Stockpiling Recipes

The CSA check is in the mail, but winter is still in the air. So for now, I will not be making delicious things out of vegetables in a box, but there is nothing at all that says I can’t get ready.

I’ve heard that two things in particular show themselves in abundance in CSA boxes around these parts: greens and peaches.

What better place to begin in stockpiling recipes, then, than to start with recipes for greens and peaches. The internet tells me there are oh-so-many ways to make these two raw ingredients even more delicious. These are some of my favorite places to look for tasty things.

Greens

From 101 cookbooks: Winter Pasta, Poached Eggs Over Rice

From SmittenKitchen: Baked Kale Chips, Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens, Spinach Quiche

From Simply Recipes: Kale with Sausage and White Beans, Colcannon

From Cooking Light: Autumn Apple and Spinach Salad, Swiss Chard Spanikopita Casserole

Peaches

From 101 Cookbooks: Plum and Peach Crisp

From SmittenKitchen: Peach Cupcakes (which I might turn into muffins)

From Simply Recipes: Blueberry Peach Fruit Salad, Peach Salsa

From Cooking Light: Summer Peach and Tomato SaladSparking Peach Sangria!

Looking those up brought such a cascade of deliciousness into my life. Can I make these all, right now, please?

 

 


Spicy Love

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a little holiday called St. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. While some adhere to the traditional celebration of the holiday by reciting a verse of Chaucer*, most celebrate with some combination of heart-shaped paper and sweet-tasting things.

I myself will be baking heart-shaped cookies and hope to eat a tasty chocolate treat at some point on the day. Any holiday that brings more tasty chocolate treats into my life can’t be all bad, right?

That’s the problem, isn’t it. Valentine’s Day is not the nicest of holidays, since it tends to separate the coupled from the non-coupled, and that’s a shame. Anything associated with love and chocolate should be nicer about it. For that reason, I propose giving Valentine’s love to everyone you love, romantically or otherwise. It’s nice to reclaim it a little by celebrating friends and family as well as sweethearts.

If you’d like to celebrate with sweet-tasting things that are of the sustainable variety, may I direct your attention to Equal Exchange. They have many wonderful things, but perhaps the most apropos for this particular day is this cayenne-infused hot chocolate.

For what, pray tell, says, “I love you” quite like saying, “And I also love when workers are paid a fair wage, and when the chocolate in your gift is grown organically?” Nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all.

*He wrote “For this was on seynt Volantynys day/ Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” To my knowledge, no one recites this on Valentine’s Day.


It begins – the CSA box

I did something very exciting over the weekend – I signed up for my first ever CSA box!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it works like this: you sign up and pay at the beginning of the season, and then every week you pick up a box of vegetables. The fruit of the farmer’s labor. Farms that offer them tend to be superearthfriendly-type outfits.

After exhaustive research (well, doing some research and then going with the one my friend recommended. you know, like you do), I’m happy to be a subscriber to a half vegetable share at Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

Things I am excited about, about he CSA box:

1. It’s going to be so easy to eat in-season vegetables. I am totally convinced that it’s better to eat what’s growing right now, both because it cuts down on how far the produce has to be shipped and because it tastes better, but I can never keep track of what that is. I know, I could look at a list. I could spend more time at the farmer’s market. I could check up on blogs about it, but usually, I do not do those things. Because to do them, I would have to think to check, and that’s clearly just too much of challenge. Now my just-picked produce will come conveniently in a box. Excellent.

2. It was surprisingly cost-effective. I am used to paying a premium at the farmer’s market for this kind of superearthfriendly stuff, but this seems to be a much cheaper way to do it. Mine is averaging out at $17/week. That’s really not bad. Even my broke grad student budget can handle that.

3. I get to get creative with the raw materials I’m given. I get in food ruts VERY easily. When I was cooking for just myself, I would eat pasta, frozen vegetables that I microwaved, and pasta sauce out of a jar for an alarming number of meals. The other meals were usually stir fry. I still make these things when left to my own devices. Not that there is anything wrong with either of them, but I am excited for extra motivation to branch out in cooking. This is an excellent excuse to try new things.

4. The pick-up spot is 2 blocks from my house. Short commute! (I’m a little concerned that 3 of the first 4 things on my list at least vaguely have to do with my being lazy, but that is really the truth of the matter. This is me!)

5. Supporting local agriculture feels like a good thing to do. I know it won’t save the world, but I love going in with farmers on their season and then sharing in their bounty. I even like that there is an element of risk to it — if it’s a bad year, I won’t get as much. I like that in a small way, we’re in it together.

6. The produce comes in a box. Like Christmas.

7. My darling husband has agreed to take a picture of the box each week, and I will post it here. And then I will tell you what I made out of it. I know you absolutely can’t wait, right? What?! Me either!

CSA box. It’s happening.

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Healing Love and Soap

Some beauty for your Friday. The workday’s almost done.

This whole sustainability thing is, for me, about more than just loving the planet. It’s about loving each other. Sustaining community, if you will. I’ve found some people who are all about that and I wanted to share them with you.

hello. i love you.

So this is so cool. The community of Magdalene is a community of women who are have survived prostitution. They run a business selling beauty products that are good for the earth. So planet sustainability AND community sustainability all at once in these little bottles. I love it.

They have this to say about themselves:

Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.

I think we can all say the world needs more of THAT.

I first heard about Thistle Farms on NPR right before Mother’s Day. (That was some excellent timing on that interview, whoever planned that out). Their hand soap made the perfect Mother’s Day gift. You know those times when you need a present to wrap up, but want to support something awesome at the same time. This! This is for then!

Also the soap smelled really good.

I used to work for an organization that used job training to help get people off the streets. They did it with culinary training and have a for-profit arm that provides catering services. It’s a similar idea Thistle Farms, and I think they both show why community sustainability is so important. Giving up on people wastes their talents. Training and creating opportunity means more good things in the world, more lives that are lived fully, and really, I’m pretty sure, more total love in the world.

The Thistle Farms people don’t know me. I’m just a fan from afar. I salute their willingness not to give up on people who society at large gives up on, and for creating something beautiful and wonderful and sustainable.

Their motto is “Love heals.” Just now, I can’t think of anything truer.

Have 7 or 10 dollars? Go buy some soap!


The Next Step

I have my friendly neighborhood local government to thank for changing my behavior on the grocery bag front, but it’s possible I’ll have to take any further steps into my own hands. And what’s the next step?

Reusable Produce Bags. It’s happening.

But Oh Lordy Me, the options! A quick googling of “reusable produce bags” yielded a plethora of choices. This, I feel, is one of the problems of trying to be more eco-friendly (and really, let’s be honest, of trying to do any little piece of good in this world). The choices are just endless.

Let’s review. I could go

Organic 

Recycled 

Machine-Washable

Inexpensive 

Rainbow Colored 

Or, in perhaps the most frugal and committed option, I could

Make My Own

And that was in just the first 2 sets of results. Counter-productively, my first instinct was to throw up my hands, curse the heavens that I would never be able to choose, and lament my fate as a plastic-bag-using produce shopper until the end of time. I never said I didn’t have a hint of the drama queen.

Helpfully, my inner drama queen then calmed down, but unfortunately, she was overtaken by my inner Rational Profit Maximizer, as we call them in law school. I like to think of this mythical person as Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. Sure he’s charging people and arm and a leg for substandard housing, but the market supports it! It’s efficient! Efficient!

In my case, my rational-profit-maximizing instinct usually takes the form of being an unrepentant cheapskate. Frugal, I like to call it. Thrifty. So I looked at these choices and thought – how much do I really want to spend on some produce bags. How much harm can my little bit of plastic really be doing to the planet. Is it really really worth the money to buy these mesh bags, use them, clean them out, dry them and use them again?

It’s an interesting question, and one that any small eco-friendly step raises.  Because truthfully, any one person’s actions do a vanishingly small amount. Does that mean it’s not worth doing anything? I’m inclined to say that it’s still worth it, not just because our collective actions eventually have some effect, but because it’s good to try to do good. I have far from the most sustainable life possible, and there are any number of areas where I fail at this task of doing good spectacularly. But if it occurs to me that if there’s a little something I could do better, at minimal cost, then why not do something? Why not contribute just a little less to the demand for plastic? I really can’t think of a good reason.

So, off I go, choosing some produce bags. I will NOT be paralyzed by indecisiveness! I will NOT be dragged down by the insignificance of my action in the grand scheme! Instead, I will happily click on one of the options above, I will use them, and I will report back.

Stay tuned for the final choice.


City Love: Bag Tax

The blog needs focus. It turns out that the universe of things I could be writing about is too big. Focus it shall have! I’m turning it into a site about living in a sustainable way – both environmentally (watch out, there might be more posts about eggs), and spiritually/emotionally (where I will likely talk more about other people’s feelings than my own, because I am a chicken and the Internet is forever).

Kicking this off, I would like to turn your attention to something that is old news around these parts, but might be new news to more far-flung friends of mine: the DC bag tax. Excellent story about it here:

Excellent Story about the DC Bag Tax

In our fair city, shoppers are charged a nickel for every disposable shopping bag they use, paper or plastic. The money from this tax goes to clean up the Anacostia river, which is (apparently) polluted in no small part by random plastic bags that make their way down there. I like this because using money from taxing the use of plastic bags strikes me as poetic justice.

I should probably admit here that I have no independent knowledge of the workings of the bag tax. I do not know how the money is collected or what, exactly it’s spent on for river clean-up. I don’t know if it’s making any difference to the state of the Anacostia River. I speak as a consumer and user of plastic bags, and I like the bag tax because of how it has affected my behavior as a consumer.

The bag tax makes me a better person.

Really. Granted, it makes me a better person in a very small way. I now use reusable shopping bags to do my grocery shopping. I used to be one of those people who would get to the check out and be all, “Doh!” “Forgot the reusable shopping bags AGAIN.” And now, for the price of only a nickel a bag, I hardly ever do this anymore. Being charged for bags makes it stick in my mind that there is a cost to single-use bags. It makes me remember to take the reusable ones. I like remembering. I feel like I’m saving the world. And when I forget, I like that someone reminds me at the check-out to remember next time by charging me 15 cents.

I don’t know about you, fellow DC shoppers, but I like the bag tax because, anecdotally at least, it works. You know more people are carrying around reusable bags now. You know convenience stores stopped automatically giving you a plastic bag for a pack of gum. You’ve seen people bear-hugging a pack of toilet paper because looking silly is worth more than a nickel to them (I fully admit that I am one of those people). I think it’s great.

I’m a big fan of empiricism in these matters. We shouldn’t support a tax like this because it feels good, but because it objectively affects behavior in the desired way. There will be studies, but I’m willing to bet it’s reduced plastic bag use.

If you don’t think single-use bags are a big deal, you are probably not a fan of the tax. And it’s possible that taken in the context of this great big world of ours, it doesn’t make a bit of difference how many plastic bags we use. It’s probably a small fish to fry. But I have another reason to like it – it’s a great symbol. It makes me more conscious of other single-use things in my life, and makes me question whether there is another way to get done what I need to get done without them. Cool! Has it done that for anyone else?

In the end, what I do know is that it’s reduced MY plastic bag use, and I like it. Sometimes, it turns out I need a little coercion to do what I should have been doing all along. Thanks for the economic disincentive, DC government!

 

 


City Love: Tiny Christmas Tree

I blog, I think. I want to blog. Somebody help me figure this whole thing out.

Today, I would love to tell you about my tiny Christmas tree, which turns out is a story about getting married. The tiny Christmas tree isn’t mine, you see. Or it wasn’t mine. It was my darling husband’s, and now that we are married, I guess it is a little bit mine too.

It stands approximately three feet tall and is surrounded by a red tree skirt that is so small that it was almost immediately obscured by our Christmas presents from his parents. When you plug it in, in lights up obligingly in white. We have decorated it with ornaments both average-sized (which look enormous) and tiny (which look just right).

Sometimes people tell us that this is our “first Christmas,” because we got married in January. That tends to not be my favorite thing that people say (it’s not like we met yesterday),  but they mean well, and there is some truth to it. It is the first Christmas in which we are married. In is the first time we will spend it together, and it will be with one of our families. It’s the first time we are our own family, and there certainly is something special about that. For one, I get a tiny Christmas tree, which is adorable, and keeps me appreciating what it is we have together.

Our apartment is essentially a modified studio, so there is not room for a big ole tree. This is a downside to living in the city, but for me, right now, it’s worth it. We have our little apartment, which holds everything we own (except Rosie the Mini, who lives outside), we have enough furniture and enough room to store the food we need. We may not have a bedroom door, and it’s possible that you can see every inch of the apartment from every other inch, but you know what, there is room for our tiny Christmas tree.

This is the optimistic perspective, and I try to hold on to it. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes, in our baby marriage, we get sad because it seems like we aren’t there yet. That we are two grown-up married people who live under a tiny roof and just scrape by. That we don’t have the financial security to get a bigger place just yet, or do many of the things we want to do. And that can be tough, to look around and not quite have the life that we want. Despite our possession of one small Christmas tree.

But this is the point where I get to keep telling myself that what I have is enough. That I shouldn’t lament being young and broke and still in grad school. That it’s easy to wish for someone else’s life, someone else’s job, someone else’s bedroom door. It’s even easy to look at other people’s relationships and want what I think they have, which is silly, because I don’t really know what they have. I think it anyway. But those kinds of thoughts are not what it’s about. There is  a tiny Christmas tree twinkling away in my living room, and for all the world, it does not need to be eight feet tall. It’s perfect.

Someday, I have no doubt that we will have many of the things that seem out of reach, but for now, it’s just you, me, and our tiny Christmas tree. Some days, I get it. And I couldn’t be happier.