Monday, December 15, 2008

American Hunger

Putter patter putter tonight in the kitchen, making a thick and speckled soup. Potatoes from Tantre Farm were on sale a couple weeks back, and of course many were still lounging in their private drawer, sprouting leggy new parts. Oh these morphing vegetables must be used before they walk out of my drawer and into a fighting match with the carrots. After shopping for a cabbage to include in this wintery soup, and restocking our supply of caraway seeds that unabashedly went MIA, I brewed a pot of tea and made this really comforting soup. Some fresh and crusty bread from an Ann Arbor bakery lay in wait, crumbs pouring forth from the paper bag as though ready to be scooped into an utter, soupy destiny.

That was tonight. But two weeks ago things felt a little different.

I was in Chicago, spending a week in a room with a lot of people agreeing to spend a year volunteering, earning wages from the government as a stipend based on the local poverty line. Most local poverty lines lay between the $12-13,000 a year range. I was one of those people preparing for a year of volunteer service. Being that so many of those gathered were from Michigan, a state whose failing businesses are begging for some sort of relief from the government, you can imagine that many of these people were accepting this volunteer year because it provided them with more than they currently earned. The days were fairly intense, the entire group being divided into sections of 30 people, all of which have personal stories of poverty to some degree or in some fashion.

The first day our facilitator gathered us in a circle, dark faces and light faces, thick accents and thin, and presented us with the questions: “What is poverty?” & “What causes poverty?”. Maybe stop for a second. Think about what comes to your mind. As a person in the country where you exist, what does poverty mean? I’ve seen poverty in a third world nation and I’ve seen poverty in East St Louis, in Detroit, in Omaha, so many American towns. I didn’t like seeing the repercussions of poverty, either. As the passing of thoughts circled in that room, I listened to lots of single women, many with multiple children, discuss what it’s like not knowing where their family’s food, clothes, books will come from. It affected me, not being at a level where I was there to help those in this group, but being a part of the group. Often I have found myself in positions where I am there to aid, help, teach, fight injustices. But then, there I was, with people choosing a similar path, many who were deeply and authentically experiencing poverty. Together we discussed this nation that has so many discrepancies with health, with hunger, with obesity, with malnutrition, with diet-based diseases, with poverty.

Tonight there was an NPR On Point program about hunger in America. Joel Berg, the executive director of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, fielded discussion about hunger, subsidies, food banks, food stamps, and many economic issues that hover around food. It was satisfying for me to hear this while being in the depths of thoughts on hunger and poverty. My present week has been spent studying outreach, gardening, and preparing to lessen the divide for access to healthy food. The radio show was distressing, as they often can be, listening to the statistics on depleting food banks, lines of people that are turned away from food banks, and the increasing health issues that are arriving daily on our neighbors doorsteps due to a lack of understanding, education, and/or access to healthy food. However! There are a few counter thoughts to dwell on: 1) Joel Berg ended the show saying, “The Economic Stimulus Package signed into law by President Obama on January 21st of next year can have a serious down payment on ending hunger in America." So that’s a possibility. And, 2) the research I have been doing surrounding my new position as Ypsilanti’s Farmers’ Market Manager is really quite positive, the statistics all returning to increasing numbers of vendors and customers, increasing sales, and an increasing usage of food stamps and other low-income food coupons.

I live in a vibrant community that is full of opportunities for local, fresh, healthy food. There are nearby restaurants that create menus based on that philosophy. I have at least six stores in walking distance where I can by high quality groceries and produce. This is not the norm. On the other hand, low-income neighborhoods are more likely to live in a food desert where the candle lit dinner is accompanied by a two liter bottle of soda and a bag of chips that came from the corner gas station. It’s not really fair, this creamy potato soup I ate for dinner tonight. Well, maybe it is fair that I ate that soup, and it’s even okay that I relished the time spent making it. But it’s not really fair that so many others don’t have that chance to be hugged by their very own kitchen. Food and its preparation is a given right to all life. And I think good food, whole and free of preservatives, should be included in that right.

It’s a good thing that the Farmers’ Market phenomenon is growing! And people can use food stamps at growing numbers of them! And that small farmers are fighting for their rights! And that we understand the connection between diet and obesity and so many diseases…. Things will be okay. We just need to watch out for each other. I think we can do that. It’s pretty natural.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NY Times Article with a title I found to be strange and, um, disconnected

Great Meals for Two, Under $100 (It’s Possible)

I haven't even begun to get past the title of this article. Maybe it will shock me with some grassroots thesis. But unfortunately, it probably will just isolate me even further in my fight with DHS for foodstamps, but remind me how worthwhile our "expensive" and delicious our homemade Indian meal last night was, cooked for a friend's birthday. What a weird thing to say, surprised by good food under $100.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Josh wrote a(n) Haiku

He is so sweet, that husband of mine. He wrote his very first Haiku in honor of a new start to the winter. He is committed to writing one a day for brain stimulation. I do love striving to hold true to ideals these days.

her day begins now

no time to spark remember

her revolution

Monday, December 08, 2008

oh, what a day.

And it all ended with my eyes closed and breathing rythmic... sleep sleep sleep come to me. I must go to bed, but before the inevitable crashing of my bones, I want to relay a wonderful soup recipe that Josh prepared last night to eat today. Also I must elatedly bombard you with this really exciting news:

We are now partial owners of a really beautiful red jersey cow!!! Josh was able to meet her today while I started my first day at my new job as Farmer's Market Manager in Ypsilanti. I've been reading and dreaming and wondering over raw milk for many months, almost reaching the category of years, and finally the desire crossed paths with reality.

So here are the three things I think you must know about the good life of cold December Michigan....
1) this recipe, Coriander Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup, that Josh overheard on the Splendid Table (NPR) and then made for dinner. It's really quick, really easy, and perfect for sweet and spicy teeth.
2) this delicious raw milk, more descriptions to ensue
3) the new workplace at a non-profit called Growing Hope, with more info to come hopefully sooner than later

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Homemade Waffles Finally Make a Post

Waffles are an almost weekly shindig in our house these days. We've made so many varieties that I can't keep them straight; whole wheat with dried coconut, standard wheat with blueberry, and our favorite cheddar and bacon blend. I can't believe how many house guests we have served our cheddar and bacon waffles to with bacon on the side, validating their breakfast with an explanation of the wheat and flax added to the mix. They always say something like, why not? We are on vacation, right? And I always find some kind of sick glee in feeding so many delicious calories to those I love so early in the day. I feel like I'm introducing them to long lost guilty pleasures, doing them some kind of favor.

But today we made perfectly guilt-free buckwheat waffles (topped with honey butter and sunflower seeds). They were hearty, filling, and wholesome. No battered house guests questioning their dietary worth today. Michelle came by for breakfast and we leisurely enjoyed trapping the cold outside, sipping strong french press coffee, snacking on pomegranate seeds, biting into our honey butter slathered waffles. I always seem to burn the last waffle in the iron, forgetting that it's in there while I relax with my plate of syrupy or buttery waffle and some good morning conversation.

Just a little warning, you do need to start the batter the night before, but that makes breakfast itself just that much easier in the morning.

Buckwheat Waffles

1 pkt yeast
1/4 cup hot water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 tbl honey plus
1/3 cup honey
2 cup buttermilk
1 tbl oil
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/8 tsp salt divided
1/2 cup butter softened
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Let it stand until bubbles begin to form. Stir in 2 tablespoons honey, the buttermilk and oil.

Combine the cake flour, buckwheat flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the yeast mixture just until blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the honey butter, combine the softened butter, one-third cup honey and one-eighth teaspoon salt. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

One-half hour before cooking the waffles, remove the batter from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature. Then stir in the beaten eggs and baking soda. Combine thoroughly.

Make your waffles in the iron, then spoon the honey butter over hot waffles and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

This recipe, found at the site "Food Down Under", yields 6 to 8 servings.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup

It's true that I stalk the blog, Wednesday Chef, and have written many a post about a recipe that she has documented and I have tried. This week I tried her Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup that she found in an article written by Amy Scattergood of the LA Times. This soup made me feel normal after a week of eating (and drinking) at the pub. I spent a lazy afternoon preparing it, knowing full well that I still had a 10 hour shift that I was going to have to go in for early evening.

The soup was finished just in time for me to slap it in a big ball jar, layered and beautiful, and run out the door leaving a pile of worthy dishes. It was as though I left the dishes there to tell a story in case I never returned. Nonetheless, I returned home to piles of dishes at 3am, the story left untold. Josh and I did the dishes together in the morning, neither of us once regretting the soup or its efforts.

The soup works in layers, the broth being some vegetables and beans that boil for almost two hours complacently on your stove until the beans are tender. These go into a bowl along with a handful of al dente cooked chunky pasta, topped with a bean blend, similar to hummus, that works as a thickener. Stir it up in your bowl and finish it with a sprinkle or downpour of parmesan cheese, whatever you prefer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Raw Goodness

We made a stop by the library yesterday to return some overdue videos. We decided to embrace the cold and walk. I always leave the library with twice what I've just returned, and yesterday was no different. Here we were, bundled against the cold, gritting our lips together, cradling 8 books a piece. It was a silly struggle but so worth it. One of the books I brought home was a Jamie Oliver cookbook called Jamie's Kitchen. I don't know a whole lot about him seeing as we don't own a TV and therefore miss all Food Network shows, but from what I've read I like him. This book is also the name of his non-profit restaurant in London that brought in 15 London kids to learn about food and cooking.

I only made it through the first 30 or so pages before I was hungry and ready to make food. Watch out. No cream or bacon in this recipe. This recipe consists of a bunch of raw foods, all perfect right now in November, that are tossed together like notes in a song that all come together. We made plain couscous to eat with it, fried some haloumi cheese, and had roasted chicken on the side. They mingled and met and all really liked each other on our plate. We barely looked at each other as we ate, Josh and I. We were too enamored with how something so simple and raw could be so good.

Here it is, adapted from Jamie Oliver's book:

moorish crunch salad

Finely slice into matchsticks 1 1/2 c. carrots, slice thinly 6-8 radishes and 2 small or 1 large crunchy apple. Put these into a medium to large bowl and add:
+some raisins (I used golden)
+handful of fresh parsley chopped (freshly frozen in our garden and retrieved not a moment too soon!)
+handful of fresh mint chopped (also freshly frozen in our garden!)
+3 TB red wine or sherry vinegar
+6-8 TB olive oil (I used the lesser amount)
+1 TB tahini
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (I'm just realizing that I forgot this in ours!!! And it was still so good....)
Toss like happy friends on the playground, and then add some toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on the top, about 2 TB.

Like I mentioned above, halloumi cheese fried and eaten in conjunction is just such a treat. And maybe why we didn't exactly need salt on the salad. Jamie Oliver suggests this with some chili sauce also. Maybe we'll try that with our leftovers tonight.

Another vegan recipe to come! But the next one is cooked, a soup smooth and sultry for your winter palate.... I've obsessively been thinking about it since it was made. This is the kind of food that makes me find a reason to appreciate winter. yum.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Stalk of the Sprout

There are few vegetables that grow in a more suspicious way than the brussel sprout. This seemingly under represented and less than appreciated vegetable grows up a hefty stalk, bundled in bunches that look as though they are homely sorts trying to orderly stay with their respective members. I've seen brussels sprouts as of recently sold in stores on the stalk. They are so regimented and controlled, patiently awaiting the delicious future they hold. Shoppers pick these up and examine them, surprised and unsure if they really know what these green round orbits are. FYI, nutritionally Brussels Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid and dietary fiber that found their original popularity in Belgium.

Last night Josh and I went to a phenomenal fundraiser and gathering for a non-profit called Avalon Housing. A family volunteered their personal home for the gathering, and food from gourmet spots all over town filled each and every room. We tasted and toasted to all things good and delicious. Brussels sprouts hailed an interesting position as design accents, placed within lanterns as decoration. My favorite bit of food was a round platter with a scoop of butter sat in the middle. The platter held an assortment of home cured meat, each piece almost bowing to the throne of butter in the center.

One night last week before we headed out for an evening with friends we made a scrumptious fettucine with brussels sprouts sauce. This meal would have probably been better on a night where we planned to hole up and stay in under blankets with a movie. We were sleepy after the heaviness settled contently in our bellies. But it's a pretty simple and quick recipe that fits this season with its daunting chill. It hints spiciness with horseradish and dijon mustard accenting the flavors of cream and bacon. This will make 4-6 servings and comes from a really great and rustic sort of Vermont book, From the Cook's Garden.

1 1/2 pints Brussels sprouts, roots trimmed and outer discolored leaves discarded
4 TB unsalted butter
2 TB olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta (we just used bacon)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 roasted red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups packed spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 TB Dijon mustard
2 tsp freshly grated or prepared horseradish
2 TB finely chopped dill (optional)
1 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fettucine

Bring medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut a shallow X in bottom of each sprout for even cooking, and cut largest ones in half lengthwise. Add the sprouts to the water and cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and save the water for the pasta.

Melt 2 TB of butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, cook and stir often until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the roasted pepper and spinach, cooking until spinach wilts about 2 minutes. Add the sprouts, cheddar, half-and-half, parmesan, mustard, dill, horseradish, and tarragon, stirring to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook fettucine in saved pot of water until just tender. Drain, return to pot, toss with remaining 2 TB of butter. Section pasta into separate bowls and top with sauce.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's here! Election Day!

To celebrate the day, Josh and I had Roos Roast coffee to start off the morning. We love the paper bags our roasted beans come in, printed with authentic art, the beans freshly roasted. Saturday we treated ourselves at the farmer's market to a half pound bag and a fresh cup of lobster butter roasted coffee. The coffee we drank from the cup had been brewed cowboy style, boiled in water and then strained from the top. John, the roaster of Roos, is an interesting and somewhat addicting guy, his pores seeping from either a severely optimistic mindset or a lot of coffee. I would wage on the coffee side of things. We love this business. It's so local, you know?

So we voted today. Our lines were about one hour and it was phenomenally satisfying. Marking in our presidential candidate with a solid black oval made my lungs fill with pure Ann Arbor oxygen. Tonight I have the privilege of bartending my last real bartending shift at the pub. We are bringing in many tv's for the results, and voters from all over will be coming in to the watch. It's almost the way things are supposed to be, finishing my unexpected career at a bar, heading into the late fall with new beginnings, personal and political. I'm ready. I really think I'm ready. Speaking of... I'm running really late! Here we go, stepping into an emotional night! It's really here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Contemporary Art Institute in Detroit

We receive emails from CAID, the Contemporary Art Institute in Detroit. They do a lot of work within and for the city of Detroit. The ideas that they produce are inspiring and inventive, crossing the boundaries of social issues in Detroit and using fine art to better its surrounding civilization. Here is one such email that we received this week that is a curatorial statement from a past show called Shelter. This copied in its entirety from the email sent by CAID.

How can you expect a man who's warm to understand a man who's cold?
-Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

In the early pages of Solzhenitsyn's signature work we get a palpably bone chilling description of the gap between those who experience and expect comfort and those who do not. The problem is simply and starkly stated. The gap is one of understanding. The out side temperature is 17 degrees, Ivan's is 99 - not enough to get him a work release for the day -- a decision made by the man sitting comfortably behind a typewriter who thinks Ivan is a slacker.

First comes understanding then comes solutions.

No, that's not right.

First comes experience then comes understanding then comes compassion then comes the attempt to find solutions.

The poor you always have with you.

Until we understand.

We are the poor.

I wish there was a requirement that anyone aspiring to become an elected political official would have to spend at least four years living below the poverty level (college would not count)

I wish those aspiring to the Priesthood or the Ministry or the position of Rabbi or Mullah would actually have to spend at least two years raising sheep. (Mohammed said that no one could be a prophet if they were not first a shepherd.) If they spent all night delivering lambs in the minus10 degree temperatures of February they would understand what it's like to have cold so deeply rooted in their bones that they couldn't get warm enough to fall asleep. (Preferably, this requirement would take place in Michigan)

And for every lamb lost they would experience grief and guilt beyond their imagining without the sound of rifles or bombs.

(Ok, this should be a requirement for politicians as well.)

I wish those in need would have shovels. There is no tool that gives a person such a sense of power.

A garden is power (even if a house is cardboard) and potatoes are easy to cook.

But what do I know?

I am (when all is said and done) a stonecutter, a shepherd, the father of seven children, the maker of hundreds of dollars a year, the builder of my own house, a man sitting uncomfortably cold behind his computer, writing.


Seeking potatoes.

In the course of putting this exhibition together, I had the amazing realization that "shelter" is a noun and a verb - the measure of our humanity and culture.

Hugh Timlin, Shelter Exhibition Juror
September, 2006

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's all about the jam this summer

The biggest food hurdle I wanted to launch myself across this summer was the making of jam. And it was a bit intimidating. But with Josh's help, and some assistance from his aunt and parents, we did well enough to enter three different jams into the Downtown Home and Garden's jam competition. There were sixty some entries, and with great dismay I have to admit that none of our jams placed. The winner of the competition was a spicy little rendition called The Deer Ate Everything but the Hot Peppers Jam. Admittedly, it was delicious. The recipe will be below. The three that we entered were 1) Zen Michigan Peach Cardamom, 2)Homegrown Sour Cherry with Leopold's Blackberry Liqueur, and 3) Empress Plum with Indonesian Vanilla Bean. Besides these jams we also made an apricot chutney, a plum jam from the remaining pulp of our plum wine, and a three berry with cherry and rose water jam.

I've never thought of myself as a jam eater. I love some buttered toast, drippy in almost erotic flavors, feeling like you're engaging in a secret something you wouldn't dare share. Jam, however, has found a place on our shelves with its sweet and sour flavors, the full and good ingredients competing for their ideal place on our plate. The sour cherry jam is probably my favorite, partially because it seems to find itself spread in its bumpy way across the grid of my waffles or falling in streaks down the sides of scooped vanilla ice cream. But I look forward to attempting a spice filled coffeecake sandwiching the peach cardamom jam, and the empress plum swept onto a pumpkin cheesecake.

There's a balance with jam in terms of cooking time and the gelling of the fruit. You don't want to have jam that tastes overcooked and too sweet, but you also don't want your jam to be too runny. Some fruit contains enough naturally occurring pectin that adding more is not necessary. Our plum jam gelled beautifully and spreads in a perfect purple pool of flavor. The cherry might have benefited from bought commercial pectin, but also was really interesting in its flavor complexity.

I suppose in most parts of the world these recipes come a little late, but perhaps there are some hot peppers still lingering in corners of refrigerator drawers. Here are a couple of recipes.

The Deer Ate Everything But the Hot Peppers Jelly
8 Sweet green peppers
4 jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1 1/2 cup cider
1/2 tsp salt
5 c. sugar
1 pkg powdered pectin
green food coloring

Wash peppers, remove stems and seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch squares. Puree half of the peppers and 1/2 cup of vinegar in food processor. Puree remaining peppers and vinegar. Pour all into a large bowl and add cider. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Measure 4 cups into a sauce pot. Stir salt and pectin into juice. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add a few drops of green food coloring.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust caps. Process for 5 minutes in hot water bath.

Suggestions include: Wear gloves while handling jalapeno peppers, make one batch at a time (don't double), and it's delicious poured over a brick of cream cheese!

Homegrown Sour Cherry with Leopold's Blackberry Liqueur & Zen Michigan Peach Cardamom Jams

I adapted these recipes from this blog's recipes, the cherry jam substituting a local distillery's blackberry liqueur for the kirsch and cherries grown at home. That local distillery has since moved to Denver and is called Leopold Brothers. Here's the description of the blackberry liqueur. Their products are phenomenal.

Josh's mom, dad, and aunt were in town for the beginning of this jam making shenanigan and were the laborers that picked and pitted the cherries. I'm sure it was just what they anticipated doing after a 22 hour drive!

The peaches were all bought at Ann Arbor's Farmer's Market when Michigan peaches were in season. Remarkably, Michigan has some of the most amazing fruits in the entire world. I've become enamored with Farmer's Markets. Shop at them as long as they are open, braving the chill and toting your eggs and squash while all the while admiring the frigid farmers manning their stands.

The pricey and delicious Empress Plum with Indonesian Vanilla Beans Jam was adapted from this site:

And finally, the Apricot Chutney from the book Preserving Summer's Bounty:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onions
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 TB chopped raisins
1 TB crushed, minced, peeled ginger
5 c, fresh apricots, pitted and quartered

In a large enamel or stainless steel pot, combine the honey, vinegar, onions, allspice, raisins, and ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apricots and simmer for 30 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.

To can: Pour into hot, scalded half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Cut the herbs to dry
Make wheat bread with the local mixed grain bought from Market
Make apple butter
Dehydrate apples
Make an apple pie
Roast pumpkin seeds
Plan Halloween costume since I'm closing managing at the pub
Cut back the raspberries, sour cherry bushes, peonies and hostas
Pull the rest of the carrots
Save the basil seeds
Make granola
Make yogurt- DONE!
Make sauerkraut
Organize a clothing exchange
Post about jam!!- DONE!
Plan a grub party
Finish reading Botany of Desire- DONE!
Finish reading A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Dry clean my nappy winter coat and gold pants from Kathmandu
Go to Kathmandu.... hmmm.... maybe not feasible this week tho....
Organize closet and throw a personal search party for my favorite missing long underwear shirt
Get a bicycle helmet
Turn the compost
Finish my hundred things to do before I die list.

I know, I know...pathetic list for anyone who has children. But I still have a lot I want to do before winter hits even heavier!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

He does it again...

Michael Pollan somehow speaks my thoughts so eloquently as to America's food system and the network of political issues it impacts. Check it out here in the New York Times magazine, and be prepared to either skim or spend some time with it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comfort Food for Tough Days

Lots of contrite worries these days, it seems. I'm in the process of making job changes. Our days are filled with unsettling financial news. And October 13th, I quiver just typing the date. But Alice Waters brings it home again with her recipe for Tortilla Soup, the scent of warmth wrapping my worries in it's aromatic blanket. I didn't think I was hungry last night after ferocious grazing all day, but once I smelled the chicken cooking down and the onions and garlic traipsing throughout the house, I couldn't help but anticipate my very own bowl of Tortilla Soup.

At market on Saturday we picked up radishes, kohlrabi, an anaheim pepper, garlic and onions. I think we might need to go back, bundle all these ingredients together, and freeze them so we can make this soup any day that comfort is craved.

Simmer 1 1/2 quarts of chicken broth. Then add 1 chicken breast half, preferably with skin and bones. Continue to barely simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, transfer the breast to a plate, and let cool. Remove and discard the skin and bones and shred the meat.

Using an 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet, heat on med-high 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil. Then add 4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips. Fry in small batches until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

In a large heavy pot, heat: 2 TB olive oil, add 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and thinly sliced, 1/2 medium yellow onion thinly sliced, 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced, salt. Cook until soft about 5 minutes. Pour in the hot broth, then add: 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced, or 3 small canned whole tomatoes dice and with juice.
Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken meat and heat through, but do not boil. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve the soup with the crispy tortilla strips and bowls of these possible garnishes:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 lime wedges
4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or grated monterey jack
1/2 cup peeled and shredded jicama (we substituted local kohl rabi peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1 cubed avocado (our avocado never made it to the table- it was one of the things I grazed on throughout the day).

We have plenty for lunch today, too.
We also made a Hopi Blue Cornbread to accompany the soup. The corn meal, which is truly a dynamic stormy sky blue color, came from Jennings Bros. Stone Ground Grains in Nashville, Michigan.

Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 cups Hopi Blue Cornmeal
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup white flour
Combine these four ingredients in a large bowl. Then mix the following in a medium bowl:
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 TB olive oil
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
Mix these wet ingredients into large bowl of dry ingredients until moistened. Pour into pan and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Girl Effect

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cabbage Poriyal

In Tamil, India's most southern state's language, Poriyal literally means stir-fry. This is a way to prepare any vegetable. The cooking method is fast and flashy. The lentils, mustard seeds and cumin seeds cook in a pool of coconut oil. The onion is added, sizzling and beating in a song of satisfaction. After just a minute you add with an extra bit of heat the onion, garlic, and chili powder. With the flair of a lounge singer, the cabbage is added with yet another turn of heat. No liquid should be allowed to escape and dissipate from the cabbage. Finally, cilantro and lemon juice are tossed into the mix, dessicated coconut finally ending the whole sultry affair.

If cabbage isn't to become kraut in the sourest of ways, it should become poriyal, crisp and tender at the same time.

Here's the recipe from the Noon book of authentic Indian cookery:
Heat 5 TB of coconut over low heat, add 1 tsp. urad dal (black gram beans), 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, and 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds. Let crackle for 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of a large onion chopped, stir-fry for 5 minutes. They should be limp but not colored.

Add 2 tsp. chopped ginger, 1 tsp. chopped garlic, 10-12 curry leaves,and 1 finely chopped green chili. Saute for 1 minute. Raise the heat and add 1 shredded, large white cabbage and some salt. Stir-fry until the cabbage is hot but still crisp.

Finally, add 8 TB of dessicated (shredded) coconut, 4 TB of chopped fresh cilantro, and 1 TB of lemon juice. Mix well. Add salt as necessary.

Thanks to my husband for cooking a delicious dinner tonight.

Saving Lettuce Seed

It's crazy how intimidating new things like saving seeds can seem. But perhaps it will be like many other things... once done, simple to repeat.

This year I let all my lettuce bolt (see varieties mentioned in the previous post. Also grown this spring was Italian Lacinato nero Toscana Kale, an heirloom variety). Sadly my hands were full with fermenting and canning projects, so gardening and growing were not on the top of the priority list. Instead we chose to enjoy the colors and shapes in the lettuces, allowing them to grow and flower once they were bitter and no longer edible.

These bolted adolescent lettuces seem to be seeking not only acceptance but a chance for the next generation to survive! I'm finding it difficult to find consistent information on saving lettuce seed. Any suggestions on how to save the seeds from our Butterhead Speckles lettuce?

The description on this Butterhead Speckles lettuce package from Botanical Interests, Inc. is appealing: An heirloom that originated from the Mennonites who brought it with them from Germany and Holland over 200 years ago.

Here's some info that I'm guessing is pretty accurate,
found on

Seed Saving Instructions for Lettuce
Self-pollinated. Lettuce varieties will not cross pollinate with each other even at short distances, but beware of any wild lettuce which can cross with lettuce. Allow plants to "bolt" and eventually flower. Under wet conditions lettuce plants may need to be covered with a rain cover or grown in a greenhouse to prevent fungus from infecting the plant and seed heads. Carefully shake the seedheads into a paper bag to allow the mature seeds to be collected while leaving the immature seeds and flowers to keep growing. Gather every few days until no more seeds remain. Also, you can simply harvest the entire plant when about half of the seeds are mature and allow the rest to mature inside by standing up the plants in a box and on a cloth or tarp. Use an 1/8" screen to help with cleaning. Lettuce seed can remain viable for 3 years under cool and dry storage conditions

Lettuce Plantings

Today was a day to not leave the house. When I looked at the weather on-line, trying to decide if I would overheat if I went jogging, there was a mass splotch of green plodding along towards Ann Arbor. I gauged that I had about three and a half minutes before the skies opened and I would be saturated. This meant no running, but a prime chance to plant the fall lettuce seeds that have been haunting me, secure in their packages. This week was somewhat dreadful, long and lame, mostly work with little play. So when I realized that the rain was marching forward, destined to drench, I grabbed the packets of seeds, pulled at the bolted spring lettuce, made shallow trenches, and planted four different greens: Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Correnta Spinach, Butterhead Speckles Lettuce, and Bon Vivant Spicy Mesclun.

Today was successful. I didn't leave the house, and finally the pestering seeds, anxious in their packets, were placed in the ground to grow tasty and colorful.

Friday, September 05, 2008

You Must Love Your Tomatoes

because your tomatoes love you. They are abundant little fruits, these juicy and colorful round orbits. So versatile, the tomato easily transforms a dry meal to saucy, a plain dip to special.

Tonight we were hungry. My desire was to cook, but not to think. I was leaning towards an Indian Vegetable and Paneer Biryani, but that conflicted too much with my desire to not think. Finally, sitting on my porch with cookbooks in tow, I saw my inspiration: the tomato plant. Neighbors have been heralding us with their ripe tomatoes, and the market tomatoes cat call us as we walk past. At some point we surrender. I'm not ready to make salsa or dedicate my evening to jarring homemade marinara. But tonight we were ready to peel and de-seed our pile of tomatoes, puree them into a rich pulp of sweet raw goodness. We were to eat pasta tonight.

First, we needed pasta. We ran to the store and bought fresh pasta made in Madison, WI at RP's Pastas. We also picked up a block of parmesean, some slices of side pork, and a pineapple for dessert. We started with frying the pork in a bit of olive oil. Even though it hadn't been aged like bacon, the fresh smokiness of it was reminiscent of hearty breakfasts around a campfire. We added some minced garlic and a small onion. These browned with the pork, and when they turned a sufficient shade of golden we tossed in chopped parsley and thyme from the front yard garden. My patience was waning at this point. It all smelled so good. Onto the stove went a pot of water. One by one we dropped our tomatoes, so at home on the windowsill, into the water, blanching them so the peels and seeds were easier to remove. They were chopped and then pureed in the CuisineArt, and slowly added to the sputtering pork mixture on the stove. The sauce started to thicken, we added salt and pepper, and before we could scoop up the whole darn mess with our tasting spoons, the pasta and sauce were ready to dish up. We grated the parmesean on top, mostly for good measure, and dug in, slurping the whole thing with great satisfaction. The flavor was surprisingly intense and savory, bite after bite seeming to fuse more fully.

Needless to say, there was no room for the pineapple. But we did accompany our food preparations with a large bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale. Oh so good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Josh and I bought these funny little Mexican mushrooms at market yesterday. They're only Mexican because the culture there has embraced the fungus as an edible delicacy. The actual home where these huitlacoches grew was on the corn found at Tantre Farm in Chelsea, MI.

Aren't they goofy? I'm a tad afraid of their slipperiness on my tongue, but they were affordable so worth the experiment. Before you know it these gourmet little truffles will be $29 a pound. Josh has some pretty serious ambitions for these guys, and I think he will be inspired by some of these sites: Professor introduces unusual edible fungus to Madison, Corn Fungus Tamales: Tamales de Huitlacoche, and this information straight from Mexico.

Would you, could you, try these? They are fascinating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Open Faced Peach Custard Pie

This recipe certainly was a bit on the extravagant side for me. Lately I've found that I am only interested in two or three ingredient combinations, and they usually contingent upon what currently lives in my fridge. But this, ah this recipe, I couldn't look wayward from my Joy of Cooking's description: "A Joy Classic".

I had all that I needed for this recipe sitting in my cluttered cupboard, and there were fragrant peaches hanging in my fruit basket, causing my mouth to water every quick moment I went in the kitchen. The anticipation of what to do with these soft and sweet Michigan peaches finally won over my fear of commitment involved in pie making. I always fear that devastating moment of the crust pulling apart as you attempt to lay it in the pan after cautiously rolling it out, or the taste not being equivalent to time. But believe me, every moment that I was away from this luxurious yellow beauty, the memory of it balked at me to return. The way this pie melts on your tongue burns your brain with it's well rounded taste. You want to reward any good or bad events throughout the day or night with a sliver of the pie. It's mildly obsessive. When the peaches are this good, you want to grasp them in any form before you lose them for the year. And the tandem custard only accents the peaches in a happy spousal manner. It's especially hard to cope with seasons changing when life makes sense because of a pie. I found the recipe in Joy of Cooking's index under "peaches" titled modestly, Open Faced Peach Custard Pie.

By definition, a custard involves milk and eggs and is thickened with heat. The thickening of this custard happens in the oven. The pie is only complicated in that there are multiple steps with the crust. The actual filling for the pie is simple. The crust however had me under gauge the total time needed. Now that I understand this, the second go around will be predictable and easier.

So here it is, in all its length, starting with the flaky crust. This recipe in particular calls for one baked flaky crust, however any bottom crust that you bake before adding the filling should work:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening, or 1/2 cup shortening and 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 to 3 tablespoon ice water, divided
Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Break the shortening into large chunks; if using butter, cut it into small pieces, then add it to the flour mixture. Cut the fat into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or by cutting in opposite directions with 2 knives, one held in each hand. As you work, periodically stir dry flour up from the bottom of the bowl and scrape clinging fat off the pastry blender or knives. When you are through, some of the fat should remain in pea-sized pieces; the rest should be reduced to the consistency of coarse crumbs or cornmeal. The mixture should seem dry and powdery and not pasty or greasy.
Drizzle 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water over the flour and fat mixture.
Using the rubber spatula, cut with the blade side until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water over the top.
Cut in the water, again using the blade of the spatula, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round fiat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.
*Note: I actually used the pastry attachment of my food processor for this recipe. It was easy and worked great.

After making the dough, proceed by rolling out the dough and fitting it into a 9-inch pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Smooth a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the bottom and sides of the crust, flaring the excess foil, like an awning, over the crust edge to keep it from overbrowning. Fill the liner with raw beans or rice or metal pie weights, banking the weights against the sides of the crust if you do not have enough to fill the crust to the brim. Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in place to set the pastry. Carefully lift out the foil with the weights inside. Prick the crust thoroughly with a fork, return it to the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown all over, 5 to 10 minutes more. Check the crust periodically; if it puffs along the bottom, prick it with a fork, then press down gently with the back of a spoon. Brush the inside with 1 large egg yolk and a pinch of salt. Return to the oven to set the glaze for 1 to 2 minutes. Fill the shell with the below filling recipe.

Here's the filling:
Keep the rack of your oven on the lower 1/3 and the temperature set at 400. Whisk together until well blended:
1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
6 TB unsalted and melted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Arrange in a single layer, cut side down, over the bottom of the crust: 3 to 4 fresh peaches, peeled and halved.
Pour the egg mixture over the peaches. Bake the pie for 10 minutes. reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake until the custard is brown and crusty on top and appears firmly set in the center when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour longer. Let cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I did find that my crust browned too much originally, and that it continued to brown even with the glaze. I think next time I would probably wrap the edge of the crust with aluminum foil, and butter the sides of my pie pan to keep the pastry from sticking.

The Joy of Cooking never fails.

Friday, August 22, 2008

We Have Carrots! Scarlet Nantes, to be exact.

We grew these in our backyard garden of weeds. They are absolutely delicious- nutty and sweet. Last night for dinner we cleaned out the fridge, foraging red peppers, red onions, parsley, lemon, green beans, and these carrots. A savory couscous was in store, accompanied by homemade yogurt and pita from the mediterranean bakery down the street. We also steamed the homegrown carrots and beans, then tossed them with chervil and butter. The picture below is the meal recreated for lunch today. The taboule salad is on a bed of greens with a touch of balsamic and dijon mustard, raw broccoli, and an egg hard boiled.

Taboule Salad
About 1 and 1/4 dry couscous, mixed with 1/2 cup boiling water. Add about 1/3 of a cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 of a cup lemon juice and stir completely. Cover the mixture and let sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff the whole batch with a fork. Add any fresh things in your fridge. Try bell pepper, tomato, carrot, onion, celery, even fennel, but to be somewhat authentic you must add at least 4TB of chopped parsley. You won't even need to add S&P- at least we didn't. Toss lightly and refrigerate for a bit for all the flavors to meld and set. Fluff before serving.

Oh, and the jar in the background is pickled beans and zucchini with basil. That recipe will come soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Poem

I've just discovered Goodreads. They have a "poem of the month". I am atingled to have discovered this poem written by a woman named Louise Mathias. I thought it was rhythmically beautiful and exactly the kind of art I need to wake up to today.

Four Drives in the Heart of the Desert

Went out to the edge of my life. Tumbled soft,
by wind and by sun, by ocean, by elsewhere, Anza

Less of a schism

between man and sky; less democracy really.

Remembered the terrible theatre

of the rental car, that summer, my father
turning slowly into lava. This is the country

they say, where no one can live. Shed it

like shale. Where stars will refuse

to fasten themselves to the sky,
will stream down in contrails

& stammer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Crocks, Crocks Everywhere

A quote by Sandor Ellix Katz:
"Not everyone can be a farmer. But that's not the only way to cultivate a connection to the Earth and buck the trend toward global market uniformity and standardization. One small but tangible way to resist the homogenization of culture is to involve yourself in the harnessing and gentle manipulation of wild microbial cultures. Rediscover and reinterpret the vast array of fermentation techniques used by our ancestors. Build your body's cultural ecology as you engage and honor the life forces all around you."

We are drunk on the philter of fermentation. Our house is alive with the scents of pickles.

We invested in some beautiful ceramic crocks. I'd had enough of scavenging the local thrift stores, only to find cracked and leaky vessels that made me feel like I was in a mud wrestling battle with wet dirt caking my ears. Or something like that. But now we have 2, 3, and 5 gallon crocks and two large Ball jars, all with their own living concoctions. The crocks themselves are inspiring. Check them out here. Right now these crocks contain kombucha, pickling green beans, sauerkraut, dill cucumber pickles, and plum wine.

The pickles that we decided to make are sour and salty, the flavors hitting the inside of your cheeks with a pithy punch. These pickles aren't preserved in vinegar like store bought pickles are generally. They age in a salt brine with multifarious other vegetables and spices. The brine allows for this food to be alive, aiding in our digestion, and helping our systems to fight against sickness and disease. The first pickles we experimented with turned out a bit too salty, and the cucumbers were a bit cumbersome in size. Many of the larger ones ended up being hollow on the inside. No one wants to eat a hollow pickle. But this second batch, they seem to be approving of the current alchemy and process. As they ferment it's important to taste the evolving product. These smaller cucumbers are starting to turn that shadowy mossy green, and as our jaws chomp them, they satisfactorily crunch.

Here's a few hints when you pickle those extra cucumbers. Into the crock, add some grape leaves or leaves that have a good amount of tannin in them. The tannin provides what the fermenting foods need for crunch. In addition to the grape leaves, add lots of peeled and punched garlic, fresh dill, and whole peppercorns. The ceramic crock you choose only needs to be big enough for all the ingredients and enough brine to cover them. Once you layer the ingredients and add your cucumbers, just top the whole thing off with brine, cover the food with a plate and weight it down with a water filled jar to keep everything from floating to the top. Brine strength requires a bit of math, but it's easy. Josh found that diluting 3 tablespoons of salt in one liter of clean, filtered water is perfect for our climate in Michigan right now. He fills a capped one liter bottle (like a Nalgene) half full with water, adds the 3 TB of salt, shakes it to dissolve, and the fills the rest with water. So adjust as you see necessary. Just remember that the brine is what controls the action of microorganisms. So more salt will help slow fermentation in the summer, and probably cut down on mold growth on top of the pickles. Just don't fear the mold! Expect it, and when you discover it just carefully skim it from the top. Cover the whole thing, though, with a clean cloth to keep debris and bug invaders from feasting on your concoction. Once you are completely in love with the flavor of your pickles you can slow the whole thing down by putting the pickles into the fridge or jarring them with the correct canning techniques. You lose a lot of the health properties of the pickles when you can them under high heat, though.

Josh also put together a batch of bean pickles. He used the same brine recipe above for the cucumber pickles, but used a hot pepper from our garden, zucchini, and green beans. We are using a glass jar instead of a ceramic crock for these, so this is a bit of an experiment.

Do it! Try out these simple pickles that evolve with time and the other invisible creatures that are so beneficial all around us. I think of all the anti-bacterial products we are surrounded by and love the idea of making friends with some of these enemies.

Here's the pickle recipe I've found before.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Up Next!

My husband's parents and aunt are in town visiting. We just had an extremely productive visit to the farmer's market with them. Josh and I are brewing up multiple batches of new found discoveries. We have sauerkraut, yogurt, a peach jam and a cherry jam, our brined pickles, and a plum wine all awaiting their next fully fermented lives. Our personal garden is lacking this year, but we are brimming over with crocks and fresh Michigan produce. I'm sure we'll have some winners and some losers, but I guess that's what this learning process is all about!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Pickles Are Pickling!

Our pickles have now been fermenting for one full week and two days.

We've run into a couple setbacks already, though. Our original thrift store find crock had a crack in it, and after the first night of pickling there was a moist layer of saltwater on both the protective towel covering the crock and on the countertop. So we bought a new crock at my favorite store, Downtown Home and Garden. This new crock is a classic and something we will hold onto for years to come. Strangely enough, though, it too sweats the salt water from its insides! Perhaps these cucumbers are feeling effervescent with their change to immortal pickle, splashing their bathwater around in an excited flurry.

We were inclined to grab another batch of Farmer's Market cucumbers since this new crock was oh so large. We decided that it would be a brilliant idea to start the new batch by adding the old batch in with it. This help to jumpstart the fermentation process, right? Well, with the new batch, we absentmindedly used hard water. Now we aren't sure if the tap water that we've used is going to obliterate any good bacteria that may have already been flourishing. The minerals and chlorine that is added into our normal tap water will actually kill enzymes that the cucumbers naturally produce as they are fermenting. Just an FYI tidbit, this also happens to the intestinal flora that grow in our bodies, too. That's one reason fermented foods are so highly regarded in our day and age.

In this little pickle pot we have a salt water bath, dill, grape leaves (to keep the pickles crunchy), garlic, and peppercorns. We haven't deviated from the rules here too much yet. More variations on pickles to come!
See the recipe for this simple pickle adventure here, with one of my favorite authors.

Sickly Golden Tomatoes

Does anyone know what's going on with my Orange Banana tomatoes? I started these from seed and then gave several plants to a few friends, and it seems mine are the only ones that are ill. Hmm. I didn't plant them in the same place as I planted tomatoes last year, so I really don't know what nasty bug has my plants in this sincerely despicable twist of fate.

On the other hand, my Sainte Lucies and Green Velvets are flourishing (no pictures).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Genuine Saturday

The day started at 10am. Any Saturday where I actually untangle myself from the cozy blankets and greet the day before noon is almost rare, to say the least. Josh left for a gallery meeting downtown around 9am and I woke up completely on my own at 9:45. I padded down the stairs, poured myself as black a cup of coffee I could find, and sat down with my partially glazed eyes to browse through email. A friend of mine sent a mass invitation to pick blueberries and then head to the lake in the afternoon. I thought the idea was glorious. Thus, I surmised my strategy for the day. The goal was to meet Josh downtown before he started heading home after his meeting. First, we needed to head to market and pick up ingredients for both pickling and a couple days worth of food. Second, we would head to the blueberry farm about 15 miles west and pick these clusters of berries until our mouths were stained blue. And third, we would find our way to the most beautiful lake in Michigan, a retreat with no motor boats allowed. So I made my piles of needed materials and supplies for blueberry picking, farmer's market, and the lake. After some strategic backpack packing, I pedaled away on my bicycle, reaching downtown sweaty faced and alive before it was even noon.

We were able to pick up more pickling cucumbers, swiss chard, peaches, eggs, scallions, new potatoes, shallots, dill, and cherries. We packed these in coolers and, as planned, headed to the blueberry farm. We picked blueberries until our stomaches screamed of fullness and we forfeited our battle with the mosquitos. You can see from the pictures that this was very serious business. Then we wound our way through a few little curious Michigan towns, eventually finding the much needed respite of the lake. The water was unusually choppy, the small beach a bit full of people, but it was oh so refreshing.

We made it home and in bed for a nap at 6:45pm. I guess the "early" morning had me slightly worn out. We didn't rise from our evening nap until 9:15. At that point, we had to shift into high gear in order to finish the list of tasks for the day. We wanted to harvest swiss chard from our garden to make a Chard Gratin, make a homemade pesto with basil from the garden, eat dinner, and make these pickles that I've been obsessed with fermenting. And we did it. All of it.

The chard recipe is from Alice Waters cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, but I was made aware of it on the great food blog The Wednesday Chef. She has the recipe outlined on her blog, so if you want to try it you'll find it there.

The dish was simple to make and a perfect use of many ingredients that needed to be used in our kitchen. We were able to use bread that was a couple days old and dry, milk that was set to expire, and chard from the garden that was patchworked from bugs feasting on it's leaves. This dish will jive with any Sunday brunch or early afternoon meal. I can't wait to heat it up again for our Sunday lunch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


My hiatus from blogging was a result of feeling lost in time.

And then I became inspired by the cucumber plant, lounging on our porch, hastily growing by the day. It's squash like personality had me wondering if it was possibly related to the squash. Low and behold, they are in the same family: Cucurbitaceae. We don't have summer squash this year unfortunately, and actually lack the playground of veggies I was hoping for this summer. But we do have lots of herbs and this fancy pants cucumber. I've listed in my squished brain a few goals that I hope to complete by the beginning of September. I'll share more later, but at the top of the list is making pickles. Dill ones, actually. So Saturday I will be off to market to search out fresh dill and maybe a few more cucumbers. I didn't realize that I might need more than one plant to actually have a significant portion of salty, crunchy, savory pickles.

There are a few books that I have on hand to guide me on this pickle making adventure. The most promising of them is Wild Fermentation, The Taste of Country Cooking, and Preserving Summer's Bounty. I'm so excited to try my hand at this antique art of fermentation! Keep tuned...

And a few other plants...

Goblin flower, echinacea, and sneezeweed.

Joe Pye Weed

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bek and Sarah go to Colorado

Rebekah and I sped off to Colorado for a quick post-graduation trip. We drove through the Oklahoma pan handle, skimmed through the New Mexico Northeast corner, and headed on through to Buena Vista, a Colorado valley surrounded by massive heights of 14er mountains. We stayed at Liar's Lodge, a bed and breakfast that faces Mt. Harvard and Mt. Yale. We had a little porch off of our room, our bed facing Sleeping Indian mountain.

The next day, after a scrumptious and somewhat ludicrous breakfast of orange almond french toast, we hiked with heavy lungs to the top of the sleeping indian.

Soon after the hike we headed north to Denver and went to a Rockies/ Cardinals game where we partook in Coors Light and rooted for the underdog.

Colorado was great, but a bit too short. Maybe next time we'll try a longer stint in Spain. Or Greece.