Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't toss the beet greens!

Beet greens are delicious. They can be used as a substitute for spinach, chard or kale.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Caroline's new favorite vegetable? Beets!

Last year, Caroline would barely touch my roasted beets. This year, she can't get enough of them. She likes golden beets and Chioggia beets (the pink and white stripped variety) but her favorite beets are the red ones. She likes the taste enough to eat them but what she loves most is the way that they make her tongue (and everything she touches) that deep red-purple color. Sometimes, she rubs the roasted red beets along her lips and says, "Look Mama! Lipstick!" I don't encourage food play but I let Caroline get away with a few applications.

I roast a bunch (or a couple of bunches) of beets on the weekend, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator, and use them throughout the week in salads, as a side dish, or just as is.

Roasted beets


Preheat the oven to 450F. Trim beets and scrub clean. Small beets can be roasted whole. Large beets should be cut in half or quartered (depending on their size) if they are going to be roasted alongside small beets. Place beets, cut-side down, in a oven-proof dish. Add a splash or two of water. Cover dish tightly with foil. Place in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until beets are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Peel beets while they are still warm by using fingers to rub off the skin.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Strawberry (or other fruit) jam salad dressing

We bought a flat of strawberries at the farmers' market a few weeks ago and ended up turning about half of it into jam. I love strawberry jam but we probably have more of it now that we can use up in the next year. While tinkering around together in the kitchen last week, Caroline and I made strawberry jam salad dressing. The recipe is simple: 1:1 ratio of olive oil and Agro Dolce vinegar (or champagne vinegar) and strawberry jam to taste. If you like sweet salad dressing, add more strawberry jam. For more subtle hints of strawberries, add less.

What happened to our lettuce? And our broccoli?

Saturday afternoon was my first trip to our community garden plot since returning home Friday after an overnight trip to DC. When I saw that the tips of our lettuce leaves had been broken off, I have to admit that my first thought (or maybe I said it out loud) was, "Doesn't Geoff know how to pick lettuce?" But then I saw that the tip of one of the broccoli leaves also had been ripped off. It seemed strange that Geoff would have tried to harvest a broccoli leaf. When I got home, I asked Geoff, "Um, did you pick some lettuce while I was gone?" When he shook his head, I panicked. What had gotten into our lettuce? When we planted our garden, we put up a fence around our entire plot. We even buried it and used metal stakes to secure it into the ground so that critters wouldn't be able to eat our food. When I checked my email later that afternoon, I saw that I had a message from Katherine, one of our community garden sages. She wrote, "So I was just out in the garden and it looks like a groundhog got into your garden." I felt my blood pressure rise as I kept reading. It turns out that a groundhog got into our plot through slits in our fence, probably made by the University of Michigan Northwood grounds maintenance crew who weed-wack around the fence. Katherine, who also happens to be a friend, repaired our fence for us by patching the slits with pieces of fencing material and garden-variety twist ties. I was thankful and thought that our groundhog problem had been resolved. But when I went to check on our garden this morning, I saw that the bottom of our "door" had been pushed aside and found our broccoli plant standing near-naked with its leaves eaten away. I am not happy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Raspberries!

Our first stop at the Ann Arbor farmers' market this morning was Tantre Farm located next to Hollander's and near 4th and Kingsley. These days, we start our Saturday morning farmers' market shopping at Tantre Farm because they have a large variety of produce; whatever we can't buy there, we buy from other vendors. This morning, they had yellow/gold and red raspberries! Caroline loves raspberries so we bought a couple of half-pint containers of the red variety. The USDA certified organic raspberries were $4 for a container. I don't always buy USDA certified organic produce but when it comes to berries, which are so hard to clean, I almost always buy them from vendors who do not spray their berries with chemicals. Caroline loved the raspberries and ate a full half-pint container as we walked through the market.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How to Talk to Woodchucks

Geoff: Caroline, what would you say if the woodchuck came up and wanted to eat our flowers? I would say, "Get away, woodchuck!"

Caroline: No, Daddy. That would not be nice. I would say, "Woodchuck, please don't eat the flowers because Mama will be cross."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Simple and in-season: Summer squash quesadillas

It's 90F outside and too hot to cook anything that requires turning on the stove or oven for long periods of time. I contemplated getting take-out sushi for dinner but since it's a farmers' market day, we'll have something simple and in-season tonight: quesadillas made with summer squash and Monterey Jack cheese and salad made with lettuce from our garden. Dessert? Mulberries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My carrot came up!

About a month ago, Caroline started singing a song about carrots. "Carrots grow from carrot seeds, I planted one today. I watered it, I
pulled the weeds, carrots grow from carrot seeds." The song is based on Ruth Krauss' 1945 book, The Carrot Seed. Caroline's teachers, Sandra and Erin, are both interested in food and nutrition so I wasn't surprised when I walked into her classroom one day and saw the row of red flower pots, planted with carrot seeds, lined up on the window sill. Mya's carrot seeds germinated first. Others slowly followed. Until today, Caroline's pot looked like it was filled only with dirt. But she wasn't discouraged. "Not yet" she would say in a sing-song voice when we checked on her pot in the mornings. When I picked her up today, she was very excited to tell me that her seed had germinated. "My carrot came up!" she said. We looked into her pot and sure enough, a tiny plant had poked its way through the dirt. We have a garden at home but I love that Caroline gets a chance to grow food with her teachers and friends. Growing food allows Caroline to learn how to care for a plant and exposes her to the work that is involved in planting a seed and nurturing it to maturity. And it teaches her the value of patience...It will still be a couple of months before the carrots are ready to harvest and to eat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parsley House

Uncle Butch made us this "parsley house" to keep the woodchucks out of our pots. It's made out of chicken wire and a bamboo stick. The chicken wire was bent to form a tube and wire cutters and pliers were used to cut and bend the wire together along the long sides of the tube.The bamboo stick, which runs along the bottom of the pot through two holes in the chicken wire, is meant to prevent the woodchucks from knocking over the house. Clever.

Ah ha! It's a woodchuck!

Here is one of the woodchucks that has been eating our parsley! It turns out a family of 5 live two doors down beneath our neighbor's back porch.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Halibut and...

When we headed out to the farmers' market this morning, I had planned to buy asparagus to serve for dinner tonight alongside the halibut that I bought yesterday. Uncle Butch, our favorite uncle from Portland, Oregon, is visiting for the weekend and I had hoped to show off some Michigan asparagus. I was disappointed to learn however, that asparagus season is over. Unbeknownest to me, I ate my last bite of this year's fresh Michigan asparagus this past Tuesday night. I mourned about the end of asparagus season for about a minute or two and then quickly turned my attention to the strawberries , cucumbers, greens, peas, and everything else that is now in-season. I began thinking about a new menu for dinner tonight. Frog Holler Farm had cone cabbage and cilantro and Tantre Farm had yellow summer squash (pictured here) and beets. And I knew I had a package of La Jalisciencse whole wheat tortillas at home. New menu? Halibut soft tacos with roasted yellow summer squash and cone caabbage cilantro slaw. Roasted beets with fennel oil on the side.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday morning at SELMA

When my alarm went off at 6:00 am this morning, I was tempted to hit snooze so that I could get another hour of sleep. With the thunder and heavy rain, I tossed and turned in bed for most of the night. I was tired and in a bad mood. But instead of pulling the pillow over my head, I got out of bed, took a quick shower, and got dressed. It was Friday morning and I promised Caroline last night that I would take her to SELMA for a special breakfast. I don't know if she would have been upset if we skipped it (or if she even remembered my promise) but it's important to me that I keep my word. Plus, I knew that being around friends would do more for my mood than a couple of extra strength Tylenol. SELMA is a volunteer-run local-foods breakfast salon on the Westside of Ann Arbor. Every Friday morning, Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe open their home to their community to join them for breakfast made with seasonal and local ingredients. I met Lisa yesterday at the Food System Economic Partnership conference in Adrian but I first heard of SELMA from my friend Julia earlier this week. We arrived at Lisa and Jeff's home at 7:00 am and before we even got to the front door, I could smell something delicious. Bacon? Once inside, Lisa greeted us and welcomed us into her home. We signed-in, wrote our names on masking tape name tags, and made our way to the kitchen where people were mingling, eating, cooking, and serving. The menu was posted on a piece of butcher paper taped to the wall: tortilla espanola with potatoes and onions, tortilla flamenca with peppers, potatoes, and onions, frittata with Jeff's homemade coppa, waffles with fruit and bacon, yogurt granola parfait with fruit. Guests are invited to make a donation for their meal; money raised is used to support the local food community. Caroline and I sat on bar stools at the huge kitchen island. Baby Sophia, her doll, sat on the island, propped up against the pepper grinder. My friend Julia was one of the many SELMA volunteers working this morning. She served me a very good cup of coffee and brought a special breakfast for Caroline: pizza fritte drizzled with chocolate and served with fresh strawberries and a mint leaf (pictured here). Carolyn, who I met for the first time today, took my order: frittata with coppa served with greens. We ate our breakfast slowly and savored every bite. The frittata and greens were delicious. And Caroline loved the pizza fritte. We left SELMA around 8:00 am with me feeling relaxed and Caroline with chocolate on her lips...and on her forehead!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dig a hole and bury it!

It's almost 10:00 pm and Geoff is outside digging a hole in our backyard for our fruit and vegetable scraps. Why? About a month ago, we decided that we wanted to start composting. We had been generating so much garbage but most of what was getting thrown away was food. But we didn't want to invest a lot of time on building a composting system or a lot of money on a fancy turning unit. So, when our friend Joan told us that she gave up her 3 compartment composting system for the old "dig a hole and bury it" method of composting, we thought...why not give it a try? Since then, Geoff has been digging small holes in the backyard and filling them with our fruit and vegetable scraps. The amount of garbage that we generate has decreased and hopefully, we are improving the quality of our soil. There's one problem...we are running out of places where we can dig our holes.

What happened to our parsley?

Before heading out the door every morning, Caroline and I water the herbs we planted in the pots on our small back patio (which is really just a small slab of concrete). We grow rosemary, edible flowers, curly parsley and until this morning, Italian flat leaf parsley. The stems of the flat leaf parsley are still in the pot but the leaves aren't. What happened to our parsley?! Caroline had an idea. "The woodchuck ate it" she said. I think she is right. A woodchuck (a rather plump woodchuck, I might add) has been hanging around our backyard for about a month now and has been munching on the dandelions. Has he moved on to our parsley?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strawberries and Joan's Granola

When we visited our friend Joan a few weeks ago at her home in Piermont, NY, we went to the nearby farmers' market early one morning for the season's first strawberries. Joan served the strawberries with plain yogurt, maple syrup, and her famous homemade granola. It was delicious. Caroline liked the strawberries and plain yogurt but she loved the granola. It's made with rolled oats, wheat germ, sesame seeds, powdered milk, sliced almonds, ground hazelnuts, honey, and vegetable oil, and is probably more nutritious (and more affordable) than the typical store-bought variety. In Michigan, strawberries are now in season. We bought an entire flat this morning from Sweet Spot Orchards for $32. When we got home, Caroline and I made granola using Joan's recipe; the recipe is published in her book, "This Organic Life." Caroline loved scooping out the ingredients and then mixing everything together in a big bowl using her hands. Breakfast tomorrow: Sweet Spot Orchards strawberries, Joan's homemade granola, plain yogurt, and Michigan maple syrup.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cherries in DC!

It was Caroline who spotted the cherries first. "Mama! Cherries!" she said pointing to a huge display of the season's first cherries. They were bright red and on the small side as far as cherries go. I grabbed a quart and gave them to Caroline to hold as we waited in line to pay a steep $8 in exchange for a taste of the season's first cherries. It's still too early for cherries in Michigan. But we were in DC over the weekend and within a 150-mile radius of DC, cherry season is just beginning. Our Sunday morning ritual when we are in DC is to visit the Dupont Circle farmers' market and buy smoked blue fish empanadas from Chris' Marketplace to eat for breakfast. On Sunday, we found a shady spot on the east side of the market where we sat down to eat our empanadas and cherries. Within minutes of sitting down, Caroline's white tank top was stained red-purple from the cherry juice that dripped from fingers as she tried to remove the pits and down her chin as popped each one into her mouth. It won't be long now before we'll be able to enjoy cherries here in Michigan.
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