India prep

Indirectly my upcoming trip to India is having a huge impact on this blog. If days go by and I haven't posted it's usually because my head is spinning from prepping for India.

Getting ready to go to India for business is a project all on it's own. There is a lot of paperwork to coordinate for the visa, there is a lot of work prep to be done and then it all has to be balanced with personal needs that a month long stay entails. Not to mention trying to schedule tourist trips on the weekends.

When I am in India this blog will be all about India at that time. I am hopeful that I can detail quite a bit about my experiences while they are fresh right here.

For now I will say that I am so excited and dreading it at the same time. The dread is not very serious, it comes from so many unknowns rushing at me in a short time. 'will I hate it? will I be homesick? will I get sick? will training be hard? will it be dangerous? will I have time to myself? how will I arrange my weekends? will there be time to have fun? will I bring the right stuff? will I have suitable clothes? will people realize I am gay? will there be lots of personal questions?' and on and on and on.

I am looking forward to it at the very same time. I believe it will be a mind blowing change in my life, and I cannot believe it is happening! I feel so lucky, and a teeny bit sad about missing mich fest this year. Oh well. August in India will be something all right.

cold in July

It is pretty unusual to have cold weather in July but we really had quite the cold snap at the end of last week. [It's all relevant I guess, if I had 65 degrees on my birthday I would be jumping for joy.] Usually love propels me to turn on the oven during a muggy heatwave to make my sweetie a birthday cake of her choosing but this year the temp was so low I was positively looking forward to turning on the oven. She choose to not have a cake. Apparently she decided that having a whole cake in the house which she will end up eating 75% is just not that good of an idea [go figure]. A chocolate cupcake, and a breakfast that included an almond croissant were plenty she said.

So there I was wanting something. and it was too cold to eat ice cream. Yes, I admit it, I only really enjoy ice cream when the temp is in the 80's and sunny. Then I realized that even though it was July, I could turn on my oven and I made Pain d'├ępices.

This is a perfect recipe for twisting to my use. Many of the versions call for honey. One can easily substitute agave nectar for honey in any recipe without too much thinking. Also it is not suppose to be very sweet and my sweet tooth is so sensitive that this is important. It has a heavier, more substantial batter, it calls for part rye flour, this signals to me it is a perfect candidate for using whole wheat flour. My favorite way to eat this is with soft butter spread thickly but really the options are endless.

In case you too experience the need to turn on your oven I give my version below, cobbled together from many.

Be sure all your ingredients are room temp before you start. Adjust the spice levels to suit your own taste, I love ginger so I weight it more, I replace the anise seeds with other spices, you get the idea.

Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour a bread pan.

Sift together and set aside:

3.5 c WW pastry flour
.5 c rye flour [dark as you can find]
2.5 t baking soda
2 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
.5 t sea salt
.25 t nutmeg
.25 t mace
.25 t all spice
.25 t black pepper
.25 t ground cloves

[if you are an anise fan, I'm not, replace the mace and all spice with .5 t anise seeds]

Mix, with an electric mixer:

.25 c soft butter
1 c agave nectar or palm sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 T fresh orange zest or 1.5 t dried orange peel minced

Add to butter/egg mixture:

1 c water [not cold]

Add the sifted, dry ingredients, a third at a time and combine well. Scrape the sides as you add.

Spread into the loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top will be dark though not burnt.

Cool on rack 10 minutes then remove from pan.
Try to cool completely before you slice and eat. [good luck with that!]

If your slices are crumbling horribly it's because you didn't wait for it to completely cool, but no one could blame you.

cherry recipe wrestle

Well the cherries are all off our tree, there is a teeny amount left in the freezer but that's it. Before they all got eaten I made a second, much improved clafouti that I want to share with you all. I will be tweaking this some more, although it will get made with berries or peaches or some other fruit. [It won't technically be a clafouti then, oh well]

I cobbled this together from many sources. My desired food combination of alternate natural sweeteners but keeping whole wheat and dairy seems rather uncommon. I am not dairy free or gluten free, I just don't cook with sugar but I don't have allergies and I am not a vegetarian, but whole grains and keeping away from white flour and rice are also important to me --well it seems that not many share my category. [ok, I have no category] Thus I figure recipes out myself a lot of the time.

Hmmm, I just realized that alternate natural might not make sense to anyone who isn't me. These are the sweeteners with which I cook: palm sugar, agave nectar, rice syrup, maple [sugar or syrup] and barley malt syrups. Some more than others. [I will also use stevia to sweeten drinks like lemonade or cocoa] I have an uneasy feeling I am forgetting one, which I am sure I will remember as soon as I post this.

One of the fun things about clafouti is there is no 'right' or 'one' way. It's a bit like recipes for bread [or rice] pudding, every family seems to make it different.

[Cherry] Clafouti v. 1

preheat oven to 375 and butter a round cake pan or ceramic baking dish

Mix together until light in color, 3 eggs and 1/2 c palm sugar. [the color should lighten]
Add 8 T of melted butter gradually, while mixing. [I think 5 T would be a better amount here]
Add 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour and mix until incorporated
Slowly add 1 c milk, keep mixing
Add 1 t flavoring [with cherries use almond]

The batter should be smooth.

Pour batter in pan, place 2 c fruit on batter [be careful if you don't pit the cherries], and bake until set and lightly browned about 30-40 minutes.
Let sit 10 minutes before eating.

While this is yummy fresh from the oven I am also firmly in the camp that believes that leftover clafouti is a near perfect breakfast and pretty good for dessert the next night as well. You decide.

CSA surprises

Funny how much fun a CSA can be. But this week it really was. The weather was lovely and I found a slightly new route which made to run more enjoyable. But there were also a couple of things that made it great.

My CSA posts a list of 'what we hope will be in the boxes' on Mondays. This whets one's anticipation and helps you know what not to buy at the store. Although between the garden and the CSA I pretty much know to not buy more veggies.

I went to the store on Thursday and really wanted a cucumber. I love cucumbers, and they are not on the list yet. But [the plot thickens LOL] there were no cukes in the entire coop. The weirdest thing, but they said their supplier was out. I was bummed but then thrilled to pick up my CSA box, look at the newsletter and realize that not only was there a gorgeous slicing cuke but 2 pickling cukes as well. And early surprise for us CSA. Seems kind of a small thing but fairly thrilling at the time. But there is more. Although there was no mention of it in the newsletter some random boxes got quarts of strawberries, the last of the season and they were wonderful. It was certainly a successful CSA week.

I have already made pickles out of the cukes, I can't wait to taste them and the sweet and sour cabbage [their recipe] with the savoy cabbage was fab. There was a cauliflower, and more squash and a fresh yellow onion and lettuce and we are seriously just munching away. It's just all very good. I hope all are enjoying some of the fruits of summer.

garden grows 2

I am having an incredible time with my first garden in many ways.

Ok, my lettuce totally tanked. Did I plant too late? Did I just not thin enough? I just don't know. I think I will plant more the first week of September and see if we can get a late crop.

I had a cucumber scare where I started to worry that only planting one plant would mean there would be no pollination of the beautiful flowers and that there would be no cukes. Luckily it looks like that is not happening. Which make me very happy, fresh cucumbers is one of my favorite things about summer.

My sprinkler system seems to be working fine, and we got way more rain in June than we did in May. Yes a few of my red peppers look a bit sickly hopefully some hot weather will perk them up. I keep on reminding myself I need to mulch more before I leave for India.

I got to harvest a handful of snow peas, 13 beans and some chinese cabbage! I harvested food that I grew. It still seems unbelievable. The tomatoes are growing! So is, well everything including the weeds. More peas and cherries were gathered. Really I have to say I kind of love it thus far. I hope that everyone is having a successful summer season so far. I am off to find a new cherry clafouti recipe, I know I can improve.

sleep is missing

Before I forget, go grill some veggies. Don't wait, you'll love it. They are to die for that way. The kohlrabi was exquisite grilled. I found myself munching on a piece while I was getting ready for work even.

We have mostly eaten our way through the huge amount of veggies we had in the fridge. Which is good because our roommate is coming home from France and she needs to be able to get her food in there.

This is the tiredest I have been in a long time. Is tiredest even a word? I can't even tell at this point. I am doing some preparatory training for work remotely with the people in India. Since they are 10.5 hours ahead of us I was waking myself up at 4 am, so that I could start my class at 5:30. Now I am a zombie. Friday I get to wake up even earlier.

It is very strange training long distance, especially when you can't actually see the people who you are training. I just realized it's a little bit like blogging. hmm, I would think about that if I was able. As it is I think I'll just go sit in a heap until bedtime, maybe stare at the garden.

Cherries! local as it gets

We are big cherry fans and when Carolyn got her Phd a few years ago she got a cherry tree as a gift from a good friend. Since we are up north it is a tart cherry tree and it is doing fabulously. We will probably need a net to protect it by next year though. The birds do find it interesting.

It is still a very small tree but we picked a whole bowl full yesterday. Not quite enough for a pie. So we have been plotting what to do with them. I don't know if it's because of the variety or what but they were very easy to pit. I have never had fresh sour cherries before so I am far from an expert. But in the vast majority of the cherries I was able to grasp the stem in one hand and kind of pinch the cherry in the other and the pit popped out still attached to the stem.

I am thinking a small cherry clafouti [if I can bear to turn the oven on] and a lightly cooked cherry puree that can be used as ice cream topping or in muffins and so forth. I know that eating cherries are the traditional fruit for a clafouti but I can't wait to try tart cherries in one.

Update: It just amazes me how lightly cooking tart cherries improves them. The puree is beyond yummy, hopefully it will get used in stuff and I won't just sit at the table and eat it all.

It just seems so amazing to me to be getting food out of our own yard, especially fruit. I feel so tapped in and exhausted all at the same time. I am also realizing that I will be missing a lot when I am in India during August.

CSA and hot lips

So our weekly CSA continues to be wonderful and inspiring and tiring at times.

We had another big bunch of cilantro in our box which for some reason made me think of pad thai. I couldn't find any of the 1/4 inch wide rice noodles so I made do with the vermicelli, and managed to stir up a fairly tasty dish that had only one problem. I have burnt my lips from eating it. Now granted I still ate a huge plateful of my thai noodle dish along with just barely sauteed fresh peas on the side, so I guess I am not that badly burnt but whoo doggy.

I have now bought Mark Bittman's "how to cook everything vegetarian" and even though I am not a vegetarian it is helping me use and think about getting veggies into my diet in a serious way. He is the man who taught me how to make risotto so I turned to him for pad thai. His recipe says to add two chopped thai peppers at the end. Since I am a medium spicy kind of gal I wasn't sure that was a good idea. I looked at his handy pepper chart and saw that thai peppers are rated 'very hot' so at the coop I bought jalapenos instead.

When I was getting everything chopped up before cooking I also followed his recommendation and tasted the pepper to see how hot I thought it was. It was very hot to me, though tasty. I immediately decided that one would be plenty and that I would cook it, not add it raw at the end. Even still, burnt lips are the result. I am pretty sure there is homemade ice cream in my near future. How I suffer!

The only food in the CSA I have been disappointed with has been the broccoli which is no biggie since my wife can't even eat broccoli and so I hardly miss it when it's a bit too old to use. This week I have everything on a list on the fridge so that I can mark it off when I use it. The first week I thought I did so good and then realized that a whole head of lettuce had got lost in the fridge.

What did we get on July 2? strawberries, fennel [bulbs], chard, lettuce, sugar and snow peas, green onions, green garlic, garlic scrapes, potatoes, cilantro, parsley, summer squash. I am trying to get some stuff cooked up so that it can be munched on the rest of the week. Sometimes I think a family of 5-6 would be better for this size box.

I have big plans for grilling the squash and some leftover kohlrabi. I will also lightly saute the chard so that it can be munched on during the week. Happy veggie summer everyone!

kindness and strangers and politics

So we have been out of town at the cottage [where I still do not have internet access] tons of stuff has happened in the past week+ and I am pretty sure I will never remember it all.

While we were away the MN senate race finally got finished. What a relief more money and resources will no longer be flowing down that hole. I know a lot of people who voted independent in that race because they really liked Barkley than the other two candidates [and I don't blame them] but it really bit us on the ass this time with having the race be so close that we have been short a senator for 6 months. I happen to dislike Coleman personally, so I would have voted for a dog to keep him out of office.

But politics is not the thrust of this post, it is a much happier topic how kind strangers can be. We were on our way home from the cottage, a caravan of 2 vehicles, and had just made it out to the state highway when a hose going into the heater core blew on the volvo.

I won't bore anyone with details but 5 hours later we were on our way again with an excellent patch job because of a couple of guys and their incredibly patient families who spent 2.5 hours helping us get back on the road. I am amazed once again by how kind people can be. We knew they weren't doing it for money but we tried to get them to take something to at least treat them to dinner but they all refused. May the blessings of all the goddesses rain down on their heads.

We also had someone else stop to help earlier, before we realized we couldn't fix it on our own and I was rendered speechless by his 'vote for marriage between one man and one woman only' bumper sticker. I appreciated that he stopped and offered help but I couldn't help wondering what he would have done if he had known we were gay [and married] Very odd situation. I was distracted, offended, and grateful all at the same time.

So the usual 2 hr 15 min trip took 8 hours and left me with a lot to ponder. I have to think that being kind to strangers [and those you know] is more important than how you vote. I hope I can carry the kindness forward through this month.