Month: January 2008

CSA Days 12 and 14: Turnip bisque, salad, and sausage-potato-kale soup

We went on a mini-vacation and when I got back, I started using up the rest of our CSA produce box.

Turnip bisque, salad

First up on Sunday night: Turnip bisque, which was an easy soup of simmered sweet potato, turnip, and leek, all pureed together with crispy shaved-and-baked turnip strips on top from the Eatwell Farm newsletter. I made a quick salad of sauteed mushrooms, oranges, and lettuce from the Farmer’s Market with some chopped arugula sprinkled in.

Sausage, potato, and kale soup

I still had a lovely bunch of kale as yet unused, so I found a recipe online for sausage, potato, and kale soup. I didn’t add chicken, used chopped fresh potatoes, and used only 1/2 lb. of mild Italian sausage. The result was a slightly spicy, savory soup that I brought to our church small group potluck.

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Lists and lists of food stuff

Doodah requested some sort of reference to the food-related books I’ve been reading. You can now find a section on the Goodies & Forms page dedicated to food-issue-related stuff. I’ll try to expand the “Resources” section a little more beyond my blog to some of the other sites that I’ve found helpful.

I also made a new page to hold a Recipe Index where you can find the various recipes that I’ve posted at this blog.

(Side note: Must think of better way to organize other posts. Not using tags OR categories very efficiently!)

Reading: Real Food, The Life You’ve Always Wanted

Finished reading:

Real Food by Nina Planck – What if some of the nutritional and health ideas you’ve believed for most of your life were suddenly swept away — ideas that have been woven into the fabric of our culture, including:

  • Fat is bad. Low-fat is good.
  • Saturated fat and cholesterol will give you heart disease.
  • Pasteurization makes food healthier and safer.
  • Foods should be fried in vegetable oil to be healthier, not animal fats.
  • If you want to be really healthy, you should be vegetarian. Or better yet, vegan.

Nina Planck skillfully blows these and other myths out of the water, showing why traditional foods — “real” meat, milk, butter, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables (and yes, olive oil) — in other words, foods that have been around for hundreds and hundreds (or thousands) of years are good for you, while industrial foods (corn syrup, vegetable oil, refined sugar and flour, and, unfortunately, most conventionally produced meat and dairy) are the true culprits of increasing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in industrialized countries.

Find this hard to believe? So did I, at first, but the many references to current research as well as Nina’s personal experiences soon made me a believer. While looking up her book, I found that her web site has a lot of articles and resources — you might find the book page interesting, as well as the series of excerpts about “Real Milk” from her book that can be found in the bottom of the right-hand column. Many of the other articles looked interesting as well.

Before you start drinking whole milk and eating meat again, Nina does talk about how not all milk or meat is created equal. Grass-fed beef has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and actually less fat than conventionally produced grain-fed beef. Milk is better for you when it comes from cows that have been pasture-raised and have enough space to move around, in contrast to factory cows with their infected udders and therefore high levels of antibiotics. Unpasteurized milk from a healthy cow is even better — pasteurization destroys many of the nutrients, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria that help us to absorb more of the nutrients from milk. (Lactose-intolerant folks can drink unpasteurized milk because the lactase which comes naturally in milk helps to digest the lactose.) So why do we pasteurize milk, anyway? Again, I refer you to the excerpt on Nina’s web site.

Of the many food and food-issue books I’ve been reading lately, I’d rank this one among the highest “must-reads.”

The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg – This Christian book is about how classic spiritual disciplines — prayer, “slowing down,” confession, and the like — aid in a changed life. While there are a few suggestions for things you can try, this is not primarily a “how to” book like Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, but more of an inspirational book for motivating you to try integrating some of these practices into your life. I really liked John Ortberg’s style and his authentic voice; some of his personal stories made me laugh out loud.

With a bookmark: (Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
  • Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
  • So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamero

CSA Day 8: Broccoli “taco”

Broccoli taco

Yesterday was one of those “eat everything we have in the fridge before leaving for the weekend” days. In the fridge: Half a cup of leftover steamed broccoli from our produce box. Also, fixings for salad, but I wasn’t in a salad mood. I scrounged a soft corn tortilla leftover from our Tuesday church small group potluck, spread some cream cheese on top, warmed it in the toaster oven, and dumped the rest of the broccoli on top. I suppose it’s sort of like a veggie wrap, but the tortilla was too small to wrap up so I ate it more like a taco!

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m ridiculously proud of myself when I think up ways to combine leftovers. I give myself extra mental points when it’s an easy, uncomplicated solution as well.

CSA Days 4 – 7: Salad, broccoli, pasta, and baby bok choy

Day 4: Sunday

Grilled cheese sandwich and salad

For lunch, I made another quick salad with produce box lettuce and mushrooms and oranges from the Farmer’s Market and some pieces of leftover steak. I made a basic vinaigrette with olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and a dash of dried oregano. Then I made grilled cheese sandwiches with bread from a local bakery… although I did use Kraft processed American cheese singles. I must admit a fond weakness for processed cheese singles!

My favorite way to make grilled cheese:

  1. Butter two slices of bread.
  2. Slice real cheese OR unwrap a cheese single.
  3. Heat small skillet on medium heat until a little warm.
  4. Put one slice of bread, buttered side down, on the skillet. Immediately put cheese on the unbuttered side and top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.
  5. Gently cook until the bottom side is toasty brown, then flip with a spatula.
  6. Finish cooking the other side.
  7. Slice on diagonal for cute triangular pieces.
  8. If making more sandwiches, turn the heat down just slightly so that the others don’t overcook.

Day 5: Monday

Baked potato with broccoli and cheese

I felt like cooking myself a “real” lunch (instead of my usual fare of leftovers or whatever’s-in-the-fridge), so I decided to bake a Farmer’s Market potato and steam some produce box broccoli.

Having been forewarned about the strong possibility of aphid-infested broccoli, I gave the whole heads of broccoli a good rinsing. But then I realized that the now-dead aphids (dead from being in the fridge for several days, probably) were stuck inside the tiny crevices of the broccoli. Some people might not care about eating an aphid here or there, but once I saw them, I had to do something about them! I ended up spending about 15 or 20 minutes cutting off each floret and painstakingly washing off dead aphids, using a small paring knife to scrape out the little crevices. A bit ridiculous, perhaps, but I think I ended up with the cleanest broccoli I’ve ever had in my life!

And washing the broccoli did give some time for my potato to bake. I used the quick-bake method: Poke a few holes in the potato and microwave for 6-8 minutes until slightly softened, then finish off in the toaster oven for another 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees.

I only ate half the potato, sprinkling it generously with shredded pepper jack cheese, piling broccoli on top, and adding a heaping spoonful of sour cream. I packed the rest of the potato with some broccoli and cheese for Steve’s lunch the next day.

We had a light dinner; I made a repeat salad with grilled cheese sandwich, but adding mustard to the vinaigrette.

Day 7: Wednesday

Pasta with arugula

One of the recipes that came with the Eatwell Farm newsletter was for pasta with arugula. I’ve never cooked with arugula before and didn’t know what to do with it besides including it in salads, so I decided to try out the recipe. Based on previous experience with longer veggie washing times, I washed the arugula in the morning and stored it in a salad spinner. I did end up rinsing the arugula leaf by leaf in a big bowl of water, but it went a lot faster than washing spinach or broccoli.

The recipe instructs you to cook pasta, then make a simple sauce of sauteed garlic in olive oil with some salt, pepper, lemon juice, and white wine. (The white wine turned my garlic green!) Tossing the hot sauce, hot pasta, and raw, chopped arugula helps the arugula to wilt down slightly. Very light meal and pretty tasty; I ended up adding some shredded parmesan cheese for some extra flavor.

The picture above shows the leftovers, packed with steamed broccoli for Steve’s lunch.

Beef short ribs, bok choy, and broccoli

For dinner, I made asian barbecued beef short ribs (a new recipe I found online). I’ve never made short ribs before; since I was working with one pound of ribs instead of the six pounds that the recipe calls for, I only baked them for 45 minutes, afraid of overcooking them. I probably should have baked them for longer as the meat was still pretty chewy. The sauce was delicious spooned over the rice and steamed broccoli, though!

I cooked the baby bok choy with my standard soy-garlic recipe. I also made some homemade chicken broth and made a small side of egg drop soup with one of the larger free-range eggs from my box but forgot to take a picture of it.

Bok choy with soy-garlic sauce

  1. Chop the lighter stems into half-inch pieces, then chop the green leaves coarsely.
  2. Heat olive oil over high heat until quite hot and then brown the stems.
  3. Add some minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds to toast.
  4. Add the leaves and a soy sauce/sugar mixture (about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sugar).
  5. Toss until the leaves are wilted and serve.

Free range egg drop soup for two

  1. Smash a clove of garlic and a small piece of ginger and combine with two cups of homemade chicken broth or stock. Simmer for several minutes on low-ish heat, then remove the ginger and garlic.
  2. Pick out your largest free-range egg and beat in a small bowl.
  3. Use a utensil to slowly stir the soup in a circular motion and slowly pour the egg in a thin stream into the moving liquid.
  4. Mix together a small amount (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) of cornstarch and an equal amount of water and add to the soup to thicken.
  5. Add chopped scallions and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

What’s left from our box?

  • Several mandarin oranges
  • Leeks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kale
  • Turnips
  • Remaining washed arugula, stored in salad spinner in fridge to keep fresh

This is a short week for me — going on a short vacation starting this afternoon until Saturday, but I have plans for all the veggies (except possibly two of the leeks) in yummy-sounding dishes before our next box gets picked up on Wednesday!

CSA Day 3: Spinach, salad, and salmon

Day 2 passed with more mandarin oranges and the last Pink Lady apple. Saturday night, I made a late dinner with more goodies from our Eatwell Farm box.

First, I spent half an hour rinsing off the polar bear spinach. Here’s a close-up picture of what I was working with:

Dirty spinach

I found it best to tear off the leaves and rinse them under running water one at a time, gently brushing off the dirt with my fingers so as not to bruise the leaves. Not very water-conservation-y of me, but simply rinsing in a bowl wasn’t doing much! Then, I scrubbed the stem bases with a vegetable brush under running water. (I like cooking the stems, too; I like the way they squeak in my teeth.)

When the spinach was finally clean, I lined the toaster oven pan with foil and greased it with olive oil. I sprinkled salt and squeezed some lemon juice over a wild salmon fillet, laid a few sprigs of dill on top (from the freezer), and cut a few slices of lemon to lay on top. I stuck it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

While the salmon was baking, I washed off a few leaves of the romaine lettuce from our produce box. The lettuce had a lot of dirt on it as well but it came off much easier. I had just gotten some mushrooms and oranges from the Farmer’s Market that morning, so those got sliced into the salad along with some leftover red onion. I mixed together a quick dressing of olive oil, orange juice (from the end pieces of the orange), salt, pepper, and sugar to drizzle over the top.

With the salad ready, I mixed up some softened butter with minced garlic and spread it generously on two slices of french bread from a local bakery.

The salmon was nearly done so I started cooking the spinach. In a non-stick pan, I melted a generous chunk of butter, then added the spinach stems and let them cook down just slightly. I added minced garlic and the rest of the spinach and salted it lightly, then let it all cook down while I pulled out the salmon and quickly broiled the garlic bread.

Did the food taste better because we knew we were supporting local farmers, weren’t eating any pesticides, were getting more vitamins and antioxidants and other good stuff than with conventional produce, and had painstakingly washed the spinach with love? I’m not sure, but we both had very happy tummies at the end of the night…

Yummy dinner!

CSA Day 1: Free-range egg omelet and delicious fruit

Yesterday morning I eagerly cracked open our first free-range egg from Eatwell Farm. The chickens on Eatwell Farm are pasture-raised, which means that they can graze freely on bugs and run around happily.

I’d read that free-range eggs are supposed to be more brightly colored and have more nutrients than conventional eggs. So I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I cracked the egg open and compared it with a conventional egg. Can you tell which is which?

Conventional egg vs. free range egg

Although I did notice that the free range egg shell was much harder, I didn’t notice a difference in color or taste (disclaimer: I’m continuously stuffy from pregnancy sinuses, so my taste tests may not be the most accurate!). (The conventional egg is on the left, if you were curious.) But I will continue to hopefully crack open the other eggs and see how the others look!

Anyway, I used my egg to make an omelet… First, I sauteed leftover mushrooms and onions that we had in the fridge with a small bit of butter:

Sauteeing mushrooms and onions

Setting those aside, I regreased the skillet with more butter and poured in the egg. After letting the first side settle, I flipped the omelet carefully and then added the mushrooms and onions, along with some olives, green onions, and shredded pepper jack cheese:

Making omelet

When the cheese was almost all melted, I carefully folded over one side and let it cook a little bit more. Delicious!

Completed omelet

I sent one of the Pink Lady apples with Steve to work and had one myself later in the day for a snack. It was deliciously chilled, crisp, and flavorful — one of the best apples I’ve had in a while! The apple just had one tiny bruised spot that I cut out.

After Steve got off work, we snacked on Satsuma mandarin oranges, also chilled, which were extremely easy to peel and very sweet.

Produce box arrives!

First box of produce

We picked up our first box of Eatwell Farm produce (and a dozen free-range eggs) last night. I was definitely glad that we have two fridges that we share with our housemates, because I filled up 2.5 out of 4 crisper drawers!

I probably won’t be as detailed as fellow Eatwell Farm subscriber’s blog, In My Box, with what I end up doing with the produce, but you can expect a few posts here and there as I move forward with the local-and-sustainable food adventure.

In this week’s box (we’ll get another one in two weeks):

  • 3 pink lady apples
  • generous bag of satsuma mandarin oranges
  • 4 or 5 tiny heads of broccoli
  • large bunch of red russian kale
  • 4 or 5 red turnips, greens attached
  • small head of romaine lettuce, I think
  • small produce-sized bag of very dirty “polar bear spinach”
  • two bunches of baby bok choy (I think it’s actually a different variety of choy, but don’t remember what it’s called)
  • small ziplock bag of dried serrano peppers
  • small bunch of arugula
  • three long sweet potatoes
  • three small leeks

I have some fun ideas for meals already, but I’m at a loss with what to do with dried serrano peppers. Any ideas or tips on how they can be used? Also, if you have some simple-yet-effective ways to cook kale, please let me know!

Parody Poster: Grey’s Anatomy

This was one of the easier posters to recreate. Here’s what the original poster looks like:

Grey’s Anatomy - original poster

I started out looking for a similar font, settling on Haettenschweiler. Some of the letters were slightly different and the apostrophe was very different, but it was close enough for me! I created two separate text layers for each word and then added a red rectangle for the accent.

Finding a similar font

Next, working on the original poster jpeg in Photoshop, I used the pen tool to map out similar rectangular shapes. Each rectangular shape in the original poster isn’t necessarily a distinct photo, however; some shapes combine to hold a larger image, as demonstrated here:

Combined shapes

So, here’s what I did:

1. Used Pen Tool and clicked four points to create a rectangular Vector Shape layer.

Creating first rectangle

2. Clicked on the vector mask to select it in the Layers palette, then clicked the “Add to Shape Area” icon in the options bar. (I thought “Auto add/delete” had to be checked when I made my diagram, but as it turns out, that has more to do with using the pen tool to remove or add points to an existing path, so you can ignore that part!)

Changing option to add to shape

3. Used the Pen Tool to draw the second rectangle shape. The new shape, instead of appearing on its own shape layer, is added on to the existing shape layer.

Second shape added to same layer

4. Clicked on “Create new shape layer” icon in the options bar, then created other rectangles.

Choosing create new shape layer icon

Eventually, I ended up with a bunch of shapes that were close to the original. These shapes were all over the original poster, though, which was a low resolution jpeg and about 1/8 of the size of my finished document. So, selecting all the layers, I dragged them from the Layers palette and dropped them on top of the new document to copy them over.

Selecting all layers

Then I used the Transform command (Ctrl-T) to resize all the layers at once to make them big enough for the new document.

Shapes in new poster document

Now it was a simple matter to paste in different photos. I used the shape layers as clipping masks for the photos:

1. Paste in a photo and move the layer in the Layers Palette so it is immediately above the shape that you want to use as a clipping mask:

Paste photo

2. Place the cursor in between the two layers. Hold down the Alt (PC)/Option (Mac) key and you’ll see the cursor change. Click in between the two layers, and you’ll see the top layer indent with a small arrow added. The top layer has just been “clipped” by the bottom layer. You can move the top layer around, but only the areas that overlap with the bottom layer will show up.
Creating clipping mask

Repeating this with the other photos, I also added some adjustment layers (Curves, Levels, etc.) to adjust the photo contrast and clipped them to the appropriate shape layers as well.

And here’s what the final poster looks like:

Final parody poster

See other articles in the Parody Posters series.

Reading: Revolution, Thursday Next, M.C. Beaton, Childbirth, Harriet Bean, Managing Web Projects

Finished reading:

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz – One of the food-issue books that Steve got me for Christmas. I’m not sure if my description will do this book justice as it was very information-dense! Each chapter focuses on a different food topic, where you essentially find out how big corporations and government is bad and how different individuals and grassroot movements are dealing with the food issue.

For example: Problem: Big corporation trying to control all seed production; governments not sympathetic to people who want to bring in their native culture’s seeds. By allowing the big corporation(s) to control seeds, you end up with genetically engineered seeds everywhere with unforeseen results and biodiversity is lost. Reaction: Description of groups who pool and trade heirloom seeds. Other food issues addressed that I found interesting were milk production and pasteurization, the problems faced by farmers who want to sell “modified” foods like cheese, butter, etc., humane meat and vegetarianism, and local and seasonal food.

Some of the things in the book definitely tends toward the “crazy activist” side of things which I personally am not so comfortable with and you’re not going to find a “balanced presentation” of both sides of an issue; however, I think this was a good book as it provoked many a reaction from me that led to more research on my own.

Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde – The latest book in the Thursday Next series; I doubt it will make much sense if you haven’t read the others! Thursday Next is a woman who lives in a very strange world; fictional characters really exist in their own dimension and “act” the storyline as the book gets read in the “outland.” Thursday’s job as a Jurisfiction agent is to make sure that things go smoothly, as sometimes there are ambitious characters who want more than their due and technical difficulties have to be resolved (such as the problem of having only 15 pianos that have to be transported to different books as they are referenced). What makes the plot even more complicated, of course, is that Thursday hasn’t told her husband, Landen, that she’s working for Jurisfiction (he thinks she installs carpets); there’s a nationwide problem of increasing stupidity levels and decreasing attention spans; her son, Friday, is supposed to come up with the concept of time travel in order for the standard timeline history to flow properly or else time will collapse on itself but he’s being a slouchy teenager; and why does she never seem to see her daughter Jenny at dinner?

If I’ve confused you, check out the earlier books in the series (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten) and then settle in for an equally crazy ride with this book. It starts out slow but picks up in the middle.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet, Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener, and Death of a Prankster by M.C. Beaton- Still continuing to read the Hamish Macbeth series (Death of a Prankster) but picked up another series by the same author. Agatha Raisin has retired to a tiny village. She is a very quirky character with lots of flaws and rather annoying when you first meet her, but I’ve found that she’s grown on me and will be reading more Agatha Raisin books in the future!

Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats by Alexander McCall Smith – Children’s book. Okay.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – Great book if you need convincing and/or reassurance about natural, non-medicated childbirth. The first half of the book has short personal accounts from mothers about their birth experiences. The second half of the book talks about natural childbirth and provides reasons for avoiding medical interventions (inducing labor, drugs, etc.). Ina May is a world-renown midwife (the only midwife to have a medical technique named after her!); on “the Farm” (a community in Tennessee) where she lives, childbirth is a normal, natural experience without negative, fearful connotations attached to it. Lots of people go to the Farm to give birth; they have a ridiculously low rate of women tearing and needing C-sections or other medical interventions. This book definitely has shaped my desired approach to childbirth and, I hope, has shaped my attitude about it as well — that it’s not something to be afraid of, but an experience to embrace.

Managing Web Projects by Katy Whitton – Katy reads my blog (and I read hers) and offered a copy of her ebook for me to review. It was great timing because I was trying to put together my first official proposal for an in-person pitch — up until now, all my jobs have been word-of-mouth and rather informal. I found Managing Web Projects to be a great overview as it provided things to think about and address when making a proposal and pitch as well as a sample contract and technical specification document at the end. There are more things in between regarding hiring or managing a team, invoicing the client, and more. The book doesn’t go into much detail (for example, it provides a bulleted list of what should be included in your “pitch” but it’s up to you to figure out how to shape it), but if you are brand new to freelance web development, you might find the $9.99 worth it to get the overview of things you should be thinking about and doing in order to protect yourself and your client. In any case, take a look at the web site and download a sample chapter to see if you like her style!

With a bookmark: (Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • Real Food by Nina Planck
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
  • So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamero