Thursday, June 27, 2013

CSA Week 1

We I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) this summer.  Kevin was against it.  In fact, he vetoed the idea twice.  The third time I brought up the idea he was resigned and said something along the lines of "you are going to do what you are going to do and it will all work out in the budget anyway." I took that as resounding permission and signed up! So excited!

Kevin has a bad association with CSAs because the one I did while we lived in Alaska involved a lot of kale.  We got kale kale kale and more kale.  Neither of us are really fans of kale.  I made kale lasagna once to use some of it and I guess... I suppose... more of the kale ended up in the pieces I served Kevin.  He has never forgotten how I tried to unload all the kale on him and has a negative association with CSAs.

The one I decided to try this year is a collective of many farms (rather than a true CSA where you support one farm) so I feel like we are better hedging our bets.  We should get a greater variety of food. The first week was last week and it runs 16 weeks.  With a CSA you pay upfront (so the farmers have a chunk of money at the beginning of the season) and get a share of the season.  It worked out to be $20/week.  I'm going to use this space as a way to remember what we got, what we used (vs. wasting) and whether it was overall worth $20/week.

Week 1:

We got lettuce, garlic scapes, swiss chard, beets (with greens), strawberries, scallions, and wait for it... kale.  I gave my kale away to a random person at the farmer's market.  I knew I couldn't come home with kale on the first week, Kevin's impression of the share would be forever ruined.

Here is what we did with it:

Lettuce and strawberries:  Strawberry and lettuce salad.  We also ate the strawberries fresh and froze some.

Garlic scapes and scallions: We've been using them as we otherwise would use garlic and onions. I love scapes, especially roasted.  They taste somewhat like garlic but when roasted are almost sweet.  The season is very short (and right now) so you should go get some right away.

Chard: sauteed with scapes and eaten with lamb biryani. 
Beets: sweets and beets with scallions and scapes (roasted - yum!)
Beet greens: sauteed with scapes and scallions and added to chicken curry.

Thrown away: 0% (so far). If the scapes and the scallions look like they will go bad before we use them I plan to freeze them to add to soups over the winter.

Was it worth $20?  Probably not (although it might be close), even though it was all organic.  But it is the beginning of the season and runs through October.  I expect some weeks will be worth a lot more than $20 to even out the early weeks.  There are also some intangibles that I should factor in, first being that it brings me a lot of joy.  I love going to the farmer's market to pick up my share.  I love supporting local small farms who practice sustainable agriculture.  It also provides us more variety.  If I had been buying a la carte at the farmer's market I probably would not have picked up swiss chard but we both enjoyed it alongside the lamb biryani.  So the verdict is still out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Artichoke Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust

My mom sent me a new cookbook as a surprise! Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. I'm pretty excited about it since we've been focusing on eating unprocessed food lately.  I tried one of her vegetarian recipes: Artichoke Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust.

It was a good prepare ahead recipe, I made it the night before we ate it.  Not on purpose actually, it just took a lot longer than I was expecting so to avoid a 9:30 dinner I made a frozen pizza instead.

 The crust was a cornmeal, egg and cheese mix.

The filling was yogurt, egg, artichokes, rosemary,  scallions and cheese (the recipe called for goat but I had fresh mozzarella).  We had it along side a strawberry-pecan salad.  The strawberries and the lettuce is from our local food summer share.

The verdict:

Thumbs down.  The salad was great.  The tart was eh. I wasn't a fan of the polenta crust and it was a bit bland overall.  I do tend to use recipes as guidelines rather than rules though, so I am sure it is not Speck's fault (but rather my interpretation of her tart).  I am excited to try some of her other recipes - I've never had wheat berries but I spotted them in our local food co-op last week.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sick Paws

It has been a rough couple of weeks over at Chez 4Feet8Paws.  All of our paws have had various degrees of illness or injury.

The day after we took Roxy swimming (so 6/10) she woke up very very sick.  We know Roxy is not feeling well when she refuses food (normally she cannot get enough and hoovers down anything you give her).  She stayed sick and miserable over the next week - not eating, not wanting to walk or play, being very lethargic.  We were very very worried.  Kevin brought her in to the clinic and put her on antibiotics, ran blood work, put her on IV fluids for three days, and did an ultra sound on her liver.  We were worried about cancer but the ultra sound didn't show anything (good news!) and her blood work progressively got better each time he ran it.  So it was either an infection or a toxin that she got over herself (we'll never know).  She is finally back to normal.  On Tuesday we were both so happy when she asked for food! On any normal night she asks for food and we ignore her (she would eat all the time if she could).  I imagine she was surprised when we both started cheering when we realized she was asking for food and then gave her a generous scoop.

She has some hair that needs to grow back in:

Kinsey also had a minor injury.  The weekend we were so active (two runs, a hike, and a beach walk) were too much for him and he tore his paw pad.  Kevin said it was kind of like a skinned knee - but on the bottom of your foot, so ouch!  We took it easy for a week -- he was a little surprised and annoyed at the short walks.  By the end of the week he was a bit pent up but he healed up just fine.  We went for a short run today, he was excited.

The not happy ending story is Pippa. On Tuesday Kevin noticed that Pippa was very pale.  Her gums, her ears, and her nails were all much whiter than pink (they should be pink). At first we thought that maybe Pippa and Roxy both got into something that made them sick but it turns out that Pippa has Feline Leukemia Virus. Her prognosis is not good.  Her immune system is attacking her red blood cells and she is very anemic and will likely only be with us a short time.  She has probably had this the whole time, although it didn't show up on the first test at the shelter. Kevin's been calling experts all over the country, trying to get her into a clinical study.

We are both pretty devastated.  While we've only had her a short time, we've both become very attached.  She is a really great cat and we were hoping to have her for 20 years, but at this point it looks like we'll be lucky if we have her for a year.  She just got a promotion from third class citizen to first. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

House Tour Part 3

I know, I know, I haven't shown you the upstairs yet (so am skipping over part 2) but bear with me.  Eventually I'll show you the upstairs.  For now I want to show you the carriage house.  I've mentioned before that we have two tenants: one who lives in the third floor apartment and one who lives in the apartment over the garage (the carriage house).

The carriage house tenant is away for two weeks so we went in to take some photos.  Kevin is also doing some work so that when it comes up for rent later this summer we can turn it right over.

It is a really nice space. On a really nice street:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Crispy Blackened Tofu

Kevin is not a fan of tofu.  At all.  I have tried it several times and each time he has remained firm in his dislike.  I decided to give it one more try and followed this recipe because her intro states "[o]ne of the questions I hear most often from readers is wondering how to get their “meat and potatoes” boyfriend/husband/dad/whoever to start eating a more plant-based diet. This, my friends, is your answer."

I started by draining a block of tofu (wrapped it in a clean dishtowel and put it under some heavy books.  The plastic protected the books).

Then I made the spice rub.  I used a fresh garlic clove instead of garlic powder and flour instead of corn starch.  I don't like to buy things I don't regularly use for just one recipe so I always look for substitutes.  I also subbed rosemary for oregano (didn't have any oregano). 

Not pictured is soaking the tofu slices quickly in soy sauce.  Then I fried them in sesame oil.

Served over buttery asparagus and cheesy risotto, I thought it was great.  What did the skeptic think?

Okay! Since he had such a negative association with tofu to start I am going to call that a win.  The spice rub was great.  We'll definitely be using it again. The sausage I made for him on the side...

that got a thumbs up (of course).

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend in Review

The last few weekends in May were filled with working on the house, which was productive but not so much fun.  This past weekend we decided to make a concerted effort to have some adventures and not work on the house (much).

We did do a few things around the house, including Kevin patching a hole in our bedroom ceiling.  I don't think I mentioned it here but we woke up to water dripping through the ceiling several weeks back.  The third floor shower had a leak and we had to call a plumber out to fix it.  There was a pretty big hole that led to some serious sound issues -- the third floor is occupied by our tenant.  We both were pretty sick of waking up to him singing the "red balloon" song in the shower (sounding like he was right next to us) so Kevin worked a bit on fixing it.  It got a bit better.

We also finished up painting the dining room.  A preview:

More pictures to follow once we get it all back together.

Once those two chores were out of the way we decided to go for a hike.  We headed about an hour south to the High Tor Wildlife Management Area.  As I've mentioned before hiking is a relative term and what some people call hiking here I call "walking in a park."  Not true for High Tor - it had some pretty big inclines and some pretty good views along the way.

Not unlike us, we lost the trail we were supposed to be following almost immediately.  It took us awhile to figure out that we were no longer on it and decide to backtrack.  A photo from our detour:
Interestingly, we were standing on that cliff when we took the middle picture above.  We were initially on the wrong side of the gorge (we went off course when we missed the sign to cross the stream).  It was kind of cool to know what we were climbing/standing on and to get both perspectives.

Roxy couldn't come hiking with us so we took her swimming on Sunday.  She had fun.

I did two good runs.  One a sub-9 minute miler.  I was pretty happy with that time.

The second run we did was a bit longer (6 miles) and a bit slower (10 minute miles).  It was hotter and I was a bit hung over from a BYO Ethiopian meal Saturday night (I <3 BYO restaurants).  I don't regret any of it -- the wine, the Ethiopian, or the running.

We rounded out the weekend with a dinner with Kevin's parents and going to bed early in preparation for the week.  All in all it was a great weekend and I hope we can incorporate more of them into our summer.

(Sorry about the poor quality photos - I used my cell phone camera rather than dragging our big camera along with us.  I am happy with my non iPhone smart phone except for the camera.  Samsung has a long way to go to catch up to the quality of the iPhone cameras).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Senior Among Us

I mentioned recently that we celebrated Roxy's 11th birthday this year.  Chronic ankle and elbow issues have plagued her for as long as I've known her, but over the past two years she has been slowing down a noticeable amount. She still wants to play (A LOT!) but can no longer do the long walks and hikes we used to.  And the walks we do go on are at a much slower pace.  She'll often ask for (demand) breaks.  We'll be walking and she'll just lie down and refuse to move.

She gets a stubborn look in her eye and goes dead weight.  I try to give her as many breaks as she needs (even though it means our walks take forever now).  It doesn't hurt that one place we often walk has the best view of the city so I'm happy to take a break on a nice day. 

Rainy days are not so much fun.  And there was that one time where a couple was literally having sex outside and as I tried to rush by Roxy decided to demand a break and go dead weight.  An awkward few minutes followed...

I'm finding it to be a difficult balance to strike.  Roxy wants to play and to go for walks but if we push her too far, she's lame for the next couple of days.  It is also difficult on days where we are busy because Kinsey (and we) need(s) more exercise and Roxy wants to take a long slow walk.   So either Roxy gets shorted or Kinsey doesn't get enough exercise.

We keep her pretty drugged up in order to keep her pain levels down.

Wrapped in this kind of cheese is the only way she'll take the pills willingly.  We've tried lots of other ways to hide them - bread, peanut butter, pill pockets - she will spit everything else out.  Weeks where we forget the "Roxy cheese" are not pleasant since we have to shove the pills down her throat.  We try to always have Roxy cheese on hand.

A recent pet death in the family has made me pretty conscious of making the most of our time with her.  While I hope she is with us for many more years, there is no denying that she is a senior.  Lots of rawhide bones, swimming, and frisbee (her favorite things) are in her future this summer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Palak aur Dal (Lentils with Spinach)

The Indian cookbook I got recently has a bunch of vegetarian recipes, so I thought I would try one. I figured lentils (dal) would be a good place to start.

(Notice I caved to the pressure -- in my head -- and got coconut oil).

It was an easy recipe.  Everything but the spinach went into the superpot for seven hours of slow cooking.  I added the spinach at the end to wilt.  Along with some basmati rice and brussel sprouts, it was a complete and healthy vegetarian meal.

 Survey says...

Okay.  I was too timid on the spices -- I could have added more and Kevin says every dal he has had has been blended.  But on the to make again list for sure.