April 30, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging #47


Cats love to sit on paper. They dig the crinkle and rustle noises. Usually, Idgie just sits on the very corner of a newspaper or magazine or grocery store flyer, whatever is available. She's a good paperweight. But she was particularly fond of this store receipt and used it as her personal pillow. Ahhhhh, comfort.

All the Weekend Cat Blogging can been seen at Eat Stuff.

April 28, 2006

Today I Saw...







...these beautiful scenes from the Republican P-Patch on Capitol Hill. Sounds down right political, huh? Thankfully, Republican is the street and Capitol Hill is nothing like the one in D.C. Whew!

During my two hours of wandering around, running errands, I made a point of stopping into this garden. It really is a nice one. Here are a few shots of what I saw. I never know the names of flowers. If you know what these are, let me know. All i know is that they are wonderful.

April 27, 2006

Today I Saw...



...the first sign of strawberries. The plants in this large wash tub always do well. They are healthy and just starting to show littel buds.

In garden today I harvested all the lettuce and planted a whole mess of other greens in the long bed along the house. I made good notes too. I even wrote numbers on the 2 by 4's of the bed to mark the "rows" and noted in my book exactly what I planted in each row. I then covered the whole area with row cover and gave it a good soaking. It was a time-consuming job. Some days you just need to pick your garden battles and really work only one area, even if it's just a 12 or 15 square foot space.

I then completely re-organized the seed /plant start flats and re-organized ny notebook on the matter. Lots and lots of new seeds planted for basils, flowers, winter squash, etc. And some worm castings added to the soiless mix. Couldn't hurt. Another flat is waiting and I have plans for it too.

April 26, 2006

Use What You Have...



To make delicious, nutritious food. I took these items from the refrigerator where they were visibly tired of their stay and created a spur of the moment, Indian influenced dinner in advance. It wasn't what we planned to eat tonight but I had the extra time and extra produce so why sit around?

Once these ingredients were sauteed and heavily seasoned with sambar, cumin, corriander, garam masala and curry, I added about a 1/2 cup of lite coconut milk (an item found in our house only once in a great while), about a cup and a half of store-bought crab bisue (again, this was the first time we tried it because we had a coupon. It was OK but not great, especially for the calories), and then a heavy splash of fat-free milk made from powder. Next, I threw in a can of drained garbonzo beans. I also took about a teaspoon of ready-made red curry paste and disolved it in some of the juice and added it too. A little goes a long way. I let this simmer for just a bit then removed from the heat where it thickened up. It was a nice spicy, creamy treat over brown, basmati rice. We garnished it with cilantro and green onions and ate it with yogurt.

April 25, 2006

Today I Saw...



...a new neighborhood cat. Has one kind of droopy eye. Friendly. Hangs out in the alley and it and Henry stare at each other endlessly. Here it is on my car. The hood of my car looks like a teaching diagram for cat dance lessons. I kind of like it. It's like having detail paint work done for free. A jungle-like cat print.

April 24, 2006

WEEKEND CAT BLOGGING #46

First time cat blogger. Henry seems to find the new pea starts soft and comfortable. The peas did survive. The carrot starts under the row cover didn't fare so well. Thanks alot, cat. Posted by Picasa

April 23, 2006

URBAN GROWTH CONTINUES

Saturday morning we hit the pavement. We ran (walked) all over our errands in about 2.25 hours – non-stop. Hit Madison Market for groceries. Then trekked to Vivace for coffee beans. The Capitol Hill Library for a small stack of books and videos on hold for me. Then the long trek back home. It was very good exercise and the weather was brilliant. Nicer than exercising in the stinky Y. The “fresh” air of the outdoors is always nicer. Plus, we got more exercise. With 20 lbs. in the backpack (J weighed it) and plenty of hills to climb on the way home, we didn’t feel bad about missing the Y.

Once home I hit the yard to really assess what the hell is going on in some areas. I limited myself to two beds or I make myself crazy with the amount of work that needs to be done.

Some plants I began inside were ready to be transplanted. A few nasturtiums and sunflowers and some endive and cilantro. Posted by Picasa
OK, it's not much but each potato tub has now sprouted. Posted by Picasa
I can't remember if this is chard or kale. I'm pretty sure it's kale but then I don't know what kind. Anyway, it's growing and I'm happy. Posted by Picasa
Peas look good. Under the row cover I've sown the second batch of Oxheart Carrots. The first batch completely ignored me OR, I've got early onset dementia and I sowed the bed only in my head.  Posted by Picasa
I've sown arugula in with the onions. Why waste space? There's really no reason why I can't continue to sow arugala here all summer and into Fall. The shrubs in the neighbor's yard allow for varigated sun for half the day. Besides, this will keep me harvesting young arugula rather than large arugula. I need to get into that habit.  Posted by Picasa
Henry guards the strawberries. Posted by Picasa

April 09, 2006

AROMATIC SLIDE BACK INTO HEALTHFUL FOOD

We are fortunate in lots of ways. In particular, we love to cook, we love to use healthful ingredients, and we have access to fresh herbs all year. Oh, and we have a well-stocked pantry and freezer.

Whenever we chop a carrot, dice and onion, slice some celery, etc., we throw the pieces parts into a large freezer bag. Soon enough we have a bulging bag (or two) or frozen veggie pieces that will make a wonderful soup stock.

Today we simmered almost two full bags of veggie parts in our largest stock pot. Into this cauldron we tossed some parmesan cheese rinds (which we also freeze) wrapped in cheesecloth, and a large bundle of freshly snipped herbs from our garden. Luckily, winters are mild enough here that most herbs survive all year. Tarragon usually doesn't make it over the winter but my plant sprang back to life once the temps began to climb just a little. I kept it outside over the winter but under our glass top table to limit the rain it received. It's doing fine and we are using it up!

Once the stock was done, we strained the liquid from the solids and set to work on lentil, orzo soup. We sauteed onion, garlic and carrots. Added dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and green lentils. Bring to a boil then simmer until the lentils are soft. Add orzo and simmer until soft. Lastly, add a few big handfuls of spinach and a big handful of chopped, fresh parsley. Reseason to taste and there you have it. Homemade and healthy AND easy. We will each have lunch for the next three days (not to mention what we chowed on last night). Plus, we still have a large yogurt container full in the freezer. It's not just for soup. We use it to cook rice and other grains.
Our herb bundle: rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, dill, chives, and parsley. Posted by Picasa

April 08, 2006

PHAD THAI - MY OH MY

Saturday is usually our splurge day when it comes to food. Our splurge dish of choice this weekend was phad thai.

Phad thai is the standard comfort food dish in Thai restaurants. Lots of pan-fried, fettucini-like rice noodles, a sauce varying from light and salty to red and tomato-y, some type of meat, shrimp, or tofu, bean sprouts, julienned carrots, cilantro, a scrambled egg, crushed peanuts, and a shot of freshly squeezed lime. Each establishment's recipe varies a little. We used a recipe from a Vietnamese/Thai cookbook from J's sister. It was delicious. This was our first time making this dish but we've had it several times in restaurants. Phad thai is like the beginner to Thai food's favorite dish. We never order it any longer because Thai cuisine has so many other better dishes that are more authentic to the culture.

We followed the recipe this time, but if we make it again, we really need to try to make a healthier version. Betweent he salt and the sugar and the oil and the mound of noodles, you feel like you've been hit by a truck after eating a big bowl of it. Dure, every slurp is delicious, but it's not easy on the system if you have been towing the healthy line the other days of the week. I'll work on that healthier version in my head. In the meantime, you can see how we dried the noodles after cooking, or gaze at the wonderfully sweet spot shrimp (caught Friday off the San Juan Islands, I might add!) and the aromatic garnish plate. For a condiment, the cookbook had a recipe for a very salty, spicy sauce comprised of lime juice, finely diced chilis (we used jalapenos), minced garlic, and lots of fish sauce. I could barely ingest it for the salt. I added a fair amount of mirin to combat this but still....whew! Added to the food it was a hit but don't eat it on its own.
We had soooooooo many noodles. We ate heartily on Saturday and then again on Sunday. A phad thai pig out. I don't need to do that again for a long time. Posted by Picasa
While the noodles dried, we cleaned the spot shrimp. Found two of them full of roe. Fresh! Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

April 07, 2006

WHAT'S ALL THE SPROUTIN' ABOUT?

Last Sunday I sowed sunflower seeds. Every year I plant plenty of them in the yard. I tuck them everywhere. The dried seed heads I stick in the chain-link fence for the birds and squirrels. Yesterday morning the first seeds busted through.


Then this morning they took a bigger stretch.


Alas, the beans I sowed in the ground have yet to break the surface. I might have to soak some new seeds, wait for them to sprout, then resow the whole lot of them.

April 05, 2006

ANOTHER QUICK AND EASY DINNER

Last night we made a quick, easy and healthful dinner of broiled veggies on whole wheat pitas and roasted red pepper and tomato soup. The veggies (zucchini, eggplant, yellow peppers and onions) were brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and garlic powder then broiled. Pretty simple. The veggies were tucked inside the pitas then drizzled with any number of condiments we own, a little balsamic vinegar, some plain yogurt, green tobasco, etc. Whatever you like. Into the soup was melted one frozen pesto cube.

Tonight we dig into the veggie chili I made Monday.

April 04, 2006

TOM'S OF MAINE BITES IT

Article from The Boston Globe
Tom’s of Maine’s letter to their “friends”

The email I sent today to Tom's of Maine in response to their sell-out to Colgate-Palmolive:

Well, another one bites the dust. Another natural product company, another non-megacorp, another company who put out a quality product with safe ingredients has sold out. Why is running a $50 million business which makes a quality product for over 30 years not satisfying enough? Why would you now trust a company at whom you used to take pot shots? Can we count on anyone to resist the sell out?

From your letter on your site: "More and more people are looking for safe and effective natural products from plants and minerals from a company that shares their values."

You know, if Colgate had the same values as Tom's, they would be a natural products company. Do you think Colgate really shares your values? Do you really think that the sort of consumer who has remained loyal to you thinks that Colgate shares these values? I, for one, do not. I certainly hope that Colgate honors any sort of promises they have made. But I have serious doubts that Colgate will honor anything but the stockholders and the bottom line. Colgate will do what is right for Colgate. Frankly, I'm really tired of this. You can't buy anything these days without a huge mega-corp name behind it. I guess they all sell out in the end. I certainly don't have to tell you of the other independent producers who made a difference with a quality, natural product but who then sold out. And I don't need to tell you about the natural and organic brand names out there that are actually owned by the hugest of the huge companies in the first place. Spin it and they will come. As long as you market it right, it will sell, regardless of who is selling it. That is painfully clear with the likes of the big box chain stores. It's also evident in America's general battle cry of bigger, faster, more, more, more.

As for your so called distribution potential improving, I'vee never had any trouble finding your products all over the country. Besides, people who want quality products will find quality products. We're already looking. Crap, on the other hand, is easy to find. I'm disappointed that a company run by so many bright folks couldn't come up with a better partnership or a better way to expand your distribution. How about opening another manufacturing location? How about expanding the existing one? Come on, get creative.

But this leads me to my first question: Why isn't Tom's of Maine's success enough for you folks? I'm sure you have all of your material needs met. So what's eating you so badly that you needed to sell out? Just can't shake the itch to have Tom's of Maine in the farthest corners of the globe? You really want to retire knowing that Colgate-Palmolive is in charge?

What?


Like I said, it's hard these days to find an organic or natural product that isn't run by the big corporations. It's the watering down of quality and the bulking up of bottom lines because natural and organic are becoming chic. But there are folks like me who search for the answers when it comes to where should I buy the product, what are the ingredients, how is it packaged, who owns this brand? And folks like me change our spending habits accordingly. I won't be purchasing any more of your products, of which toothpaste and deodorant were household staples. In fact, I just bought 3, count 'em, 3 tubes of Tom's toothpaste this weekend. I'll be donating them to a local charity. Everyone needs to brush but I am fortunate enough to be able to put my money where my mouth is (a pun is lurking somewhere) with some things, toothpaste being one of them. On my next trip to my local co-op, I'll check out the companies that sell the same things as Tom's and see what I can buy instead - at least for now.

Welcome Back, Veggie Chili

It’s been a while but last night while making dinner I threw together a quick veggie chili to have for lunches this week or to freeze for the future. As long as I’m chopping ingredients for a salad, I might as well keep chopping.

In a bit of olive oil I sautéed garlic, big chunks of red onion, sliced carrots, zucchini, orange bell pepper, and one roasted and seeded ancho chili. While the veggies are getting a bit of brown on them, I season the mix with homemade sambar powder, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and some crushed black pepper. I always make sure to cook my spices. The taste of raw spices in a dish is a turn-off.

Once the veggies are a little brown (that’s where the flavor comes from!) I added a quart of tomatoes we canned last September. Smelled wonderfully fresh. And then a can of kidney beans in some Cajun seasoning. To help empty a bottle of Spicy V-8, a splash of that was added. Let this simmer for about 15-20 mins. then remove from the heat and wow, very tasty. It’s got flavor, it’s got heat, it’s thick.

April 02, 2006

CAT GARDENING

Plenty of yardwork to be done this weekend. Inside yardwork consisted of starting more seeds. More herbs, a few brassicas, and some sunflowers and nasturtiums. I also repotted the tomato starts. You can see them here sitting uncerimoniously on my kitchen sink.

In the garden there was potato planting - German Butterball, Yellow Finn, and Russet Burbank. J emptied and scrubbed last year's containers before adding new, clean, organic soil. Even containers we didn't use last year were cleaned. Now we wait. Last year a blight killed most of the crop though we managed to eat some small ones. In fact, we are using the old dirt for some lettuces in a new separate bed and I found a few potatoes in it. Whatever had killed the potatoes last year shouldn't bother the greens. It's just a small patch so we aren't betting a large part of the garden on this dirt but it's really beautiful, rich soil and it would be a shame to waste it.

Elsewhere in the yard I sowed more chard, carrots, beets, and planted onion starts. Everything got a good weeding and a dressing of
organic soil amendment with chicken manure. We also bought a couple of other products from the same folks. Some natural and organic top soil and some potting soil. We patronized our favorite, locally owned hardware store even though it's not in our neighborhood. Plus, we received 20% off everything we bought because it was organic. This store was running a coupon for organic products.

J completely weeded and cleaned the only flower bed we cultivate. Working in that bed stirred up the lavender and I could smell it several feet away. Weeding never ends. Green growth never ends in the PNW. All that moisture and all those invasive plants. Plus, we are bordered by other yards on two big sides of the garden. We can't make other people weed their yards so we get intruders.

Though we didn't apply any today, we did pick up a big bag of
red worm castings. The strawbale bed is full of worms and other areas of the yard are doing better with worms than ever before, but we are very curious to see if the store stuff is any good. Besides, we have plenty of pots we plant in and you can't have too much worm poop, right?

Cats don't garden but they reap the benefits from their owners' gardening. Our cats love to get into our garden projects. Especially Henry. Nothing he likes better than using some freshly cultivated dirt as a litter box, or some recently pulled weeds are a place for a nap. Life is hard for our cats.