Archive for the 'food' Category


Life update

p4056949floweringtreeftf.jpgReveling: In the arrival of spring!

Watching: Tropic Thunder. This film was very poorly marketed, I think. When I first saw a trailer for it, I thought, “Robert Downey Jr. wears blackface and pretends to be a black man? Huh? Totally not interested in seeing this one.” As it turns out, there’s a lot more than that to this film. Believe it or not, along with some clever parodies, there’s actually some social commentary in here, too.

Reading: We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher, by E. C. Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith. A memoir about being a cowboy during the golden age of cowboys in the USA, the 1870s and 1880s.

p4036916goldfinch403ftf.jpgWatching: Birds visit the two different feeders we’ve hung in a dogwood tree just outside the dining-room window. The goldfinches are gradually turning from brown to yellow again.

Being amazed by: Muscle memory. This morning I played Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” for the first time in a few years. I had worked on this piece a lot when I was a kid, and today I was surprised to see how good it sounded when I went through it. I couldn’t play this piece from memory to save my life, but interestingly enough when I have the sheet music in front of me I barely need to look at it—my hands know just what to do.

Eating: Lots of melted cheese. We had two raclette dinners within a month, and now that the weather is warm we’ve packed away the raclette grill until the cold returns next fall.


Life update


Eating: Lots of gado gado lately. Brown rice with steamed veggies, all covered with a peanut-and-coconut-milk sauce—healthy and delicious comfort food.

Watching: The Dark Knight, which I thought was pretty good. Heath Ledger’s much-touted performance as the Joker was good, but I thought Gary Oldman was a better actor in this film. Oldman has this chameleon-like ability to completely disappear in his role the point that I completely stop thinking “Oh, that’s Gary Oldman” and sometimes (as in this case) don’t even realize it’s him for quite some time.

Reading: Mark Bittman’s* latest book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes, which is sort of a how-to companion to Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. I can’t say enough good things about Food Matters, in which Bittman adroitly and eloquently points out that health, social, environmental, financial, and ethical problems with today’s mainstream American diet. Then he provides a reasonably achievable alternative, along with several recipes (and menus) to get you started. My only real quibble with this book is that he stops short of adopting or recommending vegetarianism (though I’ll give him credit for not bashing or dismissing it), especially after he describes the horrific conditions of factory farms and is himself horrified by them. (For some reason, he think it’s awful to make animals endure those places, yet it’s still okay to kill and eat them if they grow up on local farms.) Take a look at this informative review published at last month or, better yet, read the book for yourself.

Listening to: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, by David Byrne and Brian Eno

Smelling: Paperwhites (forced bulbs) and daffodils (cut flowers) in my living room and dining room. Spring is coming…
*Bittman is a food writer for The New York Times and the author of the wildly popular How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition): 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food.


How I celebrated Valentine’s Day

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. (This opinion has been true regardless of my relationship status at the moment.) Fortunately, my husband feels the same way, so neither of us expects any super-special display of affection on that day. (We have a private joke about it. I ask him several times during the day, “Where are my diamonds? And my flowers? And chocolate? And balloons with a stuffed animal—ideally a teddy bear? Don’t you love me?” and he rolls his eyes. Heh.)

p2136239allcookiesftf.jpgMost people in our society do engage in a “traditional” celebration of Valentine’s Day, though. As Sylvia has grown into a fully talking-thinking-soaking-it-all-in individual, Jan and I have realized that the two of us, as adults with a lifetime of experience and some ability to analyze popular culture, can critically examine and resist the consumerism-driven aspects of Valentine’s Day, but that she doesn’t yet have the tools that we have—and that her own life experience will involve exposure to all sorts of cultural concepts and practices. We can’t shield her from all of the ones we dislike, but we can try to mediate their impact on her by discussing them and, we hope, teaching her how to think critically about them.

Last year we started explaining to Sylvia that Valentine’s Day is a special day when people like to tell people they love them (taking care to point out that that’s a nice thing to say to people on any day you like). We talked about valentines, too, and the idea that people often do special things on that day.

Now that she’s in preschool, she had her first-even valentines swap on Friday. It was rather sweet (even though nearly all of the cards given were character-branded items that are basically advertisements for the latest Disney/Pixar/Barbie endeavor), and she really enjoyed making cards at home and passing them out at school. She made a card for her dad, too, a few days ago—and could barely keep the secret. (Example: “Daddy, don’t look on top of the bookcase, okay? It’s a secret!”)

p2136242cookiesftf.jpgThe best part was when the three of us made these shortbread cookies together. As a vegetarian, Sylvia can’t eat traditional conversation hearts (they contain gelatin), so these are a nice substitute. As a future geek (she has two geeky parents, so she doesn’t stand a chance; she already has her own dice bag) we figured we should give her some early lolcats exposure. And of course she just loved seeing her name on several cookies!


Life update

Watching: Groundhog Day. Yes, I watched this on February 2.

Knitting: Wavy scarf from Knitty.

Reading: Mr. Darcy’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. This is total fluff, but entertaining. I think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! will be an appropriate follow-up read.

Growing: Paperwhites (forced in Mason jars on the kitchen counter).

Eating: Pureed broccoli soup with garlic, ginger, and white miso.

Shoveling: Lots of snow. But I actually enjoy shoveling snow, so I don’t mind.


Having trouble planning dinner?

Check out the Noodle Soup Oracle. There’s even a vegetarian option—yippee! No recipes, but lots of ideas…


Life update

Watching: Iron Man (finally), which I thought was just awesome. I love the ending. At last, a superhero whose conflicts and enemies aren’t based on the utterly predictable trope of needing to maintain a secret identity.

Reading: Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett.

Seeds for this year’s garden, from Pinetree Garden Seeds (who sells seed packets with quantities and prices that are sensible for home gardeners. We’ve used their seeds for years. I really like this company.

Knitting: A new buttonband for my B.O.B. Sweater. And I need to shorten the hood on Jan’s Wonderful Wallaby. I finished that last fall, and he’s been wearing it ever since, but somehow I ended up making the hood deep enough to suit a Jedi.

Eating: Quesadillas made by Sylvia. Except she likes to call them “tortitos” (and, occasionally, “tornadoes”).

Thinking: About how our eight-year-long national nightmare is over. Oh sure, Obama will definitely do stuff I don’t agree with. But it’s really hard to imagine how he can be worse than his predecessor.


Trying to catch up

p8203078csa.jpgWe spent the the first two weeks of this month on vacation in Vermont, and since our return on Sunday I’ve been trying to get caught up. I had about 1700 posts in my reader, a gazillion e-mails, and of course gobs of vacation pictures to get through.

I hope to post about my trip in a few days, but for now I wanted to mention this week’s CSA haul. (My friend Beth enjoyed my CSA boxes during the two weeks I was out of town, so I don’t have pictures of those.) I now have enough cukes to make another batch of pickles (I made a double batch the day before we left for Vermont, too).

There’s a winter squash (which I plan to bake, then smother with butter and grade B maple syrup), summer squash, cukes, a ton of green beans, fresh portabellos (the county I live in is the mushroom-growing capital of the USA—there’s a very good chance your supermarket mushrooms came from here), a watermelon, onions, a red pepper, some potatoes, a quart of plums, and a couple of yams. And “a few” (ahem!) tomatoes. No eggplant, thank goodness.

p8203079lionbars.jpgWe’re well stocked on the veggie front, but some items (like orange juice and cheese) aren’t available through my CSA. So I took a trip to my local supermarket yesterday, where I was just tickled pink to discover that it now carries (in the international foods department) The Greatest Candy Bar in the World. Please note that there is not a shred of hyperbole in this paragraph: Lion Bars really are the best candy bar ever. Until now, I’ve been able to get them only from friends who visit the UK or from import shops/sites. Now I can get them whenever I go grocery shopping. Woot!


It’s a miracle

After writing about how, even though I loathe pickles, I was planning to make some pickles with the gazillion cucumbers I’d gotten from my CSA, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually like these pickles. Hot damn.

After this revelation, I was feeling inspired to do some more pickling of stuff. Last week’s beet bounty combined with beets I already had on hand got me thinking about how to preserve beets. Kelli put me in touch with her friend Jessica, who passed along a recipe for canning beets. It looked pretty good, and I was all set to give it a go when I found (in Preserving Summer’s Bounty,” from the good folks at Rodale) a recipe for pickled beets in a honey, cinnamon, and allspice syrup. Yum.


In this week’s CSA news

p7161839csa.jpgHere’s this week’s CSA haul. More cucumbers, more zucchini, some yellow beans, red onions (this are the first ones of the season), smaller onions, bell peppers, hot peppers (another first of the season), small onions, an eggplant, and about a gazillion tomatoes.

I’m going to save the pickles until next week, when I hope to get enough new ones to make up another batch of pickles. (The recipe I’m using calls for a gallon of thin slices, which came out to about five decent-sized cukes last time.) For the other veggies, I’m going to turn to The Vegetarian Bistro, by Marlena Spieler, for inspiration. Many of the recipes call for eggplant, tomatoes, or zucchini—or even all three—so I’m bound to find something good in there.

p7161837extra.jpgAnd here are this week’s “bonus” items. The CSA boxes are kept in a small, air-conditioned trailer, and there are usually boxes or small refrigerators with extras available for purchase. Portabello mushrooms, for example, did not appear in this week’s share but could be bought for $1.50/bag. Local meat is also available at various prices.

This week, there was a box de-greened beets, with a sign encouraging people to help themselves to what they wanted. Another sign also told people to take one of the melons outside (there was a pile of them under a garden umbrella next to the trailer). I bought a dozen chicken eggs (laid yesterday morning) for $2.50.

I may have mentioned before that my CSA is at a nearby dairy farm that, for the past fifteen years or so, has operated an ice creamery. I recently learned from Tim, the farmer who runs the CSA, that only about two percent of the farm’s daily milk production goes to ice cream; the rest of the milk is sold to a regional distributor.

He sent an e-mail out to the CSA members last week announcing that they had just invested in pasteurization equipment and would be offering fresh pasteurized milk for sale once the licensing process was complete. Happy news indeed! We, however, are a raw milk-drinking family, so when I saw Tim yesterday (when picking up my box) I asked if he’d ever have raw milk available. He said, “I can’t sell it to you, but I can give it to you,” then went off to fill a half-gallon jug for me.

As it turns out, to get a license for pasteurized milk, the farm must first get a license for raw milk. Once all that is done (within the next week, Tim hopes), they’ll be able to sell both kinds of milk. He’ll have prefilled jugs of milk available for people to buy on CSA pickup days, but since I am (so far) the only person who’s inquired about raw milk, he won’t have those ready-made but will prep them to order. I’m pretty happy about this, because currently the only place I can get raw milk around here is at a natural-foods store about fifteen minutes away—it’s not too far from us, but the travel time (and gas!) really adds up when you’re going there about three times every two weeks. (Raw milk is fresh for only seven days, so buying in one trip more than we can drink in that time isn’t an option.)


Weekend fun

It’s been a busy weekend here.

On Friday, we celebrated our nation’s birthday by taking a trip to our nation’s first zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo doesn’t hold a candle to the zoo I grew up going to—both in terms of animal habitats and entrance fees (the St. Louis Zoo is free, whereas the Philly one is a whopping $18 for adults and $15 for kids 2-11)—but it’s what we’ve got. And Sylvia loves it, so there you go.

Yesterday morning my brother arrived for a two-day visit. He lives in Greenwich Village and almost always brings us a dozen fresh bagels that he picks up at the shop around the corner from him on his way to Penn Station. We’re so grateful for this gift, because even though it’s possible to get decent bagels where we live, nothing compares to New York bagels. (Seriously. They’re standing on the summit of Mount Everest, with all other bagels in the world stuck in the Mariana Trench. They’re that good. The other bagels aren’t jealous, though, because they’re in so much awe of New York bagels that they can’t help but admire them.)

p7051739.jpgThis time, in addition to bagels, he brought a special treat that I’d asked him to find: vegan marshmallows. (Real marshmallows contain gelatin, which is made from animal bones and pig and cow skin.)* A few days earlier, I’d told him that Whole Foods stores in NYC carry them (but not any stores in my area), and because they need to be refrigerated it’s very expensive to get them by mail-order during the summer. “Don’t go to any trouble, but if you can find some, that would be great,” I told him. He took it as his personal mission to find these for us, and after visiting a few stores, scored two boxes of them (each holding about a dozen marshmallows for $7, if you can believe it). Thanks to her uncle’s efforts, Sylvia got to enjoy her first backyard s’mores yesterday evening. Which she loved, of course!

Once Sylvia was in bed for the evening, a few friends came over for some serious geeking out. Nine of us played a board game until 2 a.m. Yeah, I’d say we had a good time.

I also managed to get a lot of knitting done. Last night I finished knitting one new piece, and this morning I seamed it; it just needs a few more embellishments. Right now, I’m blocking Sylvia’s new sweater and hope to finish it up (finally!) this evening. A more detailed knitting update—with pictures—will be forthcoming later this week (I hope!).

I hope all of you, too, had a great weekend!


*A few years ago, the excrement hit the fan in the vegetarian world when it was revealed the Emes Kosher Jel, which had marketed itself as a vegetarian gelatin substitute, actually contained animal gelatin. (CNBC did a story about this: part 1, part 2.) The few companies that made vegetarian marshmallows using Emes products went out of business, and since then only a handful of companies in the world have figured out how to make vegan marshmallows.

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