Thursday, July 28, 2011

My CSA Farm Loves Me

Who has two thumbs and 15 pints of strawberries? This girl!

Yesterday's gorgeous CSA haul contained things in threes:
3 zucchini
3 beets
3 kohlrabi
3 baskets of strawberries
3 leeks
3 pairs of eggs :)
bag of salad mix
head of broccoli

All this, plus an entire flat (12 pints) of strawberries. Gorgeous, deliciously sweet, organic strawberries--at the amazing rate of $2 per basket. I normally don't snack on the drive home with my haul, but two berries met their end in my belly.

This extra flat of berries is all going in the freezer for winter consumption. Last night 6 pints were cleaned, hulled, and laid out in a single layer on a cookie sheet for overnight freezing. This morning they ended up in 3 quart-sized freezer bags. I will be repeating the procedure this evening.

Speaking of repeat procedures, the first batch of stock is cooling in my fridge. It had simmered in the crock pot for about a day, then strained into a stainless-steel bowl and popped into the fridge. While I ordered plain bones ("gelatinous bones") from my meat dealers, one of the bones contained a considerable amount of meat, and a considerable amount of fat, so this first batch of stock is particularly rich. I know, because I drank a bit of it last night. About a cup of stock + a cup of reconstituted vegetable bouillon = so much goodness I had to save half as leftovers. Silly me, too, for drinking hot soup on a hot July evening, but whenever I make something new I really want to try it right away. It has a pronounced flavor to which I am not accustomed, but I expect it will grow on me, especially if my body responds well to all the alleged nutrition. In any case, I've read that you can get more than one pot of stock out of a set of bones, so they're simmering for another day. My freezer is going to be so full!

Heading out on a weekend camping trip (ladies only!) early tomorrow morning, so I've been thinking about suitable food to take with me. Dense vegetables--carrots, beets, kohlrabi--will come, the latter one to eat raw for lunch and the former two to roast in the fire. I'm also bringing the salad mix, because it's fragile, needs to be eaten soon, and I can just nosh on the leaves straight from the bag. At least one pint of strawberries will also come out with me, to share with the girls.

I'm really excited about the trip. Aside from the fact that I love camping, we're going to be up in the Redwoods, which I've heard is gorgeous. Best of all, I'll get to enjoy the company of an old friend who I haven't see in more than ten years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adventures in Shopping

I made a quick shopping expedition to my local Whole Foods Market yesterday after work. Here was my list: milk, tomatoes, dates, coconut, almond butter, cayenne pepper, dried basil. I added a pint of half-and-half, since I've been missing drinking coffee in the mornings. Over the course of the evening, the milk went into a batch of yogurt, while the tomatoes are now cooling their heels in a tasty marinara sauce.

While walking down the canned fish aisle (picked up some tinned sardines and kippered herring), I stopped and perused a snack. Unfortunately, the aisle which contains canned fish also contains most of the fried carbohydrate snacks: potato chips, tortilla chips, cheesy poofs. While they may be all-natural, that doesn't mean they're good for me. A package of Inka Chips made its way into my hand. The ingredient list is brief: plantains, palm olein, and sea salt. Achieves a snack trifecta: crunchy, salty, sweet.

I resisted. I had to. I feel as though I can't let any packaged food into my life right now, so that I can break the cycle of junk food. (Seriously, yesterday there were cookies, pastries, and pretzels all over the break room. I could have just grabbed three or four of the large cookies and eaten them in secret. No one would know, so no one would care. No one, except myself. It's still hard to pass up free carbs.)

These brief moments of struggle enable me to understand how hard it can be for most people to eat only real food. It takes so much time and energy.

Take the marinara sauce, for which I peeled and chopped seven tomatoes, one onion, and three cloves of garlic. Once it started simmering, I could walk away from the stove, but still had to come back periodically in order to stir. Tonight I'm going to pluck all the leaves off my basil plant, wash and chop, then mix them in. Compare this to the ease of buying a jar of sauce. To some people, it just doesn't make sense to cook. For me, it is all worth it. (Though I wish I could have bought the tomatoes at a farmers' market. Must plan ahead next time.)

Of course, now I'm thinking that I should find some plantains, slice them thinly, then roast them in my oven. I can have my chips and eat them, too! As an occasional (very occasional) treat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

After missing "Thor" and skipping "Green Lantern", yesterday I finally caught up with my comic superhero movie cravings and saw a matinee of "Captain America: The First Avenger". Quite simply, it was fun. There was one gaping plot hole, which I hope can be explained to me by someone in the know. Chris Evans was looking very fine as the strapping, blond Steve Rogers, providing a goodly dose of eye candy. Hugo Weaving was an excellent choice for the villain: brooding, scowling, grimacing, and generally chewing the scenery in a dastardly, sinister way. There are some excellent quips from minor characters, and of course a cameo by Stan Lee, which lets one know that the moviemakers are not taking themselves too seriously. I left the theater interested in the next Avengers installment, theoretically due next spring, and I'm planning to catch Thor once it comes out on DVD.

I have to say this, however: can I have a superhero movie wherein the main character portrayed is not a white male? While I understand that all of the original comics were written by white men, and "you write what you know", I'm feeling the effects of the Golden Age of American Patriarchy. Or perhaps that was simply the over-the-top propaganda machine omnipresent in Captain America.

My relationship with the classic superheroes is awkward. I prefer them in the modern reincarnations such as "Kingdom Come" and "Red Son"--wherein the heroes are enmeshed in a plot full of depth and character development. I like seeing Superman torn between the desire to always help people and the knowledge that he can't save us from ourselves. I've always been a fan of Batman at his most angst-ridden and brooding. The movie "Iron Man" has been the best of the Marvels for me so far because you see Tony Stark move from the devil-may-care genius playboy to a man who sees his duty to make the world a decent place. I've yet to see any depth to Captain America, but I hope it comes.

My most gleeful moment came before the movie, during the trailer for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". I have to say, it looks so fabulous ridiculous that I think it's going to be ridiculously fabulous. I had tears in my eyes, I was laughing so hard during the trailer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Serious CSA Swag

There's a photo that will be inserted later. I am impatient, so I wanted to post about yesterday's afternoon o' food.

First, the Fifth Crow Farm CSA box contained:
A bunch of lovely, stubby carrots
A big ol' bunch of spinach
Two heads of lovely lettuce
Two zucchini
A savoy cabbage
Some spring onions
A bag of dried beans
Two pints of strawberries (of all sizes)
Half a dozen lovely eggs

As usual, having to find space in my fridge for the new goods prompted me to work on consuming some of the previous stock. I cooked half a head of cabbage last night for dinner--a simple saute in coconut oil with some crushed red pepper and tamari sauce for seasoning. Half a broccoli went into this morning's breakfast. (I love vegetables for breakfast.) I currently have six beets, but I'm holding on to those for a dinner party on Sunday.

I'm really excited to make a salad tonight, using the olive oil and apricot lavender balsamic vinegar purchased during last Saturday's trip to the market. Plus it is liver and onions night! Yay liver!

Speaking of liver, I received my first CSA box from Marin Sun Farms:
2 pounds ground goat
3 pounds ground lamb
1 pound lamb stew meat
3 1/2 pound boneless pig leg

I added on to my regular order, and also obtained about 2 pounds of lamb's liver and 2 pounds of assorted cow bones. Liver is an important part of my diet, so I want to be sure of a good supply, and the Holding Ranch booth at the farmers' market only occasionally has liver available. I certainly haven't seen it at Whole Foods. I'm excited about making some batches of bone broth in my crock pot. (You can google it to read up on the purported health benefits.) Plus, this weekend I'm finally going to process up a batch of homemade vegetable bouillon.

So many things are on my to-do list for Saturday, it's almost scary. If I get most of them done, that will be fine by me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Carrot Raisin Wheatberry Salad

As part of my mother's birthday bash earlier this month, my sister prepared a traditional carrot-raisin salad. Its ingredients are simple: shredded or grated carrots, raisins, and peanuts with a sweetened mayonnaise-based dressing. My new way of eating means that I shy away from industrially-prepared mayo, but I was able to join in on the fun by chomping down on the raw carrots, raisins, and peanuts themselves.

For the potluck at yesterday's Fifth Crow Farm open house, of course I wanted to showcase one of the items grown at the farm. I also wanted to prepare something potluck friendly. My brain was set on carrot-raisin salad, but Fifth Crow currently offers neither carrots nor raisins. Then I rediscovered the bag of wheatberries which was part of my CSA several weeks back. After a little scoping around the interwebs for a mayo-free way of dressing the salad, I put together the following, which was completely eaten up at the potluck.

Carrot-Raisin-Wheatberry Salad
1 C wheatberries, cooked (preferably organic and heritage!)
2 large carrots, grated
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C peanuts
juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1-2 T olive oil
1 T sesame seeds, toasted

To cook the wheatberries, cover with lots of water and allow to soak for a day, or at least overnight. Drain and discard the water, and transfer the grain to a medium saucepan. Cover with purified water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the grains are as tender as you like them. Drain well and cool.

In a large bowl (or the large tupperware container you plan to serve the salad from at the potluck), combine the wheatberries, grated carrots, raisins and peanuts. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, mix together the lemon and orange juices with the olive oil. Pour over the salad. Add the sesame seeds and mix well. It can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before serving.

[Photo used freely from]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crock-pot of Doom!

Last night I did something for the first time: made my own barbecue sauce. It was based on the recipe presented over at Mark's Daily Apple.

Naturally, since this is me we're talking about, there were some substitutions. First, since I didn't have any tomato paste, I instead peeled, chopped, and cooked down a couple of small heirloom tomatoes. I didn't have any hot sauce, so I threw in 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. I sweetened it with 1 T honey and about 1/2 T molasses. And my paprika was smoked.

Sweet Georgia Brown, that's some tasty stuff, at least the taste I took off the spoon last night.

Here's where the crock-pot comes in. This morning before work I browned a 1-lb chuck roast and stuck it in the pot with the bbq sauce, a small red onion, and a cup of soaked Christmas lima beans from Rancho Gordo (plus some water as needed for cooking the beans). Aw, yeah, I get bbq beef and beans for dinner tonight. Along with a heaping mess of sauteed greens and whatever other veggies tickle my fancy. It'll totally be the thing after the 6 mile hike I have planned for after work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A special CSA post

This week's CSA posting is extra-special. There's a photo!

Just check out the goodness. Radishes, bag of arugula, cabbage, two bunches of broccoli, two baskets of strawberries, three beets, four red onions, 6 eggs. And you see that bundle of leaves at the bottom? That's a basil plant. With its roots in water, I'll get fresh basil for the next two weeks.

Of course, trying to fit this haul into my fridge helped force me to find creative ways to eat some of last week's produce: both rainbow chard and kohlrabi leaves featured prominently in dinner. I've also finally finished the bunch of radishes from two weeks ago. While I've been reading that one can eat turnip and radish greens, I've yet to steel myself for the plunge into doing so. However, I dare say that it'll happen eventually, considering that I'm already eating beet and kohlrabi greens.

With now six beets and a head of cabbage residing in my fridge, plus the onions on the side, all I need is my Mom's special Christmas borscht recipe and I've got a fabulous soup ready for the simmering. Christmas in July!

Some sewing was performed this evening, after total laziness the past two days. I finally (after, seriously, about 10-12 months) hemmed a blue linen shift dress, so it is now finished. I also stitched the major seams in the bodice and lining of my practice Regency dress. Photos to follow.

I can see the moon through the tree branches outside my window. Definitely time to head towards bed. Good night!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Break time!

About an hour ago, I walked from my work desk and down a short passage to what is the closest view of the outdoors. This glass door opens onto the little courtyard of our multi-company complex. There are a few water features, a stretch of grass, a couple of trees, and lots of flowering plants.

I arrived upon the view just in time to see two hummingbirds. One flew up and away, while the other went about her normal hummingbird activities. Sat perched on a the branch of a flowering shrub for 30 seconds, hovered around sucking nectar from the flowers for 25 seconds, and then perched for another 5 seconds, at which point I left the window. I know the durations because I was counting in my head, having given myself 1 minute for this window break.

Though short, it was exceedingly soothing. The sound of water falling, the summer sunlight, the verdant greenery, and an animal engaging in its natural activities. Enough to make me feel part of the world again, for a moment.

Have you taken a break from work today?

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Awesome Sister

My sister (who, by the way, rules) did something really cool this past weekend. She walked a 5K. While being 7 months pregnant with twins. A few great pictures and a general recap are here. Feel inspired?

Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to share just how awesomely fabulous my sister is. In so many ways, she's helped make me the woman I am today. (This is an old photo, but there she is, on my left.)

Very early on, when I was old enough to speak, but not yet old enough to be understood, she translated the word "fwiss", which had been befuddling our parents for some time. The result of this adept communication? I scored the swiss cheese I'd been asking for. I also remember right when I was starting school, and I was worried about whether I'd be able to handle it. Sis and I were out in our backyard, playing on the swing set. She asked me spell a few words. Since I managed to do that just fine, she gave me all her sisterly assurance and support that I'd do just fine in school.

Then, of course, we had our teenage years, when we fought like, well, two teenage girls. Now that we're both capable adults, however, she's my best girlfriend. I can go to her for everything from relationship advice to fashion advice to career advice. I can borrow her makeup, or her clothes, or her money. She and I are definitely not alike in so many ways, but when people see the two of us together, they know that we're sisters.

Now, in a couple of months, she's going to make me an aunt, which is really rather cool. But as much as I'll love my little nieces or nephews (or one of each, if it turns out that way), I want to make sure that my sister knows how much I love her for her, now and always.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This week's CSA

It's Thursday, therefore time for another edition of "what Melissa received in her CSA box". I can't go into too much detail, because the kind folks at Fifth Crow Farm did not send out an email this week telling us exactly what was in the box. Here we go:

Kohlrabi is back! 3 bulbs with leaves
Bag of spinach
A bunch of rainbow chard
A bunch of pink turnips? giant radishes? other edible roots?
A head of butter lettuce (and I just have to say, the silky texture of the leaves as I was moving it into the fridge made me figure out exactly why they call it butter lettuce)
6 assorted summer squash: three zucchini and three ridged squash I don't know the name of
2 baskets of strawberries
1 jar of strawberry jam
half dozen pastured-chicken eggs

With all this fresh produce in my fridge, what did I do for dinner last night? Not eat any of it. Silly. I'm still working my way through last week's vegetables. I was able to demolish one more head of baby lettuce and four radishes. I've been all out of olive oil for the past week at least, so all my salads have been dressed with sesame oil. I'll be buying more of the olive sort this weekend.

It was too hot in the house yesterday, so I enjoyed my dinner outside on my little back deck. (I do mean little--it's only about 4 feet wide.) I set up a stool with a board atop for a table, and sat cross-legged on a couple of rugs. Who needs fancy patio furniture?

Last night I finished the 3rd book in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: "On the Banks of Plum Creek". The Ingalls family has moved to Minnesota, where they first live in a dugout house before building a two-story home out of wooden planks, with "boughten" shingles, doors, hinges, and even glass windows. A plague of grasshoppers obliterates their first wheat crop and a winter blizzard nearly swallows up Pa, but the family comes through happily in the end. There is still food mentioned, but not as much as in the first two books, and definitely not as much as in "Farmer Boy". Because they live next to a creek, they eat a lot of fish for meat. Because the wheat harvest didn't come through, and they're rather poor, most of their meals are beans and cornbread, or bread and milk.

Of course, while I read, I am struck by their simple, what we would consider minimalist, life. As a girl of nearly 8 years old, Laura owns a couple of playthings: some paper dolls and a rag doll. She wears one dress every day but Sundays. Ma has a china shepherdess and Pa has a fiddle, and those are all the extraneous decorations mentioned in their house. All of the family possessions fit into a wagon. Could you fit even a third of your belongings in the back of a mini-van? Once again, I think I have way too much stuff.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Awkward Angle

On the one hand, during my stay in Utah, it was very fun to be able to once again prance about outside in cute little sun dresses. On the other hand, I've decided that I need to do more strength training and tone my arms. I've just never been very interested in weightlifting. So I need to figure out other activities, especially real-world motions, that will tax my arm muscles.

Fortunately, there's something vaguely resembling a pull-up bar outside my house. (Actually, it's a piece of pipe that runs between two trees.) So I can do pull-ups and chin-ups. Push-ups are always good, too. I'm also thinking about doing handstands against a wall. All I need now is to find heavy things to lift frequently around the house.

Any advice on strength training exercises or how to maintain a weightlifting program?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

While it was hot hot hot in Salt Lake City this past weekend, the heat was mollified by staying indoors, in my parents' air-conditioned house. Returning home to the central peninsula, there was no escape from the >90 degree temperatures in my heat-trapping little cottage with no air circulation. What to do? Well, eventually I will buy a little electrical fan, but yesterday I decided to make ice cream.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream
1 pint organic strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 extra-large banana
1 1/2 C cream
1 1/2 C milk
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

Blend the fruit and milk in a blender until the fruit is neatly pureed. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Process in an ice cream maker. Makes ~1 quart. Serve and beat the heat. Note: the small amount of honey combined with the fruit produces just a hint of sweetness, which is what I really enjoy these days. If you'd like a more traditionally sweeter ice cream, increase the honey to at least 1/4-1/3 cup. The rum need not be included, but having a little alcohol is handy to prevent the ice cream from freezing rock hard due to the lower sugar content.