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Sunday
Jul292012

Loves: Fade Into August

Buhbye, July. You've been good to me.

Back to Basics : Almond Milk :: Veggie Wedgie

"Almond milk is a great alternative to dairy milk for many reasons. Not only almonds are full of nutrients, almond milk is also very easy to digest and resembles mother’s milk a lot. It is really easy to make, it is cheap and it’s a great base for a lot of vegan and raw recipes." -Veggie Wedgie

VIDEO: How To Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes :: Saveur

It involves hot water! So, might not be the appropriate course of action during the hottest summer days, but it definitely has a time and place for being handy.

Can I Freeze It? :: Lifehacker

Avocadoes? Freeze in a puree. Jalapenos: blanch first. Raw eggs? Yes, but not in the shell. Unless you want to deal with an egg-splosion in your freezer (ha!).

Freeze and Preserve Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil :: The Kitchn

Better for hard herbs than soft.

VIDEO: The other inconvenient truth: John Foley :: TED

"A skyrocketing demand for food means that agriculture has become the largest driver of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental destruction. At TEDxTC Jonathan Foley shows why we desperately need to begin "terraculture" -- farming for the whole planet." -TED

VIDEO: Food Rules: Winner of RSA Short Film Competition :: YouTube

Michael Pollan's voice is up there on my list of favorite things. Why? Because it's smart in its indictments and it's soothing at the same time. 

Today's Frame of Mind :: Cold Antler Farm

This image is the bee's knees. And even more than that!

Turn A Wine Barrel Into An Outdoor Sink :: Instructables

I love Instructables. Super-ultimate-resource. And, if you're not in wine country, just replace "wine barrel" with "potato barrel." (UpCountry and wine country are not necessarily synonymous in Maine, though they would be in California.)

DIY Mason Jar Soap Dispenser :: Heather Bullard

Mason jars have a million uses (at least four hundred thousand). Here's another one! Warning: Exploring Heather's site will inspire deep feelings of envy. 

Cultivate Gratitude :: Darling Magazine

Did you explore Heather's site despite my warning? Then here. Read this and get your perspective back in order. 

In hopes you're happy and grateful and well-fed,

 

Wednesday
Jul252012

Garden Salad With Sour Cream | Salade de Jardin avec la creme sur

I wash each harvest from my garden and I go about it with meticulous care. Each pea pod is rubbed and scrubbed under lukewarm water (I can't handle cold water running over my hands for long periods of time, because, frankly, I'm a sissy). Each spinach, lettuce and basil leaf is cleaned. Pretty soon, each tomator will be thoroughly washed when it's ready and picked for the table.

I find it particularly interesting how much time I spend washing my herbs and veggies. When I buy produce from the supermarket (whether it's organic or not) and I'm ready to eat them, I run them under water and give them a passing rub. 

I am under some false delusion that all of these store-bought vegetables have been thoroughly cleaned before I purchase them. They look so bright and fresh under those bright lights.

When it comes to my homegrown produce, I know what's lurking under leaves and around the plants, whether it be minute amounts of pests (so far, let's hope that stays the trend for us) or flat-out dirt. I am aware of how close it grows to the earth and the types of bugs that like to land on it (I saw a white spider with a red V on its back; not harmful to me, but do I really want to eat it?).

Growing my own food has created this relationship, one in which I recognize the big picture of plant life. I get close to the bugs and the dirt; I pull or pinch my harvest from the stem. This is real food and I know there's other real things clinging to it... things I don't particularly want in my salads and sandwiches.

It's about time I started paying attention to the outsides of supermarket produce with the appropriate amount of concern; maybe not to the point where I'm whipping out the steel wool and a gallon of bleach, but at the least a hearty cleansing, on par (if not more than that) with my own produce.

Wash it all twice, whether it's organic or not. It's hard work, but you minimize unnecessary "inputs" to your body.

I had the pleasure of visiting my mom's garden yesterday; she gifted me with some green onions (aka scallions or bunching onions) and some tender lettuce leaves. With those two ingredients in hand, I immediately knew what I was going to do with them.

One of the traditional foods of the Saint John Valley region is the Garden Salad with Sour Cream (or, in French, Salade de Jardin avec la creme sur). 

It comes straight out of my memory. I haven't eaten it in years and knowing I was over halfway to making it for myself gave me the giddies (Is that a phrase? If not, I vote it should be.).

It's a very simple salad to create. The ingredients, in addition to the lettuce and green onions, are minimal. How minimal? Think sour cream and salt and pepper. 

It's inexpensive, easy to prepare and delicious.

 

Garden Salad with Sour Cream | Salad de jardin avec la creme sur

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes

Lettuce leaves should be tender. Romaine lettuce is too dark for my taste, so I stray away from using that. Iceburg lettuce has no taste or nutritional value, so why bother with that either. Try a loose leaf variety. The lettuce cultivar pictured is Black Seeded Simpson.

If small enough, the lettuce leaves can be used whole. Otherwise, rip them in half with your hands. Do not use a knife (lettuce and metal don't mix).

Chop the green onions. Use both the white bulb and the green scallion part of the onion. 

Mix the vegetables together and add sour cream slowly until you've covered every leaf and onion thoroughly. For four cups of lettuce and two green onions, I used about a half cup of sour cream.

Mix thoroughly and salt and pepper to taste.

I paired my Garden Salad with Sour Cream with pork loins and pasta. (What am I saying -- "pasta?" More like Kraft Mac 'n Cheese Spirals. But hey! Two-thirds of a healthy meal is almost there!)

This is my new (old) favorite summer salad. In UpCountry, these two vegetables are coming out of the garden, so put them to work in making your mouth happy!

Do you have any simple salad recipes that you tend to make each summer? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

 

You might also like:

Spinach: This Too Shall Pass

Garlic Scapes

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul242012

The Farmers' Almanac

[click on image for original source]How many times has that Farmers' Almanac book stared at me from the supermarket check-out line?

Almost as many times as I've stood in a check-out line. Perhaps not every time, because sometimes I get distracted by my excitement that they still sell Necco wafers (even though it seems like they should have been discontinued years ago).

You get what I'm saying: it happens a lot. I'm always wondering how it is that they can publish a book detailing weather conditions for a year we're barely into.

Or how they know which lunar phase is best for waxing floors.

What are these farmers - Magi, alchemists, age-old children of the forest?

Nope. They're actually folks with degrees in business administration or advertising. They've spent years outdoors, they grew up reading the Almanac, and they have a passion for passing on knowledge from past generations.

You don't need a special wreath hanging around your neck to know that this week is a good one for planting peas and flowers. Consulting the Farmers' Almanac is an easy way to access years of knowledge acquired through experience and practice.

My sister told me about their website a few weeks ago. I never thought to look up their web presence! As much as I love books and owning them, I tend towards free versions of information content. Now that I've had the time to explore their site, I'm willing to include them as one of my go-to references.

There's always something interesting to read. I become so unaware of all the natural processes and rhythms happening in my local environment and I suspect I'm not alone in that.

Subscribing to the Farmers' Almanac weekly e-newsletter is an easy way to stay in the loop.

They're not paying me to air these praises; they don't even know I'm such a big fan! I'm just proud to see this combination of a literary/farming tradition going strong. (Also, none of the links are affilliate links. I'm just being old-fashioned helpful, is all.)

Do you have any guides or resources that you consult throughout the year? (Have you been a fan of the Farmers' Almanac for years and think I've been living under a rock for just getting into it?)

 

Sunday
Jul222012

Loves: Energy Sources

This weekend's "Loves" feature is devoted to energy sources (and I'm going to get all clever and creative about it). We had great weather in northern Maine this week and a big shout-out goes to the ultimate energy source, the Sun (here's lookin' at you, big guy). I'm sheepish to say I didn't spend all my days outdoors. I've spent (too much) time sitting at my computer (hope hunchbacks and crow's feet are an up-and-coming trend) poking around and researching these less-obvious energy sources: 

Wind Generators :: MAKE:projects

There are a lot of parts involved, but it is possible to build your own wind generator.

Homemade Solar Panel :: Instructables

Interested in a renewable energy project that doesn't require so many parts? How about solar panels? We should really be putting all that incredible sun energy to work. Thing's beaming down on us all day, for pete's sake.

Make a High-powered Solar Panel from Broken Solar Cells :: Instructables

Or, how about going for ultimate-eco-style-points and repurposing a bunch of broken solar cells into a fully-functional solar panel? Broken solar cells are much cheaper than, well, not-broken ones (obviously).

The Lumineers :: Ho Hey :: Official Video

Need something to perk you back up after using all your own energy on your renewable energy projects? Listen to this song; it's really nice. So nice that Bing had to use it in their recent commercial (plays often on Hulu). Now when I hear it I see search engines instead of fireflies (lame!). So, if you heed my recommendation and listen to this song and are also a Hulu viewer, then I apologize in advance for handing you a bittersweet experience.

The Awesomest Jelly Bean Dispenser :: Instructables

Did listening to that song get you and/or your kids all excitable? Pour that energy into making a candy dispensar. Because we all know that sugar is our favorite renewable energy source.

Cardboard Lumber :: Instructables

And, now that you're hyped up on candy and tunes, why you don't you go ahead and make some cardboard lumber (bragging rights included). Think about it: whenever you're exhausted from this energy source scavenger hunt I've lead you on, you'll be able to put your feet up and finally relax.

So, folks: join with me in acknowledging this fact I discovered back when I was 24:

"Sundays that live by their name are more fully enjoyed than those that lie about it altogether."

 

 

 

Thursday
Jul192012

Spinach: This Too Shall Pass

The first thing I notice about spinach is how long it takes to clean it properly. Washing the individual spinach leaves is time-consuming and tedious. Tack that on to the time it takes to pinch the leaves off the plant itself, the cooking or preparation of it as a food, and the process of preserving it should you decide to keep it for later; it adds up to quite the time commitment (also known as: time suck).

Is it even worth it? These types of thoughts run the hamster wheel of my mind while I'm rubbing at the leaves with wet thumbs.

That's just the cranky gardening-too-early-in-the-morning part of me. As soon as I start applying reason to the process, it becomes clear: growing your own food is worth whatever time commitment necessary.

That's my belief, anyway: I enjoy knowing where my food comes from (especially when I've grown it myself). I know what's been added to the soil. I know it hasn't been sprayed with pesticides.

Also, it feels good to know that I can actually grow spinach. Spinach is a rich vegetable, one of those 'bad boys' that really socks it to you in the nutrients department. Should I ever need to support my family's food needs, I'll feel confident growing spinach.

Garden wisdom is priceless. Our national food system is "taking care of us" now, but there is only gain in learning how to manage local food for one's self.

So, even though I wasn't really in the mood to clean up all that spinach, I knew it had to be done. (If I trust the process, I will be enriched by the journey.)

I had a huge harvest today (a spinach bounty!) and it might well be the last considerable harvest of the spinach season. Spinach (like me) prefers cool temperatures and gets all excitable once the days lengthen and heat up. Literally excitable, it seems, as the term for their behavior is called "bolting."

Bolting occurs when the spinach plant decides to switch from using its energy for leaf production to pumping up its seed and flower production. It's in reproductive mode; when that happens, humans are expected to tiptoe backwards and leave it be. Or, more realistically, to "call it a day" on the spinach season and cut down the plant at its soil level.

Because once bolting happens, the spinach will stop making leaves at a "productive" rate. They'll yellow and die off or just remain stunted little baby spinach leaves (which are not necessarily a bad thing, but there won't be a lot of them anyway). At this point, you could grasp on to dying hope for your spinach plants, but (really) they're taking up space in your garden. Fertile land is valuable. Cut those babies down and sow seeds for another crop (how about some more broccoli for an early autumn harvest?).

Sure enough, my spinach plants have bolted and it's time to divvy up the harvest for fresh or frozen consumption.

I've had multiple spinach harvests before, so I decided to freeze today's harvest.

There are a couple ways to freeze spinach. It can be blanched for three minutes, cooled for three minutes, dried and frozen; or it can be "dry" frozen, which simply involves drying it and sticking it in a freezer bag.

Since I'd spent enough time with the spinach today, I opted for "dry" freezing. Initially, I thought this would take less time. And it might have, had I realized my lack of a salad spinner was a severe handicap. 

Using a roll of paper towels to dry off a bowl of spinach leaves seems a bit superfluous. At least I'm keeping northern Maine loggers in business.

Had I decided to keep this spinach fresh, there are a few things I could have done with it.

I could:

  • make a spinach salad with balsamic honey lime dressing, strawberries and almonds
  • use it as an ingredient on pesto pizza (with feta cheese and chicken!)
  • made a warm, gooey spinach artichoke dip
  • done something crazy like hide it in a smoothie

 Or, if I'd had it up 'to here' with spinach, I could give it away. (I've given some to friends and family already, so there's no guilt in keeping this batch for myself.)

Giving away homegrown produce has to be in my 'top five feel-good activities.' The other day I stopped by a friend's house right around dinnertime; her almost-two-year-old was eating my spinach. Talk about a swelling heart; it's downright awesome feeling pride for good things you've done.

What "good things" have you done this summer? Canned? Preserved? Took great photos at your friends' wedding? Leave a comment and let me know what's got your heart a'swellin'!

Now, make like some spinach and bolt! (Oh yeah. I went there.)