Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Like home-sickness, but with dirt under my nails

I am planning a class presentation for the course I'm taking.. a 10 minute mini-lesson on whatever you want. I'm doing 'Advantages of Eating Local Seasonal Vegetables' of course. Searching for content caused me to stumble on several cool bloggers, like My Tiny Plot and Eat Local Northwest. AND to have summer garden-sickness, from sorting through pics.. almost time to start sprouting for next summer! Well, that's a lie, who am I kidding I'm in Calgary.

Ah well, time to turn my mind to the present, to try whackiness such as Old-Fashioned Ginger Ale (fermented like kombucha), and milling my own wheat. Because why do it the easy way! A friend gave me an extra flour mill she had and I could hardly hide my glee at being given a tool I had hoped to have at some point, but seemed too expensive to buy.

Advantages to milling your own wheat:
1) Cheaper. Yes wheat is arguably quite cheap, but organic can be pricey.
2) Tastes better.
3) Stores better. Whole grains store much longer than flour.

Now all I need is a full time baker to make the bread and I'll be set..

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chard pie

I actually buckled and bought chard in the store, even though it was trucked from California (forgive me birds and bees...). But we got great mileage out of it, and I finally made a recipe I'd been meaning to try forever. I modded this recipe, since I didn't have any feta, and used a bit of 3 yr old cheddar (there is no going back btw..) and some soft tofu for protein. Don't be scared, it was pretty good. I just upped the salt in the recipe to account for the salt that would have come from the feta and that was that.
Phyllo is fun to work with, silly and time consuming but it looks impressive when it's done. I figure it takes as long as it would to make my own crust, so there you go. Here is our pretty pie before it was devoured. Note the rather awesome Battle of Britain tea towel courtesy of Evan's mom.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheap Vegetable Gardener Blog

A blogger after my own heart! I'm going to have to keep an eye on this one for good ideas heading into spring. Check this project out: a cheap way to make a grow box for starting seeds using LED Christmas lights. Clever..

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I dream of greenie

Seriously, this is a dreamy greenhouse. So beautiful.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Good news, bad news..

OK, bad news first. It's easy to be discouraged by the number of stories about food systems collapsing due to monoculture cultivation and other destructive agricultural practices. Take Why Bananas are a Parable for Our Times by Johann Hart for example, a feel-good story full of illegal coups, poison and death. Sigh.

I also heard from a friend that bee keepers she knows in B.C. are anticipating a catastrophic collapse of North American colonies in the next two years.

This is the problem with the easy access to news and information we have these days, after 5 stories like Bananas, who wouldn't want to curl up in the corner and give up. I try to remind myself that the internets isn't the only source of information in my life, and the day to day information I receive is pretty good.. Right now, I eat well, and live well. That is a privilege, no doubt. If I value it, then I should fight for it, even if the only way I can do that right now is to pay attention to what I consume. I am encouraged by stories like Will salmon be back in 2009? by Jacoba Charles, and people like Taras Grescoe. Here's what he said in a recent interview about his new book, Bottomfeeder: How to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood:

"I was getting sick of food writing and of writing food porn. I thought the form was shot. There are the Anthony Bourdains having these "to die for" meals and having a great time, but no one's really talking about what's at the end of the fork and where it comes from. There's this food-writing convention where you're not supposed to think about the origins of your food and suspend any judgment against people who eat endangered songbirds, or whatever. It's been a real privilege to be able to write articles about this kind of thing. But after a while, you know what? You're contributing to the impoverishment of the world. In a way this [book] is a bit of a "F**k you" to the food-writing world."

Love it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The ultimate moon time tea

Ah, moon time. The time of headaches, body aches, and a 'can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it' disquiet in my mind. Since reading The Red Tent I have had an appreciation for the yin and yang of this time as well, it does tend to bring emotional breakthroughs along with the weepy drama. I haven't quite made it to the stage of loving moon time, but I no longer view it as a curse.

I was first introduced to the wonders of Raspberry Leaf tea as a cure all for my aches and pains at Yasodhara Ashram, one of my favorite places on earth. I cannot believe the difference I feel, it really takes a great deal of the pain away.

I have been attempting a kind of post-holiday cleanse, inspired by Gwenyth's Goop advice and feeling not entirely myself after a month of cookies, cappuccinos and wine. And port, and muscat, and rum toddys, and Bernard Callebaut chocolates and.. anyhoo.

Cutting out caffeine, sugar and alcohol is quite the experience. Cold turkey doesn't do it for me. So to get off the coffee, I've been drinking cocoa with a tiny bit of sugar, then moved to cocoa with honey, slowly weaning myself. All this to say, today I created a bit of magic, and my body is rather pleased. Yes, chocolate is not the best choice at this time, but what can I say. It is sooo good.

Moon time tea

Organic raspberry leaf tea
1 t. organic cocoa
honey to taste

Steep the tea, mix the cocoa with a bit of water to make a paste, add it to the tea and add honey to desired sweetness.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


My epic fail of the season was an attempt at saurkraut. I followed this tutorial by Doug DiPasquale, and as you can see it looked real purty. However, after a week in the cupboard it was nasty and far from a delicious macrobiotic snack. I suspect it was due to a lack of brine, there was a lot of air still in the jar. I'll have to try again sometime with the help of knowledgeable friends. I recently met Malcolm Saunders of The Light Cellar, and will have to ask for help on the fermentation front.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Word to your mother

The new year begins with experiments in vinegar... we had a stanky half box of wine so I decided to try my hand at making wine vinegar with it. How hard can it be, right? After some online searching, I learned that I need a vinegar mother to get things started. I had heard about mothers before, a sludge of microorganism goodness that is supposedly good for you, which is why cloudy cider vinegar is preferable over the filtered pasteurized kind. The internets told me to find bottled vinegar mother at wine and beer making stores, but no one in the city knew what I was talking about. Other websites said to just use cider vinegar. In the end, I realized that there was mother at the bottom of my organic white wine vinegar in the cupboard (it's that gooey stuff you can see in the pic), so I poured that in a bottle with the wine. I put a cheescloth over the top to allow for air circulation and put in on the shelf in the basement near the furnace (warm air is supposed to help..). So I'll let you know what happens, when it's done in six months!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lessons learned

Evan and I had the last of the chard we grew and froze this summer in a wonderful soup from Vegan Planet, Brown Lentil Soup with Chard and Orzo.
As winter has progressed I have begun to gather the lessons learned from a year of gardening, preserving and storing seasonal food.

They include:

1) Grow twice as much chard.

2) Don't try to can tomatoes, you will be driven insane trying to peel 30 lbs of romas.

3) Do make expensive sauces, chutneys and salsa, don't waste time on things you can buy canned at the grocery store for $1.00.

Ev and I concluded this is the same when it comes to gardening.. we won't be wasting as much garden space on potatoes and yellow onions, but will focus more on the things we like to eat that are rare or expensive to buy. Next year we will try brussels sprouts, leeks and sunchokes.

Sunchokes, incidentally, are an insanely good veg. One of the few vegetables indigenous to North America. They are very difficult to describe, but taste a lot like water chestnut or lotus root.

4) Make three times more salsa.

5) Don't pickle things that you are not used to eating pickled. Evidence - 5 jars of unopened pickled beans.. what was I thinking...

6) Do make pesto. Homemade pesto in December is out of this world. I paid $5.00 for a grocery bag full of basil this summer at the farmer's market and it was very much worth it. We have really enjoyed cilantro pesto as well, which I stir into pad thai and green curries.

So halfway through the winter season, we are running low on frozen veggies but are nonetheless eating very well, buying local seasonal produce for the most part (with the odd orange or lemon from California, sigh..) and using our store of roasted peppers, chutneys and frozen fruit to pull it all together. So far so good.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Year of the Ox

How awesome is this poster. I saw it downtown last winter, and since the date of the event had passed, I quietly peeled it off the wall and sneaked away.. it now graces the kitchen wall, and it's great to have the great benevolent Suzuki smiling down on us while we eat.
I'm looking forward to the year of the Ox, supposedly Snakes like myself will have success this year. Also I'd like to embrace Ox energy, by working hard, slow and steady. Inspired by greenies like No Impact Man, I've decided I will try to make one small lifestyle change a week this year. Nothing overly ambitious or expensive, just small things. There are some ideas listed on Green My Wallet, many of which I have already done, but the ones left on the list are altogether doable. So I'm gonna do em.
Cynics may argue that such small changes don't make a real difference, but they do make a difference to me and to my state of mind. When I take small steps it brings awareness into my everyday life (a necessary step toward worldwide sustainability..). It's a funny thing... the more you pay attention to details in your everyday life, the more enjoyable each moment becomes. Small things like a new Henkel chef's knife for Christmas (seriously, it has changed my life..) add so much to the every day.

This week.. I changed all the light bulbs in the basement to fluorescents. Huzzah! Only 51 changes to go..