Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Hills of God

Since I plan to start my Lifetime Reading Plan project on 1/1/11, I have spent the last couple of months stuffing myself with contemporary books that will be more-or-less off-limits once the new year begins.  Although I don't intend to discuss all that I have read here, I do want to mention a few of my favorites.  One of them is a book a friend lent me some time ago--some very long time ago.

I had postponed reading the novel.  It is a thick book with small print, and I kept saving it for a time when I would have long stretches of reading time to devote to it.  Well, as you know, "long stretches of reading time" and real life with a homeschooling son and an academic side life don't seem to be compatible.  So finally I just bit the bullet--and I am so glad I did!

On the Hills of GodOn the Hills of God, written by Ibrahim Fawal, is the story of seventeen-year-old Yousif Safi and his coming of age.  What makes the story so powerful is its setting: Palestine in the late 1940s, right as Zionism comes to the fore--and the creation of the state of Israel is about to happen.  This time of upheaval utterly transforms the world in which he and his family live.

Yousif is a Palestinian Christian.  His two closest friends are Amin (a Muslim) and Isaac (an introspective Jew).  When the book begins, it is clear that although the religious labels are in no way invisible, they do not completely separate people--people who all love the Palestinian lands of vast green hills full of olives and oranges and pines.

Soon, however, Yousif and his friends see Zionists surveying the land and beginning to create a separate society.  As things become more and more tense over time, violence begins to erupt.  A man from their hometown is killed by in a Zionist bombing in Jerusalem.  When Isaac's father attends the funeral, he is attacked--and soon his family comes under grave threat as well.  They move in with the Safi family, but things only get worse.  Eventually, they are forced to move away from the mixed community of Ardallah.  They settle in Tel Aviv.

After some time, a violent Zionist group stages an ambush in Ardallah.  When caught and unmasked by the town residents, one member of the group turns out to be Isaac.  He insists he was forced to join the mission.  The young man acknowledges that he is not innocent but he did not want kill anyone, and just as he was forced to come, he knows the Arab community will feel forced to kill him.  "We're all victims," Isaac realizes.  "We're caught in a war from which we can't escape. "

Yousif pleads for his friend's life--"Isaac is one of us!"--but his Arab townsmen respond with violent reciprocity.  When the doctor offers to sedate Yousif in order to ease his emotional turmoil, he refuses, saying, "I want to feel the pain."  And that is exactly what the author allows us to do.

How hard it is to avoid participating in discrimination--even violent acts of terrorism--when surrounded by a community declaring that others are evil and threatening!  Fawal shows how this is true for every side.  It isn't long before Yousif's world has been completely dismantled.  As he says, "Everything in this country seems to be soaked with blood."

It is heartbreaking to see Yousif defend his beliefs that all--Muslim, Christian, and Jewish--should act as family.  He seems to believe that if he tries hard enough, the people of the Palestinian lands could act that way  again and create a community built on love and reconciliation.  As he says, "One can always fight. But first, let's try talking to them. I don't think the average Jew likes what's happening. We lived together like good neighbors. They were happy and we were happy. Why can't we just go on like before?"

What happens next is the story of the Nakba--that is, the "great catastrophe" or "Palestinian Exodus" where 700,000 Arabs (Christian and Muslim) experienced the humiliation of occupation and were eventually pushed out of their homes and lands.  It is a horrifying story that startlingly few Americans seem to know about at all.  Every time I think of it, I can't help but say that modern Jewish prayer: "Never forget."  And as you know, this is a story with no happy ending.  There are still Palestinians living in refugee camps and in exile--still separated from their homeland and from each other.

As the book begins to come to a close with Yousif's world in tatters around him, he even loses some of the faith he had grown up with.  He questions the goodness of his Christian God: "If you would allow your own son to be nailed and stabbed, if you would let his legs be broken, if you would let him die on the cross like a common criminal, you'd probably let our homes burn to the ground.  If that's the way you'd treat your own son, to whom should we Palestinians turn for protection?"

Despite all the destruction, the book ends on a note of hope and resolve.  "The conscience of the world must be pricked, awakened," say Yousif.  This is what the author seeks to do himself.  "I promise you this for the sake of all of us who have been dispossessed--the families who have been denied their birthright and are now separated, the children who can't sleep because they're hungry, the babies who journeyed and died from thirst, the dead we left along the trail.  Let this moon, which is staring at us like a grave one-eyed God, be my witness: we shall be delivered.  We shall return."

*  *  *

I am Jewish--albeit an atheist Jew--who is too moved by my Judaism-informed beliefs about justice and righteousness to accept what happened "on the hills of God" during this period--or accept what is happening there now.

Although I don't remember for sure, I suspect my friend lent me this book when we were talking about the deeply compassionate (and perhaps even politically feasible, although I know many of you will disagree) argument made in Virginia Tilley's The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock--a one-state solution that is a true and multi-ethnic democracy.

On the Hills of God is a book meant for all people--those who love the land of Palestine and Israel (be they Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) and those who are new to the story.  It picks no fights and is completely accessible to any reader with a heart, no matter what their politics.  A must-read.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Starting Fresh

Dear Readers,

This blog started as a knitting blog way back in the day, before the birth of Ravelry.  It morphed into a food-and-gardening blog.  And I've always talked about books, parenting a homeschooled child, religion and disbelief, and anything else that crossed my mind.  For the past two years, I've had mixed feelings about the unfocused approach.  I liked being able to write about whatever I was thinking, but I also knew that there were times when a bit more form might create a better blog.

With that in mind, I am putting this blog aside (at least for the time being) and starting anew.  Please join me at Lifetime Reading Plan.

Recently I've been thinking about all the books I want to read, and all the books that I feel I should have already read. Over at Lifetime Reading Plan, I'll write about books, their contexts, and my reactions--beginning with Gilgamesh and the Ancient Greeks, and heading forward through time, hitting everything from Chaucer to Tolstoy to Proust. I would love to have some reading companions who would like to read some of these books with me!

I'm currently making book lists and checking them twice, although I'm sure the plan will grow and change as time goes by. Although I plan to write up some preliminary information about my project soon, the reading will really get underway on 1/1/11.

In addition, I'll be writing roughly once a week over at Food, Glorious Food. This spot will be primarily a place for me to write out a weekly menu for my family. Occasionally I'll share a home-developed recipe, a picture of our kitchen garden, or a cookbook review. If you're eager to know what we are planning to eat, you're welcome to come on over--but Food, Glorious Food will be primarily an organization device for my family.

I hope to see you all soon. Thanks for all the time here. It has been a wonderful pleasure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I've been ill for the last few weeks, too tired to do much thinking.  Meal plans have gotten us through.  If I did not have them planned, I would have begged for take-out almost every evening, I think.

So here goes:

Stuffed baked potatoes with mustard greens and New Zealand spinach from our garden, as well as asparagus and garlic scapes from the local farmers market.  Topped with sour cream from our Amish dairy source.

(Inspired by the offerings at a neighboring farmers market)
Stinging Nettles Soup
Rabbit, Hunter Style
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble (with a gluten-free topping made with oats and coconut flour)

Chickpea Curry with Turnip Greens and Radishes (both from the garden), served over brown basmati
Cardamom Ice Cream (from the farmers market)
Cocktail of the week: Gin and Tonics

Potluck party with some gluten-free and some vegan folks.  Take a millet/black bean/mustard greens/sweet potato salad?  Improvise with whatever comes in our first CSA box of the season.

Rice Pasta with any veggies in the fridge or garden
Assorted Salad Greens

(Sa and Su--out of town)

Check out more meal plans at Menu Plan Monday and Mindful Menus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gluten-Free from the Garden

Time for our weekly menu again.  Actually, past time...

Three things shape this week's plan:

1. As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying a gluten-free diet for a few weeks.  (I started last week, after I had already written the week's menu.  I kept the same general plan but changed things to GF bread on Monday and rice-flax pasta on Saturday.)

2. The garden is bursting with salad and cooking greens.

3.) Perhaps because the end of the semester is coming up, we have a tremendously busy evening schedule all week--fairly unusual for us.

*  *  *

Totally Inauthentic and Random Vegetarian Bibimpap
   (I stir-fried homegrown turnip greens, chopped radishes, leftover quinoa, a lot of slightly spicy sauerkraut, and sesame seeds.  Then I fried eggs on the top of the mixture.  We served these with helpings of hot pepper paste to stir in.)

Enchiladas (with locally-made corn tortillas) filled with leftover roasted chicken, stir-fried homegrown broccoli rapini, and goat cheese, topped with mild tomato salsa.

Assorted Salad Greens from the garden
Flank Steak with Chimichuri
Roasted Carrots (currently drying up in the fridge)
Strawberries (from the farmer's market) with Balsamic Reduction
(Cocktail of the week: Mojitos with Homegrown Mint)

(Before violin group class)
rice crackers with goat cheese
(After violin)
Back at home: Indian-style chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and homegrown mustard greens, served over millet

Picnic at an outdoor performance of The Mikado
Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Sushi
Summer Rolls with Shrimp
Tamari Rice Crackers

Party at the home of one of David's colleagues,
then a dinner-date with D. while our son is at a friend's sleepover
(We might make this a meal at home, depending on time)

Appetizers at the Scottish Pub (where we'll be for the Fiddle Session--son on violin)
Brown Rice Pasta with homegrown Arugula Pesto

*  *  *

Check out more meal plans at Menu Plan Monday and Mindful Menus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gluten-Free Girl

I loved Shauna James Ahern's book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too. (If you don't know her blog, make sure you check out her regular posts, too.)  I don't have celiac disease, but I felt an enormous connection with Shauna as I read. Sometimes the difficult things we go through in this life help shape our future in a beautiful way. My own health issue led me towards interests and relationships that I am not sure would have developed without the crisis. It is impossible to imagine what my life would have been had I not been hospitalized, but I have trouble imagining that it would have been nearly as rich as it is. For Ahern, a diagnosis of celiac disease and the resulting need to follow a gluten free diet led her to learn to appreciate food and cooking in a whole new and beautiful way.  I love the attitude  that allows Ahern to write that "going gluten-free has guided me to think about how to eat locally, choose organic, and experience every tast I take more vividly.  It has been a gift."  (I think I have a bit more anger and mourning about my own medical crisis, but I get where she is coming from, too.)  As she writes later, "Do we need a death sentence to allow ourselves to truly taste our lives?"

Although my own health issues had little impact on my food commitments, my tastes were transformed and shaped in several similar ways. Early in her life, Ahern picked up a copy of Laurel's Kitchen,--one of the first whole-grain vegetarian books that shaped America in the 1970s. "In the privacy of my bedroom, I read it, chapters at a time....Mostly I devoured the introduction, which welcomed me into the kitchens of these women as the authors baked bread meditatively, talked about politics and how to raise their families, and made everything from scratch," writes Shauna. "Their world seemed much more at peace than mine, even though they were discussing the worst pertubations of society. They were doing something about it--rebelling--by making their own food." She concludes: "I wanted to be in that kitchen."

For me, I stumbled across Laurel's right as I was learning to cook for myself, when I entered graduate school and left the college cafeteria. I had just finished Francis Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, a book that had a profound influence on me. At the time I did not know that there were alternatives to the grain-fed meat that was so unjust to the poor of this world. Although I had eaten a vegetarian diet in college to avoid the mystery meat in the school cafeteria, I now became a vegetarian with political commitment. Laurel's Kitchen, along with the absolutely classic Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzan, taught me to cook with my politics in mind. (For those who take my vegetarianism as literal, I should tell you I always ate meat at my parents' house--and in fact usually I ate a meat without a word of protest at the homes of others who were gracious enough to offer to cook for me. At other times, I told people I "ate mostly vegetarian." When one's goals are about justice to the people of the world--rather than animal rights--it doesn't seem quite as hypocritical to make these kinds of exceptions.)

Interestingly, like me, with time, Ahern eventually broadened her diet to include a little sustainable meat--while retaining or even sharpening her politics.  So have some famous vegetarian chefs, including Mollie Katzan and the incomparable Deborah Madison.

Ahern is a talented writer, whose book is very hard to put down.  It includes a few recipes.  (So far, we've tried out her delicious chicken with pomegranate sauce recipe, and the deep roasted cauliflower with paprika and cocoa.  Yummy!)

gluten free girl recipes

Perhaps the best part of the book is its end.  While I'm often irritated with books about strong women that end with marriage, Shauna Ahern totally pulls it off.  She tells a story of her tattoo (I won't give it away) that sets it up.  The story is beautiful, funny, romantic in ways few books are, charming, and utterly inspiring.  She and her husband ("The Chef") are coming out with a cookbook together this fall: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.  I can't wait!

The surprise ending to this story is that after reading this book along with another (which I will review soon), I decided to try out a gluten-free diet for a few weeks in hopes that it might help some auto-immune issues that have flared recently.  So far, I'm not sure if the diet is helping or if I am just getting a bit better from this flare, or if I had some little illness other than autoimmune stuff.  We'll see.  More details forthcoming about my experiences eating gluten-free.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Words

These and other photos here. Also check out SkyTruth and's oil spill page.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Find and Reuse

Here in Takoma Park, Mother's Day weekend filled with sunshine and yard sales.

Finds of the weekend:

1. A handwoven hand-dyed mudcloth from Mali, perfect for our dining room table. We found this at a yard sale. The family had bought it a dozen years ago when they were traveling in Africa.


(Oops--I guess it is actually "hand-died")

Mudcloth 'Died'

2. Metal champagne flutes. Since I saw Beth's stainless steel wineglasses over at Fake Plastic Fish, I've been coveting something like these for our picnic basket. We found these at a community yard sale on the grounds of the library. Proceeds went to help finance the local Independence Day celebration.

metal champagne

We put the glasses to use Sunday morning, drinking mimosas in bed as we ate croissants and read the newspaper. (This is an old tradition that David and I had, but only recently is it one that our son could enjoy as well. Granted, his mimosa had seltzer instead of champagne, and he enjoys the comics more than the book section.)

3. A gorgeous cake plate. I'd been dreaming about cake plates all week, ever since I ran across the lovely examples over at This Week for Dinner.

cakeplate 1

cakeplate 2

I'm not sure this one should count as a thrifting find, since David found it in our basement, filled with things from his grandmothers which we have not really unpacked since we got them a dozen years ago.  I'm so pleased it is finally joining us upstairs!

Check out some other great thrift store finds over at Thrift Share Monday and at Thrifty Treasures.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Garden Fresh

The menu plan for the upcoming week's meals is all inspired by what vegetables are growing in our garden--and, for our non-vegetarian meals, what meat is eager to be defrosted from the freezer.

Radish Greens Soup (from our garden)
Brown-bread Toast with Goat Cheese and Homegrown Radishes
Deviled eggs with Paprika and Homegrown Chives

Roast Chicken
Homegrown Broccoli Rapini
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange Zest
Arugula and Lemon Balm Salad (from our garden)

Enchiladas with goat cheese, mushrooms, onions, and homegrown mustard greens
Wednesday Cocktail of the week--Mojitas made with homegrown mint

Chicken soup with Wild Rice, Leeks, and Homegrown Greens (made from leftover chicken from Tuesday)

Steak Diane
Homegrown Salad with Arugula, Sorrel, and Radishes
Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream

Marcella Hazan's Simple Tomato Sauce
Telephone Cord Pasta
Assorted Salad Greens from the garden
Blueberry Muffins (dessert, to be held back from our CSA's "muffin luck" celebration of the opening of the season)

Homemade Vegetarian Sushi

I've found a few great online link lists of meal plans, including Menu Plan Monday and Mindful Menus. Check out all the inspiring links!

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Handmade Salad

salad bowl 2

For my birthday, my mother-in-law frequently asks me to figure out something that I love but would not splurge for myself.  Although I've been dreaming about beautiful small salad bowls recently, the mass-made ones did not call my name--and the handturned ones seemed a bit out of my price range.  What a perfect time for birthdays!

Through Etsy, I found many beautiful bowls, including this one from One of a Kind 2.  When we got home from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, the box was waiting for me and I eagerly opened it to see if the bowl was as beautiful in person as it was on the website.  And it absolutely is.

I suppose this style of natural-edged bowl made from a fallen tree could be called Wabi Sabi--or Imperfect Beauty, as it is sometimes translated.

My own style tends toward the natural, the authentic, the homemade--and of course, stacks of books and papers, and the odd ball of yarn with a pair of needles...

I can't wait to fill this beautiful bowl tonight with arugula, amaranth leaves, parsley, and sorrel from our garden!  Finding the beauty in the things naturally around us--be it wooden bowls and pottery plates, or our homegrown food-- adds so much to my sense of peace and joy while sitting around the table.

Do you have a personal connection to your tableware? Do you eat off your Grandmother's china, or use a clay bowl for salt that your toddler made, or serve homemade bread in a basket bought on the side of the road near Charleston, or cook in clay pots bought in South America, or off of handwoven placemats? I'd love to hear about it.

salad bowl 1

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Meal Planning, Week 3

Although I've spent most of my life as a seat-of-the-pants cook who loved to invent dinner on the fly out whatever was in season (or in the pantry), I've really enjoyed the last few weeks of planning a week's worth of meals in advance.  I've over-ridden my intuitive instincts for a little while--and I'm trying lots of new cookbook recipes.  By doing this, I'm learning some new techniques, experimenting with some new flavors, and getting lots of ideas for the future.

Last week's meals were almost exclusively from Aviva Goldfarb's new SOS!  The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families. She, after all, was the person who got me intrigued with the whole idea of meal planning to begin with.  Her recipes are interesting and tasty, beautifully easy to follow, and really quick to make on busy evenings.  I loved the meals filled with all the wonderful flavors of spring.  And we especially enjoyed her Shrimp and Grits!

shrimp and grits

We also loved the leftover asparagus soup which we served chilled.  David and I ate it for lunch one day (while our son was visiting friends), along with homegrown radishes on toast with fresh butter:

garden radish sandwich

*  *  *

This week, I thought I'd try out some recipes from the marvelous food memoirs I've been reading.

Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon and Dates
   from Kim Sunee's Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus

Wild Greens Turnovers with Lemon Bechamel sauce (vegetarian)
Basil Panna Cotta
   both from Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

Channa Masala over Brown Basmati Rice (vegetarian)
   from Shoba Narayan's Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes
Homegrown Broccoli Rapini
Mango Lassis

Out for a book signing by one of my son's favorite authors
Travel Salad (vegetarian)
   from Emily Franklin's Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes
Carried "to-go style" in our tiffin

Flank Steak with Chimichuri
   inspired by Tara Austen Weaver's The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis (but recipe here)
Assorted Salad Greens from the Garden
Sweet Potato Pie

Chicken Thighs Braised in Pomegranate Molasses
Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika and Cocoa Powder
  both from Shauna James Ahern's Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too

Bouchon au Thon
   from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
Steamed Asparagus

* * *

I found a few online link lists of meal plans and have really enjoyed clicking to see how everybody makes their menus. Two of my favorites are Menu Plan Monday and Mindful Menus.

What are you thinking about eating this week?  Are you being inspired in the kitchen by books?  Or are you being most moved by all the asparagus, strawberries, garlic scapes, or fresh peas coming into the farmers market?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Maryland Sheep and Wool

Every year I look forward to the incredible Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  It always falls at such an ideal time: the weekend between my birthday and Mother's Day.

One of the things we always love to watch is the sheep shearing demonstration.  This gentleman kept the feisty Scottish Blackface remarkably calm...

sheep sheering 1

sheep sheering 2

...and, using hand shearers, took off the coat in one beautifully big piece:

sheep sheering 3

Of course, sheep demonstrations are a pretty small part of the festival for me. I go for the fiber off the hoof. My stash has gotten ridiculous in the last few years so I promised myself I would not buy a lot of new yarn. I went with one booth in mind: Seacolors.

seacolors booth

And from this booth came my only significant purchase. I bought enough yarn for a sweater for myself, in very muted colors (which actually are pretty colorful for me):

seacolors purchase

* * *

One of the coolest things is seeing blog friends. I'm pretty sure I saw the Fiddlin' Fool and young Jamie from Two Sock Knitters. I also saw, I think, Anne Hanson from Knitspot, accompanied by the gorgeous model for her Hypoteneuse stole.  And best of all?  While David was waiting for me, sitting on the floor of the main hall knitting squares for the knitted quilt our family is making, Shani recognized him from the pictures on this blog and asked him if he was David!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great-Granny's Pound Cake

This has been a week full of celebration.  My birthday and my son's birthday fall just two days apart during this beautiful season of azaleas and dogwoods.  We both always want the same cake, so we often celebrate with it on the day between our birthdays.

birthday pound cake

The cake we both love so much is from a recipe my great-grandmother (for whom I was named) brought over from England when she immigrated.  Her daughter made it often, her granddaughter made it often, I make it often, and now my son can help continue the tradition.

*  *  *

 Great-Granny's Pound Cake

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
6 eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, zested and juiced

1. Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature.

2. Prepare a tube pan or a bundt pan by greasing it with butter.  Sprinkle flour in the pan and shake to distribute.  Dump out any remaining flour.

3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and smooth.  A good stand mixer makes this process much easier, but you can do it with a hand egg beater if you are patient and strong.

4.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat them in well.

5.  Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice.

6.  Alternately add a little flour and a little cream and mix until all is incorporated.  Don't overbeat.

7.  Pour into the prepared cake mold, using a rubber spatula to get every last bit.

8.  Put the pan into a cold oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cook for 90 minutes or until it is golden brown and smells heavenly.

9.  Let it cool a bit, if you can wait--especially if you're putting wax candles in, which will melt into the cake otherwise!

*  *  *

One of the tricks that makes this cake turn out so well is to use cream, butter, and eggs from grassfed animals.  I know those are the only things my great-grandmother had access to, but it means making a decision these days.  Going grass-fed means this gastronomical splurge is a bit better for you since these ingredients will be higher in vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid than conventional eggs and dairy would be.  (You're also reducing the chance of food poisioning if you lick the delicious batter from the bowl!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Scrambling" for a Spring Menu Plan

Last week, I made an official meal plan for the first time--and loved the relaxed feeling it gave me at 5:30 or 6pm when I carried my laptop into the kitchen and turned on a podcast (often The Splendid Table) while I cut veggies for a meal already thought out. Although I've always adored reading cookbooks, I've rarely actually followed a recipe without major changes. I did this week--and we had a couple of meals that were quite different from the meals I normally create.

We did change a few things around. I forgot to defrost the chicken, so we had stuffed potatoes with goat cheese and rapini that night (instead of chicken, baked potatoes, and sauteed rapini). I changed the meal plan to reflect how we actually ate.

One of the best things about the week of meals had nothing to do with the planning itself. This was the first week when our local farmers market sold asparagus! We ate it for two meals--one roasted, and one steamed. Perhaps because we've spent a long winter deprived of these offerings, or perhaps because of my spring birthday, asparagus and strawberries are my absolute favorite foods ever. Well--and okra. And Brussels sprouts. Oh--and oysters, or shrimp.... And I couldn't live without rice.... (Yep, I'm a coastal South Carolina girl at heart, no matter where I live now.)

For those of you who read my first meal-planning post last week, you may remember that I was inspired to try meal planning by conversations with--and then a book talk by--Aviva Goldfarb, creator of The Six O'Clock Scramble and the author of the fabulous new eco-cookbook SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families.

This week will be a plan almost entirely inspired by recipes from Goldfarb's book.  All of these main dish recipes--and even many of the side dishes that accompany the mains--are hers (more or less), with the exception of Saturday evening.

*  *  *

A Night at the Opera
Beef Empanadas (made with homemade dough)
Carried "to-go style" in our tiffin

Indian-spiced Salmon over Brown Basmati Rice
Spinach with Mushrooms
Mango Lassi (dessert)

Orzo Salad with Peas and Feta Cheese (vegetarian)

Cream of Asparagus Soup (vegetarian)
Assorted Salad Greens with Raisins, Cashews, and Sunflower seeds
Homemade Sourdough Bread

Spice-tossed Shrimp with Parmesan Grits
Lemon-Pepper Broccoli
Rhubarb Crisp (dessert)

A Day at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
Homemade Mushroom Pizza topped with Homegrown Arugula (vegetarian)
(dough recipe from The Greens Cookbook)

Lemon Parmesan Fusilli with Asparagus and Spinach (vegetarian)
Strawberries topped with Greek Honey Yogurt

* * *

I found a few online link lists of meal plans and have really enjoyed clicking to see how everybody makes their menus. Two of my favorites are Menu Plan Monday and Mindful Menus.

Next week: menus from great food memoirs!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Maple Sugaring

Early spring is the time when the sap starts running in the trees. While we were at farm camp a few weeks ago, the children had the opportunity to collect maple sap to make syrup and other maple products.

maple tap

In order to express their appreciation of the gifts of the trees, the children hiked into the woods and formed a circle under the trees.  They joined with others to read poems and say blessings...

maple fest circle

...and sing songs together.

maple fest

The sap was poured into vats and fires were stoked underneath.

maple sugaring 2

With the hours boiling over the fire, water in the sap slowly evaporated and the liquid got thicker, more viscous, and sweet as the sugar concentrated.

maple sugaring

Ten gallons of sap makes only about one quart of syrup.

On the last day at camp, we had a feast of whole-wheat pancakes, which we soaked with the glorious maple syrup we had helped make. Its wonderful sweetness was magnified for us by our participation in the process.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Food, and Cognitive Dissonance

My 10yo son and I are reading next to each other on the couch.

My book: Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. This book is a lighthearted romp through adventurous but non-restaurant-based eating in New York City. The author incorporates everything from news of her love life, details of parties, friendly information about food politics, and great recipes. It is all about the pleasures of food.

My son's book, being read for the local library's "Banned Books Club": Upton Sinclair's 1906 The Jungle. This book was perhaps the first major food expose, highlighting in VERY graphic ways the horrors of the meat-packing industry. If you think information about factory farms is grotesque, this book will blow you away. (Think workers falling in the rendering vat and being ground up with animal parts.) Although the author's intention was to analyze the terrible working conditions of working class and immigrant laborers, most readers came away shocked by food safety issues and ready to demand changes. As Sinclair said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."


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