Sunday, March 20, 2011

My constructive use of a Sunday night

This was the scene in my house tonight when I finally cracked open Good to the Grain in hopes of finding a muffin recipe that would relieve me of my abundance of blueberries. I am trying gallantly to work through the pounds of frozen blueberries that I picked along with my fiance's family in northern Michigan. At the time I was adamant that I bring home enough berries to last me through winter which, to me, meant frantically dumping my purse for additional blueberry receptacles. It was a scene that I think finally drove home to the fam what kind of maniac I can be about certain things.

In the best possible way, of course!

The recipe is found in the book and I mostly did not stray. Lacking butter and milk I used vegetable oil and powdered milk, respectively. Not to mention I made my own oat flour but sending some quick cook oats through the blender and using blueberries instead of peaches and ginger.

These muffins are amazing. I keep reading about how great the recipes from this book are, and keep thinking "yeah right". Yet here I am extolling the goodness of this book and the wheaty, oaty, sweet and amazing muffins it just produced for me.

OH! And I further strayed by topping them with slivered almonds. Which was genius and I highly recommend it. So: thank you Kim Boyce! You've just helped me secure awesome and healthy breakfast for my household for this week.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The joy of strange grocery stores

The wonderful thing about living in a big city is access to large and unwieldy multi-ethnic supermarkets. I live in Forest Park, something like 9 miles west of Chicago, but I have access to some great shops. The one I'm thinking of today is Tony's, a giant of a store which offers an array of middle eastern, Indian, eastern European and Mexican goodies in their produce and pantry aisles.

Usually it's jam packed with people, but I've found a good rhythm to going that steers me clear of the crush of people trying to get at the deli counter. My last visit was on a Monday night and, while still crowded it was much more manageable to pick up the ingredients for the salmon Nicoise I made for my mother's birthday.

Anyway... in addition to the healthy salad ingredients I picked up a couple bottles of Estonian beer! I've tried many a beer, but never an Estonian beer and I was very curious to see what they had to offer. Especially nice was the fact it was not labeled "dark" and sported 6.7% ABV.

It was an interesting beer. Very sweet and malty, it somewhat resembled
a barleywine in both flavor and appearance (though obviously at 6.7% it was less strong than those bad boys). Bonus points for the fact the full name (Saku Tume) sounds like Sock-It-To-Me. At something around $4 for a size between a bomber and a 12 oz I'd probably buy it again, possibly even for use in a braise of some sort. I braised short ribs in Belgian beer several winters ago and I think this would work similarly


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Last snow??

We met up with John's friend, David, and went snowshoeing a couple of weeks ago in Lamoille Canyon outside of Elko. After a slow start of avoiding getting David's car stuck on a snowy road, we hit the trail. I loved it! And I had plans to spend the rest of the winter's weekends stomping around northern Nevada, but two weeks later and the temperatures are in the 50-60s, and I think most of my snow sports may be done for this winter. Here's John, David, and a straggler we picked up along the way breaking trail...

Pepper was in over her head at times and managed to accumulate LOTS of snowballs on her fur.
And Maggie found she loves any form of water, even the snow version.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Serving guests on the fly

This past Tuesday I hosted a get together for people interested in discussing our local upcoming election. It was a small group - no more than 15 total - but my instinct to find something for them to nibble on caused some consternation on my part. I was also grappling with a recent work trip that would get me home the night before I was to have people over, the day of being a work day. Thankfully my brother stepped up to help clean the house while I made some game time decisions that would make my life less hectic.

See, I initially thought that, it being Fat Tuesday, I should serve something seasonally appropriate: vegan muffaletta. First, there's no such thing that I can find. Second, I've never really had a muffaletta. This is all beside the fact that I wouldn't have the time to roast the veg and make the olive salad let alone buy the ingredients.

I found refuge where I often do as a first class compromiser: Trader Joes. I picked up dates, weirdo potato-lentil curls and some cashel blue cheese (seasonal for St. Patty's!) and parmesan to stuff the dates with and called it a day.

My guests were somewhat fed and my genetic calling to never let someone into my house without feeding them was satisfied. Most importantly, everyone had a chance to ask questions about the local issues they are most concerned with. Food is a back-drop to this kind of event, but I find that a little bit of hospitality goes a long way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everybody's doing it: the ex-urban seed swap!

This past Sunday Forest Park Community Garden hosted it's second ever - and first public - seed swap. As a board member I was able to see the planning process unfold, not to mention a sneaky peak at some of the seeds that would be available for swapping.

Over 50 people showed up at the Park District building to swap seeds and learn gardening tips from our Master Gardener-in-Training Debbie and her precocious daughter Kara. They demonstrated how to make planters out of newspaper and aluminum cans as well as discuss winter sowing. In addition to offering up some Detroit Red Beets and Pole Beans, I was able to contribute some materials in the form of the NY Times Sunday and five Mountain Dew Code Red cans, thankyouverymuch.

Click here to see a video of Debbie and Kara demonstrating winter sowing and some DIY garden projects.

Although Illinois (Zone 5 represent!) is still wracked with icy coldness, this seed swap reminded us that spring is not so far away. I came away with some interesting seeds: bok choy, Bloody Butcher tomatoes (!), Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, pepperoncini and much more, as well as inspiration about how to arrange my yard to maximize growing space while creating an appealing setting for hanging out. Unfortunately this means diagramming and mapping and doing all sorts of things that have nothing to do with watching wedding shows or planning months off holiday meals, my strong suits.