Examine the Food Chain

The spring seemed to last forever in Portland. Rain, cold, dark. We had to replant seeds and starts becasue the garden would not take off like past years. We even did naked chatting and dancing during the full moon to encourage growth. Our tricks worked. Finally, we are enjoying our garden veggies. Eating lots of beans this week. Steam for 6 minutes. Toss with butter, salt and pepper. Devour.

This past spring, we ripped out the grass in our front yard, replaced the grass with more garden beds and put wood chips between the beds. Here is what our yard looked like this spring.

We are happy to have less weeds to mow and I like being able to tell people who are looking for our house for the first time, “we are the ones with the wood chips in the front”. We stand out. In a good way.

We now have 12 raised beds in the front and back yard.

The 100 mile diet seemed like it would be a thing of the past after we got pregnant.

Examine the Food Chain print by Nikki McClure

Examine the Food Chain print by Nikki McClure

Now, with even more growing space and a renewed love of cooking, I am anxious to ease our way back to our experiment. How much more local can you get when you breastfeed? Here is a print we have hanging in our kitchen to help inspire us.

Last week, I cleaned out the freezer to make way for the berries I froze. I unearthed some frozen tomatoes, elk meat and frozen peppers. We made this meatball dish. Not one like I have ever made before and I enjoyed the milder red sauce and especially loved the meatballs.


* 6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), diced
* 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
* 2 pounds ground beef (15% fat)
* 2/3 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
* 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
* 2 large eggs
* 1/2 cup coarsely grated onion
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
* 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


* 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
* 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
* 6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), cut crosswise into thin strips
* 1 tablespoon (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
* 3 cups finely chopped onions
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
* 2 cups dry white wine
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram


* 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
* 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
* Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place bacon in processor. Using on/off turns, grind to coarse paste. Transfer to large bowl. Using garlic press, squeeze in garlic. Gently mix in beef and all remaining ingredients. Let stand 15 minutes.
2. Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.

1. Puree tomatoes with juice and garlic in batches in blender until smooth.
2. Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp; transfer bacon to plate.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pot and heat over medium heat. Add half of meatballs. Cook until brown on all sides, turning carefully with small metal spatula, about 9 minutes.
4. Transfer meatballs to baking sheet. Add more oil to pot if needed and repeat with remaining meatballs.
5. Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions and crushed red pepper to pot. Sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, stirring up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Add tomato puree and marjoram. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Mix bacon into sauce. Add meatballs; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until meatballs are heated through and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; transfer to large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil and marjoram, adding more oil to moisten, if desired. Divide spaghetti among bowls. Top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

***For more information about the Nikki McClure print included in this post, check out the following sites:
Nikki McClure
Buy Olympia
Land in Portland, Oregon


4 responses to “Examine the Food Chain

  1. This so makes my heart sing! Your yard looks gorgeous. And yes, breastfeeding is the best thing for all involved. I am “in the space” so to speak, my online store is http://www.PollywogBaby.com. You will be able to find my reflux pillow in baby stores around the world this fall – I just licensed it to My Brest Friend!

    I’m so happy your garden is thriving, even in this crummy summer weather. It’s supposed to start warming up again tomorrow. Hopefully anything you are lacking will have time to finish. When are you due?

    • Hi Annette! Now you know why I could never get that guest post together for you! I fell asleep for 3 months, was in la la land for the second 3 months and am now gearing up for baby. We are so excited and feels good to be in the home stretch–due 10/25/10. YOUR yard was our inspiration you know. Once I saw that post with your great front yard, I had to follow suit. Thanks for the website link. I am going to check it out! And you are with My Breast Friend now! Wow! By the way, GREAT calendar post. Come on sunshine!!! Come find us today!

  2. I love that you ate the meatballs with sweet corn! Being a Midwest girl, I can’t get enough of it. Did you grow the corn? Your garden beds look amazing and I love the nasturtium in the front. Can’t wait to visit your home again soon I hope. I’ll be sending you photos of our beds too. The desert sun is making is some delicious tomatoes, squash and basil right now.

  3. Your yard looks beautiful. Thanks for posting pictures. I wish our garden was doing as well. Hopefully we will still get some summer weather this month!

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