Saturday, March 17, 2012

In which the author discusses eating like a hobbit, among other things

I'm torn between justifying my sporadic (non-existent) posts of late - new job! roller derby! life! - but on the other hand, who are you to judge me, huh?  You're not my mom!

Unless you are, in which case: Hi mom! LYMI!

I've got at least one half-completed post that will hopefully see the light of day soon. I've got a plant husbandry post, or potentially series of posts, that are ticking along nicely thanks in large part to the amazing weather we're having in the 607.

The real reason for the dearth of project posts is due to the intimate nature of the recent subject matter.  That is, most of my "projects" lately have been me.  There's been a not-insubstantial amount of time devoted to regaining and maintaining my emotional equilibrium after some unanticipated contact with portions of my family who, while well-meaning, caused a little bit of pathos in my life.  There's also some people whom I love dearly and who are contending with some pretty serious health issues.  My husband is in grad school, which brings along a portion of shared stress.  I'm trying to belatedly finish a couple of credits for my BA, which seems like hoop after hoop after firey, burny hoop to jump through.

So, you know, there's all that.

Also, the derby monster may have eaten my brain.  That's not really new... but the levels of derbitude are rising in Casa de McComb.  After more than a year of skating and training, I passed my level 2 skills assessment and have been allowed to join league practice once a week.  League practice consists of approximately one hour of soul-rending drills, followed by an hour of heart-stopping and adrenaline-pumping scrimmage.  Basically, I'm good enough (and safe enough) that I get to play the game with the big girls now.  Oh, ecstasy!  Oh, delight! Oh, my god my ass hurts!  I haven't been drafted to a team (yet), but it should be only a matter of time before I'm rostered.

In an effort to improve my derby performance, I've started working with my fresh meat coach and league Derbalife representative, Thunder Vittles.  Derbalife is Herbalife, but for roller derby.  Yes, yes, I know, pyramid scheme, blah blah blah.  Trust me, I've already heard it all from my husband.  But you should see the results that Vittles and other members of the league have gotten!  I'm willing to at least give it a try.  I can quit whenever I want to!  YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND!  *Ahem*

Right now, they've got me eating 5 meals a day, approximately 1800kCal total.  This is where eating like a hobbit comes in.  I've got what I've started thinking of as breakfast, elevnsies, lunch, supper and dinner.  "Snack" is such a luxurious, fat- and sugar- filled word for me that I've stricken it from my daily language, to be replaced by more meal appropriate terms.  Also, I think its hilarious.  I routinely ask whoever is in targeting range, "But what about second breakfast?"  Whatever gets you to stick to the plan, right?  Right!  "Elevensies" is just more fun than "AM Snack."

I'm not planning on making progress posts, but I may mention the program every now and then.  After my initial 12 weeks, I will likely do an in-depth post-mortem.  There will likely be more crafty-projecty posts in the meantime, and I'm still planning on getting my steam punk costume together.

What I'm trying to say is, stick around!  There'll be more from me in the future.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Whatever Soup

Just made a whatever soup, and I must say, it is Freaking Delicious.  The goal of this soup is to use up any appropriate leftovers or veggies that were in danger of not getting eaten.  I made a big pot of it, had some for lunch, and will be freezing the rest into single serving portions, for later consumption.  Served with a few slices of the amazing cheddar-chive bread we got in our farm box, it made for a surprisingly hearty meal!

Bacon, leek, mushroom, broccoli, turnip, carrot, wild rice, potato, a sprig of rosemary, with beef boullion base.  Next time, I hope to have some home made chicken stock to use instead.

What do you do with your overabundance of left overs or veggies?

ETA: No hands were stabbed in the making of this soup.

Goddamn Smoothie

In our farm box this week, we got a mango, some bananas, and some delicious vanilla yogurt.  I thought to myself, "Hey! This sounds like an excellent smoothie opportunity!"  Now, I'm not as competent at smoothie making as I'd like to be.  Turns out that living with 2-4 20-something year olds who are grumpy in the morning makes it difficult to run a blender at 7:30.
Fortunately, I now live with only one grumpy 20-something, and I'm married to that one, so I can run the blender whenever I damn well please!  Yippeee!

Well, not so much with the yipee.  Mangoes are a difficult fruit, and one's dedication, desire, and knife skills must be at a high level in order to access the tasty mango-meat.  First you have to peel it.  Then you have to score it without cutting into the toxic pit, then you have to pick the bits of mango off the pit, without dropping them all on the ground.  This took me about 15 minutes.  Here's a free tip: an important thing to avoid while scoring the fucking mango is stabbing yourself in the hand, in the webbing between your first finger and middle finger, thus unleashing a torrent of blood that is not easily staunched by bandaid.

So, with the half a mango cut up and in the blender, the mild medical emergency taken care of, I added a banana, a few glorbs of vanilla yogurt, a couple spoons of brown sugar, the juice of half an orange, and a little bit of soy milk, then blended it until it looked good.  Poured it out, realized it was more of a chunky than a smoothie, put it all back in with a bit of apple juice, the pureed it for a couple minutes.

Triumph never tasted so good!  Or so much like pennies.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Farm Box Roasted Chicken

This is the first meal we cooked out of our delicious box of goodies from Garden Gate.  I'm calling it a Farm Box rather than a CSA Box because it isn't a traditional CSA - we didn't buy any shares.  Most of the food included is produced locally, supplemented with some things that are procured from farther away.

My general philosophy on roasts, soups and stews is to toss in any long-cooking vegetables on hand, season according to whim, and cook at some sort of low to medium temperature.  It has worked so far.  In the photo below, you'll see the veggies I originally intended to toss in the roast tonight.  After getting about halfway through the prep, I decided there would be way too much vegetable component for the two of us to manage, even taking a left-over lunch tomorrow into consideration.

I ended up using one leek, three carrots, a quarter of the cauliflower, a clove of elephant garlic, 4 fingerling potatoes, half a yellow onion, and a turnip.  At least, I'm pretty sure its a turnip.  Cut it all up, then mixed it all together in the roaster.  Added some olive oil and finely chopped fresh rosemary and oregano, salt, and fresh ground pepper.

I seasoned the chicken with kosher salt, pepper, and paprika, then quickly braised it on the stove top for some color and crispy flavor.  Our little chicken came from Autumn's Harvest Farm, which is about 30 miles away from us.  This farm uses a guard dog to keep animal predation low, and you know I love me some working dogs!

Put it on top of the veggies, and roast at ... um, 325-ish (I guess?) until done.

After putting the roast in, I noticed all the carrot peels and other miscellaneous vegetable detritus (vegtritus?) all over the kitchen floor, and set our roomba Catbus to eat it all up.  I love this thing, its almost as good as having a dog!

Use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is done, then cut the bits up, serve, and bask in the glory of an amazing meal!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our First Garden Gate Delivery

Ah, my loyal readers, do I have a treat for you today!

No, I don't.  But I certainly have a treat for me today!

We got our first delivery from Garden Gate, the super-flexible, mostly locally sourced, CSA-ish Ithaca area grocery-delivery company I mentioned the other day.  Let me just tell you, I'm so excited I might pee in my pasture-raised panties.

We ordered the assorted meat box, the fruit & veggie box, a loaf of white bread, and a box of eggs.  We weren't really sure how much food we'd be getting, or if the whole experiment was going to be worth it, so we kept the order simple this first time.  We got two little chicken halves, a package of grass fed beef hot dogs, two packages of mild Italian sausage, and a pack of delicious looking bacon.  I think we may have gotten a little more variety if we had checked that we were ok with receiving goat, buffalo and rabbit.  Next time we will be more adventurous.  Our veggie box came with some cauliflower, leeks, lots of oranges, fingerling potatoes, elephant garlic (just in time as I used the last of our garlic making lunch), an enormous sweet potato, romaine lettuce, spinach, a little fresh oregano and rosemary, and - get this - a whole pineapple.  Neither of us can eat much pineapple due to its incredible acidity, so I think we'll take the opportunity to share with the neighbors.  Marlo, the owner, also tossed in a sample of mango lassi and a handwritten note on our receipt for us.  I think I fell in love by the time I finished the lassi.

I'm already thawing out one of the adorable half chickens and planning on making a roast with veggies tonight - the cauliflower, leeks and potatoes will go great with the carrots we've already got.  Next week I think we'll add a dairy box (which comes with milk, butter, cheese and sometimes yogurt), check the buffalo and rabbit ok box, and add a few more things.

This will be a great addition for us!  It means less money spent on the carshare, less time spent shopping, and more ethical food for us.  Also, it may force us to eat more vegetables.

Monday, January 23, 2012

That Whole "Sustainability" Thing

Its really trendy to be green lately.  Like, totally, omg, super-cool to the point that it can sometimes be difficult to get past the superficial appearance of sustainability and really start to make meaningful changes.

There's no judgement here, by the way.  We all have our own lives to live, and we all have a different level of sacrifice we are unwilling to make.  My husband and I are agreed that we will at least try pretty much everything, up to family cloth.  Because, ew.  More power to the people who can manage it, but its just not for us.

One of the things we have successfully done in the past is "hand" wash and line dry almost all of our laundry.  Of course, this is when we were living in Berkeley, where our west-facing drying-rack-sized porch and the local maritime Mediterranean climate really helped us out.  I put "hand" in quotes up there because what we would do was dump a load of laundry into the bathtub (usually determined by how much space we had on our rack to dry), toss in some laundry soap or Dr. Bronner's, and then stomp on everything like Lucy Ricardo in Italy.  Then we'd put it up to drip-dry on the porch or on hangers in the bathroom, then pull everything inside to finish drying once it got dark.  The system worked really well, and it meant that we didn't have to lug everything half a mile away to the laundromat, spend $20+, and then sit and guard it for 4 hours.  Instead, we got fresh, clean clothes for the price of soap, and about an hour's worth of hard work.  What a bargain!

Unfortunately, now that we live in Upstate New York, this isn't really an option for us.  Our porch isn't situated so that we can set up a drying rack that gets any amount of sun while not completely blocking the door; also, hello, WINTER!  Its a little cold outside, and my California ass is not about to freeze for the sake of some drippy jeans.  Instead, our compromise with the laundry room will be that we will machine wash our clothes, which will spin out the extra water and allow us to easily line dry everything in the house, right in front of the heater vent.  As an added bonus, the water evaporating from the clothes will help rehydrate the air in the house, making for a more comfortable, if crowded, living environment!  We save $1.25 a load, use less electricity, and  benefit from air that won't instantly dessicate all forms of life.

One of the other things we've experimented with in the past was a CSA box, with mixed results.  I really loved getting a good variety of fresh fruits and veggies provided by super awesome independent, local farms.    The problem was that the "small" box was too much for us - for me, really, since I was the only one consistently eating out of it - so we had a lot of food going to waste.  I've been trying to get more local stuff from Wegman's (the East Coast version of Nugget), but again... Upstate New York.  Winter.  The pickings are a little slim.  Fortunately, this weekend I discovered Garden Gate Delivery, which allows you to essentially go shopping on their website, then the woman who runs it picks up your orders from local farms, and delivers it to your door.  All the best parts of a traditional CSA box, but with more flexibility for smaller or more picky households.  We should be getting our first delivery on Tuesday, so I'll let you know what all we get.  I'm super excited!

Also, I feel the need to point out that I wrote this post to an episode of Portlandia.  (the dream of the 90's is alive in Portland...)

Herbed Butter

My windowsill basil has been looking a little leggy, so I went ahead and pruned it this morning.  Cutting the stems right above a node (or little cluster of baby leaves) will force the plant to put more energy into growing leaves, instead of growing stem, and will give me a bushier, leafier basil plant in the long run.  This is good, as I really love fresh basil.

Basil flavored sunlight, omnomnom!

Unfortunately, I did this right after breakfast time, so I was left with a handful of wonderfully pungent herbs, and no handy dish to throw it in.  What to do?


Chiffonade* the basil...

Cut up a stick of butter...

Put it all in a food processor on puree, with a little canola oil for lube...

And poof! You have fancy herbed butter, great for savory dishes!  You may not have a recipe that calls for 8 tablespoons** of herbed butter all at once.  That's ok.  Just portion it out onto a piece of parchment paper on a plate.  Or you can slap it onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it up into a single log-shaped piece.

Or you can just put it on my ass-cold porch.

Throw it into the freezer until the little globs (or log) are solid.

Then wrap them up and put them in a freezer-approved container, and thaw at will.  You can do this with pretty much any leafy herb, including sage and parsley or even mint, which could be interesting.  Use in place of straight-up butter in the appropriate dishes.

A project so easy, I didn't swear once while making it!

*Chiffonade is a French term for rolling leaves up like a cigar and then cutting them up into little strips
**If you don't get roughly 8 tablespoons out of this recipe, you're doing it wrong.