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Small business shopping– not just for #ShopSmallSaturday

Small business shopping– not just for #ShopSmallSaturday

The recent shuttering of Marty’s Market and announced relocation (or closing) of Pittsburgh Public Market have me sad, but even more so, have me frustrated.  Mr. Beez went to the liquidation sale at Marty’s last weekend, and he told me how people kept going up to the owner, Regina, saying how much they loved the place and how sad they were to see it closing, but you could just see it in her eyes, the thought that “That’s very nice, but if you loved it so much, shopping here would have kept it open!”

#ShopSmallSaturday is a cute idea and well intentioned, but it has facilitated a “Shop Small” mindset that is restricted to novelty, or increasingly, self-publicized social media posts announcing “LOOK I AM SUPPORTING THE SMALL BUSINESSES!”  Yes, I too am guilty of such self-congratulation. (Here and here). Small businesses do not survive, much less thrive, on a single day of celebrated shopping or blog posts filled with praise.  Small businesses survive on dollars.

At the beginning of 2015, I set a resolution to transition all my grocery shopping to the East End Food Co-Op.  This goal was grounded in several reasons, (1) it is a local, member owned, community supported business and I decided I needed to step up my real, dollars and cents, support of that endeavor, (2) the principles that the co-op applies in selecting the products it offers are consistent with my own principles concerning health, fairness to employees, and local-focus, so shopping there dramatically cuts down (if not eliminates) my need to sort through information about the brands and products themselves, and (3) Mr. Beez has long been on the board of the co-op and its success is important to him, so I wanted to step up our financial support from occasional shopping to regular shopping.

Co-op snacking

At a month in, I found that I had to make some tweaks to how I shopped, but that otherwise it was all going swimmingly.  Now, over a year in, the co-op has become our regular grocery store and the thought of shopping at the normal chain places is exhausting to me.  Sure, occasionally I have to shop at a larger grocery chain because there are things that the co-op just doesn’t have (see: ingredients for buffalo chicken dip).  But the mainstays of our diet now come from the co-op.

Throughout 2015, we continued to make changes to make sure that our dollars stayed in the community.  I guess the co-op principles really struck a chord, and we applied those principles more broadly in our lives.  For the last several years we have had summer farm shares.  In 2015 we got our fruit & vegetable farm share with Clarion River Organics, and then expanded to also get a beef share. I’m not going to fill this post up with links about factory farming, you can go find that yourself. But I decided that if we were going to continue to cook meat in the house, I could at least make sure that I was getting it from local farmers, focused on the quality of life of the animals.

We also made the Pittsburgh Public Market a regular part of our lives– every Saturday we go there for lunch after Baby Beez’ ballet class is over.  She gets her chocolate milk from Family Farm Creameries and a hot dog from Bull Dawgs.  Mr. Beez gets his pint of Red Star Kombucha, and we pick our lunches based on whatever we happen to feel like that day (usually Ohio City Pasta, omg amazing). While we used to only go to the Public Market as an occasional outing, we have since turned it into a regular part of our lives.

Public Market

I’m not writing this to be sanctimonious. Shopping local can be expensive and sometimes inconvenient.  I am not asking everyone to abandon Target and only get non-bleached paper towels at the co-op. I don’t shop local all the time. I’ve got a Starbucks coffee on my desk right now.  But what I’ve been working harder at over the last year is making local businesses a routine part of my family’s every day life, so that supporting a local business isn’t just what we do in our day to day lives, not some isolated novelty.

If our community wants to see these small businesses move forward, we have to spend our money at these small businesses. Yelp posts about how charming the business is doesn’t go very far. It is a kick to the gut, watching small businesses that are so important to us, have to close when the public’s spending doesn’t match its professed fondness.

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So start making small changes. Make small business the priority you claim it to be.

When you are going on a coffee date with a friend, instead of immediately offering to meet at the ‘bux, consider instead: Commonplace Coffee, Zeke’s, Big Dog Coffee, Constellation Coffee, Coffee Tree Roasters, 21st Street Coffee, Anchor & Anvil Coffee Bar or Lili Cafe.

When you are picking up coffee to brew at home, instead of grabbing the bag of Dunkin, consider instead beans from: Coffee 19, Caffe D’Amore, La Prima Espresso or Nicholas Coffee Co.

When you’re running out to pick up lunch on a workday, instead of grabbing Subway, consider: Umbrella Cafe, Madonna’s, Bluebird Kitchen, Market Square Grocery or Craftwork Kitchen.

When you’re picking up beer for the game, instead of grabbing six packs at Market District, consider: picking up bottles at Carson St. Deli, getting a case at Vecenie Distributing, or filling growlers at Grist House, Arsenal Cider, VooDoo Brewery, Full Pint or at Houghs.

When you’re picking up a birthday gift & card, instead of running to CVS, consider: Wild Card, Kards Unlimited, or make a point to stop over at one of the many sessions of I Made it Market!

When you’re ordering pizza for Superbowl Sunday, instead of calling Domino’s, consider: Rialto’s, Fiore’s, Cestone’s, Spak Bros. or (if you’re feeling fancy) Pizza Taglio.

It’s a little tougher in the suburbs, but when you’re in the city, there are small businesses everywhere. It’s not enough to profess our love for them on the internet. If we want them to thrive, we need to spend our money there as part of our everyday lives.

If you’re so inspired, please share your favorite local spots. I’m always up for new ideas for keeping our dollars in the community.

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NaBloPoMo Day 1: Welcome to #NaBloPoMo and a Recipe for You

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Welcome to #NaBloPoMo and a Recipe for You

It’s NOVEMBER! In addition to the 18 day countdown to my 29th (again) birthday, it’s also National Blog Post Month (or, National Novel Writing Month for People Who Do Not Have the Attention Span to Write A Novel….but that hashtag was unwieldy).

I’ve participated in NaBloPoMo a few times in the past. Some years I have made it the whole month. Other times, the rest of life has pushed blogging to the backburner, and I have lost steam. Blogging has taken a backburner a lot lately, and I’d like to turn that around.

My first post is not full of insights and witticisms because I’ve got a narsty chest cold that left me sleeping on the couch most of the day. Mind you, the husband wasn’t home all day, so this meant my 5 year old was physically climbing on me and jumping on me and I was without energy to yell at her or fight her off. So yeah. #DangKids  Also, she never stops talking ever. At all. And if she stops with words, she starts with singing or noises or smacking things around to make noises with them. Calgon please take me away. To anywhere that is silent and does not involve a 5 year old knee to my sternum.

I did manage to throw together a respectable miso stew that is hitting the spot.  Like many comfort foods, the photo is unimpressive, but it tasted good and helped me feel a little better.

Miso Stew

Ingredients:

1 onion

Some oil (I used olive oil, you can use whatever you like to fry things in)

Some garlic

Some ginger

Some rice vinegar

Block of tofu (preferably previously frozen then defrosted)

Dried Kelp or kombu

Sliced shitaake mushrooms (I used frozen)

Miso paste

Soba Noodles

  1. Slice up the onions and cook them in a soup pot with the garlic and ginger until fragrant
  2. Add in a bunch of water, as well as ginger, rice vinegar and miso. You’ll probably need more miso than you expect, unless you are good at cooking with miso and already have a feel for that kind of thing.  I say “some” for all of these, because I added them in til I got the taste I wanted.
  3. Slice the tofu into little blocks and add it, along with the kelp or kombu and shitaake mushrooms, and cook for a while. I think I brought it up to a boil and then simmered for like half an hour or so.
  4. Add in the noodles and cook for a while. I think they were done in about 10 minutes.

Serve with a side of your preferred decongestant, and hopefully you’ll be feeling better in a jiffy!


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Celebrating Summer with @NickyDCooks String Bean Salad

Celebrating Summer with @NickyDCooks String Bean Salad

Thanks to Nicky D for sharing her summertime memories and recipes with us today!

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Nicky D here from www.nickydcooks.com . I’m happy to be doing a summer guest blog for BeezusKiddo today. I am sharing with you today summertime memories of growing up in Rhode Island and a recipe for a delicious salad that reminds me of this special time.

The Summer String Bean Salad

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Rhode Island was going to the beach with my family. It was always a fun time, playing in the sun and surf while my family was gathered around.

It looked like a Norman Rockwell scene, typical Americana- that is until meal time.

My family brought a bevy of tasty treats with them, they didn’t travel lightly when it came to food. My female relatives suffered from an irrational fear that someone in the family will go hungry and heaven forbid this should happen.

The rationale for the copious amounts of food brought for the day was my Grandmother’s notion that “you never know who’s hungry”. And who is going to argue with an Italian Grandmother’s logic?

Truth be told, if you were running and playing on the beach all day you, really did work up an appetite.

Here was our strategy for going to the beach. First, a liaison was sent out in advance to stake out a prime spot for picnicking and beaching all day. The person in charge of this was usually my dad, who with help from some of the other men in the family, scoured the beach for the perfect spot.

My father was like a war time general, marking out strategic positions and locations. We needed to be near the bathroom facilities and picnic tables but far away from the snack bar. Once the perfect spot was located (this was only signaled with the nod from the patriarch of the family), the unloading of the supplies could begin.

Hibachi’s and coolers and blankets, oh my! Tent spikes were hammered into the sand to hold the canopies in place. The men unloaded the food and supplies and the women set up what looked like a mini-camp.

I’m sure we were quite the sight but we were there for the day, at least 2 meals and multiple snacks. In fact, this is how the day was measured, by the number of meals that were prepared for that day. This task was done and then the day of fun in the sun could begin.

I remember meals at the beach starting by someone in the family asking “is anyone hungry”? The adults would all shake their heads in agreement, and the preparations began: A well-oiled machine, all of the pieces working in unison.

My dad would start the coals on the Hibachi’s, and each male relative had their own tried and true method as to how to get the charcoal briquettes to light. There was intense discussions and debates as the fires were being lit.

As children we were never allowed to go near this area, there was always a fear that someone would catch on fire. Italians always live in the dark place, there was always “someone that so and so knew that had an accident when lighting a fire”. So as kids we stayed closer to the deli meats, no one ever died or lost a limb while near these things.

My mother and the others had the task of setting up the rest of the food, all under the careful direction of my grandmother. Children were discouraged from being around because we brought in the extra sand, so we were given snacks and sent off to play until the meal was ready.

This truly was a thing of beauty. Multi generations of a single family all gathered together for a meal at the beach. The coals burned brightly and the smell of the hamburgers and hotdogs cooking filled the air. Colorful salads and side dishes displayed on red checkered table clothes. Italian cold cuts laid out for sandwiches and bowls filled with various potato chips spread out on the picnic tables. Ocean waves would break in the background and pesky seagulls flew overhead.

I always remember hearing the older family members talking about how much better the food tasted when it was eaten by the salt water.

There was the thermoses filled with Kool-Aid that left a distinctive red mustache on our faces and the directive from my grandmother to go and “clean your face in the water…the salt water, it’s good for you”!

I ingested my fair share of beach sand, but in my family I think that they considered a few grains of this stuff a digestion aid. If you complained about it, you would hear an audible sigh and a collective “it’s good for you” from several family members.

Dessert was always watermelon. Before you think that we brought down beautiful storage containers of precut cubes and slices, I need to relieve you from this notion.

These Italians were hard core and brought a few big watermelons right from the farm because my grandfather knew the farmer. My father brought out his butchers knife and sliced gigantic pieces for everyone.

There we sat munching on our watermelon slices, juices dripping down our arms and we were happy. Inevitably there was a seed spitting fight, this was usually started by my brother and I was his intended target.

My father would bellow loudly “stop spitting seeds on your sister”! I smiled because as my brother was getting in trouble, I could usually get a good shot in at him. I was the baby of the family and it was just what you did with your older siblings.

We played some more and tanned ourselves under the scorching heat. When the food ran out it was then time to leave.

We were tired with sand trapped in our hair and had managed to escape the wrath of the seagulls. We all knew that it could only mean one thing, it was another successful day at the beach.

For me, this is what summer was all about to me as a kid. It was family, fun and of course the food.

I wanted to share my recipe for Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad. This is salad that we frequently brought with us to the beach. It was also a staple at picnics and other family gatherings during the summer months when string beans were readily available from the gardens and local farm stands.

Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad is an Italian American Peasant style salad. I define this to mean that it contains simple ingredients, tastes delicious and is easy to prepare. This classic salad has many variations in Italian American homes. I am sharing with you my family recipe for it.

The combination of string beans, olive oil and mint is truly a delicious one. It is refreshing and the perfect side dish for the summer grilling season. I hope that you enjoy this dish.

Buon Appetito,

Nicky

Nicky D Cooks: Neapolitan String Bean Salad

copyright 2011 Nicole DaCosta Shadel


This is a great dish to make if you are having a picnic or going to the beach. The measurements for the spices are estimates, so go according to your palate. This dish can easily be doubled to serve a large crowd. Enjoy!

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String Bean Salad (Fagiolino Insalata)

 Ingredients

1 pound fresh string beans, cooked and drained

2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)

1 garlic clove, minced

2-3 mint leaves, minced

Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Directions

Cut the cooked string beans in half and place in a deep bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and mint. Season the string beans with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss until the string beans, making sure they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

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A St. Pat’s a little more my speed, with @SouffleBombay ‘s Sweet Irish Soda Bread

While I spent last Saturday shaking my fist and yelling “Get off my lawwwwwn!” from all the yinzers pouring in from Lord Knows Where to get draaaahnk in our neighborhood, I did spend last Sunday in a more pleasant mood. I’m not even remotely Irish, but Corned Beef & Cabbage (or as my dad jokingly called it “Corned Beef & Garbage”) is one of the best foods ever. I’m also in love with halushki (I’m not Polish) and Easter bread (I’m not Greek). Basically, if it’s comfort food, I’m there.

At the first Big Potluck I attended, I sampled Colleen’s soda bread topped with Kerrygold butter and OMG. Then I sampled it again and again. I think I may have eaten an entire loaf. She then told me that the recipe is available on her blog, and I was like NEED. Since I believe in giving clicks where credit is due, you gotta click this link here to head over to her site to get the recipe for yourself.

Any normal or remotely organized person would be like “oh, I will go home and bake it this week!” But I’m neither. I didn’t get around to it over the last like 2 years. Mostly because I assumed it would be hard or take all kinds of ingredients I don’t have. So, to give me the push to make it someday, I added it to my 32 before 32 list, and didn’t get around to making it in an ENTIRE YEAR. Then, mostly out of shame for failing to accomplish such a simple baking assignment, I tagged it on to this years 33 before 33.

YOU GUYS I FINALLY GOT AROUND TO IT.

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Baby Beez helped me out. She’s good at mixing and pouring things into bowls getting bored after 15 minutes and going to watch TV so I have to finish everything myself.  But that was OK this time, because the recipe was basically “mix the things together, pour them in a pan.”

Mixing

Mixing


Pour in pan

Pour in pan


It didn’t even take that many exotic ingredients from the grocery store. The only things I had to buy especially for this were buttermilk and cream. I probably should have picked up turbinado sugar to dust the top of the loaf, but I dusted it with regular sugar instead and it was fine.

When you make 1 big loaf, you have to bake the bread almost twice as long as the 45 minutes it states in the recipe. So heads up on that. But otherwise, the recipe came off without a hitch. And the bread was amazing. I basically ate the entire thing because oink.

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The corned beef & cabbage I made was also FANTASTIC, but I’m not putting pics of that up, because no food looks good when it’s been boiled.

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Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

My New Years Resolution for 2015 was to do all of our grocery shopping at the East End Food Co-op. We’ve made it through January, and to my husband’s shock and joy, I did indeed stick to this resolution. There are times where there is an item or two that we need that the Co-op simply doesn’t have, so we’ve been picking things up from other local vendors such as the Butcher on Butler and the vendors at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
I’ve had to make some adjustments in how I shop in order to make my Co-op shopping a success, but honestly, it’s been far easier and less disruptive in my routine than I expected. I’ve learned:

1. Co-op food goes bad fast. I don’t know if it’s because the fruit isn’t waxed or treated or whatever, the shelf life on co-op produce is short. There’s been a bit of a learning curve, with me throwing out more produce than I’d like, but I’m getting into the swing of things. This means that when I get home, all the produce gets out of the produce bags immediately and into bowls on the counter. This also means that I have a specific plan for the produce I buy. Either it’s going in a recipe or going to be snacks/in packed lunches. I can’t just buy produce with the intent of figuring out what to do with it, because by the time I get around to thinking about it, it will have gone bad. But I’ve developed that habit now, and have gotten myself to buy one week’s worth of produce, which we do eat within that week (my habit at standard grocery stores was to buy TONS of produce, which would sometimes last as long as 2-3 weeks…that doesn’t work with co-op produce).

2. Because of #1, I definitely need to go grocery shopping every single week. I used to stretch out shopping to every 10-14 days, and I’d buy a lot more, but it could last a while longer. Now, I definitely have to make it there once a week, so that we have enough and fresh food.

Co-op snacking

3. BUT ON THE UPSIDE Shopping at the co-op is a lot faster. I can do a full-out shopping trip in about 45 minutes. Yes, the selection is far smaller than at a standard grocery store, but to be honest, by the time I get around to grocery shopping (which is usually a weeknight, when I’m tired already), I have decision fatigue. I don’t want to have to compare four different products. I just want to be like “I need frozen ravioli, oh look, here is the frozen ravioli” and put it in my cart. Also, I really like that the products at the co-op are focused on health and the business practices of the companies whose products they stock. I don’t have to sift through political issues and concerns about all kinds of preservatives and food additives that I don’t understand. Those kinds of products aren’t even stocked at the co-op, so I don’t have to worry about weeding them out.

4. I’ll be honest, the co-op is expensive (I’d say comparable to Whole Foods in price). The bulk dry products (rice, beans etc.) are actually very inexpensive, just much more time consuming to prepare. The rest of the stuff can be pretty pricey. I am planning on getting a farmshare again in the spring to bring our produce costs down. I do make far fewer impulse buys…although the impulse buys I do make tend to be a lot more expensive ($10 pint of Jeni’s ice cream and $10 block of gourmet cheese, please).

5.  I’ve gotten into a pattern with our meals and shopping. It’s not full-on meal planning, but I do need to put a little thought into the shopping list ahead of time. each week I pick 2 or 3 recipes to make, and we have those for dinner throughout the week. For example, this week I made the Post Punk Kitchen’s Tamale Shepherd’s Pie, and it was fantastic. Even though we eat meat, I often use vegetarian or vegan recipes (sometimes adding in meat, dairy, eggs etc.), because their kinds of ingredients are always available at the co-op. Also, I was a vegetarian for a long time, am comfortable with veggie cooking, and do like preparing meals that are heavy on veggies, beans, etc. rather than the meat & potatoes approach.

We pack lunch for work, which is usually sandwiches or soup with fruit & veggies, so all of that is also easily purchased at the co-op. I also keep a couple boxes of frozen pizzas, frozen ravioli, and frozen vegetarian chicken nuggets on hand for the inevitable “got home way too late need to make something FAST” nights.

6. I do enjoy grocery shopping nights because I pick up something from the hot bar or prepared salads, which is healthy, tasty, and relieves me of having to cook on a night I’m already getting home late anyway. Their hot bar is pretty rockin. I got sweet potato gnocchi this week that were fan-tastic. Can’t wait til those are on the menu again!

I’ve liked this first month and feel like the goal I picked for 2015 is both manageable and worthwhile. I don’t even feel like it’s been much of a challenge so far. Although they don’t have the processed foods I would often buy at standard stores, I’m familiar with the kinds of products they do stock, and don’t have any sort of learning curve in terms of learning to cook with them. Also, the Jeni’s ice cream and gourmet cheese. I can never be sad with Jeni’s in my cart.