Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Fusion of Sorts...

It's always tricky trying a new recipe. It can be a little scary, but taking the leap can also be very rewarding. I had planned to make a curry noodle recipe using a number of my CSA veggies along with a porcini mushroom fettuccine that I picked up from Annona Gourmet (the place where I bought that fabulous cherry balsamic vinegar). This I had planned for Sunday and so, I also picked up a baguette from the Eastside Coop. But Sunday ended up being filled by lots of gardening and hauling of mulch so I was too tired to get going in the kitchen.

Plans for that curry noodle dish was shifted to Monday. But, I had forgotten about that baguette, which was hard as a rock by dinner time on Monday. I had always wondered what a bread salad was all about, so I did it. The Big D was a little freaked out. Bread? In the salad? Somehow it all worked for me in my mind. I had planned to make a salad, and since the bread was hard, I just thought I would make a bread salad. Thoughts about how to use that bread to soak up the curry sauce with the noodles, I figured, would just work it's way out when it came time to eat.

Fusion number one: Italian bread salad with Asian Curry Noodles
Fusion number two: Curry Noodles.

The dish ultimately tasted to me like a Malaysian dish: a blend of Indian curry flavors with Thai-type noodles. I'd only had Malaysian food once - loved it! - and the memory of it was of all those great Indian flavors but none of that fried heavy taste. Why Thai? Well there was a lot of lime in this dish and a can of coconut milk, which I associate with the Thai curries I've cooked at home.

Here are the results:

Looks good, no? Tastes good? No. Hey, but it looks pretty!

The first bite was much better than the last. The Big D ate it all, but I disliked mine so much near the end that I decided not to share with my neighbor. The fusion of Italian and Asian didn't work either. All in all, it was not a good experiment. That's why I haven't shared the recipe. I know I added too much cumin, too much turmeric, too much of everything.

The only great satisfaction I got from this was using up a ton of my CSA veggies, but what good is that if we don't eat the left-overs. Arrgghhh....

A word on mulching before I go: Every year I buy a bag or four of mulch. I try to wait for the sales and by the time those roll around the weeds have gone nuts so there is alot of time pulling weeds before the mulch goes on. That's hard work, annoying, and rather expensive. Especially now when we are trying to rid ourselves of a lawn.

This year, I finally figured out why city parks have those big piles of mulch! Duh! Actually, I've known for a while, just never figured how to transport the large amount that I needed. Finally, I bought a big plastic tub for $5 and made several trips to a local park. This experience really makes me wonder why people by the dyed stuff. Especially since there is so much available for free. It looks "natural" in my yard. And that's because it was mulched from the trees that grow in my neighborhood. I was so happy about this experience that the food disaster could be easily forgotten!

Read More »

Friday, June 26, 2009

stir-fry, sharing, and slow cookers

No picture of the bounty this week. It has been so dang hot here lately that all my usual activities seem very difficult, including just the simple act of taking a picture. The Big D and I usually like to walk to the house where we pick up our CSA, but the heat was too much yesterday. I'm surprised I cooked. But, I'm glad that I cooked because the effort was definitely worth it!

Here's a shot for my stir-fry! My mother calls it a "stir and fry." Lately, I've been finding my mother's quirky references very cute! I'm actually not sure it's a stir-fry. It's made more like a Thai curry, but it definitely has my own personal spin so I really don't know what to call it. None of that mattered when we dished up!

I loved the color that amaranth added to the meal!

The list of this week's harvest:

Red Radish
Garlic Scapes
Romaine or Red Boston Lettuce
Salad Mix or Arugula
Sugar Snap Peas
Napa or Sweetheart Cabbage
Green Top Beets

I sometimes struggle with the best way to split up the CSA box in order to share with my mother. Things like radishes and scallions can be split pretty easily. But what about that large head of lettuce or napa cabbage? Last night, I solved my problem with the cabbage. I chopped up the cabbage for the stir-fry, about half, then just placed the rest in the bag for mother's share. Easy! Ok, so this is not a big deal, but it sure made me happy to be sharing this with my mother, rather than trying to find a way to consume all the cabbage.

I get so excited about the variety that is available for the stir-fry that I always end up with too much. Another problem was solved this week. I've begun to share the left-overs of my meals with a neighbor across the street.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's hot around here! My kitchen is the hottest room in the house. When it's over 90 degrees out, the thought of turning on my oven or stove top is totally unbearable. I've turned to my slow cooker. I've always used the slow cooker for winter meals, but hadn't considered the use of it in the hot summer months. Now, i just have to find more recipes to use up all this CSA goodness.
Read More »

Saturday, June 20, 2009

CSA Box #7

It's getting to the point where I need to get more than one bag when I pick up my CSA box!!

Look at all the color!

The lettuce is huge!

And, the garlic scapes are curly!

Read More »

Friday, June 19, 2009

We're jammin...

The first time I was introduced to rhubarb was through the Big D's uncle who has a farm in Iowa. Uncle D loved his rhubarb and had a constant supply of rhubarb sauce similar to an apple sauce. He was enthusiastic about sharing with me. I got a little nervous when all the other family members refused. They all watched as I had my first tastes and honestly, I wasn't impressed.

Then, I started the CSA and was receiving rhubarb every week in the beginning of the season. The first year I made an attempt at rhubarb bread. Yuk! It was not good, but this may have more to do with my baking abilities. The next year I cut up all the rhubarb and froze (or frozened it, as my mother is fond of saying), and when I thought I had accumulated enough, I made an apple/rhubarb crisp. Let's say it was an "OK," meaning it was edible, but not delicious. I can't tell you what happened last year because I don't remember, which means I probably composted it. And, that's not right!

CSA is all about embracing seasonal produce, I tell myself. I try to see the beauty in this stalks.

They are a pretty color, no? OK, so my head is in the right place and soon enough a recipe caught my attention: Jam! Got the recipe for strawberry rhubarb preserves at A Good Appetite.

I had to psyche myself for it so I put in some Bob Marley. Corny, yes, but just what I needed.

We're jammin' -
To think that jammin' was a thing of the past;
And I hope this jam is gonna last.

Hmm, cooking to Bob Marley adds a whole new layer of meaning to the lyrics. Noone I know makes jam as if jammin is really a thing of the past. And considering the hazards I encountered in the jam making process, I hope this jam is gonna last. I jammed in a tank top and an apron covering by body. When the jam boils up, it seems like a bubbling vat of molten lava. As the bubbles got bigger, the spray from the burst splattered out everywhere. Since I had to keep stirring, I ended with tiny little jam burns on my neck and arms - extreme cooking!

I gathered all the berries I had in the house: strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. I have made raspberry/wild blackberry jam before and knew from that experience that raspberries had natural pectin in it. So all these berries went into the batch along with the rhubarb and a little bit of lemon juice.

Yeah! I did it!

Don't be alarmed by the fact that the jam is on my kitchen floor! It was the best I could do on a cloudy day.

About the plastic containers: I decided to fill these so that I could share with family and neighbors. Next time I'm going to try a water bath. I have a canner but haven't taken the leap yet. This year is the year (I hope!). It seems like a project to try with a friend...
Read More »

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CSA Box #6 and convenient isn't so convenient...

The work that began on the parking of the nearby junior high school is driving me nuts! I can't hear anything but the noise of those big trucks and the work begins at 7:00 each morning. I can't hear the music playing in the same room where I am sitting. I couldn't even hear the neighbor mowing her grass - not that I wanted to, but the point is that the construction work noise is overpowering!

It's put me a foul mood and it's affecting my cooking. Well, I guess, that's what I see as my excuse this week.

There are a lot of salads being eaten around here for three reasons. First, because the weather is getting warmer, salads are a nice light choice for a warm evening. Second, I just recently discovered how incredibly easy it is poach a couple of chicken breasts to add some meat to the salad; it feels like instant dinner to me. Third, because I just haven't found my CSA cooking mojo yet.

Over the years I have raved about my CSA experience with anyone that would listen to me. I have attempted to convert friends. I have gleefully boasted about the variety of fresh produce available to me, in fact, delivered to me in my own neighborhood.

I have marveled at the vegetables that used to be a mystery to me.

This all seems incredibly convenient to me. One of these friends has since decided she would like to stick to the farmer's market. I'm thinking this doesn't work for me as I like not having to choose but would rather just have a box delivered with the week's harvest. Another friend accused me of "preaching about my organics." What can I say? I'm passionate about nutritious, healthy foods, and not all that jazzed about talking botox. A couple of other friends have pondered whether child or husband would eat vegetables. What the heck? When I was a child, I didn't have a choice about what I wanted to eat. My mother cooked a meal and that was what's for dinner and that's what I had to eat. However, I am eternally grateful that my man will eat anything except (canned)tuna.

I began my CSA experience sharing with yet another friend. She opted out the second year because, I think, she felt it was a lot of work...and now, I'm sitting here a bit overwhelmed with the season and biting my tongue on those shallow judgements I imposed on my friends. Bad Lotus! Sad Lotus!! Overwhelmed Lotus!!!

This all has got me thinking about convenience. Yes, it is convenient that I get my summer produce delivered right to my neighborhood. But it is not convenient finding the time to cook it all up. My mind fantasizes about processed food available everywhere...but my taste buds know that nothing compares to the taste of fresh vegetables.

Every CSA season brings my desires into clear focus. I am a creature of this century and trouble with my cravings for food out of season. For instance, pizza. I make a Friday night pizza, something I got from my mother who would make the pizza dough from scratch. I buy my pizza crust from the bakery section of the grocery store. I should be topping my pizza with CSA veggies, like the spinach and the egyptian walking onions, but I want bell peppers and mushrooms on my pizza and so I follow my tastes to the grocery store and just simply pick up what I need.

I realize that I am lucky to have all this food available to me. And this makes me wonder how the heck people used to do this - eating just what was in season. Hopefully my drive to cook will kick in this week because I'm getting a little too friendly with my compost pile. Ah well, at least this baby will get plenty to eat.

Read More »

Monday, June 15, 2009

First thing Monday morning...

the works begins...

Read More »

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New growth

Read More »

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rasta Road

We call this trail the Rasta Road because of what we found toward the end of the road:

We take this drive frequently because the road leads to a secluded campground on the Flambeau River. There is a water pump at this campground. We have no water on our property so when we run out of what we hauled from the city, we take drive to this pump. The water is very cold and refreshing. It smells like it's loaded with minerals, but the taste is pure and clear.

The remains of logging in the area can be jarring. Yet, it is nice to see the area start the growing process again. It's also a good area to spot birds and other wildlife.

But, soon the road leads back into the thick of the woods. In just one week it seems like the trees popped into their leafy glory, causing the road to slim and the woods to darken. We actually saw a porcupine on the side of the road, but it was too quick and sneaky to get a picture. That was a first for me -- seeing a porcupine out in the wild and it seemed to waiting to say hello on the side of the road.

The river is just wonderful here. This is place where a lot of canoers stops for the night. We had the place to ourselves on the afternoon we wandered down to get the water.

It was one of those trips where everything seemed magical with an impossible array of green color everywhere.

Read More »

CSA Box #5

Ok, so this is a little late. I was out of town all last week for my birthday. Actually, we came back into town to pick up the CSA box, then left for the trailer again on Saturday. So, now I have to catch up!

Here's a picture of last week's box. My mother was uncertain about our plans to come back to the city, so I ended up hooking up with her en route and the bonus was that we split it up immediately after picking up the box. The negotiations are always interesting me and I sure learn about where I get my habits as I watch my mother shy away from an unknown vegetable.

I gave her all the asparagus, then later read on other blogs that this week's harvest was likely the best of the season. Dang! I also gave her the one parsnip I picked up from the choice box. She took all the arugula because she loves it and I am indifferent about it. I took all the turnips because these are the things I have waiting all winter to have!

The contents of the box:
Green garlic: sliced it up and used it to start my stir-fry
Potato onions: sliced it up diagonally and used it in stir-fry
Spinach: salad
Salad mix or arugula: gave to my mother for her salad
Hon tsai tai or pea vine: stir-fry
Sweet baby broccoli: gave to my mother and regretted it as I was getting my stir-fry ingredients together.
Rhubarb: should have tossed it in the swap box because I already have a freezer load.
Asparagus: gave to my mother
Bok choi: used in stir-fry
Baby white turnips with tops: cooking tonight in a honey glaze

I made a stir-fry last night, or maybe I should call it a Thai red curry. I used many of the ingredients from this week's box. But, I feel like I cheated a little. This is a great dish for many vegetables, but I always feel like I'm taking the easy way out. I wanted to prepare a sauteed bok choy, but I didn't because of course, it was easier to stir-fry.

When we were first married the Big D thoroughly impressed me with his interest in making stir-fry. We would spend Friday evenings cooking and watching videos. He was insistent that we make some garlic bread with the stir-fry and that habit has stuck. And that is why even though I cooked a Thai red curry, I still want to call it a stir-fry. The results were yummy. I totally enjoyed the greens: the bok choy and the Hon Tsai Tai.

I have learned that the lighting in my kitchen sucks for taking pictures of my meals! Oh well, I'm working on it...

Read More »

Friday, June 5, 2009

fun with bokeh

As defined by wikipedia, Bokeh is a photographic term referring to the appearance of point of light sources in an out-of-focus area of an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field. Different lens bokeh produces different aesthetic qualities in out-of-focus backgrounds, which are often used to reduce distractions and emphasize the primary subject.

What this definition doesn't tell you is that it's fun to try. I played around with this at the trailer using the tiki torches as a point of reference.

Read More »

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sap sucker

We have lots of woodpeckers and sap suckers in the area (at the trailer in WI). It's the sap suckers that leave the rows of holes in the trees.

These holes attract hummingbirds too! But I didn't get a shot of one, but here's a shot of the sap sucker.

Read More »

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My concrete workspace

I've taken up concrete as my art medium. Man, that sounds pretentious, doesn't it? I spent ten years doing mental labor, now I'm moving on to more physical things. The urge began with the need for garden pavers. The effort resulted in an art project for the front slope of our lawn. Now, I'm experimenting with the concrete and my workspace. We spent the holiday weekend at the trailer and so I had plenty of time to work on my concrete projects.

I love my gloves! I always have to have a pair of gloves when I'm working on a project. These are pretty, but not water proof, so I gotta rethink my gloves.

When we arrived at the trailer the Big D noticed a tree that had fallen. He likes seeing things like this so that he has a reason to pull out his chain saw. This time he had to pull out the wedge and the ax, too. So, while he was in woodland chopping bliss, I was setting up my workspace.

It is so much easier working out here in the woods then it is working in the city. I don't have to worry about getting dye and concrete on the patio. The dirt road is not effected by the drips of concrete. I'm experimenting with concrete colorants and was recently surprised to see there are blues and greens available. Today, I had only brown and red.

My view! I had one of those moments where everything seems just absolutely perfect. The bugs were around but even all the mosquitoes didn't bother me. I kept checking my cargo pants for wood ticks. Not so many this weekend. Whoo hoo! The only thing I can't stand about this time of year is the woodticks which to me bear a sign of evil. But, this view, it was incredibly peaceful.

My plan was to make little holders for tea light candles. I want to line the path to the fire pit area with tea lights and usually I do this by putting the candles in a plastic cup. I decided to use the cup for a form.

I made quite a few, but the results were not so good. Choosing brown wasn't the best idea as they turned out to look like piles of shit. With the next batch I tried the red dye, but the form wasn't working out for me. They are usable, but not so pretty to look at.

I decided to move on to the next experiment and I was mighty pleased with the results.

I learned so much about this craft this weekend. I learned to use a wet cloth to smooth out the top of the concrete. I went crazy with all the leaves and such to imprint on the concrete. This might have been the last weekend to find leaves small enough for the concrete forms as I'm assuming they will just continue to grow.

This experiment turned out much better than I had hoped or expected!

Read More »

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wandering on a remote forest road...

Taking a turn off the main highway onto a remote forest dirt road, marked by a tiny little marker is one of my favorite things to do to wile away the hours.

Sure, it take longer to get to where we are going, but that's ok because the view is amazing. There are no power poles, no vehicles, just the woods and the wildlife. The speed of the vehicle slows way down and the drive seems leisurely as we take the curves and turns of the dirt road. I get the feel of being off the grid where no one knows where we are and no one can reach us by cell phone. This is why we bought the Jeep. We can feel a little more secure knowing that the Jeep is equipped to tackle any unexpected obstacle on the road.

You never know what's going to be around the next bend. There could be trees down and blocking the road. This one seems to have fallen recently. There was just enough room to the side in order for the Jeep to pass.

And just beyond the fallen tree, we found water on the road. It was odd because the region is so dry. There hasn't been much rain in this month. Nonetheless, what water there was was making it's way across the road.

Sometimes it's strange looking out the side window to the ponds. The water appears to be higher than the road. It's a wonderfully strange disorientation.

These are some of my favorite areas to pass in the Jeep. Often there are eagles hanging out on the tree stumps dying in the middle of the pond.

It's important to have a good map when wandering on remote forest roads. A map that focuses on particular regions usually reveal these roads. The larger state maps may not have these tiny little, dirt roads. It's good to find a local map that shows the ATV routes. Of course, Jeeps can't drive on these ATV routes, but some of the remote roads are also used by ATVs and so these maps can be more accurate.

It's also good to have food on hand as most certainly the drive will take longer than planned. This is a great way to find hidden lakes and remote camp grounds. I'm always scoping for things I can forage, like berry bushes or grape vines.

Taking a turn on a remote forest road is like a mini-vacation to me. It's free except for the cost of gas, but since we are driving rather slow, there is the higher fuel efficiency. And, the pleasure of exploring the woods and forests with my lover is incredibly satisfying!
Read More »