31 January 2010

I am thinking of things that are brown.

Earlier today R and I went for a hike at Pulgas Ridge, where there was a serious fetid adder's tongue (Scoliopus bigelovii) party on the northwest side. Check this out:

So I don't forget, this is what I baked today, adapted from Dreena Burton's Vegan Recipes. Though, honestly, the whole wheat-for-spelt substitution was simply because I couldn't fathom a trip to Whole Paycheck just for spelt flour. These cookies are an attempt to solve two challenges: (1) being vegan for 1 or 2 months and (2) not being super hungry on days that I run. Immediately out of the oven they taste pretty good!

Super-Charge Me! Cookies

1 cup oats / whole grain mix
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp (rounded) sea salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 - 1/3 cup dried berries
3-4 tbsp walnut pcs
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flax meal
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Stir in oil. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon batter onto baking sheet evenly space apart, and lightly flatten. Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Number of Servings: 12

In other news, I sowed seeds today (indoors, of course)! Cherry & Roma tomatoes, baby bell peppers, Ancho, Jalapeno, and New Mexican chiles, marigolds, and Echinacea. Get psyched for spring!

29 January 2010

Salinger & Zinn

I have to say, right now, that I have a closer affinity for Zinn, and more sentiment, than I do for Salinger. I think this is probably telling, but here's the thing: Salinger, at least in my brief, distant experience with him, wrote books for boys. It's interesting, actually. Adam Gopnick's tribute claims that "In American writing, there are three perfect books, which seem to speak to every reader and condition: 'Huckleberry Finn,' 'The Great Gatsby,' and 'The Catcher in the Rye.'" Funny thing - these are all books about men/boys. In contrast, A People's History of the United States reminds us that there is more to U.S. history, and life, than white men and their adventures. This also all sweetly reminds me of my high school APUS history teacher, Mr. Strand, who had us reading Zinn, Takaki, and Stephen Steinberg when we were supposed to be memorizing textbooks. In hindsight, those books (and Mr. Strand?) played huge roles in my adult view of the world.

AND, I am reminded that I should own (or at least preview from the library) Voices of a People's History of the U.S. - Zinn's selection of primary sources. Just as soon as the stack of books on the bedside table shrinks a bit.


This almost made me cry. Poor Rover...

19 January 2010

The best laid plans...

Before I start I would like to thank the home rental gods for providing me with a home with a gas stove. I woke up this morning (after waking up at the normal time, hitting the snooze, and going back to sleep) to find that the power was out and it was much later than I expected. Cool, except that my coffee maker needs electricity, and therefore I need electricity. But I rummaged out the French press, lit a burner on the stove, and made coffee anyway. Also, I'm glad I remembered to grind beans the night before. That does need electricity. I should keep an emergency stash of ground beans somewhere...

And then here we go. I am not a great cook. I'm not a terrible cook, but since I am a vegetarian and try to stick to Michael Pollan's rules ("Eat food, not too much, mostly plants") and experiment with raw diets, I don't have a huge repertoire. BUT I do own a tart pan (for reasons I won't discuss here) and so when the opportunity to produce a baked good of the tart variety arises, I often volunteer.

So, my friend is rallying some folks to try to raise money for Haiti the old fashioned way - with a rum-focused bake sale, Haitian single-drip coffee, and whatever we can get away with making in the bike-powered blender. Naturally, I volunteered to bake a tart.

Searching epicurious for baked deserts with rum, I found this, which looked relatively simple. And it is. Two problems: the "1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs" should read "1 1/2 cups." I know this now. Now that the bottom of my oven is covered in burned butter, my stove hood has been venting for 30 minutes, and both house doors are wide open (in January). Second problem is that it turns out (I should read these things more carefully before I start to make them) that the filling is just bananas mixed with apricot jam. JAM. Is that lame, or is it just me?

But it turned out at least food-looking, and my vision is to cut it up then serve single slivers topped with the whipped cream. And nutmeg. Or maybe I'll add nutmeg now...

18 January 2010

To Link, or Not To Link

There are now five sprouted asparagus, and after untangling an epic knot, I'm trying to get back in the knitting saddle, as it were.

There are some additional ponderings, but they may have to wait.

14 January 2010

Tiny Asparagus

Today there were two (of ten root crowns planted on 12/30).

[sorry about the crappy picture] They were planted about 10 inches deep, then covered with a few inches of soil. Once they've all emerged I'll cover them with a couple more inches, until they emerge again, looping (I've been writing code all day) until the ground is flat again. Then NEXT YEAR we get to taste a bit of home-grown asparagus. This year we're just all about establishment.

In other news it's supposed to rain like crazy all weekend/next week, so I may get my wish of lazing around the house and reading all day. And in one of my beer traps there was a crazy huge larvae thing. Gross.

11 January 2010

On Coffee

I'm thinking a lot about coffee these days because (1) a friend of ours sent us some of his favorite local beans for Christmas and (2) apparently coffee grounds spread around a plant prevent slugs (so far so good!). BUT, more interestingly, recently several people have independently told me how their new favorite thing is single-cup, freshly-ground drip coffee, and how they've found it to be the most delicious, best way to enjoy the brew. "Wow," I've responded. "Yeah... you know that's like the hipster trend of the moment, right?" They all have responded with disappointment and/or incredulity. "Really?" "Damn."

Though it's not really even of the moment. Blue Bottle Coffee has been around for nearly 10 years (they now sell it on campus), I had single brew coffee from a pedi-cart in Chico, CA, almost three years ago, there's a single-brew place in my (not hip) neighborhood, and the Chemex was invented in 1941 (so could it qualify as steampunk?). There's no real point to this except that (1) how can people be so unaware of what, at least in the Bay Area, is like 15 minutes away from being the next big ubiquitous thing, and (2) be so bummed that it's a trend?

Interestingly (with some web surfing), it seems as if there may be a debate among coffee brewers at this time. Some, like Blue Bottle and Chemex, rock the pour-through-paper-filter method. Others, like Stumptown, are apparently all about the French press-style (soak the grinds then filter). I am apparently not the expert to judge, but I will point out that I tend to be anti-sludge.

Still, as long as we still have a non-Nescafe option, I'm cool.

10 January 2010

Oddly Cleansing

Yesterday morning we started cutting. Or, I started cutting on the small apple tree. Then we moved up to the big apple and flowering plum. The carbon-handled loppers N got me for Christmas are fantastic, as are N's climbing skills and our neighbors. Midday yesterday involved our neighbor on the roof of his garage (with the white siding in the picture), beer in one hand, chainsaw-on-a-stick in the other, us with a rope around a limb to pull it into our yard, and then a lot of smoke (chain could use some sharpening). Here are the winning shots. Before:

And after:

The neighbors also loaned us the cutting pole and the crazy ratcheting loppers. Which were great. The flowering plum still has a big top on it, but, well, it's really tall and awkward. Plus a hummingbird definitely considers the top of the tree to be an essential part of its territory, so we felt bad cutting it down. Maybe next year it will have to go all together. I starting thinking I could plant a coffeeberry or two in its place...

I have a new respect for wood rats after my experience cutting up and piling tiny bits of stick (which will maybe all fit in our green waste bin eventually? too much for the compost, I think, and we probably shouldn't burn it). It's a lot of work! And imagine doing all that with just your teeth and no opposable thumbs!

We also caught another slug (!!!) and I'm trying using coffee grounds around the bases of plants as a slug deterrent. We shall see. I ordered the last of the seeds we need for the summer, so I think we're pretty good to go. Though we may just have to wrap copper tape around all the raised beds. And I'm still waiting for the asparagus to come up. Did I mention the asparagus...?

06 January 2010

Update - spoke too soon

In the daylight this a.m. I saw this

Next to this

Victory! But only one. How many more are out there...?

The Slug Wars of 2010

I think the garden has a (minor) slug problem (holes nibbled in leaves, a few missing edges). So I did the reasonable thing and went and got a six-pack of Simpler Times, sank a few shallow jars/salsa containers between the plants, filled them each with the brew and a pinch of yeast, and patiently waited. But it's morning number two and still no slug carnage! Somewhere the internets said birds might pick the dead slugs out, so you might not see them, but I just went out pre-dawn and still no slugs! Am I doing something wrong? No noticeable increase in slug damage, either, so maybe they're on vacation, but I'm pretty disappointed. (side note: how do Buddhists grow food? I'm down with growing organically, but not killing pests? How does that work?)

I also read in a book that spreading coffee grounds around the base of seedlings (or just on the ground before they sprout) works. I may try this on the strawberries. And N loves it when I collect and store random trash-like things. Tupperware full of used coffee grounds, anyone?

02 January 2010

First Harvest

Radishes! Meowkay, so we've been eating the arugula, lettuce, and spinach for a bit now, but this is the first things we've actually, like, grown into food (esp. since I bought the lettuce & spinach as starts, so basically all I've done is not kill them... yet...)

N's dad and step-mom are in town and coming over for dinner, so I thought it was an appropriate occasion to harvest. I've spent most of the past few days poring through seed catalogs, and designing our spring garden, but I'm beginning to worry that I won't have much to do in the coming months.

But then again, N got me awesome carbon-handled (of course) Felco loppers for Christmas and so now I get to go nuts on our trees. We did the fig last week, and the apples and plum will come along shortly. Though I think those will be a bit more involved.

I also *finally* finished the baby quilt I was making, and I'm pretty happy with it (but the next babies are definitely getting knitted things!) and threw together some slippers for the cousins and sister-in-law. Mental note = sewing through vinyl is hard! But seeing all three of them immediately put them on Christmas Eve was totally cool.

Okay. Time to go help cook! (vegetarian risotto with pureed acorn squash, porcini, & red bell pepper, roast asparagus, and warm spinach salad)

Happy New Year, internet!