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 Nola.com'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!


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