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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Plug Time!

A (very) few of my friends are also blogging, and I thought you might enjoy seeing their stuff.

Brian you should already be aware of, as he featured a post on my Gram's gumbo at Cast Iron Therapy.

Then there's Wooden Pyramids, a blog about gaming, written by a friend whose sense of humor is both scathing and insightful

There's also  2.2fps , which I think is mostly about WoW, but is written by someone I like, so I'll forgive him that.

Stuart Gaffney is doing good work keeping us updated on marriage equality and gay rights issues, as an author at Queerlandia.  He and his husband John served as officiants at The Best Wedding Ever (that would be mine, folks).

And finally, the portfolio of my amazing-talented artist friend Jeremy, over at Mighty Nightguant.  The rest of us are agreed that he should have named his site Nighty Nightgaunt.  You should comment and tell him the same.

I'm very lucky to have such funny and well-informed friends, even they are mostly all cootie-infested boys.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Strongly Worded Letter

The SOPA/PIPA blackout seems to have been quite successful, with the websites of several congressmembers going down, phone lines being tied up, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth in Washington DC.  I remember a time when people of my generation were considered politically and socially apathetic, ensconsed as we are in our "virtual" world of vidja games and websites.  Now I see people complaining because we're speaking out against things we don't like!  I guess that means we're doing something right!

And, along the theme of Doing Right, I'll give you a link to an inspiring screed from professional internet troll, Maddox.  I'd apologize for the Myspace inspired, migraine-inducing layout of his blog, but I think that's actually the point.  Anyway, he's published a list of companies that supported SOPA, with an injunction to pick two or three of these companies, and hit them where it hurts: their wallet.  Take a look, play along.  I'll even add to that:  send those companies a letter letting them know that they've lost your business, and exactly why.  Send companies that you're not really able to boycott a similar letter, expressing your displeasure with their stance on this policy.  The point is to rub their noses in it in a way that will actually make a difference.

Here's the companies that I've chosen to deal with, from the list of supporting companies on the Wiki article:
Disney Corporation (Disney is evil anyway, but I really love me some Pixar)*
Harper-Collins (Ugh, no more Neil Gaiman, even though he's against it)
Pfizer (Mah OTC drugs, nooo!)

And here's the letter I'm going to send to them:

Dear (fill in blank here),

Due to your company's support of the Stop Online Piracy Act or the Protect IP Act, I have decided to no longer patronize your company.  Your support of these acts indicates that your company approves of the restriction of free speech through censorship under a thin guise of weak copyright protection.  I'm very disappointed as I've come to rely on your product for (fill in blank), and hope that you reevaluate your stance.  Please strive to do better in the future.


Of course, before you go off half-cocked, make sure that the companies you've selected are actually supporting one of these acts.  New Balance, for example, shows up on Maddox's list, but I haven't been able to find any other indication, through googling, checking their website, or the list on Wikipedia that they're flaming jerkwads in this regard.  This is good, because I really want to buy a new pair of running shoes for my birthday, and had hoped to get them from New Balance.  Score one for fact-checking!  This is why I've used the wiki list as a reference, rather than the Maddox list.

Thank god google and amazon oppose this, or I'd be completely screwed for anything to do with my day.

* OH GOD.  Disney owns ABC, which shows "Grey's Anatomy." FUUUUUUUU....

The Mysteries of the Slow Cooker

While grocery shopping after seeing my therapist yesterday I impulse-purchased a 6 quart Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker with Removable Dishwasher Safe Stoneware & Glass Lid, Keep Warm Setting, and Lid Latch (tm) Strap (for easier portability).

Isn't it pretty?


Oooh, aaah!

We used to have a smaller, 3 quart slow cooker, but when we moved away from Berkeley and into my husband's parent's house, we got rid of most of our belongings.  The corner by our apartment was a veritable 2-week smorgasbord of free stuff, neatly bypassing such clunky institutions as thrift stores or Freecycle.  Even though I didn't use my old slow cooker much, I've kind of missed it.  Think about it:  its this incredibly versatile machine that can cook things for you when you aren't even home.  For the lazy home-cook, that's pretty amazing!  I'm pretty sure its also amazing for people who aren't lazy, like parents or people who are employed.

The problem is, I'm a little intimidated by the damn thing.  I can chiffonade, stir-fry or blanch with the best of them, but for some reason, when it comes to slow cookers, I'm paralyzed with indecision and fear.  What if I don't put enough liquid in?  What if I put too much?  What if I make this 8-hour recipe, and it ends up being really gross?  Why can't I find a recipe that doesn't contain at least one item I object to?  WHAT IF I SUCK AT SLOW-COOKERY??

That's a lot of anxiety, which leads to me viewing my fancy piece of kitchen technology as akin to that freaky monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Perhaps familiarity with the beast will lessen my anxiety?  On close inspection, this contraption seems to be pretty sturdy, though it was pretty cheap.  I mean, I only paid $20 for it, and considering how much time I've spent working at a cookware store that regularly hawked slow cookers for $200 or more, I'm pretty stoked.  The stoneware crock (whiteware to be exact) is heavy and sturdy.  The three settings (keep warm, low, and high) seem luxuriously versatile, and the lid is... well, its glass.  And it has a knob!  Yay!  The thing also comes with this elastic band to cinch the lid down onto the crock during travel.  There's even notches in the handles so it will stay snugly in place.  I am so enamored with this feature that I will have to find some excuses for making portable dishes.  Maybe my league-mates would like to have some pot roast right after practice?  Or my neighbors might like a surprise chicken casserole!  Hopefully I don't lose the band before I have a chance to use it.

The underside of the sturdy crock, showing it's whiteware nature, as well as the elastic lid band thing.

Lid Latch (tm) ENGAGED!

The entire thing is a little dusty from being in the box, but I can't wash it right now because the Lazarus Plant is participating in Occupy Sink.

Yes, those are the trimmed leaves of the plant set as mulch.  Think of it as a cozy blanket of lopped-off, gangrenous limbs.
So, while I'm attempting to suppress my mageirocophobia and coax Lazarus out of the sink, I'll also be researching some slow-cooker recipes.  Please feel free to share any that you've had success with!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Please Oppose SOPA/PIPA

Please take a moment to read up on a set of bills currently before Congress that will severely limit free speech on the internet.  Then, please contact your representatives to make your opinion known.  Then, tell your friends and have them also take action to protect our First Amendment Rights.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Instant Gratification

Brian put up my post tonight, on Cast Iron Therapy!  GO LOOK AT IT RIGHT NOW!

Now do a happy dance with me!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I haven't forgotten you

After a two-month holiday hiatus, I'll be returning with a bang!  My dear friend Brian, who runs Cast Iron Therapy, has graciously allowed me to guest post about a family recipe that is particularly close to my heart.  We are currently editing the draft, so I'm not sure when it will go into the posting queue.  When it goes live, I'll make sure to give you guys the link.  I'm quite excited, and I hope you all will get a kick out of it!

My husband and I spent the last month back home in California, and have really enjoyed seeing friends and family for the holidays.  I think at this point I've been able to see almost everyone I wanted to make a point of seeing, and quite a few more.  We'll be flying back home on Thursday, and after that I expect to be posting regularly.

This year, I'd like to work on reducing our output and consumption of excess - trash, energy, food, and more.  I'm going to work on sourcing more things locally, and will be attempting to produce more of our own "stuff."  There will hopefully be quite a few post along these lines in the coming months.

I'm also going to finish that freaking adorable steam-punky outfit that I had all planned out right before I left.  That wont be until February, though, so don't hold your breath.

The upshot:  good things to come, I promise!