About vesperlight

Hey, anyone out there in a Dinner Cooperative? I just heard of them and the idea sounds soooo cool. Might have to wait until the Picky Eater in my life grows up and leave home...or plan around his weekends with dad?

The local food movement has turned me into a foodie...I have not yet succeeded in persuading my son to share all my tastes, but our recent frugality is forcing him to eat my cooking whether he likes it or not.

Culinate is the first place I look for recipes.




Longview, WA

Favorite Food Writers

Greene on Greens, Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, The Green's Cookbook, Sustainable Garden books (John Seymour)


Rainier Marina Market
Cowlitz County Community Farmers Market I
Cowlitz County Community Farmers Market II

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Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other: My Meal Planning Dilemma

From vesperlight — Blog by
May 27, 2010

I’m caught between two opposing virtuous ideals.

The Frugal American Plan: I’m working hard at meal planning -- trying to plan a few days worth of meals ahead -- my eventual goal is to plan and shop no more than once a week. This will keep my food expenses down and reduce my use of convenience foods. It will keep me out of the evil clutches of fast-food joints and supermarket marketing gurus.

The Seasonal Gourmet: The peak of this ideal, in my romantic imagination, is the European housewife who wanders through the market daily, selecting only the freshest and most perfect seasonal produce, the best cuts of meat, the wedge of cheese cut from the wheel instead of wrapped in plastic.

What I really do in summer: I go to the farmer’s market with a strict cash-only budget, load myself down with so much produce I have to stagger to the car (usually with the assistance of vendors who are happy to take personal checks when I run out of cash), and then let it rot in the refrigerator because I don’t have time to cook and I did my planning in my head while I wandered around between vendors trying not to drool.

And also because the other person in my household is a Picky Eater with Allergies whose appetite is spoiled by the sight of green flecks in his food and who thinks chevre is Weird. With a capital W.

What I need is some sort of flexible planning. Here’s my idea, to test this weekend.

Step 1) Make a meal plan, or at least a recipe list, based on what I expect to be available at the farmer’s market: Lettuce, asparagus, perhaps some other greens like chard, kale, collard greens, and if I’m lucky, sorrel.

Step 2) Take the plan with me on Saturday morning. Plan for a simple meal like chicken breasts with a salad or easy vegetable side for Saturday night. Check off items as I find them. Allow room for one or two impulse buys if there are good deals or wonderful surprises available.

Step 3) Fix my simple but fresh Saturday supper and revisit my menu plan for the week. Incorporate the one or two impulse buys into the menu. Make a shopping list of everything else that I need for the week and shop for those items on Sunday.

Step 4) Follow the plan for the rest of the week.

Of course, this entirely leaves out the problem of planning around fresh produce from the garden, which always seems to arrive on a feast or famine schedule.

And once a week shopping means very little fresh produce after midweek...some things just don’t keep.

Anyone else have an approach for reconciling these different approaches to meal planning? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Lamb has arrived

From vesperlight — Blog by
March 6, 2009

I have a shoulder roast and 4 lamb chops in my freezer. If I cook it this weekend and say that I like it and want more, my friend will give me all the rest of half a lamb.


He said his wife usually rubs a roast all over with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, lets it sit for a few hours, then bakes it at 200 until it falls apart (I would use 250, myself).

I have to please not only myself, but picky eater 16-year old son.

Anticipating lamb

From vesperlight — Blog by
March 3, 2009

A friend who raises sheep has offered to share some lamb. I’m not sure how much, or what cuts, but my lamb will be arriving at Bible study on Thursday night (I am assuming it will be frozen or ready to freezer rather than on the hoof...hope I’m not reading too much into “Would you like some lamb?”) I’ve eaten lamb before, very rarely, but never cooked with it. Culinate seems to have a nice assortment of recipes. The lamb I liked best, out of my meager experience, was kebabs marinated in yogurt and grilled.

A few changes in plan....

From vesperlight — Blog by
February 21, 2009

I ended up modifying my plan as I went along. Instead of the Washday Casserole, which my son objected to, we had turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with mustard and pickle slices. Neither of us was in the mood for adding cheese. Frankly, this wasn’t really enough to make a one-dish meal, and if he would have eaten them, I think I would have dished up some canned veggies or soup.

The next night, since I already had the bread dough made that the recipe called for, I made the stuffed pork buns out of the 5-minute bread book. I used turkey instead of the pork, and simmered it for hours in a mix of California chilis, tomatoes and a little cumin seed. I used about a half can of green ancho chilis instead of the chipotle chilis called for -- not at all the same thing, much milder, but it’s what I had on hand.

I really, really liked the results. The meat sauce was actually enough for 2 batches of buns.

And on Thursday our tax refund money came and we ate out.

My personal food challenge week

From vesperlight — Blog by
February 17, 2009

I ran out of month before I ran out of money -- again. I’m reduced to eating nothing but my own cooking. Worse, until Friday, I am reduced to cooking without any of the following ingredients:

Butter (no margarine either)
Vegetable oil
Fresh vegetables (and a very limited supply of canned)

I have about 2 T of olive oil left. I have a good supply of most of the other staples I use for most of my cooking--I tend to shop in terms of staying stocked up on staples, rather than planning for individual meals. A little cheese left.

Sunday, on my own, I had homemade pita bread and Minimalist Hummus (canned garbanzo beans and a garlic clove--no lemon or parsley), and oatmeal with diced apples and brown sugar. I discovered that it is not possible to have leftover home-made pita bread...not in my house. I also baked a loaf of Portuguese Broa from the “5-minute bread” cookbook, and had a wonderful bowl of zuchinni zappata soup out of my freezer, with a Parmesan “soup rind” for garnish.

Monday breakfast, oatmeal and raisins. Monday lunch, more pita and hummus.

Monday dinner, for myself and son, was enchiladas (store-bought tortillas, canned enchilada sauce, leftover Christmas turkey from freezer warmed up with a little salsa verde), white rice and some white beans cooked with an onion, a bayleaf, a few pepper corns and coriander seeds. I had 3 enchiladas. Son had 5.

Tonight will be a version of my mother’s “Washday Casserole.” The original version: layers of sliced potatoes, onions, browned ground beef, canned tomatoes, a little cheese and perhaps bread crumbs or crackers crumbs on top. Tonight’s version will use leftover beans from last night and a little more turkey instead of the ground beef.

Now on my shopping list: a baking stone for bread and pizzas. One of the big thick rectangular ones. The 5-minute bread book really does make it possible to bake more or less daily with very little effort...as long as you like slightly sour, crusty bread with big holes. I do.

I also like the light, fine-grained, even-crumbed wonderful loaves I get if I slavishly follow the directions in the Laurel’s Kitchen bread book.

What’s local in my food this week? The Tillamook cheese, potatoes, onions, apples, turkey...

I have a plan for tomorrow...stay tuned...

Unexpected goodies

From vesperlight — Blog by
October 21, 2008

Tonight at church a friend offered a box of big red ripe fragrant tomatoes, and I took three. Then another friend handed me a bag of apples and....

a big bag of....

chanterelles, picked only two hours before.

Now I need to figure out how to cook them.

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