Thursday, July 16, 2009

Local Dinner with Far Away Flavor

I just had the most excellent meal ever, and I made it. This is one of my favorite times of the year, as the produce selection from the gardens really starts to explode. I made a sesame vegetable stir fry earlier this week with kohlrabi and broccoli from the farm we grow at--we traded our potatoes for them. I was paging through Vegan with a Vengance when I came across the recipe for potato and edmame samosas with coconut-mint chutney. I've come to realize that samosas are one of my favorite foods, so I was sold. I had some frozen edmame and thought it would be a great way to use some of our plethora of potatoes. I picked up my copy of Six Spices, a wonderful cookbook by the talented Neeta Saluja, who I've been lucky enough to take a cooking class from. Curried zucchini seemed like the perfect accompaniament since we had also traded potatoes for a good pile of zuchs. Yesterday I made the chutney--a simple blend of coconut milk, herbs, and spices. The mint and cilantro came right from our gardens. (If you wanted to make this more local and weren't trying for a vegan meal, you could make a locally produced yogurt based chutney instead.) Today I realized that I probably had enough carrots I could thin to use those for the samosas, and that the peas from the Farmer's Market would be a great substitute for the edamame. I got excited as I prepped the vegetables and collected a beautiful workspace of colors, textures, and aromas. This was a pretty labor intensive meal, but well worth it. I made chapati (Indian flat bread) to accompany everything and served brown rice for those who wanted it with the curried zucchini. All the dishes turned out wonderfully. I have never made a curry like the zucchini recipe--it had a lemon and sugar finish. If you enjoy Indian foods, I highly recommend that you check out this book and experiment with some of the wonderful different authentic methods. I was thrilled to be able to make such a great Indian meal with such local food. As Rob pointed out, it makes sense that it would be so easy to do, since much of ethnic cuisine draws from good whole foods. As you enjoy this summer's bounty, I hope you explore the many possibilities that your local gardens offer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strange Times

My head has been in a very strange place lately. I seem to be at a precipice, but I haven't decided yet what the significance is. As a firm believer in what I refer to as the "Divine Nudge", I try to be open to feelings which urge me to sway one way or another--change direction, or make a certain decision. But as I have sat in this new mindset for a few days, I'm beginning to believe that I've just reached a point where I am open to making that change or taking that big step at any time, not just the "right" time, where there may be a critical choice to be made.

Maybe I should back up and try to explain a bit where I'm at. I've been feeling a bit burned out in the previous few months. I've been in my current field for about five years now, and I love my organization, but I feel like there is more I could be doing. I don't feel as called to it as I once did. I've been able to cut my hours back and still get the job done though, and spending less hours has been helpful in allowing me to step back yet continue to meet the needs of my organization.

Local, organic food is a bigger passion, but that too has seemed to loom as more responsibility than I can keep up with. I've enjoyed our home gardens more this year though, particularly as we have established relationships with local outlets that want our produce. There is nothing like growing your own food, and extending that to sharing it with others. The cool season has made growing slow, which has been nice as we haven't been overwhelmed as much as last year with weeds, haven't had to fight flooded fields, etc. The gardens have been just right--a source of food but also of solace and respite from the busy day-to-day.

The kids have been doing activities almost every morning, but I have them in the afternoons, and have struck a good balance I think between "doing" with them, and just letting them be. We have our beach days, and we have our days where they splash around in the backyard while I chill out with a book or putz in the gardens.

So that's where I've been, and then Rob took a week off of work last week, and before that I had a few days with my family visiting. The kids had off of their activities, and we didn't plan a million things to do, so it was just spending time with family, visiting bookstores or the farmer's market--just living life. It seems weird to say that it was just a week--maybe 10 days. It felt like much more. I felt so relaxed and at peace with everything, but as the days went by, I started noticing some strange things.

First, I started listening to different music. I's been listening to a lot of my typical workout music all the time now, to the point that Bird was starting to sing along with Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas a bit more than I was comfortable with! Then I got the new Regina Spektor album, which was a change since I normally just buy a select song here and there, and somehow it allowed me to get into this very internal mindset. I went back to my more mellow music, it just feel right again.

I think the strangest thing though has been books. I am an avid reader, and "have" to have a good novel on my bedside table to read myself to sleep. I rarely read for pleasure outside of that bedtime window, but at the beginning of this little mini-vacation I spent much of a day reading a novel I'd picked up from the library. It wasn't particularly fabulous, but a nice pleasant read. When I finished it, it was too late to go to the library but I needed something to read at bed, so I went to our bookshelves and grabbed the last Harry Potter. I am usually someone who has to finish what they start readig, but I have a few select books that I have read enough times that I'm okay with just reading a bit in-between other books. So the next day I looked at some of the "best of" summer reading lists, and couldn't find anything that appealed to me. I went to the bookstore, and looked at dozens of books, but nothing called to me. Another bookstore--same thing, and another... Then I went to the library and experienced the same phemomenon. You have to understand, this has never happened to me before. Yes, I'm picky about books, but I've always found something I want to read. I spent about 30 minutes staring at the spines of the books on the shelves in the non-fiction section pondering this. Perhaps it's because my normal reads are escapist--sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction--and something in me is rejecting that as I get closer to--what, reality? But that can't be all there is to it, because not even my beloved non-fiction appeals right now. I left the library with a copy of Vegan with a Vengance (an old friend) just because it felt ridiculous not to check out something.

Maybe it's not just reality that I've discovered, but somehow managed to find that near-enlightenment of living in the present. Having no work responsibilities, having Rob home (and really home, not able to go to the farm to work because of a shoulder injury), not planning any grand trips or adventures, having the kids home and happy... I've done plenty of thinking about where I want to be eventually. Should I get my Masters in Non-Profit Management? Should we look for a farm here, or closer to my parents? Should I try to find a job with more hours but less responsibility? I've thought about how the reason we're all so stressed is that we fill our lives with STUFF, and then we stress about keeping up with all of the STUFF in our big houses that we don't have time to clean, and we're not happy so we work harder so we have more money to buy more STUFF... But I haven't stressed out about it, it's just passed through as a truth. Is it as simple as coming to terms with the present? Carpe diem? I feel disconnected from all of the normal stress, all of the worries. It's like I'm somehow floating above the currents that I was previously constantly caught in. I'm curious, especially to see what happens next, but not so much that I'm stressing about it. I'm And really enjoying it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Back in February, I wrote about the new bakery that opened in our area. We've continued to patronize the bakery and have been happy to see it continue to succeed. We have talked to them about their desire to use more local ingredients and offered to grow more herbs this year so that we could provide some of their stock. We started a new bed in the Spring and dedicated most of it to herbs--basil, cilantro, sage, thyme, and rosemary. We tried to grow oregano as well but couldn't get a single seed to start up for us. The cool weather has hampered the more woody herbs' progress a bit, but I told the bakery yesterday that we had a good batch ready for them. This morning I delivered about 3 ounces of basil, 2 ounces of sage, and an ounce of thyme, and brought home a bag of whole grain rolls. I can't describe in words the feeling of growing something, being able to provide fresh, organic, local ingredients, and receiving something we need in exchange. What's more, the bakery is able to get the ingredients they need at a much lower cost to them. It has a feeling of such satisfaction and accomplishment to be able to somehow amplify our resources to gain more of what we can't do ourselves. Check it out:



I love it. I've been trying to slow down a bit more, and have found myself more apt to muse, so I hope to be blogging more in the coming months. I hope you all are enjoying a wonderful growing season!