Raise chickens in your back yard, make herbal soap, whip up some homemade butter, build a raised-bed garden, tap your maples to make syrup, and get healthy while you're at it.
You can learn about all these topics and many more at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference, which has a "Do It Yourself" theme this year. It's Friday and Saturday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, and it features a big crowd of exhibitors and speakers from Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Besides the conference itself, there are two opportunities to try foods from local vendors: a Local Food Tasting event with food and drink samples immediately after the conference Friday, and a Saturday morning breakfast and cooking demo featuring local foods.
Here's the skinny on all the events:
Local Food Tasting: From 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, more than 40 local vendors -- farms, wineries, bakers, butchers and more -- will offer samples of kimchi, gluten-free foods, cheeses, pierogies, juices, honey, maple syrup, meats, jams and jellies, breads, milk, salsa, coffee, whiskey, vodka, beer, wine and more. The Post-Gazette/PGPlate.com is a sponsor, and so the PG food team will be there, too, including writer Gretchen McKay, food editor Bob Batz Jr. and my fellow columnist Miriam Rubin with her new cookbook, "Tomatoes."
Saturday Networking Breakfast: Conference vendors are donating ingredients for breakfast, although a menu hadn't yet been set at press time. During breakfast, Cheryl Bagley of Rejuvitrition, a nutrition-coaching service, will do a cooking demo featuring several breakfast dishes -- most likely a yogurt bar, sweet potato hash and a egg dish with mushrooms and goat cheese.
"I would do anything to get people off boxed cereal," she said.
The breakfast runs from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday.
Conference: From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the exhibit hall will be stuffed with more than 70 farms, CSAs, nutritionists, nutrition-conscious medical professionals, gardening experts, nonprofits and mom-and-pop food businesses, all handing out information, selling wares and offering samples. (See recipe for Sito's Mediterranean Chicken Salad from one of the exhibitors, Sito's Foods, below.)
Throughout both days, speakers will address many topics, from growing and preserving food to understanding nutrition and wellness. A few of the speakers are Carrie Hahn of the Weston A. Price Foundation, speaking on "Don't Toss the Bones: Bone Broth is Beautiful," 2:30 p.m. Friday; Jake Seltman of Grow Pittsburgh, on starting a successful school gardening program, 3:30 p.m. Friday; Will Clower of Mediterranean Wellness, on navigating the grocery store to get the most nutritional benefit, 10:30 a.m. Saturday; and Leslie Bonci of UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, on "Performance Eating: Fuel Your Body, Don't Fool Your Body," 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Some presentations will appeal specifically to kids, who get free conference admission. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Kerry and Tommy Boehner, a mother-son team, will talk about 9-year-old Tommy's food allergies and how he makes good food choices at school and navigates food decisions on his own. And at 1 p.m. Saturday, kids can experience a tasting party with Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, who has designed a "Food Notebook" in which kids can draw and record their thoughts about new foods they try.
Organizers are expecting about 3,500 people at this year's conference and about 600 at the Local Food Tasting. The conference is in its seventh year, and it has grown every year, feeding off of the popularity of Pittsburgh's locavore movement.
Locavorism is becoming popular nationally, but it seems especially so here. But why?
Liz Kanche, director of wellness services for American HealthCare and one of the conference organizers, speculates that Pittsburgh's strong family ties contribute to the local food movement in Pittsburgh.
"We stay here -- we have strong families in Pittsburgh. We've grown up with a lot of this; many of us have memories of picking tomatoes with our grandfathers." So although we might have fallen away from local food for a time, it's not too hard for us to go back in that direction, she said.
Geography plays a part, too: "We're a nice-sized city surrounded by farms" -- so it's not too hard to get local foods here.
Conference admission prices vary based on which events you attend. Admission costs more at the door. For details and pricing, or to make reservations online, go to farmtotablepa.com/conference.
Meanwhile, if "Do It Yourself" isn't so much your style, you can get the church ladies to do your Easter baking:
Bake sale, South Side: Holy Trinity Cathedral women's group offers nut, apricot and pumpkin rolls, plus other breads and pastries. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the American Serbian Club, 2524 Sarah St.
Eggstravaganza: Children's activities, egg-themed food samples and displays, and giveaways. Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Whole Foods Market in Wexford.
Bake sale, Ambridge: Homemade paska bread, cookies, rolls (pumpkin, nut, poppy seed and apricot), pierogies, halushki and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 29 at St. John's Orthodox Church. 412-749-0675.
Latin American and Caribbean Festival: Food, dance, arts, crafts and children's activities from Latin America and the Caribbean. Noon to midnight Saturday at Posvar Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Oakland.
Pick a winner
For the first time, all 100 Pillsbury Bake-Off contestants will be selected by average Americans. In the "Amazing Doable Dinners" category, 60 semifinalists (two men and 58 women) will be whittled down to 33 finalists through online voting until Thursday, March 28.
The contestants include one local woman, Sheila Suhan of Scottdale, for "Easy Caprese Pizza Bake."
To vote, go to bakeoff.com.
Sito's Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Mediterranean salad dressing, such as Sito's
1 cup organic spring mix
1 cup organic romaine lettuce
1 small tomato, cut into pieces
1 small cucumber, chopped into pieces
Red onion, sliced
Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Rinse chicken breast and chop into pieces. Marinate chicken pieces in Mediterranean salad dressing. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Drain marinade and saute chicken in skillet until cooked through.
Mix remaining ingredients in large bowl.
Add some Mediterranean salad dressing to the vegetable mixture and toss.
Top salad with chicken and serve.
-- Sito's Foods
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.