Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: May 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bird Brain

Image courtesy of Google Images.

When thinking a bit more about starlings and other “invasive” species (‘cause that is what I think about in my spare time apparently), a few more things about our current “issues” with invasive species came to mind I thought I would discuss.

One of the major problems (or advantages if you are the critter) with invasive species – in fact, part of what makes them invasive – is their lack of natural predators. Not that they won’t be predated – but the diseases and predators that have adapted to a diet of English Sparrows and European Starlings are in, well, Europe. This allows for their populations to explode if the food sources are plentiful, which here in the US of A, they are.

Another interesting issue that I think contributes to our invasive bird problems are our interesting ways of protecting birds. Not long ago, when we were bringing birds over from Europe, any song bird was a protected species – i.e. you couldn’t just kill it. The designation of song bird included pretty much any bird that wasn’t predatory – this included starlings, sparrows, red winged blackbirds, and other birds we now consider nuisances. Predatory birds on the other hand – hawks, eagles, owls, etc. – were fair game. These birds could be killed at will and with their tendency to predate on things we didn’t want them to predate, we looked to the skies through a gun barrel quite readily. As one can imagine, this led to a rapid decline in the populations of predatory birds – this along with our expanding cities and later “suburbia” really helped do them in.

Today, things have changed. Birds like starlings, sparrows, and pigeons are considered pests; they are no longer protected, and thus can be killed at will. Predatory birds, however, cannot. The tables have been flipped.

An interesting thing about these predatory birds – they eat things like sparrows and starlings, and yet as their populations declined and our habitats for opportunistic little birds increased, we seemed almost surprised at the explosion in the populations of these pesky birds. It seems that a common problem with human logic is to treat the symptom, not the cause of a problem. In this case we want to find a way to destroy the ever growing populations of invasive birds rather than try to pinpoint what it is that is causing the explosion in growth and working from there.

What is even more interesting – to me at least – is the methods in which we have tried to “deal with” these birds. We have done things from creating poisonous perches that will kill starlings to putting out statues of owls to keep the pigeons away. Perhaps a few sharp shinned hawks would provide just as much assistance, send a clearer message, and also not threaten to poison the water and other unintended creatures?

Another interesting idea is to try to figure out a way to co-exist with them peacefully or, if possibly, figure out a way to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the animals in a way that makes them an asset, not pests.

Take for example the purple martin and Griggsville, Illinois.

I discovered Griggsville by accident. We drive through the town each time Brett and I go visit his family in Peoria. It is a tiny little town, no more than a few thousand people, but yet it is very unique. The first time we drove through, I noticed all the purple street signs and these strange purple bird houses everywhere - there was even this crazy pole with tons of birdhouses climbing all the way up it. I recall asking Brett about it and him saying that they were to attract purple martins.

Purple martins, in my opinion, are not the most attractive birds there are, though they are a pretty color. But they do provide a very good service – they eat mosquitoes. They eat vast quantities of mosquitoes, upwards of 2,000 a day. The good folks of Griggsville noticed the service and joyfully encouraged them to roost.

Purple martins are not particularly adept home builders, so these large bird apartments (there are often multiple “quarters” in each house) provided an invaluable service by freeing the bird from having to figure out how to shelter itself, and during the muggy, hot, cookout times of the year, these purple martins keep the town from drenching themselves in pesticides. I like their idea of pest control!

Obviously, this tactic in itself is not be feasible for all manner of bird pests, for one purple martins were never a pest, they were actually endangered for a time. But they provide a unique example of symbiosis - rather than try to eradicate the birds, we could attempt to build a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Certainly we could begin thinking along these lines, or those such as reintroducing native predatory birds and leaving the rest of the work to nature.

One thing some naturalists and environmentalists often forget when they wax poetic on "the way nature used to be" is that our climate, the very topography of the earth (DC was once a swamp remember), our landscape have all changed so much that there is no going back. Who is to say that those previously “native” creatures would be able to thrive in the current environment? We would have to rethink our whole means of housing ourselves and structuring the land, but it is too little too late for that. You can’t go back – we have to remember that. And I have a real problem with people thinking that we not only can, but that we should try to control nature, as if we have the wherewithal to know how to restore that which we destroyed. Perhaps what would be best would be to leave it alone. An ecosystem is that which can sustain itself – a system that requires constant weeding, fertilizing, fussing, killing of “unwanted” plants and animals is by no means self sustaining, and is thus just yet another artificial creation of humans.

Just some things to think about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Starlings: The Americans of the Bird World

Images courtesy of Google Images.

European Starlings are considered by many Americans to be one of the ultimate “invasive” species to alter the landscape of America. These birds are loathed by many, loved by few. Upon thinking about this, it baffled me to an extent – our hatred for the Starling, due to a few factors.

First off, we brought Starlings to this country. Less than 100 of these birds were released in Central Park in the 1800s and helped spawned the many millions of Starlings that roam every corner of this country today.

What happened to cause us to loathe a bird we willingly brought to this country?

Here are some theories and musings.

Their social tendencies to gather in packs make us nervous – we Americans seem to be very uncomfortable with “packs” of things in general. We are wary of any animal or peoples (but especially animals) who gather in large numbers in one place (with people - other than for obvious group activities like concerts). This might be something that is more common to humans in general than just Americans, but it is a behavior that I have noticed in Americans, so that is all I can speak for.

Their industriousness fuels the fire too. Starlings are adaptable birds capable of thriving in many different environments, particularly city environments where a diverse array of food is plentiful – so they did, and they bred, and their numbers grew. These birds have been so successful in our practically made-for-Starling environments that they have become the bane of monocropping farmers, have taken to stealing food sources and nests from native bird species (and sometimes even other invasive species like the European House Sparrow), and gather in loud, noisy packs in city centers.

What fascinates me about this situation is that we despise a bird for qualities that we find to be of utmost importance in Americans: adaptability, an enterprising nature, seizing of opportunity, overtaking the competition – these birds are in many ways the bird incarnation of Americans. They were brought to the Land of Opportunity and they took it, damn it! These birds are imperialistic and destructive in the pursuit of territory – just as we were (and still are) when we arrived on this continent - and have quickly spread the country over in just a short time (sound familiar?).

We find these birds to be ugly, noisy, obnoxious – has anyone ever seen overfed and liquored NFL football fans on gameday? And again, NFL football and the endearing behavior that often ensues seems to be a particularly American thing.

And while we may not steal nests, got any natural resources?

I guess what I find most interesting is that we provided the supreme habitat for these industrious birds and then felt threatened when they began to spread and conquer – as of course they would. Ironic to find that these birds – whom we willingly brought here – have been the target of countless unsuccessful eradication programs over the years.

Perhaps the introduction of the Starlings was one of those “It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time” moments – at least it seemed like a good idea to someone (apparently they were brought over by folks who wanted all of the birds in Shakespeare’s works to be in Central Park). But now that they are here, and have altered our landscapes – acting as the bird equivalent to Americans – we change our tune. I guess they are becoming a bit too much like us for comfort?

But think about it – with their obvious capitalistic friendly behaviors and American-like demeanor, should the Starling not be raised from its status as “pest” to the National Bird? Do they not stand for and possess the go-get ‘em qualities and hard line competitive nature that we Americans find so important? Sure, they will eventually take over the country and we may be left with simply House Sparrows and Starlings, but we Americans like monocropping don’t we? Corn or soy anyone? Move over Eagle, I think we have a formidable foe.

My “moral of the story” here would be – take the precautionary principle more often and we will have fewer of these “Seemed like A Good Idea at the Time” moments.

(And if anyone is curious on my take on Starlings: personally, I am happy to have bird life of any sort in my neighborhood - even if Starlings are annoying. Our attempts to cull their population are pretty futile and generally end up taking unintended victims with them. I guess I would say we get used to it. We can certainly find ways to discourage them on a personal scale, but otherwise, I'd let things be. We mess with things far too much as it is and it always seems to create more problems. And no, I am not anti-American, I just like to poke fun and do not feel that liking your country means liking everything it does.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Local Booty - Homegrown Grub, CSA, and Farmer's Market - May 23, 2009

I think summer is making its presence known in Mid-Missouri - we have enjoyed a week in the 80s with lots of sun! This means that the community garden was finally able to be tilled, so Brett and I went down and got our stuff in the ground. We transplanted tomato, cucumber, and butternut squash, and sowed cucumber, Tiger's Eye bean, Genovese basil, cilantro, cumin, Renegade spinach, Bright Lights chard, Clemson Spineless okra, dwarf sugar snap peas, nantes carrot, and some marigolds for their beneficial effects. We were stoked to finally be able to work in the soil! As soon as things begin to sprout I'll take some pictures of both the community and container garden.

We had our first harvest this week - from the AeroGarden. The Red Rubin basil looked great and was ready to go, so we harvested it last night, weighed it, and then made pesto with it. I know that is really uncreative, and I do plan on making more than pesto with all the basil we are growing, but I wanted to see how it would taste with the Red Rubin and we wanted a quick and easy meal. You can't get a whole lot fresher than "farm to table" in less than 10 minutes!

We are planning on weighing our yields this summer to get an idea of what produces best in our soils as well as to just get a general idea of the level of production in our gardens, so we will add a sidebar element to keep a tally.

Check it out:

1 1/2 ounces of Red Rubin basil. Our lemon basil is ready to harvest as well; I will probably get it tomorrow.

Check out this week's CSA:

Starting from the bottom right: spring onions, herbs of some sort, 2 bunches of the world's best asparagus, radishes, and salad greens.

The super awesome Callina, a fellow CoMo resident, assistant editor extraordinaire at MissouriLife magazine, and author of the cool blog The Gingerbread House, gave me a recipe awhile back for a radish salad she made. I am going to play around with it a bit with these radishes. They really are a new food to us so we've never quite known how to handle them. Thanks for the recipe Callina!

In other CSA news, our farm, Danjo Farms, now has a blog! Dan and Joanne have hooked up with a local writer to start a blog to give information about the goings on at the farm and also recipes using ingredients from that week's CSA share. After talking to Dan at market this morning, it looks like they are going to team up to write a Mid-Missouri CSA cookbook. I am really excited about their project and think the cookbook is a wonderful idea. And you can bet I will offer to be a tester should they need any!

Here is this week's farmer's market haul. This ran $44.

Um, starting from the mushrooms....: 1/2 lb. Beau Solais Farm oyster mushrooms, 3 bunches of baby garlic, 5 yummylicious tomatoes, a bunch of young field grown onions, 2 bunches of cilantro, spinach, spring onions (green onions), penne pasta, and Annie's Honey Wheat bread.

It was a really nice trip to the market this morning, the sun was shining and it wasn't too hot. My only complaint (and you know I'll always have one) was that there was quite a bit of traffic this morning and we walk everywhere. I am used to Saturday mornings being kind of lax in terms of traffic, but I guess with it being a holiday weekend, everyone is out and about.

Needless to say, I have many plans for this grub!

To let you all in on a little plan that has been 'a brewin' in the good 'ol Midwest, Selina, author of the blog Indiana Girl and one of my very best friends, and I have decided to take the plunge and write a cookbook. It has been suggested a few times that I do so, but there are certain areas that are not my strong suit that I think would be missing (breads, desserts, presentation). Well these are areas that Selina is not only good at, but enjoys (the thought of having to figure out how to make beans and salsa look pretty just gives me anxiety) and she and I have not only a very similar philosophy on food, but also similar palettes. We have decided to do a sort of Midwest Mex-Latino kind of cookbook, one that focuses on the flavor profiles of the Southwestern United States, Mexico, and South America, using simple techniques, and mostly seasonally available ingredients used at the height of their quality. We also think it should be more than just a simple recipe book - we will provide tables for substitutions - food should be simple, and a lot of things are interchangeable, we don't want you to have to go buy something special for just one meal, we will also provide instructions for basic techniques, and tips on how things like vinegar and seasoning affect a dish so that you can use our recipes and make them your own. Cooking is an expression of creativity, and we hope that the people (if there are any) who would get our cookbook would feel as though they are able to express themselves and their tastes without changing the overall integrity of the dish.

We have a long way to go and are in no rush. Quality is what is most important to us. Right now we are just going through all our compiled recipes for the ones we think have potential and will work from there. I hope that some of you might consider being testers when the time arrives, and just know, we will be having a lot of fun in the kitchen over the summer. I am so excited to be able to work on this project, and work on it with Selina, it brings a new level of excitement to the kitchen and one of my co-workers has already essentially placed a pre-order. ;-)

In other news, Brett and I's wedding is just a few weeks off and I realized that I have a farmer's tan and am planning on wearing a strapless dress. I am not a vain person, and I really don't care much about all the frilly stuff that goes into a wedding, but a farmer's tan is blaringly obvious, even to me. Something must be done about this....


I hope everyone is having a great weekend! All you US of A'ers out there - enjoy the holiday weekend!

'Til next time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Local Kidney Bean and Veggie Burgers

I was going to post about a meal of local Walnut Pesto and pasta, but I decided against it for a number of reasons. First off, I forgot to take a picture of the meal. Secondly, I have posted about our Walnut Pesto before and since I had plans for another local meal in mind, I decided to make this post our weekly One Local Summer entry.

One of the many things I really love about summer is bean and veggie burgers. I don't know why I associate these foods with summer, but I seem to. I have so many created recipes and ideas for bean, grain, and veggie burgers that it is often hard to know where to start. I've noticed now that I've been regularly going to market for a few years now, that we go there and let the produce plan the meals. Based on what is available, what looks best, a menu begins to form in my head and we just roll with it.

With the weather being warm and summer-like and the local veggies abounding, I decided to make a local bean and veggie burger. These burgers were amazing and they have so much potential to be even better. I will share the initial recipe, but let me tell you - this, like most of my other recipes will be tweaked to our liking over time until we get it just right. You all get what I like to call the "rough draft" of the recipe. Sometimes when we are done modifying these recipes, they are nothing like their originals, but that is part of the fun of evolving recipes.

We served our burgers with local garlicky roasted asparagus. I sliced up about 4 baby garlics, tossed the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and the garlic, and roasted it on 375 for about 15 minutes. So, so good.

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Local Kidney Bean and Veggie Burgers
Makes about six patties.

4 cups kidney beans, mashed with a fork +
1 habanero, seeded and minced * (frozen from last year)
2 hot Hungarian wax peppers, seeded and minced *** (frozen from last year)
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and minced *** (frozen from last year)
1 cup oyster mushrooms, minced *
6 spring onions, minced *
4 baby garlics, minced *
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced *
1/2 cup garlic chives, minced *
4 tbsp regular rolled oats
6-8 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour +
1 egg *
squirt sriracha
chili powder
black pepper

Combine all ingredients and seasonings except egg in a bowl using the seasonings to taste. Add the egg.

Form into patties and refrigerate for about an hour to allow patties to get a bit more firm.

Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bake burgers in oven for 15 minutes, flip patties and cook for an additional 15 minutes on the other side.

Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Serve on a bun with your favorite toppings, we used:
organic ketchup
pickles +
sliced tomatoes *
leaf lettuce **

These were so good. I cannot wait to try out all the crazy combinations I have for burgers and patties in my head. I love summer!

There hasn't seemed to be too awful much interest in the It Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time Writing Contest, but I'm not too upset by that. I am a fan of quality over quantity, so if just one person writes a good piece, I will think the contest has been a success.

A bit of house cleaning related to the Writing Contest - if you want to participate, but do not have a blog, just send your entry to and I will post it on Veg*n Cooking as a guest post.

Also, while you can still vote for what you think the prize for the contest will be, the winner will ultimately get to decide between the choices given.

I hope you all consider writing a short (or not-so-short) piece for the contest, I know there are a lot of witty people out there with great minds, let's use 'em!

'Til next time.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Weekly Local Booty - Farmer's Market and First CSA Share - May 16, 2009

The weather in Mid-Missouri has been typically unstable for the past few days - oh, and of course the rain just keeps 'a comin'. Yesterday it was in the 80s and really humid. We spent the evening getting flash floods in our parking lot and this morning it was in the 50s on my way to market. And windy, though that is something I am just going to have to get used to. Needless to say, even with Missouri's moody weather patterns, my trip to the farmer's market this morning was a resounding success, though I missed having Brett with me. He is taking his finals today (on a Saturday, doesn't that suck?), so I was on my own, but I managed all right. I've got a bit of a shoulder cramp after carrying it all home, but I survived. We also got our first CSA share this week!

I think he will be excited to come home to the beautiful local dinner I have planned. It will also be our "One Local Summer" entry for the week - nothing special, but super tasty and almost all local - pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlicky roasted asparagus, and a simple local salad. The only things in the meal that will not be local is the olive oil in the pesto and some of the ingredients in the dressing - though the dressing is locally made.

Anyway, enough of my incessant yammering check out our grub!

Here is our first CSA of the year:

Starting from the bottom right: fresh oregano, two bunches of asparagus (Danjo Farms has the best asparagus we have ever had), spring onions, fresh salad greens, and radishes.

Here is the weekly farmer's market haul. This cost around $80. More than I usually spend at market by a long shot, but I wanted to get tomato starts and we needed to stock up on some of the more expensive things we get like honey.

Starting from the bottom right: 2 bunches of spring onions, a bunch of garlic chives, 2 cucumbers, 4 big 'ol tomatoes, 1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms (I love this new purveyor, I will have to make sure to note the name of the stand next weekend, they have the best oyster mushrooms we've ever had. We got some over the winter from the Root Cellar, but they don't hold a candle to these.), 2 bunches of baby garlic, a dozen eggs, 2 bunches of sweet basil, asparagus, Moneymaker tomato starts, Country Goodies hot chow chow, Tigerella tomato starts, strawberries (!!!!!), Bonne Femme Honey Farms alfalfa honey, Thai basil, cilantro, and spinach.

Whew! What a list! We have a lot of good grub to work with this week. I was already planning the menu on my walk home from market. I love getting whatever is freshest and figuring out how to make it shine from there.

We got some really awesome things this week, and a lot of them, so I thought I would photograph individually some of my favorite finds of the week.

This has to be one of the most gorgeous bunches of oyster mushrooms I have ever seen.

Strawberries! I got to market pretty early this morning - it opens at 8:00 and I got there a little after 8:30 and this was the last container of strawberries the purveyor had, and the one other purveyor with strawberries had two or three containers left. The broccoli had already been cleaned out!

Thai basil! I haven't quite decided what I am going to do with all of this yet, but I have wanted to try it for a couple of years and I have saved a bunch of recipes that call for it in hopes that I would eventually find it. I had no idea it was as pretty as it is.

Four Tigerella tomato starts. We got these from Danjo Farms - the farm we get our CSA through. Dan sells all sorts of varieties of open pollinated heirloom tomatoes; it was really hard to choose. We've had a bit of trouble with our tomato starts from seed this year - they are growing, but not as quickly as we had hoped they would, so we wanted to get a few mature tomato plants so that we will have solid production. We hope our tomato seedlings continue to grow; we can't wait to put them in the ground.

Four Moneymaker tomato starts - these should be good slicers which is one of our favorite ways to have tomatoes, raw with just a bit of salt. I don't even want to venture a guess as to how many pounds of tomatoes we ate like that last year.

So these are eight of our who knows how many tomato plants. We are hoping to have about a dozen or more tomato plants and half a dozen tomatillo plants, if they will ever grow that is.

A week or so ago, I transplanted all our pepper starts into containers on the porch. As of right now, we have about 20 pepper plants, and I imagine a few will make their way into the fold before all is said and done. We have a planter box of acorn squash on the porch, chard, spinach, kale, and basil will also be staying on the porch, and we have some beans, squash, cukes, peas, and tomato starts waiting to go in the community garden.

I don't know if anyone remembers the cayenne plant we had started from seed late last fall, but it survived and managed to thrive in our apartment and it has one full sized pepper on it already, two baby ones, and tons of blooms. We transplanted it into the container we had our broccoli in last year and hope it will get HUGE.

Anyway, if it ever decides to stay dry for more than a day around here, we can get down to the community garden and get to work. It is starting to look like we may have to just have to get stuff in rain or shine. Ugh.

Have a great weekend everyone!

'Til next time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pinto Bean and Chard Quesadillas with Mexican Slaw and Guacamole

This meal was not only super tasty, it was a nice way to use up both the local ingredients we had on hand, as well as some of the non-locals that have been hanging around to help fill the void of fresh produce. I love trying new things, but for some reason - perhaps I have seasonal affective disorder :-) - I seemed to have lost my cooking mojo in the early part of the year. I am happy to say it is coming back and so far I've had pretty good luck with what I've tried.

I love using simple whole foods, tons of fresh ingredients, and pair them in simple ways that take them to another level. I don't think food has to be pretentious - in fact, that just isn't my style. It also doesn't have to be complicated - by technique, number of ingredients, or some nutritionist logic of combining specific nutrients for "utmost effectiveness". Food doesn't have to be challenging, difficult, or confusing - it should be simple, straight forward common sense, and a pleasing experience to be shared with others.

It is sad to see so many people who come to see food as an enemy, they see it as merely fuel, when food is not only the source of life, it has been, in history, an expression of culture. The problem in reality is that Americans seem to have the one cultural diet that doesn't work. The way we view food, our relationship to it, it's purpose, and the scientific lens we have put it under has caused a culture of obesity and degenerative diseases. Interesting that the more we think we know, the more we tinker with food, the worse our health gets, and the harder it becomes for us to figure out what it is that we should be eating.

That is why I am a proponent of the cultural diet. Humans can be healthy and thrive on an incredibly diverse number of different diets. These diets, passed down over generations, by necessity have been the healthiest diets for the people in the region. The cultural diets are expressions of the land, and the people's ability to coax, combine, and create combinations of food that are celebrations and also sound nutritionally. The American diet has never been this way and as we see it spread across the world, we see our health problems being outsourced right along with it.

The cultural diet we tend to live by is, obviously, Mexican, Latin, or Southwestern. The combinations of many fresh veggies, healthy proteins in the form of legumes, pulses, and nuts, healthy fiber in the form of the fresh veggies, whole grain rice, and grains like quinoa in concert provide a wonderful level of nutritional benefit. There is also much flavoring provided by sauces loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic - things we all know are good for us - but are much better in combination, better still in combination with beans and rice, though scientists don't really understand why. This is again part of the problem with reductionist science - these folks seem to think that there is one thing that can be isolated and added to something else that would provide the same level of nutrition and health as the whole foods in combination. It doesn't appear to work like that, and explanation or not, folks who subscribe to a cultural diet (and also don't fret over calories, antioxidants, cartenoids, and all the other buzz words in today's nutritional mine field), seem to be happier, healthier, and have a better relationship with food, community, and their land.

The point of all this - there are always so many fads going around as to the "keys to perfect health", it is always based on one nutrient, one compound, or more often still, something you should avoid. Whole foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts, whether it can be explained by modern reductionist science or not, and that is a basic lesson that makes "what to eat" a lot easier to figure out.

Pick a type of food you like and see where it takes you. We like Mexican and have been subscribing to a vegetarian cultural Mexican, Southwestern, Latin (or inspired) diet for about three years and in that time I have lost about 30 pounds, become healthier, more active, my hair looks better, my skin looks better, Brett is more active, and I never worry about calories, fat, nutrients, etc. My eye sight has improved as my diet has improved. I truly don't understand it. I used to have to wear glasses when I read as my eyes would begin to have trouble focusing and everything would go blurry for a little while. A couple of years ago, a few months into our new way of eating, I noticed I didn't need the glasses anymore. I haven't needed them since. I still don't get it. We also enjoy our food far more - there are boundaries based on the typical flavor profiles we are choosing to use, but there is so much room for creativity, variation, and improvisation.

The moral of the story? Food should be fun, it should be enjoyed, and there are ways of simplifying the way we look at food that will not only make our food choices easier, but likely provide significant improvements to our health. Now this is just my opinion, I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I can say that I trust my own body and my common sense and this is what works for me.

I am getting off the soap box now and moving on to the recipe. :-)

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Mexican Slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded fine
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/4 yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine *
2 tbsp veganaise
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
black pepper

Combine all the veggies in a small bowl.

Whisk together veganaise, lime juice, and seasonings to taste.

Pour dressing over veggies and combine well.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Pinto Bean and Chard Quesadillas:
2 cups pinto beans, cooked ****
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped *
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine *
6 cups fresh chard, chopped *
1 tbsp canola oil
a squirt of sriracha
black pepper

Heat canola oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, beans and seasonings and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the chard and stir frequently until chard is wilted.

Simmer on low for about a half an hour. The beans, veggies, and seasonings will create their own tasty sauce.

Once the bean mixture is finished, layer cheese (if desired) and the filling in a warmed tortilla. Fry and serve with Mexican Slaw and Simple Guacamole.

Well, Happy Friday everyone.

'Til next time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekly Local Booty - Farmer's Market May 9, 2009

It was another successful trip to the market. Though sadly, asparagus is on its way out. We had a pretty short season this year as we didn't seem to have much in the way of spring. Our first CSA share also had to be postponed until next weekend due to yet another unusually wet spring here in Mid-Missouri. I have noticed an abundance in mushrooms though, I think some things fare just fine in this type of weather. Anyway, all that aside, we made out really well at the market this weekend.

Check out this week's loot:

Starting from the bottom right: 2 bunches of asparagus, spring onions, cilantro, lemon balm, 4 tomatoes, 1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms (we really like these mushrooms), baby garlic, chard, a head of gorgeous lettuce, 2 bags of baby spinach, and some more penne pasta.

As you can see, the lack of asparagus thwarted my plan to freeze some. Last week the vendors were overloaded with it - it seemed like everyone was selling it. This week there were maybe half a dozen stands that had any. I went for the organic kind. I was especially stoked about the cilantro, chard, spinach, and gorgeous organic tomatoes.

We've already eaten some of our grub, but the rest is destined for some Mexican goodness and I'm thinking a fried rice dish. Those are super yummy and really easy.

We are also planning on getting some stuff in the ground at the community garden sometime this week. It rained today ruining my chances of getting stuff into the ground today as I had hoped, but we'll get it in sometime this week. Then...let the garden updates begin!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Am I the only one who thinks that they are just never long enough?

'Til next time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Local Spring Veggies and Pasta!

I really love simple and tasty food - that is as local as possible. I love it when ingredients shine on their own, in their own glory. Until a few years ago when I started going to the farmer's market and growing my own veggies, I didn't know what I was missing - the amazing flavors, colors, textures available. Ordinary foods I used to eat without issue such as tomatoes, I know shun in the winter (unless canned from summer of course) as the store bought ones just don't cut it, they taste horrible and their texture is gritty.

Spring at the farmer's market brings out many things tasty and green. I threw this dish together in no time, and the only non-local ingredients are the few seasonings in the dish.

This is my bowl, topped with crushed red pepper. It seems like if I can make something spicy, I will. :-)

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Local Spring Veggies and Pasta
1 lb. penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions *
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed, cut in half inch pieces *
6 spring onions, minced *
1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped *
1 tomato, chopped *
6 cups spinach, chopped *
1/2 cup garlic chives, minced *
2-3 tbsp canola oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Heat oil in a medium skillet.

Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onions, tomato, and spinach. Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes, stirring often.

Add the garlic chives, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Toss veggies with cooked pasta. Season with balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

If you are like me, add something spicy on top!

Well, we've got market tomorrow, it is the first week for our CSA and I hope there is a bunch of Dan's amazing asparagus. I swear we didn't get enough of it last year (though I'm not sure what enough would be exactly), it is some of the best, most flavorful asparagus I have ever had. I am also excited to see what other goodies we might score from the market this weekend.

It has been really rainy here, well, for the past few weeks, so getting things into the ground at the community garden has once again been difficult this year. We transplanted a bunch of peppers starts, and starts planned for the community garden that had outgrown their pots. I will be taking them down and sowing some more seed on Sunday. I may end up a mudball as I did last year, but the stuff is ready to go!

In other news, for the last few years we've had a common nighthawk roosting on top of one of the buildings in our neighborhood. It took us four years to identify what the bird who screeched all night and would dive bomb from the sky was. Anyway, once we figured out what kind of bird she was, we began to watch her at dusk when we could. It is really neat to watch them dive bomb for bugs. If they do it close enough to you, you can actually hear a whirring sound go by with them, they go really fast. Once they had migrated for the winter, we weren't sure if they would come back to the same spot to roost. We were happy to hear that familiar screech about two days ago and sure enough, there one was, soaring in the sky, screeching her rather unpleasant screech (you get used to it) and dive bombing for the year's first bugs. Nature is pretty cool, even in the city, if you just stop to pay attention. :-)

Well, I'll be back sometime this weekend for the weekly local booty update and our first CSA share!

I hope everyone has a good weekend and to those who go to market over the weekend, happy "hunting".

'Til next time.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Farmer's Market Spring Veggie Omelette-Type Thing - Vegetarian

So, I've never made an omelette before, so I am only assuming that this is what they are supposed to be like, or that at the very least, I got the general idea correct. After getting home from the farmer's market on Saturday, inspiration struck and I headed straight to the kitchen to create this wonderful, almost completely local brunch for us.

This was incredibly good - I am not the biggest egg fan, but I loved this. My only recommendation would be to split one of these between two people. They are huge and filling, I didn't realize how filling they would be. Both of us only ate half of our omelette's before wrapping them up and putting them in the fridge for a snack later.

This is a picture of Brett's omelette, I added a little bit of chevrie to his.

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Farmer's Market Spring Veggie Omelette-Type Thing
4 eggs, whisked *
1/3 cup garlic chives, minced *
1 cup asparagus, chopped into half inch pieces *
4 cups of spinach, rinsed and chopped *
1 cup of oyster mushrooms, minced *
4 spring onions, chopped *
canola oil

In a bowl, combine the eggs and the garlic chives, sprinkle with just a bit of salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of canola oil in a medium skillet. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the spinach and spring onions, cook an additional 5-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium flat bottomed skillet, add 1-2 tbsp of canola oil. Once the pan is good and hot, pour the egg mixture and allow it to cook thoroughly. Flip the flat egg over to cook both sides - this should take about 10 minutes.

Add the filling to the middle of the egg "pancake" and fold the egg over. You can cook it just a minute or two more on each side and this will help it "seal" a little bit.

This was a pretty darn good meal. I will be back soon with the recipe for a super tasty local pasta dish I made earlier this week.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. Brett is off in homework land tonight, so I'm on my own this evening - I smell veggie sushi and a good book.

'Til next time!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weekly Local Booty 5/2/09 - I Love Mid-Missouri!

Today was my first trip to market this year - even though it opened a couple of weeks ago. Last week, Brett and I were sick, the previous week I forgot, and the week before that Brett stopped by and reserved our CSA, so things just worked out to today being my first trip. It was a very successful trip, I must say. It being fairly early in the Mid-Missouri growing season, I didn't expect as much variety as I found, I am really stoked to get in the kitchen

There is something about winter that kills my cooking "mojo", part of it was that we were pretty unprepared to "eat local" over the winter, and I was reluctant to buy a bunch of out of season produce, so our meals got pretty lame. Hopefully we can prepare a little better this year. I know that next weekend, I am stocking up on asparagus and freezing some for winter. Wahoooooooo!

Check out my first haul of the year. This ran somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 (oh, and check out Gabby in the background).

(Sorry about the picture quality, I think there was something on the lense.) Starting from the bottom right: 3 bunches of asparagus, 1 lb. oyster mushrooms, 4 tomatoes (!!!!!), 1 lb. ground flax meal (!!!!!), garlic chives, 2 bunches of spring onions, a dozen eggs, spinach, penne pasta (!!!!!), and Country Goodies Salsa.

I'd say we made out pretty well. I thought I would show some pictures of my favorite finds.

Garlic chives! I have always wanted to work with garlic chives as it would be something we could easily grow in our apartment, it being a little early in the season for "regular" garlic, I decided I would give it a shot. I have many ideas already....

Ground flax meal! I am excited to see things like this ground flax meal and the Missouri Grain Project, it is a wonderful experiment and it allows locavores to source even more of their diet from their local region. We use a lot of flax meal, in our granola bars, in our oatmeal, in our gravy, all sorts of things. AND, this was less expensive than the kind we usually get from the store.

Oh glorious tomatoes, how I love them. I do not even want to venture to guess how many pound of tomatoes Brett and I ate last summer, we both LOVE them, very, very much. Hence why we are planting about 12 tomato plants this year. :-)

Asparagus, one of my favorite things about spring! Local asparagus is so fresh, so tender, I don't know if there is anything quite as good a garlicky roasted asparagus. Oh my, I can't wait!

We have company coming tomorrow, so we figured we would make a nice yummy dinner of Our Take on L's Black Bean Burgers (with local tomatoes of course) and garlicky roasted asparagus. Mmmmm.

And finally, here is photographic evidence of why Gabby's middle name is indeed Trouble.

Something she quite enjoys doing is burrowing in my pajama drawer and then pulling all the pajamas out of the drawer. She was caught red handed here. It is hard to be made at such a cute face though.

Don't forget about the "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time" writing contest. It is "open" through May 31st. And be sure to vote on the goodie to be received by the winner.

Have a great weekend!

'Til next time.