other than on my site, like a reader, you might be missing out on seeing our lovely new family photo in the header. We recently did a mini photo shoot with the talented and lovely Whitney Loibner, and I’m thrilled with how the pictures turned out. I highly recommend a mini shoot if you have toddlers– 15 minutes was about all my kids could handle, and we were outta there and off to get pancakes as a treat in no time. And if you have a talented photographer like Whitney,  you’ll still get plenty of great shots in a short amount of time.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog programming:

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I’ve kind of become notorious among my friends for Instagramming my food. One friend joked that whatever we have on Friday night, they have on Saturday. Others have joked about their dinners being “one-upped by the Orsborns.” Another Instagrammed her dinner last night and said I inspired her to do so. For all the hating posting food pics can get, most of my real-life feedback has been that my friends like my dinner posts and don’t want me to stop. Thank goodness, because I wasn’t planning to! (There’s a reason I joke that my Instagram brand is “all the things you hate:” kids, food, drinks, selfies, pets.)

Another question friends have asked is when I’m going to teach them how to cook. While I would like to occasionally host some kind of cooking party where everyone walks away with a couple freezeable dinners, that’s not really in my plans anytime soon, either. But what I can tell you is how I learned to cook.

Continue reading “How I learned to cook”

the verdict is in: meatballs are changing my life

The Friday Night Meatballs themselves.
The Friday Night Meatballs themselves.

I wrote back in September about the Friday Night Meatballs movement– it all started with a piece on Serious Eats that promised to change my life with pasta. The idea was to create a standing casual dinner party that would create community and serve as a social outlet, a sort of secular sabbath. I of course loved the idea immediately and was eager to give it a shot. I didn’t even allow myself to be deterred by the fact that I had never made meatballs before. That first FNM was such a hit that we decided to keep it going, and now, as I type, my house smells like garlic and tomatoes because I have my red sauce simmering on the stove for our FOURTH Friday Night Meatballs. (Some bloggers write posts ahead of time. I just sit down during nap time and write what I can.)

Hosting tip: always drink wine while you wait for the pasta water to boil.
Hosting tip: always drink wine while you wait for the pasta water to boil.
The FNM table all set and ready to go. The cheese stands alone.
The FNM table all set and ready to go. The cheese stands alone.

I knew from the start that although a weekly FNM sounds nice, it wouldn’t work for us, because Jon isn’t always off on Friday evenings– and I really think doing it on Friday is key, because it’s not a “school night” and most folks are off the next day, so the FNM can be relaxed, a nice way to ease from work week to weekend, and no one is in too much of a hurry to leave. Last time, we had four toddlers playing so happily together that we let bedtimes be damned and allowed them to play until almost 9 while the grownups chatted. So, for us, FNM has become more of a monthly than a weekly gathering, and that’s fine too.

Continue reading “the verdict is in: meatballs are changing my life”

I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating

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Geez, mom, how will I ever learn about eating healthy foods if we don’t talk about it?

Healthy eating is really important to me. I have written a lot about food, I have thought a lot about how a less-meatarian, largely-local diet is best for me and the planet, and I love to cook. I think a lot about what my kids eat too. But, I realized when asked about it recently, I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating, and I rarely label food as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” either. When we talk about food, we mostly talk about how it tastes, or that it’s crunchy, or that it’s yummy, or what color it is, or how many pieces of it there are, since we’re learning words and colors and numbers and stuff right now.

Instead, right now, I’m mostly counting on the message sent by our family eating habits to teach my kids that a healthy diet, one based largely around veggies and whole grains, with little processed food and not a lot of sugar, is a normal one.

Continue reading “I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating”

a moment of truth: how I cook all those dinners

A friend asked me a good question the other day. She’s just had her second baby, and she wanted to know, with two toddlers, how in the heck I’m managing to make all those dinners I’m Instagramming all the time.

Here’s the truth: my husband works unusual hours in the ER, so he’s usually home between the hours of 3 and 7. If he works the morning shift, he’s off by 2:30, and if he works in the evening or at night, he goes in at 10 or 7. Of several possible shifts, only one keeps him out of the house at dinner time. It’s one reason I *love* his specialty. So: if he’s home, and he usually is, my hour of dinner-making (and usually, while things cook, kitchen cleanup) is mine all mine because he’s playing with/caring for the kids. He even often takes them to a nearby playground at that time. It works out great for both of us, because I get to actually enjoy my dinner making time since I’m not trying to multitask with toddlers and can just exercise my culinary creativity, and he brings home two very happy kids and we all sit down to a lovely dinner.

If he’s not home? We eat leftovers or I choose a quick recipe that can be put together in the time it takes the girls to watch a Daniel Tiger episode in the den, behind a baby gate, where they can’t be underfoot.

So, there ya have it. I figured I should come clean, lest anyone think I think an hour-long dinner prep time works for most people. I know we have a weird lifestyle made possible by my staying home with the kids and my husband’s unusual work hours.

All that said, I thought I might share a few recipes that we’ve enjoyed lately. All three are from the Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman, which I use more than any other cookbook, and which I highly recommend, but, for you, I found each of the recipes online, so you can make them too!

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This Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon was delicious. I used one fewer sweet potato than the recipe called for and still had enough for the dish. I also think this recipe would work great with roasted winter squash like butternut instead.

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This Red Bean Paella is a dish I’ve made several times. I usually use canned tomatoes instead of fresh because it makes it a true pantry staple dish. We ate it with an arugula salad and brie on toast.

 

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This Arroz con Pollo is another I make frequently. I like that it’s a one-pot meal. The recipe in my cookbook called for chicken thighs, but I used legs because that’s what I had, and because Etta loves eating chicken legs. I also only used one package of chicken legs, added pinto beans and tomatoes and served it with avocado on the side.

 

can meatballs change my life?

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Recently, I read a piece on Serious Eats that seriously resonated with me– it promised to change my life, WITH PASTA. Pasta is basically my favorite food after cheese, so if there’s a way to change my life by eating more of it, I’m interested. In the piece, writer Sarah Grey talks in almost spiritual terms about what seems to be a sort of secular sabbath: the community created around what has become a weekly tradition of an open dinner party that centers around meatballs. Simple idea, simple meal, huge impact.  Continue reading “can meatballs change my life?”

A little thing changing my life: cold brew coffee

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I love watching the almond milk swirl into my afternoon iced coffee.

I take a really high dose of a heart med that at even 1/4 of what I take, makes people feel really really fatigued and lethargic. And I have two toddlers. Thank GOD no one has ever told me to cut out caffeine, because I need it to live and care for two toddlers. I usually have a cup of hot coffee in the morning and a big ass iced coffee in the late afternoon to help me survive til bedtime. This summer, I have picked up a new coffee habit that has changed my life, no lie.

I started cold brewing coffee.

I realize this sounds like fancy hipster crap, and you’re already thinking I’m about to bombard you with some new, difficult, pretentious coffee thing. But this is like, the lazy passive way to get delicious coffee-shop-esque iced lattes. You literally do it in your sleep.

What you need:

  • a French Press, ideally, but otherwise, a large jar or pitcher would work
  • If you don’t have a French Press, you’re going to need a fine mesh strainer
  • Coarse ground coffee, but if you don’t have a grinder, you can use ground coffee, just make sure you REALLY have a fine mesh strainer
  • cold water
  • time

Method: in your press or jar, put half a cup of ground coffee, and then fill with cold water. (If your press is a different size than mine, your ratio might differ– mine holds about 32 oz. of liquid.) Stir. Leave on your counter overnight. In the morning press it and pour it into a jar, through a strainer if necessary to catch any grounds. Keep the jar of fresh cold-brewed coffee concentrate in your fridge.

The resulting brew is going to be super concentrated. I like to dilute it 50/50 with either almond or coconut milk, over ice. If you use vanilla almond milk, you will want to kiss yourself. A note: because you’re likely going to want to mix this with some sort of milk-substance, it’s not super crucial to have super high quality beans, since you’ll not be noticing many subtle nuances of flavor. HOWEVER, I would like to plug our favorite coffee source, Leiva’s Coffee, which is a Little Rock company selling delicious Guatemalan coffee and committed to reinvesting in the community where the beans are grown. Hot or cold, I promise you’ll like their coffee. And they’re not paying me to say that, I’m just a fan. They will even ship it right to your door– that’s how we get our 2 lbs. a month.

Bam. Coffee shop worthy iced coffee, at home. It just might change your life.

 

lemon curd tarts with minted strawberries, and some thoughts on food blogging

lemon curd tarts with minted strawberries // erniebufflo.comI used to write a lot about food (see tab up top). I consider “food” a hobby of mine–mostly in the making/eating department, but the truth is, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I read recipes just to get ideas for things I will later wing on my own. I read cookbooks like other women might thumb through a fashion magazine. I know a lot of people are all “ain’t nobody got time for that” in terms of cooking dinner most nights, but we all make time for the things that we love, and for me, I love making and eating good food. Still, somewhere along the way, I stopped writing much about food. Part of it is, I see a lot of semi-plagiarism in the food blogging community. “Adapted from” is so often mostly “lifted entirely,” and I think instead of just slightly changing the wording on someone else’s recipe (which is legal– you can’t copyright an ingredients list, only the written-out process, so if you rewrite all the steps, you’re really not infringing on someone else’s copyright), sometimes you should just skip all that and link to the person who inspired you instead of pretending you created something new.  Continue reading “lemon curd tarts with minted strawberries, and some thoughts on food blogging”