Thursday, May 29, 2008

Farmers Market Thursday - May 29, 2008

As I mentioned here, we are members of Tantre Farm, a community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) farm in Chelsea, MI.

What is a CSA, you ask? Here's a definition from the Local Harvest website:

"A decade ago, the definition of Community Supported Agriculture was fairly straightforward, as there were only two versions in practice. In its purest state, a CSA was a farm that was owned by a group of community members, each of whom had purchased a share of the business. Together they hired a farmer who raised crops which were divided amongst the shareholders. If crops were bountiful, everyone ate especially well. The risk of crop failure was shared as well, so the farmer was paid the same in good years and in lean ones.

Few such projects have taken root in this country, though those that have are known for the passion of their members. Much more common is the type of CSA wherein a farmer offers a given number of shares to a community, typically in the spring when the farm's cash flow needs are the highest. Members purchase a share up front, and in exchange receive a box of vegetables each week throughout the growing season. People who have joined CSAs often speak of the satisfaction they get from being 'forced' to eat both seasonally and more widely than they have been accustomed to doing."

Tantre uses the second model. This is our fourth or fifth year with Richard and Deb, and we've seen them go in different directions during different seasons, but everything has been delicious and wonderful. As with any growing season, things start up a little slowly, shares become enormous in July and August, and start slowing down again in mid-September. Tantre also offers a "Thanksgiving share" the week before Thanksgiving for an additional fee, and you can get a huge box of root veggies, squash, etc., to tide you through much of the winter.

So here is our bounty for the first week:



We received 4 or 5 huge, beautiful bunches of spinach, a nice bunch of variegated asparagus, a bunch of spring radishes, ditto of spring onions, two baby lettuces - one red leaf and the other similar to Boston, a small bunch of mixed spring greens and we had a choice of herbs, and I chose a small bunch of sage (since I grow the other herbs that were offered this week).

Each week Deb sends us a very informative newsletter that helps us to know what we'll "probably" get, and this helps me plan for the week, too. These generally come out on Mondays. Additionally, this year, one of the members set up a Ning community, where we can share ideas, recipes, discussions about CSA/locavore issues, etc. It's been absolutely delightful so far!

So, what will we have this week? Well, there will be some overlap with Saturday's post, as this was the week where we had two batches of veggies come in as our family adjusted to the Wednesday pick-up schedule.

Last night we bailed and had pizza out, so I was bummed to miss those first day lettuces, but tonight we'll have a huge salad along with some gnocchi gratineed with spinach and ricotta.

Other meals will include:

*grilled lamb chops with pomegranate molasses/sage sauce and grilled asparagus and grilled spring onions, along with homemade pita
*more salads
*spinach-pesto lasagna

For more great recipes on what to do with this week's share, check out Sarah at Una Buona Fourchetta.

On Saturday, we'll probably only pick up eggs, whatever meat we might choose for next week and some rhubarb, as we haven't had that appear in the share box yet. I may also buy some asparagus to freeze. Once our CSA season starts up, our food bills go way, way down, as we've "prepaid" and given Richard and Deb start up costs for the spring.

How many of you are part of CSAs or the equivalent? What do you do with your shares? How do you plan your weeks based on what you get, or do you not plan at all? I'd love to know how others do this!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Asparagus Edition!




Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

So we are in the joyous throws of asparagus season. At the Ann Arbor Farmers Market we can get thick-as-your-thumb asparagus to the most graceful of baby stalks. We can find asparagus in bright green, deep green, white and purple. We can find long bouquets of similar shape and size, nicely portioned into banded bunches, or a whole mess of different lengths and widths spilled onto a table and left to the customer to sort.

We may be having hard times in Michigan these days, but we are asparagus rich.



I love asparagus. I have to admit that D has a lot to do with that. Growing up, asparagus usually meant something from a can or cooked to mush, and the only parts I found edible were the tips. When I met D, asparagus was his favorite vegetable, so I tentatively tried some as we dated. After we were married, I did most of the cooking because I was teaching and home in the late afternoon, and he often wasn't home until 7:00 or later. He requested asparagus and laughed that I didn't know how easy it was to prepare. And it is.

Now that I've tasted truly fresh asparagus, prepared in all sorts of methods and ways, I'm a huge fan. So today, I thought I'd share some favorite preparations.

NOTE: For ALL asparagus preparation, prep asparagus first by breaking off the bottom part, which is woody. This part will snap off naturally. If you buy variegated pieces of asparagus, these will probably already have been snapped off at the woody part, but if they are all pretty and even, you probably still need to snap off the base.

Simple Asparagus - Poaching

1. Rinse similar width pieces of asparagus - two good handfuls. (Okay, I ignore the sizing - I just pull pieces from the water as they're ready, but it's up to you).
2. Heat a saute pan with about 1/2 - 3/4" cold water to boiling.
3. Drop in asparagus. Cook 2 - 5 minutes, depending on how "done" you like your asparagus. Asparagus is al dente ready when it turns bright green.
4. Remove from water with tongs. Place on platter. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt, a drizzle of olive oil, a few grinds of good pepper and some grated sharp cheese (such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago), if desired. Lemon juice and olive oil are a good topping, too. Dijon mustard whisked with olive oil and drizzled over the spears also works. (Serves 2 - 4)

Simple Asparagus - Sauteed
1. Rinse two good fistfuls of asparagus and cut into 1 - 2" pieces.
2. Heat 1/2 TBS olive oil in a saute pan over medium to medium high heat.
3. Slice 2 good-sized cloves of garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so, until garlic smell is released.
4. Throw asparagus into the pan. Saute 2 - 4 minutes until asparagus turns bright green. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and grate a little bit of nutmeg and/or cheese over all. Serve.
(Serves 2 - 4)

Simple Asparagus - Roasted
1. Preheat oven to 450. If you have a convection oven, set it to the "roast" setting.
Place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.
2. Rinse two good handfuls of asparagus and place them in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle olive oil over them (you shouldn't need more than a teaspoon or so of the olive oil). Toss them with your hands, to spread the olive oil.
3. Roast for 5 - 20 minutes. Now... here's the thing. If you want them al dente (so to speak), 5 - 10 minutes will do the trick. This is what I did for the salad below. If you want them sweet and caramelized and crispy and almost orgasmic, keep going to 20, stirring occasionally. They will look shriveled coming out of the oven, but the flavor will be amazing. Sprinkle with pepper.
(Serves 2 - 4)

Simple Asparagus - Grilled
1. Fire up the grill.
2. Rinse those two good handfuls of asparagus and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and slather so the oil is distributed.
3. As other things are cooking on the grill, throw on the asparagus during the last 5 - 10 minutes. Again, bright green is al dente, and you can go for crisp and browned and shriveled, as in roasted. For grilled asparagus, I still add the salt and pepper at the end, but I also like a drizzle (and I do mean a drizzle) of balsamic vinegar.

Asparagus and Pasta

Ingredients:
1 recipe of Simple Asparagus - Sauteed, with the olive oil increased to 1 TBS
4 oz. fettucine or farfalle or other flat-ish pasta
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese or equivalent


1. Make a batch of Simple Asparagus - Sauteed, increasing the olive oil to a full TBS, and set aside.
2. Cook 1/4 lb. fettucine or farfalle or some other flat-ish pasta according to directions. Before draining, ladle some pasta water into the saute pan with the asparagus and garlic, and bring back to burner, setting heat on medium high.
3. Drain and rinse pasta and toss in with asparagus mixture.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste and add in 1/8 cup grated parmesan. Stir together for about 2 - 3 minutes until everything is well blended and the cheese is melted.
5. Split into bowls and serve with the rest of the cheese, a fresh salad and maybe some bread. This is very simple, but delicious when asparagus is in season!

Serves 2


Asparagus-Goat Cheese Fritatta

Ingredients:
1 recipe of Simple Asparagus - Sauteed, with the olive oil increased to 1 TBS
8 eggs
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn or chopped
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 oz. soft goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Beat 4 eggs and 4 egg whites, and then stir in a 1/2 cup of fresh basil, torn or chopped, and 1/2 tsp ground pepper and 1 tsp sea salt. Set aside.
3. Make a batch of Simple Asparagus - Sauteed, but make sure to use an oven-proof skillet, and use a full TBS of olive oil this time.
4. After asparagus is bright green, pour in egg mixture and stir a bit - not scrambling the eggs, but helping them to set.
5. As eggs start to set, crumble goat cheese on top - scatter over surface of frittata.
6. Place skillet in oven and cook 10 minutes.
7. Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 3 - 4

Jen's Kinda-Sorta Asparagus Nicoise Salad



Ingredients:

For the salad:
1 - 2 lbs. new potatoes
1 recipe Simple Asparagus - Roasted
3 small tomatoes
3 slices of cooked bacon, or cook while other things are boiling/in the oven
2 eggs
2 TBS capers packed in water

For the vinaigrette:
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS reduced fat mayonnaise
1 - 2 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS chopped, fresh dill

1. Preheat oven to 450, and set the oven rack to the top third of the oven.
2. Scrub 1 - 2 lbs. of small new potatoes and place them, along with 3 eggs, in a pot of cold water just covering everything. Bring to a boil, then cook until potatoes are fork tender (about 20 minutes).
3. While potatoes are cooking, prepare a batch of Simple Asparagus - Roasted.
4. While asparagus is in the oven, cook up 3 slices of bacon, preferably thick-sliced and local.
5. Chop 3 small tomatoes into large chunks.
6. Prepare vinaigrette. Simply whisk together all ingredients until a smooth dressing is formed.
7. Remove potatoes from water when they are fork tender, and rinse potatoes and eggs with cold water. Leave eggs, in shells, in cold water until ready.
8. Remove asparagus from oven and set aside to cool.
9. Cut potatoes in halves or quarters (large, bite-sized pieces), and toss with vinaigrette.
10. Chop asparagus into bite-sized pieces, and add, along with tomatoes, to potatoes. Toss.
11. Peel and slice eggs, crumble the bacon and add to the top of the salad. Sprinkle 2 TBS of capers packed in water over all.

Serves 2 - 3 for dinner or 6 as a side.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PSA Tuesday - More Local Police Issues

I've decided that I'm not going to continue specifically with my Police Academy series. There are a couple of reasons for that:

1. I'm not always clear what it's okay to write about and what it's not. I don't want to either share secrets that I'm not supposed, nor to give out any misinformation.

2. This blog is getting to feel heavy to me, and honestly, I need to vary to some lighter topics.

Be that as it may, I do want to wrap up some things today. Again, I want to reiterate how wonderful the whole Citizens Police Academy experience has been, and how grateful I am to the many presenters who have worked to make our information sessions as wonderful as they have been.

I also want to put a special shout out to Officer Stephanie Kjos-Warner, my delightful host for my "ride-along" last Tuesday. It was very enlightening and Officer Kjos-Warner was extremely generous in answering my many questions. She even took time to help me on a whole number of aspects of my plot. Interestingly enough, she's also a writer, and writes simply fabulous children's stories, some of which she shared with me during lunch break. It's interesting to me that I, as someone who works with children, is a mom, etc., etc., chooses to write about darker, adult themes, and this woman who works with the scarier aspects of society writes these delightful, humorous stories for young children! Guess that just goes to show you that writing still is the best form of escapism.

The Ann Arbor News has produced a series of articles over the last week about police work in Ann Arbor. This is very important because our city budget is up for voting and one of the issues is FINALLY getting the much-needed new facilities for our Police Department and Court system. The conditions that the Ann Arbor Police work under are decrepit. They need far better facilities and tools. A couple of our local council members have started a campaign to put this funding off yet again.

To add insult to injury, a gorgeous, new, state-of-the-art facility was opened as the new homeless shelter. While that was also a great need, and while I am certainly supportive of homeless facilities being safe and truly useful (ie. having the services, offices, etc., to get people permanent housing, employment, medical care, etc.), given that our police officers and staff have faced cuts repeatedly, had their work loads go up exponentially, and that many of their day-to-day work involves way too much work on "nuisance cases" - many of the same guests who use the shelter and who are actually mentally ill or addicts and who need a different support system than the ones currently in place in MI.

If that wasn't enough, apparently it's easier to fund our city golf courses (see articles below).

We are a very liberal town. And we are a very wealthy town. Even during the current economy, especially when you compare us to other parts of Michigan. This combination makes us far more likely to support things like homeless shelters than new facilities for our overworked police officers.

These people work hard for us every. single. day. They are there around the clock, and they are there to help us with everything from delivering babies to getting our lazy children out of bed and to their high school (yup, you heard me right), to dealing with armed drug dealers, to making sure the crowds of over 110,000 are safe during a U of M Football Saturday.

Don't they deserve our support? If you haven't already, please contact your council members and urge them to push through the desperately needed funding for this project.

For more information on what the AAPD faces on a daily basis, see these articles (They are in reverse chronological order):

The chronic criminal No easy solution to repeat-offender problem

Police forces shrinking

Golf course plan approved

Sparks may fly over police-court building


Use of park money for golf to stir debate



Okay, this is the last of my soapbox posts for a while.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Music Monday - "Born in the USA" - Bruce Springsteen




For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

It's Memorial Day 2008.

Not much has changed since The Boss performed this (see below) except that our Veterans' benefits are wasting away, the VA hospitals are decrepit, and there are no factory jobs to come home to "up to me" or not.

Hope President Bush is enjoying his barbecue today. Too bad he can't play golf.

Am I angry? Sad? Devastated? Disgusted? You bet.

Bruce Springsteen-Born In The U.S.A.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Farmers Market Saturday - May 24, 2008

The bounty is getting even better. I probably picked up too much today, as our regular share pick-up starts this Wednesday, and I'll be switching these posts to Wednesdays starting on the 29th.

We had several dinner and use goals for this week:

* Roasted Chicken with potatoes and asparagus
* Polenta or cornmeal dish
* Rhubarb Cobbler
* Zucchini and Pasta
* salads
* borsch from last summer


We got through all of it except the polenta or cornmeal dish, and we had one night of asparagus and pasta, as well as the zucchini pasta dish. Both were delicious. Here are a couple of pics from the past week:



Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler



Pasta with Zucchini

This is what we picked up this week:


asparagus, basil, arugula, red leaf lettuce, rhubarb








pickling cukes, Zingerman's City Goat cheeses with chive/garlic and garlic/black pepper, Ernst Farm eggs, scallions and garlic




Not shown - lamb chops from Ernst Farm and more Apple Cider from Kapnick Orchards.

So, what's cooking this week?

*Cold Sesame Noodles with scallions and cukes
*Polenta with Asparagus and Romano
*Arugula, Fig and Goat Cheese Panini (with pepper garlic goat cheese)
*another Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler (it was a big hit)
*more salads
*grilled lamb chops with grilled asparagus
*Basil and Goat Cheese Frittata (with chive garlic City Goat cheese)


Another week of easy and delicious dinners... Bon Appetit! What are you cooking this week?

To see what other Ann Arborites are putting together from the Farmers Market, visit The Farmer's Marketer and An Organic Summer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Meme and Award Time!

I've had a long week for a variety of reasons. One unexpectedly bright spot from the week was receiving this from Susan of
Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. If you haven't been to Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy go there NOW. I mean it. Susan's wonderful recipes and insights and sweetness will leave you feeling happier for going there. So here was her generous gift to me:



The Blogging With a Purpose Award was originated by Eric at Blogging With a Purpose. The rules are, that recipients must nominate five people who have not yet received the award, and that the blogs that receive the award must serve some purpose.

This time around, I'm going to nominate some food blogging friends who are trying to get us to think in new ways about food:

Kim of The Farmer's Marketer. Kim is one Ann Arbor's local champions for the local food movement. Her entries are informative and give great advice for living a simpler, healthier life.
Heather of Gild the Voodoo Lily. Heather shows us daily how local ingredients and a bit of kitchen know-how can bring us literal feasts. She's a master of pulling together the extraordinary from the mundane.
Shan of Tales from the Fairy Blogmother. Shan started up What's Cooking Wednesday, which is a lovely circle of U.S., Canadian, Italian and... other(?) bloggers who share simple recipes from the previous week. This is more of a help circle, than some of the flashier food experiments, and it's been a great resource for many of us!
Ben of What's Cooking?. Ben is not only on a quest to teach us the healthy aspects of Mexican food, but he also is one of the most generous and supportive bloggers out there in the food community. He posts important articles on health issues, cooking techniques, has a cooking around the world series, etc. I always know I'm going to learn something when I visit Ben!
Marye of Baking Delights. Marye is an honest-to-God homesteader and baker extraordinaire. She grows much of what her family eats, and she has seemingly limitless creativity. If you want to learn how to bake on any level, hang around with Marye.

Secondly, I was tagged by Liz at Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness with the following meme:

This meme is book related and the rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

"As she slowly backed out of the crowd, towards the corner, Thierry caught her eye. He motioned to her. Carry this."

This is from Murder in the Marais by Cara Black. I'm not that far into the book yet, but I'm really, really enjoying it. She brings together an emotionally-damaged Parisian PI with a dark story of secrets of both collaborationists and the Underground from WW II, brought to this time, when a Survivor is found murdered with a swastika carved into her forehead. It's not emotionally easy reading, but it's smart, thought-provoking and beautifully written.

And yes, I'm going to specifically tag a few readers, although anyone can decline and anyone can play. So here are five readers whom I know are always surrounded by books:

1. Dru of Notes from Me
2. NYC/Caribbean Ragazza
3. Anno of Anno's Place
4. Wendy of La Delirante
5. Sisters Sassy and Honeybunch of Sisters of a Different Order

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler




Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

I did have all that rhubarb to use up. I froze one bunch, and D requested cobbler for the second bunch. I veered from my local buys in terms of the strawberries, but soon it will be strawberry season and then this will be even tastier!

This is not a quickie dish. It's simple, but prepping the rhubarb and strawberries (4 cups of each), can take a long time. I suggest cranking up some opera. For this batch, I used Kiri Te Kanawa's Verdi and Puccini.

Jen's Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler



Ingredients

Filling:
4 cups of rhubarb, peeled and chopped
4 cups of strawberries, cut in half
1/4 cup of Grand Marnier (or Cointreau)
2 TBS cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Cobbler:
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 TBS sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS butter (cold)
2/3 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 tsp sugar to sprinkle over the top

Directions:
1. preheat oven to 400.

2. Prep fruit. Pour into large bowl and mix in sugar, Grand Marnier, orange zest and cornstarch until well mixed. Pour into greased, 9X13 baking dish.
3. Put dry cobbler ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to mix.
4. Add in butter in small pieces. Pulse until course grains are formed. If you don't have a food processor, cut in with knives.
5. Pour in buttermilk and pulse once or twice to form crumbly dough. Don't overwork.

6. Sprinkle dough over fruit mixture. Sprinkle 1 tsp. sugar over the top.
7. Bake, uncovered, for 25 - 30 minutes - it's ready when fruit is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

8. Serve warm. 12 servings.

Number of Servings: 12

Nutrition Facts

Calories 172.3
Total Fat 3.5 g
Saturated Fat 2.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 8.2 mg
Sodium 134.9 mg
Potassium 278.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 31.6 g
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g
Sugars 13.5 g
Protein 3.0 g


As always, nutrition information supplied by the recipe calculator at sparkrecipes.com.

And here are two more wonderful Strawberry Rhubarb recipes - a classic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from Marye at Baking Delights and a scrumptious Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote from Paola at In My Life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PSA Tuesday - Police Academy and Local Foods Presentation

Police Academy - Communications:

I can't write about the juicy stuff.

As part of the course, we agree to confidentiality in terms of specific cases, incidents, etc. that are mentioned in class.

Having said that, the first week was astounding. We work in a large room with white walls and long tables. Every few feet are phones marked with positions ("Mayor," "Chief of Police," "AATA," etc.). There's a large, flat screen TV at the front and a big, blank screen. Pictures of tornadoes and floods are on the walls, along with a huge wall map marked in districts and colors.

If you guessed that we meet at the center for Emergency Operations, you would be right.

It's an ideal classroom setting, really, because it's functional, but more importantly, it reminds us of the fact that the police are here to serve. This is something that's all too easy to forget when you receive a speeding ticket, or an officer refuses to do forensics in order to recover your stolen textbook (that you left in your UNLOCKED car).

In any case, the opening was darned impressive due to the gaggle of folks at the front of the room. We were greeted by the Chief of Police, Barnett Jones; County Prosecutor Brian Mackie; no less than two Judges; Lloyd Powell and Delphia Simpson, Public Defenders; and Adele El-Ayoubi, who designs this program and whom I mentioned last week.

We were really made to feel valued, and we were actually thanked for taking the course. This struck me as odd, as it's these professionals who are giving us so much of their time. We need to thank them, not just for this wonderful class, but for what they do every day.

After the introductions, we were given an in-depth discussion on Communications by Sgt. Robert Pfannes. Sgt. Pfannes's talk was jammed with information and filled with entertaining stories. He really could box up his act and take it on the road. His stories were absolutely fascinating, as his career has spanned many years both in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and he's been everything from a beat cop to a SWAT team member, narcotics agent to Director of Communications.

As far as Communications goes, here are some of the more pressing issues:

1. Cell phones have greatly increased the difficulties of running a strong communications center.
a. You don't know where the person is calling from, and if they need help, that can be an issue.
b. Now, each time there's a traffic issue or something similar, whereas you had one or two people call 911, you now might have 60, within just a couple of minutes. And every one of those calls must be answered and given consideration in case it's a call for help.
c. With this increase in phone volume, given the country's economy, communications and other police staff are experiencing cutbacks, so that the work load is increasing exponentially, and the professionals to handle that workload are decreasing.

2. Communications centers hold several different positions - a 911 operator is not the person who dispatches help to your accident/health issue/fire/crime scene, etc. That's handled by the dispatcher, and in addition to those processing the information and answering the phone calls and to those who dispatch, there is also a L.E.I.N. (Law Enforcement Information Network) Officer who runs subjects, vehicles and property to determine if it is wanted or stolen. They also do research to ensure officer safety. Also, Police Dispatch and Fire Dispatch are separate. All of these various officers and civilians are generally in one location and coordinating carefully through a variety of systems.

Yes, it is very, very complicated.

3. Call 911 ONLY if life or property are endangered. The rest of the time, call the non-emergency number. I can't stress this enough. Think about having to process those 60 cellphone calls when you really need to focus on getting help to the cars who have had the crash in the first place.

Great Local Food Presentation:

Slow Food Huron Valley has put together a wonderful, free presentation at the main branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, this Thursday the 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
It's called "Finding Local Food and Bringing it Home" and you can read all about it here at The Farmer's Marketer.

Even if you're not local to the Ann Arbor area, I'd strongly encourage you to read the post, and maybe you'll be inspired to set up a similar program at your local library.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Music Monday - "Hero" - Jupiter Rising




For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

I love this song.

I've followed the career of the very talented Jessie Payo, since her blues-singing days in Jessie and the Rain Dogs, and now she's paired up with Spencer Nesey to be the second part of Jupiter Rising. Jupiter Rising is more popular on the West Coast (they're based in LA), but some of their songs ("Go!", "Electropop") have gone national.

I found Jessie because she's the daughter of my dear friend Cyndy, but I'm really struck by Jessie's incredible singing voice, writing ability and just inner beauty that shines out through her performances. She and Nesey make a smart, funky team, and I have no doubt they'll go far, far, far!

I couldn't find a video of Jessie singing "Hero," which is my favorite of their songs. I think this song is amazingly profound and perfect for our times.

Yeah.

'Cause we gotta do it ourselves.

The video below was obviously put together by a high school student from Escondido, CA. She's put together exactly the kind of thing a teen should put together - full of love for her friends and the adults in her life. She's obviously thought carefully about the lyrics. My only disappointment (and it's a big one) with this video is that the faces are not diverse - she's clearly in a fairly segregated existence - but this is her view of her world, not mine. For the general spirit, I think she did a pretty darned good job.

We all need hope in this broken world and we need our strength, 'cause there's no one who's gonna fix it for us.

Rock on, Jessie!

Heroes of our Escondido

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Farmers Market Saturday - May 17, 2008

I'm starting a new feature here today.

As an experiment, I'd like to keep a record of our Farmers Market shopping each week and what we might do with our bounty. I'm hoping that by doing this, maybe some others will be similarly inspired. As it turns out, The Farmer's Marketer has already been doing something similar for quite a while, and we'll link together. Her wonderful post for this week is here. Once Tantre starts, I'll probably start posting this feature on Thursdays, since my CSA pick-up day is Wednesday. The Farmer's Marketer has wonderful interviews with local food producers, observations about food and the politics of food, and a great recent diary of time spent in Paris. I'd highly recommend going over there and checking it out!

This was an unusual week for us in several ways. One, it's our chicken pick-up week. We get three, fresh chickens once every six weeks or so from Ernst Farm. We write our orders down in Joan Ernst's ledger, and she phones us when our chickens are ready. These chickens are free range and mostly yard-fed. They aren't given antibiotics or anything else of that ilk. We get most of our meat and eggs from Joan and her husband, Alvin. Their farm is about 8 miles from my house and they raise their animals in a humane fashion and use their fields as feed for the most part.

The second reason this was an unusual week is that our CSA pick-up hasn't started yet. We are members of Tantre Farm , an organic farm in Chelsea, MI, about 20 miles away. We actually do our pick-ups on Wednesdays. They will start on May 28th.

Well, this is what we picked up this week:


chickens, eggs, stone ground cornmeal from Ernst Farm, rhubarb, zucchini


asparagus, spinach, spring greens

We also bought apple cider (pressed from last seasons apples in cold storage), but somehow I didn't get that into the pictures.


We could not find organic rhubarb or spinach today, so we went with conventional. The zucchini is organic greenhouse zucchini and was a splurge, but I'm dying to make a pasta dish that calls for it, and I felt lucky to find it.

So what are we eating this week?

Tomorrow we are having roast chicken with roasted asparagus and potatoes (the other two chickens have already gone into the freezer). The potatoes were a concession - it is not potato season yet, so they are a supplement.

I'll make the pasta-zucchini dish. It's very simple and the only other ingredients are olive oil and parmesan (I'm using a Wisconsin type here).

With the spring greens, I'll continue to have lunches like this one:



This has been my standard lunch almost daily, lately. Grab and wash spring greens, supplement with whatever pickled or other things I need to use up, and throw on a protein source - in this case hummus. These salads have gone wonderfully with the simple breads I've been making.

D has requested rhubarb cobbler. The rest of the rhubarb and asparagus will be frozen - we've been buying double batches each week since they're both in season right now, and freezing one batch and using the other.

The cornmeal will be used for fresh cornbread, and possibly some polenta-type dish with the leftover chicken. We'll also probably have cornmeal pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. The spinach will mostly be used as greens for the piggies.

We'll also have some borsch from last summer, as I continue to use up the last of my stores from the winter. It's thawing in the fridge as I write this.

Bon Appetit! What are you cooking this week?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Sublime Squash-Apple Soup




Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Well, we've been making bread, and what goes better with bread than soup and salad? So the next few weeks we'll be exploring dishes in those categories. Today is an absolute family favorite - Sublime Squash-Apple Soup. This recipe originally surfaced somewhere in Boston in the 70s, and has happily made it thirty years later on a well-aged index card. There's no picture because I forgot the last time I made this, but I'll update later. And let's face it - it's just creamy, orange-colored soup, so you can picture that in your imagination.

Sublime Squash-Apple Soup

2 tart, medium apples (Granny Smith do nicely, but if you have some nice, local, heritage apples that will do the trick, so much the better)
2 TBS unsalted butter
2/3 cup chopped onion (whatever's freshest/local)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (preferably low sodium or home made - this can also be vegetable stock)
1 - 1 1/2 cups squash puree (see note)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used dried nutmeg and it worked fine)
3/4 cup 2% or 1% milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch ground mace
pinch ground cinnamon
1 - 2 TBS bourbon, whiskey, brandy or sherry (optional, but much, much better with!)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Note - Squash Puree:
You can use frozen pureed squash and thaw ahead of time, or bake halves of acorn squash, cut side down, and bake at 350 until tender (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours). Mash when soft. Either works fine.

Once you have your squash puree in some form:

1. Peel, core and chop the apples
2. Heat butter in dutch oven or equivalent until foamy. Saute onion until very soft and caramel in color (about 10 minutes). Don't over brown.
3. Add stock, chopped apples, squash, salt, nutmeg. Stir. Heat slowly to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until the apples are tender (15 - 30 minutes).
4. Puree in batches in blender, or use an immersion blender if you're lucky enough to have one. Return to pan and stir in milk, cream, mace and cinnamon and simmer 5 - 10 minutes. Add the alcohol and the pepper, and simmer 5 minutes more.
5. Enjoy with Marye Audet's Savory Romano and Herbed Monkey Bread! (YUM).
6. Serves 6

Nutrition Facts

Sublime Squash-Apple Soup

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving
Calories 148.7
Total Fat 6.3 g
Saturated Fat 3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 20.2 mg
Sodium 238.8 mg
Potassium 449.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 20.9 g
Dietary Fiber 4.6 g
Sugars 1.7 g
Protein 2.6 g

As always, nutrition information supplied by the recipe calculator at sparkrecipes.com. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Police Academy

As some of you know, I'm working on a mystery series. The series is set in Ann Arbor, and the love interest is a detective from the AAPD.

In pursuit of more realism, I called a friend who has worked at the AAPD, in various capacities, to ask some questions in terms of scenarios, details, etc. As always, this friend was incredibly generous and kind and offered any services that might be helpful.

He also told me about the Ann Arbor Citizens Police and Court Academy.

This program is not unique - these programs exist in many cities of mid-size and higher. For that matter, they may also exist in small towns, and I simply don't know about them. Our Academy exists for several reasons: 1. After the series of 10 sessions, citizens are enabled/trained to be volunteers for our very, very overworked officers and staff. No, this doesn't mean that we run around with shiny badges making citizen arrests, it simply means we can show up at public events, help serve things, assist with whatever human needs the police department might need. One of the graduates, for example, now does a lot of publicity photos for the department. 2. The Academy teaches us about the ins and outs of the AAPD so that, ostensibly, we become great citizen diplomats for the department. 3. The Academy trains us what to do in a variety of circumstances, so hopefully we are smarter in terms of crime issues and pass on some of that information to others, as well as alerting others to taking the Citizens Police Academy course.

Now, to understand how weird this is for me, you have to understand that I was brought up by leftist activists and all forms of authority were looked upon with suspicion. I've never fired a gun and never wanted to. My feelings about police were imprinted by watching crowd control during the 60s and 70s. My gut instinct upon seeing a police officer in my youth was to RUN.

The friend I mentioned earlier was the first dent in those unfair, prejudiced perceptions. I met him through a home schooling circle of friends, and he was certainly the "Pied Piper" dad with all the kids. They adore him, and he adores them. He's gentle and a great teacher. I knew he worked for the police department. Then I learned he was one of the major players on the SWAT team.

Huh?

This was a bit hard to reconcile, to say the least. So, um, yeah, I had some prejudice stuff to work out, clearly.

In any case, I can't tell you how impressed I've been with each three-hour session of the Academy. I've been meaning to post weekly, but it's been a bit crazy this last bit of time, so I'll start that series next week. So far, we've had sessions on Communications (911, etc.), traffic stops (which I missed, due to allergies up the wazoo), the K-9 team and surveillance, Civil Emergency Response and the SWAT team. Every single presenter has been clear, witty, kind and patient. Many of the personal stories have been heartbreaking. The woman who has put the whole thing together - Adele El-Ayoubi, Crime Prevention Specialist and Crime Analyst for the Investigative Division, as well as Department Volunteer Coordinator, is simply incredible. As a teacher and as a writer, I've been to many, many training sessions of this type. This is, by far, the most interesting and well-developed program I've ever participated in.

Yeah, I know, we all read about how the "cops" don't care - they're corrupt, they're sadistic, they have awful records with divorce and abuse. But you know what? The media just loves to give a bad name to everyone. Um, as a teacher, I *know* that all teachers are lazy, just take the job to have summers off, and like to hold power over their students. Oh, and then there's that little gem - "those who can't do, teach." Nice. And untrue. Every single teacher who is my friend works his or her tail off. Now, I'm not saying every, single teacher does this. I'm just saying that the folks that I respect, the folks that are part of my circle, teach as if every day was their last day to impart information to their students.

So, I think we have to think carefully about how the media presents our teachers, our police officers, our doctors (who, of course, are only in it for the money. Yeah. Right), etc.

The next time you see a police officer, put yourself in his or her shoes. They lay their lives on the line for you. Every. Day. They're there because they want to serve. They probably joined to make a real difference in the world. We need to be very, very thankful that these men and women have chosen to provide help and service when needed. Yes, they make mistakes. Yes, we all do. But if I've learned nothing else in the past several weeks, I've learned that above all else, these officers want to be the heroes in our lives, to make our lives better and safer and to provide aid.

And if you have interest in this area, check out your local Citizens Academy. It's worth every minute.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Music Monday: "Give a Man a Fish" - Arrested Development




For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

Hype makes me suspicious. I wouldn't even go near Harry Potter for the first couple of years that it was out. Then when I finally got around to it, I fell hook, line and sinker.

I made the same mistake with Arrested Development. I knew there were some songs I liked, but the hype was just too much and I didn't listen to albums.

Fortunately, our library has a great CD collection. And I was browsing to hear some new music while doing house chores, and I have fallen. in. love. with 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life. In fact, I've fallen so deeply in love, it's what I asked for for Mother's Day, and I guess I've been a good mom, because I received it. ;-)

The song I most love is the one below - "Give a Man a Fish". I've loved this proverb since I heard it around age 8 or so, and I guess, as a teacher, it's been one of my favorite phrases as an adult. I also agree with so many of the lyrics in the song. Here are two of my favorite excerpts:

Now I pray for God to invest in me
My dignity, invest his glory
Give me the strength so I can finish the story
Keep on searching for the right way to go out
coz going out is what it's all about
huh! You can't be passive, gotta be active
Can't go with what looks attractive
Gotta learn all I can while I'm able
Headliner expresses his feeling on those turntables
When we get our chance
to make a good living of the music we program
We won't sell out just to be sold out (alright, they're talking about music, but this can be applied in SO many situations)

Raise your fist but also raise your children
So when you die the movement moves on
Coz with revolution, ain't no future in front o' y'all
haha! Direct your anger, love
Nothing's ever built on hate, instead love
Love your life, tackle the government (yes, we need change, but real change can't come from anger - it has to come from love and strength, too. And discipline. There's no free lunch. )

I couldn't find a great youtube clip, but I hope you all like the song. Enjoy!

Arrested Development Give a Man a Fish

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Punk'd

My school year is finally done.

I've completed all my grade reports except two, and I'm waiting for out-standing work to complete those. My graduation cards have been bought and I'm in the process of writing them.

C is out of his crisis mode. He even has a three-day weekend this weekend and almost no homework.

My mother's visit has been postponed.

So, you would think this is the perfect time to get in lots and lots of writing and continued work on my greening projects, right?

Wrong.

What is it about having the time to actually get things done that makes it impossible to actually get those things done? Why am I so much more constructive when I have no time, than when I have plenty of time?

Why do I visit Facebook when I have a draft waiting for major revisions???

I'm not a last-minute deadline person. I've always tried to get things done in a bit-by-bit fashion, but somehow, busier seems to breed better productivity for me.

I'm feeling punk'd by my personality.

Anyone else have this problem?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Simple Breads 3 - Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread




Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Okay, so this week the simple bread truly is simple. I've been making this bread once or twice a week since starting my new bread-making routine. It's wonderful breakfast bread. D likes to toast it, and I prefer it plain. What I do to keep this fresh, and I do this with my other homemade breads, too, is to simply wrap it in a cloth napkin after the first day. No plastic, no drying out.

English Muffin Loaves
Adapted from a recipe printed in The Ann Arbor News on April 23, 2008

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 package dry yeast
1/2 TBS sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup water
cornmeal

1. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Heat milk and water to about 120 degrees (I pop a cup in the microwave for about 45 seconds and this seems to do the trick). It should feel lukewarm to warm on your finger - NOT hot.

3. Gradually add milk mixture to dry ingredients, mixing on low speed of an electric mixer, about 2 - 3 minutes until dough is combined. It will be sticky and a bit stiff:



4. Spray or grease a loaf pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Take dough out of mixing bowl and put in pan, shaping it into a loaf. Sprinkle cornmeal on the top. It will look something like this:



5. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes to 90 minutes. The original recipe says "until doubled" in bulk, but mine hasn't quite risen that far and it doesn't seem to matter.

6. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.

Note: you can EASILY double this recipe, but I find that this is so easy, that I'd rather have one fresh loaf at a time. For those with large families, yes, do the doubled recipe.

Last note: Please excuse this poor photo, but you can see from it, that it's not a high-rise bread. The taste, however, is wonderful and it DOES make nice toast, too.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Music Monday - "Future's So Bright" - Timbuk 3




For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

I have a bunch of amazing students graduating next week. They're not in the least bit flip like this song, but I do love the summer vibe it brings.

So grads... the piece below is for you. I'm gonna miss you more than I can possibly express here.

And I've no doubt, all your futures are "shades" bright.

Timbuk3 - The Futures So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

Timing

To celebrate finishing my school year, I give you the following meme that I found some time ago on Carol's blog, Northwest Ladybug.

10 years ago... I was in the grips of situational depression which started the spring after my sister's death from lung cancer. Unlike losing my father six years previously to prostate cancer, I couldn't seem to grasp that my sister was gone. It was partly her age (just shy of 49); partly that she'd left behind her 14-year-old son, and I couldn't imagine that for my own son; and partly that I missed her. I spent close to 10 weeks in black, rolling, waves, until I got some help that actually worked around June. The depression lifted like fog off the San Francisco Bay. It was one of the most luxurious and wonderful feelings I've encountered.

10 months ago... It was July 4th, and we started the day at 7:00 a.m. at the Farmers Market and later had a lovely family celebration with farmed foods, games and s'mores. I think we went to the nearby lake, too.

10 weeks ago... we were on the last day of C's Winter Break. I'd still had to work that week, and so had D, but I'd only had to teach on Monday and get my other stuff done. C had his D&D group that day, so D and I probably went out for Indian food, or it may have been the day that I made D a special 40 garlic chicken which we ate as a romantic dinner at home. Inevitably, since it was a school year Sunday, I'm sure I did some corrections, as well.

10 days ago... It was the day after C's b'day. I had a very productive day that day and I got tons of work done for school, had some writing time, and worked on various house chores. C finally got enough of a break in his homework load that he went to Ring of Steel, his stage combat troop, that night.

10 hours ago... I was asleep

10 minutes ago... I was getting ready to start this blog entry.

10 minutes from now... I will be finished with this blog entry.

10 hours from now... I will probably be watching Moonlight with C., if he finishes his enormous homework load that he's already been working on since 9, after working from 10 - 3 yesterday. (Too. much. homework.)

10 days from now...I will have an interminable doctor's appt. in the morning with my wonderful doctor who always runs at least an hour behind. (He really is wonderful, but he's never, ever on time). Hopefully, that afternoon I'll be picking up my mother from the airport, but I'm not counting on that right now, as she's sick with a stubborn bacterial infection, and I'm not sure she'll actually be well enough to travel by then.

10 weeks from now... will be my birthday. It will be my 49th birthday. I plan to celebrate in some big way, because for me, this is much bigger than my 50th birthday, because it will mean that I made it to 49 when my sister didn't. I've been ridiculously superstitious about this birthday for the past 11 years. Cancer leaves an ugly shadow.

10 months from now... It will be that time in Michigan when we are all yearning and burning for spring weather. My Japanese daughter will have just turned 22, and my Danish son will be just shy of 20 and my mother will be having a significant birthday three days later. I might well be in NYC to visit her, but I'm guessing I'll leave that Tuesday, rather than Sunday, so I can teach my classes on Monday.

10 years from now... I hope to see C done with education and having at least met his life's partner. I'd love to see him finding work, or an area of work, that he enjoys and that suits him and that he's on his way to being settled in life. I hope that all those I love will be in good health. I hope to have at least one novel published. I hope to still be teaching if I'm not too much of a cranky old lady by then. I hope to be in better shape than I am now. I hope that D will be happy and healthy and winding down his career. I hope we'll have enough saved that when we DO hit retirement that we can get some travel time in. On a less, completely self-centered note, I hope that our world will be healing and that we will have struck more parity between countries and between citizens within countries and that the U.S. will have a much better, more globally-minded leader.

What do you hope for 10 years from now?