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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Falling in Love

There are many things I love about springtime: the migrating birds that come home, the smell of lilacs in the air, the longer days, and the new palate of colors that make their way onto my dinner plate. One of the wonderful things about eating seasonally is how the arrival of each year’s crop feels like Christmas. In early spring, I particularly look forward to the arrival of asparagus. When it finally arrives, I can eat it almost everyday. I eat it marinated in salads, I put it in omelettes, puree it for soup, broil it with parmesan cheese, grill it with lemon…. I love it.

photo is NOT mine

My new obsession this spring is rhubarb. Rhubarb is a new item on my love list. Not being a very big jam or pie person, I must say I never really ate rhubarb. Last year, a friend of mine brought over rhubarb soda and I have been thinking about this wonderful vegetable ever since. When I saw that it was available in my CSA box this week, I was thrilled. The trick for me was trying to find a way to eat it without the sinful amounts of processed sugar and white flour. I searched Google and Bing for what seemed like an eternity trying to find “healthier” ways  to consume this delicious food and really came up empty-handed.

Sure I found plenty of savory sauces I could drown pork or fish in, and an amazing rhubarb compote, but I really wanted something I could make with very few ingredients and also feel good about feeding my kid.  I remember a while ago, I read a blog about woman who made rhubarb yogurt. Perfect. However, when I arrived at her blog, the recipe that she used was no longer available. Searching to web for a “rhubarb” puree, I found various combinations of white sugar and rhubarb which, with that and the help of Gourmet magazine gained me the confidence I needed to make up my own  recipe. Although a rhubarb puree is not something to start writing publishers about, I will say that I am very proud of the end result.

Granolamama’s Rhubarb Puree

  • 4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
  • 2/3 cup raw honey (you could totally use less)
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla (optional, but delicious)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice (optional, but delicious)

1. Add 3 cups rhubarb, honey, water to saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until mushy (like 10 minutes)

2. Puree in blender (Be careful with hot liquids. I put a rag over the top before I started pureeing). If you have an immersion blender, use that instead. 

3. Put back in pot, add remaining 1 cup of rhubarb. Cook until added rhubarb is mushy.

4. Take off the heat and add lemon and vanilla.

Alternative recipe ideas (in the spirit of Mark Bittman) and serving Suggestions:

  • Add a spoonful or two to REAL (plain, unsweetened) yogurt. Top with wheat germ. (optional)
  • Omit step three, adding all of the rhubarb at the beginning, serve with champagne or seltzer water. Some people prefer to strain purees with cheesecloth to make the beverage smoother and prettier 🙂
  • If you are going for decadent, add a few spoonfuls to tapioca or rice pudding

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The only thing better than growing your own produce is eating it in the off-season after you have preserved it! However, to say that I grew these fabulous peaches and tomatoes would be far from the truth. In fact, the only thing I grow every season are herbs and tomatoes. It is sad, but it is the truth. What’s even sadder is that the tomato plants that I did plant, were actually scorched by the Seattle sun this year (yes, Seattle does have sun) and produced a mere 5 tomatoes.  Each year I tell myself I will figure out a way to grow more vegetables. In Florida, my homes had lots of space and sun, so it was quite natural that one could plant some seeds and watch a bunch of things grow very easily. In Seattle, it is quite a different story. First of all, the ground is not warm enough to start many of your early spring seedlings, so you either need a greenhouse, or a place in your home with a lot of counter space and growing lights. I have neither. I did manage to fill the few windowsills that we have out of reach from tiny toddler hands with some seedlings in those plastic little “greenhouses” you can buy from the garden store. They did very well, but unfortunately, I lacked space to actually plant many of them once it got warm enough. Part of the problem is that we are still renting. It really hard to be inspired to dedicate the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into planning and in my case, creating a garden space that could very easily only last me one season. (Who knows how long we will live here) The second issue is, in order to really grow a great garden here, it would require that I plant in the easement or dig up a bunch of plants already in the front, which our landlord may not be too happy about. But what about the community garden you ask??? Well, it looks like I am not the only one with space areas in Seattle! I signed up for the P-Patch Program when I moved here and am STILL on the waiting list. Needless to say, I relied on the farmers at the local markets to supply me all of produce seen in these pictures. And it was actually fun!! I spoke with a least a half-dozen farmers, and in the process learned more than I ever thought I could know about tomatoes and peaches.  

Peaches come in earlier than tomatoes so they were first on my list to preserve. I decided to dry them, so I could have a quick, delicious snack for the cold winter months ahead. They turned out as delicious as I thought they would. The only problem is that they only lasted me until late summer! While drying is easy and fun, it takes a looooonnnnggg time and there is really not that much space in the dehydrators. I know you can always use the oven, but who wants a hot kitchen with no air-conditioning in the summer???

Tomatoes were next on this list. I really wanted to can them, but had no dishwasher and really didn’t want to undergo such as task alone. Luckily, one of my good friends M is a canning pro (ok, well perhaps not a pro, but a seasoned veteran!). My job would be to hunt down some local, organic tomatoes at a good price (not as easy as you think) and her job was to host the all day event. I tracked down a farmer, Richard Ness, who owns the Kittnas Valley Greenhouse in Ellensburg, WA. I was able to purchase 60 pounds of the most beautiful tomatoes at the market for a really great price. I forgot to take a picture until the very end, so here was shot of the ones with spots. Out of 60 pounds these were the only ones with blemishes.  

Overall, I think both project went very well. We only messed up one batch of tomatoes by adding a little too much water, but the rest of the batches came out perfect. If you are thinking of doing some canning next season, I dont think it is really necessary to add any water at all. The tomatoes are really juicy enough. The ones we canned without water, came out perfect!

Our last project of the year will be apples. I have already picked up 20 pounds of Cameo apples from Kurt Tonnemaker and am planning to can lots of apple butter and sauce this weekend. Look for some pictures later this weekend on my Flickr page.

Thinking about canning, but not sure you are ready to jump into tens of pounds of produce?? Well then I have a perfect recommendation for you. I just picked up Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan and it is truly a gem for anyone interested in trying it out.

Happy Canning!

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Summer solstice is here and I couldn’t be happier. Those baby ducklings are getting bigger, clover is in full bloom, and days to spend in the park seem endless. While I will surely miss the lovely spring we had here in Seattle, I am looking forward to many sunny days at Greenlake and refreshing ICED beverages like the rhubarb soda my friend M brought over a few weeks ago. The summer will also give me numerous opportunities to play with my new Nikon D2oo. Hope you enjoy the pictures.  

Liam

And aren’t those purple bottlebrush flowers just beautiful? Liam thinks so!

Purple Flowers

Although they are getting bigger, those ducklings are still clinging to their mama! Ducklings

Taking a break under the redwoods as we look for some goodies for L’s nature box.

DSC_1156

And boy does he love playing outstide with him mama.DSC_1146

 And after a long afternoon in the park, this is the face that sends us home and in the tub. Ahhh, a solstice well spent 🙂 DSC_1186

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The past two years of my life have been a whirlwind of new experiences. I married, moved across the country, and gave birth to my first child. Along the way, I have not only learned a great deal about myself, but have picked up some useful tips on friendship, parenting, and well… life.

1. When you find yourself pureeing peaches for your six month old…make Bellinis!

mmm....bellini

mmm....bellini

2. You CAN survive on four- hour blocks of sleep.

3. When you threaten to start stalking your friends, they will usually call you back. (I say “usually” because there is always one that I actually have to stalk!)

4. One hour to myself can seem like an eternity now that I have a child. It is something I look forward to more now than I ever did. I am not sure if it is the alone time or the eventual reunion with my child that makes it all worth it.

5. When you travel, the best places are often found when you stop looking for them.

6. Time out’s are for adults, not children.

7. The root of parenting is learning how to live in harmony with your child. It is not about “doing to” as much as it is about “doing with”.

8. The best food is not found in a box, a wrapper, or a bag; it is grown in your backyard, bought from local farmers, or sometimes even found on your daily walk.

9. Libraries are one of the greatest public resources we have. Use them!

10. Live life in the slow lane. Enjoy each moment, no matter how hard that moment may be.

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A while back, I promised to take a break from the baby business and write about random reasons why I love Seattle. Well, here it is, reason number three: split-shot breves.

latte

It’s the most satisfying, most decadant coffee drink there is. It needs no sugar, no whipped cream, no caramel, no sprinkles. Just steamed half and half and your choice of espresso period. Ahhh! Delish! And the choices of espresso here in Seattle are endless. Okay, okay, I know it sounds cliche to say that Seattle has really great coffee. I mean, after all, ask a non-native what the first thing that pops into their head when they think of Seattle, chances are pretty high that Starbucks may be the first word out of their mouths. But to be honest, corporate coffee definitely doesn’t rule all here in the emerald city. Here is a short list of my favs, in no apparent order.

Vivace Roastaria These guys have been here in Seattle since 1988 (now I feel old). Their motto is “una bella tazza di caffee” which in Italian means a beautiful cup of coffee. Their website stakes claim to creating a specialized, scientific method in expresso preparation AND roasting technique. They are coffee experts. The owners have published books on the perfect cup of coffee. Yes, books plural. I heard from a local that you have to learn how to make espresso for six months before they let you serve. Not sure how true it is, but I am sold. There breves are to die for. Emeril says it one of the best coffees in the world. WOW. Don’t even try ordering a cup of coffee there either…it’s espresso only.

Caffe Vita: They are another smaller roaster here in the city with a few locations around town. It is also not uncommon to see them served at a plethora of cafe’s and restaurants around town. Fuel, which is the coffee place up the street from me, serves their coffee and it is delightful. I keep a pound in my freezer at all times. You never know when there might be a coffee emergency 🙂 They didn’t get their start until 1995 (babies, I know), but you would never tell. I especially like Punchinello on thier logo. There’s an interesting story about it on their site.

 Caffe Ladro: They, like Caffe Vita, are seen all over the city. Their coffee is roasted in up in Bellingham. One of the qualities that I like about them is that they only serve 100% fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee. The other companies are social responsible as well, but for Caffe Ladro, its not an option.

Victrola Coffee Roasters:These guys got their start in 2003. They are a very small roaster, but their espresso is divine. I kinda like that they are small, unpretentious, and well, just simple. Check out their staff pics on their site.

Stumptown: Ok, I know what you are thinking. These guys aren’t from Seattle! Originally from Portland, they opened up shop here in Seattle a few years ago giving Vivace a run for their money. All I have to say is YUM-EE. I feel like I am drinking a glass of wine when I am in there. They are way serious about their coffee. I read somewehre that they paid over $50 a pound from some highly regarded coffee from Colombia. They are also known for doing vino’s version of tastings; they call them “cuppings”. You sit around and taste different types of coffee from all over the globe. And while it will give you the total opposite effect of wine tasting, if you have no reason to go to sleep that night, it’s so worth it. Drink up!

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So, yes, I am back from my temporary blogging hiatus. Needless to say, three weeks in Florida, Christmas, birthdays, and recovering from my three weeks in Florida didn’t leave me much free time! Liam is on the go, walking with assistance, and getting into just about everything. He loves emptying out the lid drawer, playing with onions, and splashing in the dog bowl (the latter of which I immediately remove him from). Although he is still breastfeeding often, we have been experimenting with all kinds of foods these past few months. Ok, well, not ALL kinds of foods. liam-eating1

We have stayed away from milk, honey, nuts, processed food, and sugar (I know, all the fun stuff, right?) but other than that, its a go. So far, I have been able to meet all of his nutritional requirements without relying on Gerber, Earths Best, or Infamil. Everything he’s eaten has come from myself, the ground, or an animal. Pretty simple, huh? Well I don’t think Gerber would want you to know that.

When most people think about baby food the first thing that probably comes to thier minds are those tiny little jars filled with mashed…..well, just about anything. Baby food companies can get just about ANY food, plant, or animal to resemble a very similar colored mash of slop. I was walking down that isle in the grocery store and thought to myself, hmm…yellow chicken? Interesting. When most people have kids, they have been so used to seeing that food in cute little jars at the grocery store, they automatically start purchasing it by the truck load when their infants are ready to eat. Its starts with the neatly cellophane-wrapped cereal, then to the baby food “stage 1”, then onto “stage two”, and so on. Each stage with a bit more chunks and less mash. What many people don’t stop to realize is that food is food. It doesn’t need to be packaged and labeled “baby food” in order for your kid to be able to eat it. You want to feed your kid some bananas (typically a good first food)?? Buy bananas and mash them up! While I agree, not all foods are as easy to feed your baby as bananas, most take a just  little prep and a lotta love 🙂

So if you’re still not convinced and think making your own baby food is not up your ally, I have highlighted some very brief, yet compelling reasons why you should start.

1. You will save money. With the economy in dire straits, who doesn’t need to save a little?  A 2oz. jar of baby food costs between .50 cents to 1 dollar. A box of rice cereal runs about $3. Do you know how much rice cereal $3 of rice would make?? A ton! Typically I can get about two pounds of organic rice for three bucks. Conventional is even cheaper. Since rice doubles when you cook it, that adds up to be a lot of baby cereal! When you buy packaged food, you are paying for the jar, the box, the the cost of processing, and the marketing. When you make it yourself, you pay for the food.

2. It’s simple. You don’t have to be Emeril Lagasse to make your own baby food. In fact, you don’t even have to be Rachel Ray. If you can boil, mash, and blend, you can make baby food. All you really need is a pot and a blender and you are good to go. I will admit that there are a few luxury items such as a seed grinder, a book, extra ice cube trays, and a portable food mill that I purchased, but they are totally not necessities. The seed grinder I just really wanted anyways and while Cathe Olsen’s Natural Baby Food is great, there are many free websites with a lot of the same information.

3. Its better for your baby. You want your baby to get the most nourishment and vitamins from their food right? Well by making your own food, you get more nutrients per tablespoon of baby food. Processing not only adds a ton of garbage (salt, sugar, “natural” flavors, etc), to your food, but the process itself takes nutirents AWAY from your food. In order to kill bacteria, the food is heated up to exprememly high temperatures so that it can be jarred. While killing the bacteria is good, it also kills a lot of the good stuff as well. This is why many companies artificially add vitamins after the processing. With homemade food, you know and can control every ingredient that is going into your baby’s food.

4. They can and WILL eat more stuff! When you are controlling what goes into their food, you can feed them just about anything you eat. SInce Liam is still young, he hasn’t been exposed to a ton of stuff, but I have fed him kelp, quinoa, swiss chard, goat cheese, flax seeds, and eggplant. Try finding that stuff in your baby food isle!

Rice Cereal for Infants by Cathe Olsen

Place 1/2 cup brown rice in 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until rice is very soft. Its okay if water is not completely absorbed. Puree in blender. Refridgerate or freeze extra. (this is what the ice cube tray are for!)

Pear-Applesauce

Place 1 pear and 1 apple (both peeled and diced) in 1/2 cup water and simmer over low heat untill soft. Add more water if necessary. Puree or mash.

Squash and Peas

Place 2 cups of peeled and cubed winter squash and 1/2 cup peas in a pan with 1 inch of water. Cover and simmer on low heat until soft. Puree or mash

Remember, it is baby food, so you can mix just about anything! Experiment with different food and have fun!

 

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When people ask me how I like Seattle, my response usually includes the weather, the sites to see, the food, and occasionally the shopping. However, it’s the little things like the info on my pizza box that truly explain why I love the Pacific Northwest.

Last week, Damon and I ordered some pizza from the local chain Pagliacci. Typically on the top of their boxes, they print information and statistics about going green, but today’s delivery was different. NOt only was there a flyer taped to front letting me know that they would be begin their services one hour early for debate nights, the box was full of voting stat’s from around the world. And yes, you did just read the last sentence correctly…opening early for the presidential debates. In Seattle, they treat the presidential debates like the Superbowl. How awesome is that? I thought I would also share with you some of the wealth of knowledge on my pizza box.

Presidents Rate: Over the past 30 years, US voter turnout has averaged 52.5% for presidential elections, whereas in non-presidential elections it drops to under 40%.

Australia 95, USA 55: At election time, 95% of Australians go to the polls. Why? Well, it’s been the law since 1924. Refuse and get fined; refuse to pay, go to jail. Do you think a law like that would inspire American voters to improve on their 55% turnout in 2004?

Why do we vote in November? Since 1845, U.S. presidential and congressional elections have taken place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Why? FARMERS ARE TOO BUSY THE REST OF THE YEAR. American society was largely agrarian in 1845, and in November the harvest was in and the weather mild enough for travel on dirt roads. POLLING PLACES WERE FAR AWAY. Voting could only take place at the county seat- sometimes a day away by horse and buggy. NO TRAVEL ON SUNDAY. To make it to a polling place on Monday, a voter would have had to miss church to hit the raod. BOOKEEPING AND MARKETING. Most businesses finished the books early in the month, and the farmers took their crops to market on Wednesdays. That left Tuesday.

How do we stack up? Washington ranked third in voter turnout for the 2004 election. 82% of all registered voters participated, compared with 89% in COlorado and 85% in Oregon. Go Washington!

Malta’s the Most; In Malta, earlier this year, voter turnout for parliamentary elections was 93% – the lowest since 1971! The USA ranks in the bottom 20% of the world voter participation.

Why the Electoral College? As the framers of the Constitution considered how to elect the president and vice president, two choices emerged: direct popular election or election by Congress. The method they chose – indirect popular election – was a compromise that reinforced the cohesiveness of the young nation. As the country grew, the Electoral College (as it was dubbed decades later) effectively balanced power between large and small states. (not all of this I necessarily agree with, by the way….it forgot to mention, as I tell my students, that many of our framers didn’t think the average AMerican was intelligent enough to vote. In fact, GW was not elected by the people at all…hmmm).

Anyways, there was a bunch more facts on my small onion pizza, but you get the point! Have fun watching the debates! I am anticiapting a good laugh tomorrow night!

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