Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

A good time to remember to be grateful. I try to be mindful of that as often as possible; I feel very lucky for everyone's good health and happiness, to have found our house and moved in last year. For little things like geekMan's handiness around the house (he finally rewired & replaced the bathroom fan; it was wired together with the light, so it was always a noisy twofer). Bittersweet about the kids getting older, but..... mostly grateful on that account.

Otherwise short post. I've gotten quite out of the habit of writing. I think it fell apart in September after the death of a friend of mine. It was such a shock, and I was more bothered by it than I expected. I never felt like being alone inside my head enough to write.

Anyhoo, time moves on, as it must. And I miss being here. I'm gearing up to do a lot of canning; we have strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes stuffed into the freezers and they need to made into something for on the shelf. I've also been playing more with yarn. No real time or desire to work with wool when the yard needs weeding. Hobbies falling prey to seasonal dictums (or would that be dicta?).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We are doomed.

Recent news from the city of South Milwaukee indicates that a new Walmart is coming. The goal is to plant it on Chicago Avenue just south of College Avenue. This section of Chicago Avenue is not wide enough to handle significantly increased traffic, meaning down the line - sometime soon probably - the homes and residential neighborhoods along this stretch will be traded out for high traffic runways.

What a disappointment. Between this and the recent election outcomes, moving to Iceland looks pretty good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Food Irony

Image from the FDA website.
Does anyone else see the irony of the US hosting an informational conference on food safety given our recent track record?

Are eggs on the menu? What about cheese? Sure to find some hydrolyzed vegetable protein stuck somewhere.... and I hope there's no frozen fruit for dessert.

Actually, it's going to be held in Cairo, Egypt. They're probably safe.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh, the Irony

Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve by Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
Does anyone else find irony in the fact that the cheese judged Best in Show at the recent American Cheese Society competition was made from RAW milk, and yet trying to buy raw milk by my own consumer choice is illegal? I'm dumbfounded by the prohibition on raw milk sales. You would think that allowing the sale is tantamount to forcing raw milk on everyone. It's called consumer choice. I would like to exercise mine; you know, take it out for a walk now and then. To buy some raw milk.

Photo from Wisconsin Cheese Talk, sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Campaign Follies

Now that the primaries are over, the real races begin. To lighten your mood about the upcoming mud season, here's a video from CNN's Jeanne Moos showing some of the best, weirdest campaign ads out there. So far.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

News and Views (i.e. TCD and Sculpture)

It's always exciting to learn new things about your hometown. Well, at least as long as those things classify as neato-keen. Today was gracious enough to provide two to check out.

The Third Coast Digest
Bannerhead courtesy of ThirdCoast Digest.
geekMan and I really enjoy exploring Milwaukee, so it's always nice to know we are not the only people relishing what this coastal cosmetropolis has to offer. The TCD is new to me and on first glance it seems promising as an alternative news-voice. I've plugged it into my reader, so only time will tell.

The Lynden Sculpture Garden
Bannerhead courtesy of Lyndon Sculpture Garden.
Previously called the Bradley Sculpture Garden, this collection was recently renamed and opened for public viewing. I never knew it was there before, so this is all totally new to me. I've heard of Mrs. Bradley in terms of her art collections and her generous donations to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I don't know the full history of these sculptures, but from what I can gather reading Eddee Daniel's blog Arts without Borders, the garden used to be opened only once a year to the public. Now it's open two days a week all year long. I'm keen to see this collection and how different pieces look now and after the snow falls. And in Spring. You get the idea.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tree + Wind = A Big Mess

Mother Nature did some serious pruning in our yard yesterday. One of the very large trees in our front yard lost most of its crown yesterday in 50mph gusts. Of the three there, it is the American Linden (or Basswood) in the middle between a Northern Red Oak and a Norway Maple. They provide a lot of wonderful shade for the front of the house (well, they did...).
Tree crown in the yard.
We're really lucky that the tree didn't come down on the house. Or anything in the road for that matter.
Tree across the road.
The trunk looks pretty rotted through, poor thing. It was probably only a matter of time before it came down. There was another branch high in the tree I had expected to go, but it is still attached. According to the neighbors, the tree was fine until about 4pm.
What's left of the trunk. You can see the long gouge up into the branch I thought would be the one to go.
By the time I got home from work the tree was down.  I made a mad dash out to purchase a chain saw; it was so overcast, the light was fading and we had to get it out of the road. There's a streetlight immediately across the street that proved very useful. I don't recommend using chain saws at night, however. As a rule.
The front yard this morning. We managed to get it cut back and removed from the street and sidewalk last night.
We're going to see if we can find someone to use the wood. geekMan found some info online that said basswood is good for carving and making instruments, but not so much for burning in wood stoves. And of course, the rest of the tree will probably have to come out. It's like a bad tooth. It makes me sad  to lose such a mature and graceful tree. The two remaining trees will still provide a fair amount of shade for the house. The space will seem so empty though, I'm hoping we'll plant another tree. A birch would be nice...

Also, if anyone in the Milwaukee area is interested in the wood, give me a holler in the comments :-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tall ships in Milwaukee harbor

Yesterday driving home past the lake, I was excited to see several tall ships in the Discovery World harbor. Usually the only one you see is the S/V Denis Sullivan, a modern sailing vessel that's "the world’s only re-creation of a 19th century three-masted Great Lakes schooner." 

S/V Denis Sullivan; photo credit
The ships are still in port this morning (along with a ginormous cargo ship), and the harbor was wrapped in fog to great effect. I really wished I had my camera with me and the time to use it... fortunately, Tom Lynn one of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photags captured the moment for everyone to enjoy. 

S/V Denis Sullivan in harbor; photo by Tom Lynn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Not a bad way to start the day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life was in color then too

Something caught my eye today, and I'm not sure why. I read several blogs regularly, one of them being the undeniably geeky Gizmodo. Today they posted a video from Kodak showing some of the earliest color movies ever made. 1922. A good 17 years before the double-decker blockbuster year of 1939 when Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz came out. They weren't even the first in-color films to be released, just the ones everyone thinks of.

This movie compilation from Kodak is strangely moving, seeing images in color that I've always associated with black & white. It also strikes me that modeling hasn't changed much; perhaps that's more a statement on human nature than anything else. Enjoy :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where's the Box??

It's been a few weeks since I last posted a box update - oops!. Late Summer veg production is in full swing, and I've been working to preserve as much as possible. This week's box is much like the last couple, so without further preamble:

This week's box contains: watermelon (an orange one!), sweet corn (8 ears), edamame soybeans, slicing tomatoes, bell peppers, Spanish onions, pickling cukes, basil, Romano beans, and heirloom tomatoes.

I don't have a pretty picture since the lighting was bad - we had storms in the area Friday afternoon, and I'm still totally reliant on natural sunlight for pictures. I have flash available, but the color is ug-ly! And I've not sprung for the light shed yet.... so....

Rather than share mediocre images, here are a couple shots of the pickling madness that's consumed the kitchen.

Hot pots on the stove!
Here's the big blue canner, the stock pot with pickling syrup, and a small saucepan with rings & lids behind. Notice I've learned you can use the handle of the stock pot as a handy spoon rest ;-)

Vinegar, sugar, jars.
I discovered last year the difference between apple cider vinegar and apple cider flavored vinegar (the flavored stuff is really bitter). Being fairly thrifty, I understand wanting to save on the fancy stuff, but when the real thing made from apple cider is only $1.79/gallon.... what would be the point of using anything else.

Bread & butter pickles ready to shelve.
So far we've been through 25lbs of cukes to make bread & butter pickles (slices and spears), sweet cucumber pickle relish, and garlic-dill cucumber pickle spears. Next came pickled beets, pickled watermelon rind, and cranberry-red onion relish. I've never had pickled watermelon rind before, but it sounds interesting; more on that later. With so much produce available right now, I have plans (reckless hopes?) to put up more, much more.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week12

Lots of goodies in the box this week. The only issue to get through may be the muskmelons; geekMan is not a fan, leaving me to eat it all. Recently my lunches have been melon and cheese; almost better than grapes and cheese. The new Emeril cookbook has a recipe for pasta sauce made from melon. I just may be able to sneak some past geekMan.

This week's box contains: sweet corn (6 ears), muskmelons (2), green leaf lettuce, green bell peppers (2), red bell pepper (1), Walla Walla onions (4), summer squash (1), garlic (1), cucumber (1), tomatoes (pint of cherry maters), eggplant (1), broccoli (other options were celery and red frying peppers).

It's hard to see from the pic, but the cucumber is really big. Once seeded, it should be great for some tzatziki sauce. Beth at the farm also mentioned that the garlic is fresh - not dried as usually found. She said to eat it up since it won't keep well. I decided baba ghanoush would be a tasty way to use up the garlic and eggplant. At the moment, the house smells of roasting garlic and, well, eggplant. Should be tasty when done.

Since I'm writing this on Sunday, I should point out that the tomatoes are already gone; mixed into a caprese of sorts with slices of small fresh mozzarella balls, fresh basil, olive oil and S&P. That and sweet corn are the tastes of summer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie!

How appetizing! Blend cheeseburger with water, top with ketchup, mustard, & mayo - a great snack for any time!!

I'm so glad it's not real - Jamba Juice is responding to efforts by burger chains to do smoothies - seems like a fair, if disgusting, turnaround. Go here for a coupon off any real Jamba Juice smoothie.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Weeks 10 and 11

Catching up with posts - and veg. I didn't realize until getting Week 11 ready that I utterly failed to mention Week 10. So, without further delay: 

Week 10 box contained: green beans (1.5 lb), snap peas (0.6 lb), celery, Italian frying peppers (2), collard greens, lettuce, zucchini/squash, cucumbers (2), scallions, Walla Walla onion (1).

Week 11 box contained: sweet corn (7 ears), muskmelon, eggplant (1), Walla Walla onion, zucchini/squash, basil, green bell pepper (1), cucumber (1).


We're holding our own on the veg with everything but the greens. I never seem to get to those in time. We still have some beets from a couple weeks ago as well. The sweet corn was amazing! And we've discovered you can grill green beans. Our favorite combo includes wedges of zuke sliced longwise, scallions, and green beans tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, & other spices. Very very tasty.

My new favorite summer dessert is from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I really enjoy reading her cookbooks; she has a wonderfully casual and intimate way of writing about the recipes. It feels like she's your best friend sharing kitchen secrets. The Black & White Tart recipe in the book is silly easy and seems to work with any fruit. It's no-bake too - perfect for hot summer days when I'm feeling particularly lazy. We've been doing a lot with red currants since we got some from the SSFM. First tart was with fresh figs and red currants; this version is more patriotic.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flooding in Milwaukee

We've been hard hit with flooding here. Our own neighborhood has been safe, but sections of South Milwaukee are still under water, and the city is under a state of emergency (as is most of Milwaukee county). I drove home from work yesterday along the lakefront just before the storm hit, watching the clouds roll out over the lake. It looked impressive and dangerous, so of course, we had to go take some pictures.
 This view is North toward Milwaukee along the coast. We live a very short walking distance from Grant Park, so we took our cameras and ourselves down the Seven Bridges trail to the lakefront. We took these photos at about 5:30pm when the worst of the rain was just getting started.
 This view is looking east out over the lake. I love the color contrasts, how the dark sky makes the whitecaps really stand out, and the lake turns a sea glass-green color.  We watched the clouds roll out, and then the lake pushed them back; at one point clouds were moving in lines in opposite directions. Little did we know that the storm would bring tornadoes, up to 12in of rain, stop traffic on the interstate for almost 10hrs, close the airport (as of 2pm Friday - still closed), and produce car and house-eating sinkholes. Check the Journal-Sentinel for details.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Off to the races!

Really short post here - it's been really busy at the homestead of late. Superweek is on in the Milwaukee area, and we're lucky enough to be hosting a couple of the racers. Today's stage is in our very own SoMil - come out and watch some fantastic cycling!

I understand the SoMil Farmer's Market is having a special market day, and there are probably other places open for food & drink downtown as well. Good times all around!


The race was incredible fun to watch. I never tire of seeing the riders round the curve at the end of the straight away. Superweek started as one race over 40 years ago, and now it's 17 days of racing - how cool is that! South Milwaukee hasn't seen a race in 20 years or so, and this course is almost the same national championship course run then. Here is the larger field of riders in today's Pro1/2 race.
Race courses go right through residential neighborhoods. It seems surreal, but then I think about images of the Tour de France (also running at the moment) where cyclists ride through quaint villages all the time. Not so different (our roads may be wider...).

We had a great view - it's hard not to. The riders are so close and going so fast - my simple little P&S camera has a hard time catching them. Riders with different skill levels race in separate categories, so there are several races over the course of the day. The men's Pro/1/2 race is typically the highlight and often the last one to begin. The Bucyrus Classic started at 5:45pm, and they finished heading into the sunset.
Superweek stages are professional races, so they have a winners podium and colored jerseys just like other tours. Here are the winners for the race today:
From L to R: Logan Loader (California; Second place finish today), Rene Birkenfeld (Germany; Red jersey = sprints leader), Jonathan Cantwell (Australia; Winner today's stage), Eric Young (Illinois; Third place finish today), Aurelion Passeron (France; Yellow jersey = points leader).

Truly an international event here in SoMil. I'm going to hold onto these photos - someone here might be famous someday. Even Lance Armstrong raced Superweek back in his early days.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 9

The holiday weekend saw us devour a good portion of our veg. We haven't eaten it all though; we still have peas, bok choy, scapes, summer squash, beets, cabbage and diakon left to eat. One of our favorite summer meals is a sort of pasta carbonara with veg. We like using summer squash and mushrooms sauteed with onion in bacon fat (saving the bacon to add back in of course!), but it works with most veg (even greens if you cut them small). It has fallen out of rotation in the kitchen but sounds really good to me at the moment. I think it ought to make an appearance on the table soon.

This week's box contains: green beans (0.7 lb), snap peas (0.9 lb), swiss chard, red leaf lettuce, green bell pepper (1),  cucumbers (2 or 3), zucchini, basil, kohlrabi (1 small) OR a little broccoli.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Farm Fresh Atlas

As soon as you decide that you'd like to eat more local, perhaps even try the 100 Mile Diet, you realize that you have no idea where to find the goods. Farmer's markets are a good place to start as well as local natural food stores, but what if you want to get even closer to the source? How do you find grass-fed lamb and organic berries?

Fortunately the people at Farm Fresh Atlas are aware of these questions and they know the answers. Or at least they try to find them. The list of farms (at last count, well over 100) details location and produce, including whether you can find them at a market or buy direct from the farm (or both), or perhaps they have a CSA. The list is updated annually, so the list stays, well, fresh  ;-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

South Shore Farmer's Market in Bay View

It seems counter-intuitive that we would haunt farmer's markets with our overflowing crisper bins, but there's more than buying veg at a market. A good market offers more than just produce, or maybe the term produce covers a wider range of goodies. There's often food & beverages for eating on the spot, fresh flowers, bedding plants and herbs. Sometimes meat or fish mongers as well. We love the atmosphere of a good market too, relaxed with a sense of discovery of what looks good this week. This Saturday morning, we rode our bicycles up to the South Shore Farmer's Market at South Shore Park in Bay View - it was a perfect Summer morning, and there was a good crowd out to enjoy the park and the weather and the market.
Live music entertained the whole family.
We picked up some red currants (aiming to be in a tart), cranberry granola cookies from Wild Flour Bakery, and some fresh criminis from our favorite mushroom farm: River Valley Ranch (I've always loved the thought of a mushroom "ranch" and all that 'shroom wrangling).
Fresh eggs and local chicken!

We had some of the most amazing tamales. Next time we have to try the crepes (made fresh to order) and some coffee, or maybe a smoothie. Honey and maple syrup vendors were there, and lots of cheese. It's a real motivator to get up and out on the bikes first thing on a Saturday morning. Views like this from the bike trail help too.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 8

Another week's delivery of veg - I confess we are having some trouble keeping up (doesn't help that geekMan was traveling for work again...). Fortunately, we have a house full of folk for the holiday weekend, and will be able to share a lot with family. It looks to be pretty warm weather too, and veg are always a light choice to build hot-weather meals around.

This week's box contains: cabbage, beets with greens, summer squash/zucchini (2.5 lb), red leaf lettuce, kohlrabi (1 or 2), cucumbers (3), parsley, snow peas (0.25lb), snap peas (1.3 lb).

I realized late last week that I forgot to post the box from week 7 - oops! Last week's box contained: broccoli (2 medium heads), snap peas (1.5 lb), snow peas (0.5 lb), zucchini/squash (2 lb), fennel (1 large or 2 med.), red bibb lettuce, cucumber (1), red Russian kale, basil, garlic scapes. It's a lot of veggie goodness - I'll tally up after the long weekend.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FDA to Ponder Barnyard Antibiotics

Finally, finally - someone is starting to understand. The FDA has decided to take a dim view of the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals, stating that "The development of resistance to these drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness, poses a serious public health threat." It's about bloody time.

For years, industrial farming has incorporated the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals such as cattle (dairy and beef) and hogs. Not because they were sick, but because it made them grow fatter faster. The end result is the frightening development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Not to mention the exposure of people to antibiotics in meats and meat products.

Europe made the switch over a decade ago. Aren't we supposed to be a world leader....?

Read the FDA press release "FDA Issues Draft Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals" here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Topsy Turvy Update

After much fruitless searching (and tomatoes are technically a fruit!), I finally found the Juliet cherry tomato plant I wanted (like the one at the right from Park Seed). The "Drat!" aspect is that the store had no more TT planters. In hindsight, I should have purchased one earlier when they were plentiful. I figure I have about a week to track one down before I will be forced to pot up Juliet in the traditional manner.

Seems as though seeds for this variety are easier to get than the plant. I don't have good luck starting from seed; the peppers I started this year are still puny 6-leaf seedlings despite being in large pots now for over a month. I might be motivated to try again next year with a favorite tomato. Maybe.

Where to now for a Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter??

Really Planning Ahead: the Doomsday Seed Vault

Somewhere in Norway, quietly in an old mine at constantly freezing temperatures, the world's agricultural heritage is being collected and stored as insurance against catastrophe.

Technically called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, it serves as a repository for all the seed crops from across the globe. The vault's bunker-like indestructible nature has earned it the Doomsday nickname, and the collection lives in a mountain too high to be flooded and too deep to be affected by a nuclear blast. NatGeo has a video tour that's definitely worth a look see.

Image above of the entrance by Mari Tefre, courtesy of the SGSV.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wine and Politics

Disturbing news: a bill (HR 5034) is making its way through Congress that would effectively eliminate interstate shipping of wine. Why care, you ask? Because small wineries depend on direct shipments to customers rather than wholesale distribution, and without it they are likely to fail. Wine retailers who go out of their way to find small label gems will be limited to availability through wholesalers. All of this means us as consumers will be limited to what the big wineries can pour out. Reminds me of the Wal-Mart effect and the generic-ization of consumer goods.

This bill was developed by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and is supported by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association (are you sensing the theme here?) and four congressmen (initially; there are over 100 now). It is an unnecessary impingement on free commerce. It needs to be defeated. I fear it may slip through unnoticed if we the people don't speak up.

Seek out information. Google it up. Write to your congressmen; find yours here. There are people out there working to defeat this bill - there's even a FB page.

To get you started, go to Free the Grapes or Stop HR5034. Then write your congressmen. Find out if your reps are supporting it. Tell them not to.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 6

The box this week has a wide range of goodies. The store of veg we have around is starting to pile up, so I'm going to have to get creative. With geekMan back from his work-ly travels, I will have some help eating it.

This week's box contains: strawberries (1 qt),  rhubarb (1 lb), snap peas (1 lb), snow peas (0.5 lb), green leaf lettuce, collard green, broccoli (1 smallish head), zucchini (about 2 lb), cilantro, garlic scapes. I'm excited about the additional rhubarb - more fodder for perfecting the rhubarb meringue pie. The cilantro is a big bunch; I feel some cilantro pesto coming on.

Garlic scapes (see right) are the flower spikes of garlic bulbs. Our farmer Beth tells us these are snapped off, forcing the plant's energies into the bulb. They have a milder garlic flavor, like the green garlic earlier this year.

It strikes me that we eat a lot of flowers as veg. Chive blossoms, broccoli, artichoke come to mind. Scapes are a nice treat. Outright flowers too like zucchini blossoms, pansies & violas, nasturiums. I've heard day lily blossoms are also edible (tasty? I don't know). Perhaps this is a way to combat the overgrowth in the yard.... I'm not sure how to prepare them. Yet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CSA Tally

I've been munching my way through more than strawberries this week. geekMan has been on the business travel road of late, leaving me to eat my way through the veg from last week's two boxes. Along with what remained from earlier boxes, how are we faring?

CSA Tally after 5 weeks:
Asparagus (new last week) - half gone
Strawberries (14qts last week) - nothing fresh left, mostly frozen awaiting to be jam
Lettuce - two of five heads left (no rabbit jokes please)
Bok choy - haven't touched it
Daikon - haven't touched much (but now have several recipes for pickles, slaws, etc).
Snow peas - half gone

And a couple carry overs:
White spring salad turnips - half gone
Escarole - half gone (it's a big head with some not-so-tender leaves and needs to be cooked)
Parsley - maybe a third gone (I forget it's there....)
Parsnips - still there
Potatoes - likewise still there

We did use up the chives, leeks though. And all the other veg we've received so far. The veg still around have a longer shelf life, so I don't feel as pressured to use them up.

In light of what's still around, I ought to make a bok choy/snow pea stir fry for dinner. We still also have simple syrup we made from the fresh mint ages ago; we need more rum (mojito anyone?).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dirt Is Brain Food

Playing in the dirt is good for your brain, both for the psychological benefits (gardening as therapy) and,  it turns out now, cognitively as well. Researchers have determined that exposure to common soil bacteria improves memory - read more at New Scientist.

Now go outside and get dirty.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Good News about Industrial Farming...?

I'm defensibly dissatisfied with large scale farming, both vegetable and animal (watch Food, Inc. and King Corn for starters). However, there may be some redemption for industrial vegetable farming: turns out increasing yields on existing lands alleviated the pressure to convert forest & prairie to agriculture. This in turn allowed for greater carbon-reducing biomass (the preserved forests) than any 'footprinting' by the farming.

I'm struggling to reconcile anything good about industrial farming with the reality of the other facets it destroys. I don't think it grants permission to other unethical aspects of the trade.

Read more at Scientific American.

Have We Forgotten That Much?

Recently I've come across some posts that claim new facets of thrift or utility. I read them only to be underwhelmed. Since when was making cut-off shorts from over-used long pants a novel idea (via Lifehacker)? The other day brought the epiphany that you could cook and freeze your own version of pre-made hot breakfast cereal (via Serious Eats).

Are we collectively losing the original instructions, or are parents unable to pass them on? (not to entirely blame the parents - many 'young folk' are not interested in anything that either does not entertain, connect to the outside world, or contain a battery).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Strawberries and Then Some

The strawberries from Tipi are amazing. Not only because of the variety they grow and the care they take in harvesting them, but also because they are incredibly fresh. I could not get them fresher unless I grew them myself.

Just in case you are curious about what 14 quarts (thereabouts) looks like:

I'll be at this for awhile...

Gathering Waters Festival

Milwaukee is the "City of Festivals" with good reason. There are over a dozen ethnic festivals alone each year, including the largest Irish festival in the US (if not the world). One of the newer events is occurring this weekend:  the Gathering Waters Festival at Lakefront Park. We plan to check it out - I want to learn about rain barrels and pick up my state DNR auto pass for this year. It also affords a reasonable view of the Milwaukee Air Show, which is a huge deal. Held at Bradford Beach and Veterans Park on the lakefront, it draws upwards of 100,000 people each year. Also at the lakefront is Pridefest, one of the many festivals held each year at the Maier Festival Park (fondly known as Summerfest grounds). The lakefront will be busy this weekend!

Gathering Waters logo by Catral Doyle creative co.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 5

I think I'm in for it this week. We are picking up two boxes this week to make up for the one we missed last week. And there are strawberries. 3qts in each box. And I ordered extra, as I do every year. Making for a total of 14qts. geekMan said it sounds like I could be in a jam....


This week's box contains strawberries (3 qt), asparagus (0.8 lb), snow peas (0.5 lb), lettuce, daikon radish, bok choy, and scallions.


A lot of favorites here. I thought we'd had the last of the asparagus, but not so. It means another shot at the asparagus mousse. Creative ideas for the diakon would be helpful... Cold Japanese-style pickles maybe?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 4

We've been doing some travel lately, which explains the lack of posts. We also rescheduled our CSA box. Tipi allows us to reschedule up to two boxes each season. We would normally have received a box yesterday, June 4, but instead we will pick up two boxes next week.

Two whole boxes.

That's going to be a real challenge. I have the feeling that we will be either having a dinner party, or breaking out the freezer bags (or some other preservation tool). Everyone who picked up a box this week received strawberries, asparagus, spinach, Romaine lettuce, white salad turnips, scallions, oregano and mustard greens OR collard greens.

Next week, our two boxes will likely contain "strawberries, bok choy, peas?, scallions, cilantro and more" according to the CSA newsletter. I'm excited it's strawberry season - Tipi grows amazing berries. Beth at the farm also mentioned there may be extra berries for sale. Extras are for preserving.  Last year I canned up some strawberry ice cream topping, and I'm out of strawberry preserves. Freezing whole cleaned berries is super easy if I don't have the time to can at the moment. Frozen berries work just as well for pies, smoothies, or canned goodies. Cross your fingers for plenty of extra berries!

Friday, May 28, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 3

Another week of goodies has arrived! The pictures really don't do them justice. I will post some additional information about some of the lesser known veg in this week's box. Also means I get to add more beauty shots too (who knew you could do beauty shots of lettuce....)

This week's box contains: asparagus (1.4lb), spinach (0.8lb), white salad turnips, red bibb lettuce, green garlic, arugula, escarole, chive flowers.

We have chive growing in the back yard, so these will be extra. They make a nice bouquet for the table. The asparagus looks like it's starting to sprout out, so this will probably be the last week. We have lots of greens that are good for cooking: turnip greens, arugula, escarole as well. The radish greens from last week are still around - time for a "mess o' greens."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CSA Tally: Week 2

Two weeks into the veg season, and we seem to be holding our own. The tally 6 days after box 2:
Asparagus: gone
Lettuce: gone
Mint: gone (made into syrup; useful for many things, but mostly used for mojitos....)
Rhubarb: still working on it
Green garlic: only couple stalks left
Spinach: a few leaves left
Potatoes: a few left
Radishes: making our way through the roots, still have the greens
Leeks: haven't touched them
Parsley: still slated for freezing

geekMan said last evening that he's amazed we're eating it all up. I think our approach to eating veg is different than it used to be. We used to ask ourselves "what do we want for dinner?" That has evolved into "what is in the fridge that needs to be eaten?" The "what" is followed now by "how should we prepare it?"

For example, asparagus is in season. When you have three to four weeks of bountiful asparagus, there's room for experiment and the delight of trying new flavors and methods with a familiar veg. So far we've had it steamed, in Potato & Asparagus salad, grilled in olive oil & spices, grilled in mustard/mayo marinade, and made into a savory mousse. I'm not sure how much longer local asparagus will be in season, but we won't run out of different ways to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Topsy Tomatoes

For all the garden space in our yard, there's really nothing suitable for growing vegetables. The only full sun area is either driveway concrete, or grass (and I'm saving this area for a butterfly garden, eventually). We also get the majority of our fresh veg from our CSA. Other than some fresh herbs, I have no plans to grow veg. Unless it's easy.

I mentioned using the Topsy Turvy planter to a friend last week: did she know anyone who had used it? Neither of us had. The commercials are so cheesy, and I'm a natural skeptic: does it really work? I proposed to my friend we be our own test population and both give it a try this Summer. I'm going to put cherry tomatoes in mine: the Juliet hybrid of cherry tomatoes (if I can find it). They fruit like clusters of oblong grapes. Super sweet, super prolific. Super super.

Has anyone else ever actually tried the Topsy Turvy?

UPDATE: turns out one of my trusted go-to websites for both products and information. Clean Air Gardening, sells them - they must work!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Foodie Finds: Mia Famiglia Restaurant

After a while of really cooking for yourself, it can be almost hard to go out to eat somewhere. Why pay the extra money to eat at a restaurant when you can cook as well, and often better, at home? No worries about that at Mia Famiglia - Chef Tomas is incredibly creative and skillful, and the dishes that come out from his kitchen never fail to delight.

We especially like to order a "Tasting Meal": three to five courses of chef's choice off the menu, and at this point we've done four or five of them. It's hard to explain the excited anticipation for each course when you have no idea what's coming, but you know it's going to be amazing. We've had fingerling potato soup over beet risotto served in a martini glass, mini-sammiches of rare kobe beef with arugula and mushroom aioli, veal sweetbreads, oysters, monkfish - I can't remember it all anymore. Occasionally they do a Wine Tasting meal. I think it's the same idea as the Tasting Meal we usually go for, but more planned ahead and open as a restaurant event. We haven't timed our Mia cravings well enough to attend one, until now. I'm sure they'll have the menu for the evening's goodies available, but I won't read it. I prefer to wait and be delighted by surprise.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 2

Week 2 has arrived, and we did a reasonable job of eating up the veg from last week. Some items go right away, others not so much. Herbs and pungent veg like the green garlic tend to get used more slowly.

This week's box contains: asparagus (1lb), spinach (0.75lb), green garlic, red leaf lettuce, radishes (and greens), mint, rhubarb, leeks OR a parsnip.

Beth writes in her newsletter that some unharvested leeks & parsnips survived over the winter under the snow cover. They are sort of a windfall harvest (and spring leeks are extra mild and sweet), but there may too little of each veg for everyone to get some. Tipi always provides tasty alternatives. Boxes are prepacked and snooping is not encouraged, so it's a guess as to which veg you'll get. We like both, so no worries there (although I'd rather have the leeks since we already have a couple 'snips in the crisper). I won't get my box until later this afternoon, so we'll all just have to be patient.

UPDATE: Here's the loot!
We got leeks!

Pass It On: Pasta Cooked with Less Water Revisited

Last December I mentioned an article about cooking your pasta in less water. Today's Serious Eats: Food Lab post by

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CSA Tally

 We've had 6 days to eat up goodies from the CSA box, counting the day we received it. How are we doing?
Radishes and greens: gone
Lettuce: gone
Arugula: gone
Asparagus: almost gone
Green garlic: still quite a few stalks
Potatoes: still have quite a few
Rhubarb: haven't touched it
Parsley: slated to be frozen

In our defense over the asparagus, we did have some on hand before we received the box. I tried making asparagus mousse, something geekMan encountered on a recent business trip to Germany. That was an adventure I'll have to share with you in its own space. Suffice it to say that 1) mousse does not equal puree, 2) 12 ounces of heavy cream makes a lot of whipped cream, and 3) chemistry always wins in the end. We also had some rhubarb-strawberry crisp around as well, left over from a large batch made for dinner with friends.

Tomorrow I plan to try a recipe posted by Nick Kindelsperger at Serious Eats:Dinner Tonight for Potato and Asparagus Salad with Mustard Dressing. So, technically that would make it Dinner Tomorrow Night.... Still, it looks like a tasty way to boost the CSA tally for the week.

Also, we're still working on set-up and eye candy for the new format. Don't be surprised if the scenery changes a bit over the next short while.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Digs

Well, it's a work in progress. Much like the house. And the garden. And always, always in the kitchen.

I'm hoping to move the posts from the other blogs to this one, and move on from there. Good thing too. The week is passing, and I have rhubarb to use up. Thinking about a lo-sugar rhubarb chutney I can mix up and can away....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Radish Greens for Breakfast

Now, I already know what you're thinking. Radishes can be difficult enough so early in the day, but greens? Who even knew you could eat radish greens - or would want to? But prepared with smoky bacon and sweet onion and then used to fill an omelette... now you're talking tasty.

The first time I saw radish greens, they were not appetizing. I wasn't much of a radish fan either. Radishes purchased for geekMan (who LOVES radishes) sat in the fridge for a spell, and the leaves melted into slimy blankets for the radishes. Not. Appetizing.

Spring forward a few years and introduce radishes from our CSA at Tipi, and we can't get enough of them.

These are some seriously tasty radishes. Slice, add a hint of sea salt, and they are actually sweet. Yes, you read that correctly. Sweet. Crunchy. Cold. Really a treat in the spring after a winter of heavy veg. It got me thinking about the greens, and what a shame it would be to waste them.

Growing up, greens were not the menu. Salads of various lettuces, yes (I have a memory of my father harvesting dandelions from the lawn one year - everyone thought he was nuts, but isn't that always what they say about the visionaries?). We didn't eat "greens" though. I learned to love greens living in the South during graduate school. Cooked for long periods with smoked ham parts and served with vinegar. Mmmm mmm! It works best for tough greens like kale. And these radish greens were tender enough to eat raw, if a bit bitter for my taste. Enter the seasoning favorite of good applewood smoked bacon and some sweet Vidalia onion, and it's about perfect.

CSA use score: we used all the radish greens and a couple stalks of the green garlic. Oh, and a couple radishes. 

Omelette with Radish Greens in Bacon and Sweet Onion
Serves 2
You could use this to fill an omelette or a crepe, even add into the eggy part and make a quiche-like dish (around here we call them veggie pies). Amounts are approximate; a couple notes after the recipe might be helpful too.

3-4 rashers of good applewood smoked bacon (we like Usingers or Nueskes), diced fine
2 stalks green garlic (white parts only) or 1 large clove garlic, minced
1 quarter medium sized sweet Vidalia onion, diced fine
1.5-2oz radish leaves, rinsed well and destemmed (see below)

4-5 eggs, beaten well
2-3T half & half
1oz grated Mimolette cheese (see below)
butter for pan (we use a non-stick, but it still needs butter.... oh well ;-)
Put a medium-sized heavy pan over moderate heat. Add bacon; stir to break up. Cook until beginning to render and getting soft. Add onion and garlic; stir to combine. Continue cooking over medium heat until bacon gains color and onions soften and begin to color some. Add radish leaves. Stir to combine. They will wilt and lose volume quickly. Turn off heat after they are completely wilted into the bacon/onion mixture. Set aside.
Heat butter in large non-stick omelette pan (or cast-iron, or whatever you use for eggs). Beat together eggs and half & half. When butter is melted and slightly foamy, add eggs. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. As bottom sets, gently pull in eggs from the sides and allow uncooked liquid egg to spread out and cook. When omelette is almost cooked (it should still be a little wet on top), sprinkle with cheese. Add radish leaf/bacon mixture to one half of omelette. Gently fold over, and allow to set. This omelette is large enough to two. You can cut it in half; geekMan & I generally use one plate and two forks - it's cozier that way. Good served with slices of fresh radish.

Radish leaves, destemmed
Generally grown in sandy soil, the leaves will need to be rinsed well to get rid of grit. We like to use the bottom of our salad spinner with the basket - you can lift the greens right out of the water. Uses less that a whole sink full of water too. They have a bit of stem, and are tastier without them.

Mimolette cheese
We first encountered this cheese at the Flying Elephants Deli in Portland, Oregon (food souvenir score!). It has a nice nutty flavor that's a good alternative to parmesan. Nowadays we can sometimes find it locally, maybe at Outpost Natural Foods or the West Allis Cheese Shop.