Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Container queen (and an asparagus recipe)

Over Memorial Day weekend, T. and I took a picnic and hike at Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area. Although this particular view was nice, the hiking overall was so-so, with poorly marked trails and a lack of biodiversity.

Our picnic, that's another story. The context of this is that I have a weakness for containers. I can be pretty non-consumeristic, but it is hard for me to resist the newest and prettiest knitting bag/travel coffee mug/bike panniers/storage bins, etc. So, for Christmas, T. got me this...

Untie the bow, and you have your placemats and napkins (and yes, it's intentional that even the water bottle matches...water bottles are containers, too, you know, and I must have the perfect one for each occasion.)

Remove the carrying bag, and you have four tiers of dishes for your picnic food, and the lid for each tier can also be used as a plate. You can also see the silverware in the picture above...there's a set on each side.

Remove one of the lids and you have this...

Well, you have to make your own. Adapted from this recipe, it is simply steamed asparagus (locally grown of course), teeny radishes and herbs from my garden, and John Robbins' tahini dressing from May All Be Fed. Yum!

(You can buy your own cool picnic or lunch container here.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Don't buy any food you've seen advertised"--Michael Pollan

Discussing topics ranging from pork operations' connections to swine flu to the Obama's organic garden, Michael Pollan covers a lot of territory in this interview with Amy Goodman, at Alternet.

His biggest piece of advice--if you've seen a food advertised, it's not real food.

I was thinking about my granola and granola bars recipes. I don't think I've seen any of those ingredients advertised....Maybe peanut butter, but the peanut butter I use is all natural and processed by a locally-owned worker-cooperative, Once Again Nut Butter.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Homemade granola and (new!) granola bars

When I met T., she lived on oatmeal, bagels, banana smoothies, and protein bars. She has a much more varied diet now, and a favorite of both of ours is my homemade granola. This recipe literally takes 15 minutes, at most, to throw in the oven. And I'm going to share with you a few tricks to make it even easier.

It's adapted from this recipe by Mollie Katzen. I've made it so many times I pretty much have the recipe memorized, with my variations.

Mix together, in a large bowl:

--4 cups rolled oats
--1 cup ground flaxseed
--1 cup sunflower seeds
--1 cup peanuts

You can vary these last 3 ingredients based on whatever grains/nuts/seeds you have around--wheat germ, coconut, sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc.

In a separate container (I use a 2 cup glass measuring cup), mix:

--3/4 cup canola oil
--1/2 cup agave nectar

(I use agave instead of honey or maple syrup because my friends in acupuncture/ayurveda tell me it's a much healthier choice for a sweetener. It tastes great.)

Pour the agave/oil mixture into the large bowl with the oats mixture.

Mix in:

--1/2 tsp of salt
--1 cup rice protein powder

(I prefer the plain protein powder flavor over the vanilla, because I think the vanilla gives it more of a "processed foods" taste).

Pour onto a 13x18 inch baking tray, which has been covered with parchment paper. (I tried oiling/spraying it, and the granola still stuck and made clean-up a real hassle, twice as time-consuming as actually making the granola.)

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 325 F. Let cool. Store in glass jars in the freezer. It becomes crunchy and yummier as it cools, and keeping it in the freezer helps it retain the crunchiness. (She recommends crumbling 1/3 cup of sugar on after it comes out of the oven. I don't find the added sweetness at all necessary.)

Now, if you, like me, have a kid in college who loves your granola, or you, like me, have limited time for even this much cooking, I recommend you make 2 batches of the recipe at once. Do everything above twice, with 2 large bowls, 2 baking trays, etc. It's easy to pour each ingredient, one in each bowl, at the same time.

You could also use the second batch to whip up some homemade granola bars. You see, it is a sore point in my relationship with T. that I cannot get her to stop eating processed protein bars. I am opposed to them because they are highly processed and it just kills me to spend that kind of money on something I'm sure I could make myself. She loves the convenience of them, and let's face it, when I'm not around, she doesn't eat anything that requires ANY kind of preparation. Besides that, up until now, I have not found an adequate homemade substitute. However, we have managed to stay together for 13 years despite the stash of protein bars in our cupboard.

I think I may have found the solution. Inspired by Jody's recipe and the one at Bittersweet, I came up with the following granola bar recipe.

Combine these ingredients in a pan and heat to boiling, over medium heat:

--1/2 cup of sugar
--1/2 cup of agave nectar
--1/2 cup of peanut butter

Pour over 3 cups of the above granola. Mix together really well, pour it into an 8x8 glass pan, use a spatula to make it even, and put in the fridge to harden.

I just had one, and WOW! These are great! I would like to find a way to do it without the sugar, as it's not good for me, and they're a little too sweet for my taste anyway.

Now, we'll have to see what T. thinks...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Public service announcement

Dear men-who-hang-out-near-the-underpass-on-the-trail-I-ride-home (and I don't mean to be sexist, but you are always men),

1--Why do you hang out there? It's stinky, full of broken glass, and creepy. Then again, maybe that's why you hang out there.

2--How many of you are there? Although I have never seen any one individual more than once, and you are of different ages and races, I must assume that you all belong to the same tribe, as your behavior is unfailingly obnoxious, and at least 5 of you are there EVERY afternoon/evening when I bike home, regardless of the time.

3--I hate to be the one to break this to you, but..."Hey, baby, can I get a riiiide?" does not actually inspire women to cancel their plans for the evening, do a 180 on their bike, and jump your bones. (p.s. Nor is it particularly original.)

4--Whether out of aggressiveness or cluelessness, it's just not charming when you hog the whole trail. Would it really kill you to move over, for just a second, so that I can pass?

5--I would like you to know that I plan to continue to take this route. For one thing, alternate routes involve alarming amounts of cars anxious to escape their work days and head home. For another, I don't think you're really just want to display your machismo so your buddies don't notice your inadequacies.

Finally, you don't get to hog the trail. I have just as much right to be there as you.


Every-cyclist-(especially female)-that-passes-by-you

Hojack Trail

I wrote about local rail-trail, The Hojack Trail over at RocBike today. Head on over there if you're interested in knowing of a cool local trail to hike or bike.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Poking my head up

Just like the asparagus in my garden...after a long winter. The asparagus has been storing all its energy to culminate in the spring growing season. As for me, summer is my time to store up energy for the rest of the year. And I mark summer by when I can start bringing flowers in from the garden...

These are the first flowers from sweet woodruff.

The forget-me-nots are in full bloom and the bleeding hearts are just shy of full bloom.

Just a few blocks north,the Lilac Festival is in full swing.

But I prefer to visit in the early mornings before the crowds get there, when I can get up close and personal with the lilacs and snails.

In the garden, the strawberries are blooming, the lettuce, radishes, and peas are poking through the soil, and rhubarb is ready for picking.

More early spring pictures are at my Flickr set here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fashion sense

Just loving DD's fashion sense.

That's all.


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