Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fish and Greens

Tonight for supper I threw a chopped onion into the puddle of olive oil in my cast iron frying pan.  I then added a chopped red chili pepper.  Turned the heat on high and stirred it up a little before adding a pound of cod, which I flaked as it cooked.  I sprinkled in some garlic and chili powders and some oregano and then added some of the greens I had in the freezer from last summer's CSA bounty--there was a container of chard and one of kale.  I mixed everything up and spooned it over brown rice.  We also have leftovers for lunch!  Since I try to keep cooked brown rice in the fridge, this was a fifteen minute supper--quick and easy--and most importantly, it tastes great!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Delivered to My Door!

This morning after I'd gotten home from my shift at the food bank (where I scheduled my next food demo for two weeks from now on the topic of herbs), I heard a knock at the door.  I answered it, and there was my great neighbor standing there with a foil-covered tray asking me if I wanted a pizza she had made the night before!  She had made 2.  Of course I said yes.  So I made some salads and tonight for supper, we all had salad and excellent pizza with peppers, onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, and tomatoes. It's good to have nice neighbors!  Thanks, Diane!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pasta Salad

This afternoon for lunch we finished the pasta salad I made the other day in advance of the summer-like day we had yesterday (sunny and 81 degrees).  I also made tea and coffee to chill in the fridge, so I was as ready as I could be for such unpleasantness!  As I was mixing everything together in the bowl, I realized that the pasta salad was not very colorful, but there was lots of green!  As always, I used what I had to make the salad--never comes out the same way twice.  This time I used whole wheat pasta and added veggies cooked until they were crisp-tender--snap peas, green beans, onion, pepper, and broccoli.  I also threw in a bunch of chopped fresh parsley, a can of tuna, and tossed it all with a little tomato pesto.  I have used regular pesto in the past, but I have used all my stash from the freezer.  Sometimes I use a vinaigrette.  Another nice dressing for pasta or potato salad is to mix half vinaigrette or Italian dressing and half salsa.  I could also have used canned chicken or leftover cooked chicken, turkey, or fish instead of the tuna.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sloppy Joe Demo

Today I did my second demo at the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program food pantry.  I made sloppy joes.  In an effort to streamline things during the actual demo, I brought home some of the ingredients from the pantry on Monday and cooked them yesterday.  Since I volunteer in the food bank section of the building on Wednesday mornings before the food pantry opens, I decided to make one batch to put in my Crock-Pot to stay hot while I was in the food bank.  This way there would be some ready when the first clients came through the door of the food pantry.  I also browned the ground chicken and cut some corn off the cob for a couple more batches.  I stopped there as the point of the demo was to actually cook something there.  I just did not want to try to drain the chicken fat from an electric frying pan there in the lobby!  Anyway, it turned out that there were many people there when the doors opened, so my Crock-Pot emptied fast.  I had run out of food by 11:30!  Many people took handouts and I had some good conversations with people--most about food, but I did get to talk yarn with a woman who was passing the time while she was waiting by working on a pair of knitted yoga socks.  I had a great time and I am so glad that I get the opportunity to do these demos!  Below is the handout people could take home with them.

SLOPPY JOES
1 pound ground beef, chicken, turkey or leftover cooked beef, pork, chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups (or to taste) corn—frozen, canned, or cut off the cob
If using ground meat, brown with the veggies and drain. If using leftover cooked meat, add a little oil to your pan and cook meat with the veggies.
Add the sauce and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes.


Sauce:
1 cup of
tomato sauce, ketchup, OR tomato paste that has been thinned with water--or any combination of these--I use tomato products that do not have added salt, because I do not like a lot of salt, but it is up to you.  If you use ketchup, the end result will be a bit sweeter.3-4 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard--whatever kind you like/have--I've used yellow, Dijon, brown, spicy, and Maine maple mustardblack pepper to tasteWhisk together.  You can make this a day or two beforehand and keep in fridge if you want. 

You can have this in a sandwich, as a burrito, as an open-faced sandwich, over pasta, rice, or other grain, or in a salad.

Add different veggies if you want. Some good additions are:
zucchini or yellow summer squash
mushrooms
jalapenos or other chili peppers
cooked potatoes
tomatoes—fresh, canned, or dried

To make this vegetarian, use tofu in place of the meat. Take water-packed tofu, drain it, wrap in a plastic bag or foil, and freeze. Thaw it out, crumble and squeeze out the water. Cook with veggies and a little oil in your pan, then add the sauce.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Books

I have been in a fog for the past couple of weeks as summer arrives and the grass pollen reaches ridiculous proportions!  I am not really a fan of grass--the whole suburban lawn thing is problematic on many levels, but since there isn't really anything I can do about it, I shall deal with it!  I am quite hopeful that my severe reaction is due to the fact that this is the first grass of the season and my respiratory system has not been exposed in several months.  Hopefully as the season grinds endlessly on, I will deal with only my usual summer discomfort!  I never had any kind of allergic symptoms until we left Alaska--where we lived for 9 years on 3 acres in the grassless woods--and went to southern Oregon where my throat started burning anytime I was around cut grass.  Anyway, the cough remains, but it is not as bad as it was.  The multiple black bags under my eyes are receding.  We continue to have grass pollen alerts each day and I am managing, so that is good!  Before I lost my ability to sleep and generally function, I finished a book I had been looking forward to reading, called The American Way of Eating by Tracie MacMillan.  The title alone was enough to get me to request it from the library, but after I did that, I looked it up and discovered that it sounded a lot like a Nickel and Dimed approach to food.  The author went "undercover" to work in three of the big areas of food distribution--crop fields, restaurants (she worked at Applebees), and supermarkets (she worked at a couple of different Wal-Marts--one in the produce section).  This worked to her advantage and her disadvantage, I think.  Before reading it, I had started to think of this project as a kind of anthropological fieldwork, but as I read the book, I was reminded that she is a journalist and even though she did a form of participant observation, I was left mostly with a more vivid picture of what I already knew.  Her observations about Wal-Mart produce being left on the floor to rot until it is discarded fits what I have observed at the food bank.  I did wonder why Applebees is so popular when I read that everything is frozen and heated in plastic bags, which melt and get into the food.  People pay a fair amount of money to eat there, from what I understand, and it sounds like the quality of the food does not reflect that.  What I was really looking for was stories and observations about how people navigate their food lives and there was really very little of that.  This is to be expected from the methodology she used--because almost no one knew what she was doing, she was not in much of a position to get that information.  As an anthropologist, I would have been required to tell people what I was doing and get them to sign release forms--there would have been no secrecy.  This means that the information gathered would be very different.  While I enjoyed the book she wrote, I was left with some dissatisfaction at what was not addressed.  Still, after I read the book, I went to the author's website and discovered that she had apparently been attacked more than once by the ever-ignorant blowhard Rush Limbaugh.  I did not waste my time by listening to his ramblings, but I was pleased to see that she hit a nerve! 

After the fog lifted, I read Turn Here, Sweet Corn, a memoir by Atina Diffley about the pursuit of her calling to feed people--the more, the better--via organic agriculture.  The style was a little choppy and took me a little while to get into, but I got there and enjoyed the book very much.  Her passion was always evident and I was reminded again as I read about the things she and her husband faced, that good food is way too hard to acquire.  Her husband's family land was sold to developers (he did not own this land so was powerless to stop this), but even if it had not been sold, it would have been seized under eminent domain laws since the planned subdivision was deemed more important than farmland.  I was left scratching my head at the things people will put up with when I read that as they built yet another subdivision (how many of these do we really need?) they scraped the topsoil off and sold it. Then when people bought the houses, they had to purchase their own topsoil in order to plant those suburban lawns and other things!  How bizarre that topsoil does not come with a new house!!  Later, she had to fight Koch Industries, who wanted to build a pipeline that would cross the new farmland and would make it impossible for them to continue to farm organically.  Happily, she is a fighter and she fought.  Then she won.  In the process, she got new standards enshrined in Minnesota law about pipeline routes and organic farms. 

Both books were worth the read.  MacMillan's book was well-researched and well-written--the only reason I was left wanting more was because my own assumptions about how she would go about this led me to some unrealistic expectations.  The descriptions of her own experiences doing these kinds of jobs and trying to make decent food choices with little money and little time were worth the time I spent with this book.  Diffley's book was an interesting contrast in the sense that she was certainly not a part of industrial agriculture and MacMillan worked in that world--they both worked equally hard, but the rewards were much greater for Diffley than for the people MacMillan worked with--she was able to document the way they got cheated and how the companies altered their paychecks to make it look like people were getting paid appropriately when they were not.  Her first day picking grapes, for instance, MacMillan got paid a bit less than $3 per hour.  The Diffleys were able to make a living and a life from their work in spite of the sacrifices and obstacles they faced.  Their farmhands had a much different experience than those working in industrial agriculture as well.