Monday, August 18, 2014

Food rescue

Whenever I venture to Connecticut to visit with my dear friend Felicity, good food is involved. And every time we've wandered around New Haven together we've discovered something cool. This time, our find was an awesome art exhibit devoted to curbing food waste. (Actually, there were two great finds: we also discovered a fun, funky, comic-book-themed karaoke bar in a random alley, but that's a little off topic.)

How cool is this compost-mobile? Imagine how many vegetable scraps I could tote around on this thing!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Don't judge a book by its cover

Riding back from working at the Tyler garden this afternoon, I was sitting at a stoplight on Pennsylvania Ave when all of a sudden two rather gangsta looking guys sauntered past me in the crosswalk. The one all tatted up and carrying a length of pipe suddenly looked over at me. I froze. Then smiled nervously. (When is this damn light going to change??)

He turned to his friend, then looked back at me. His face broke into one of the sunniest smiles I've ever seen as he said, "Those are some beautiful roses, miss. You should get them in water soon."

Oh. Yes. The zinnias in my pannier. Thank you. (Exhale.)

The light changed and I found myself  smiling the whole ride home. This would not happen if I were in a car. Human interaction: another reason to be out there on a bicycle.

In other news, it seems the "sweet" peppers I transplanted earlier this summer at the garden are actually (spicy) serranos. Oh well. All the better for making some peach salsa back at the homestead while I admire my "roses" in their vase....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bikin' in the rain

Wow. I have not been out riding in a summer thunderstorm in some time. It actually felt pretty good, though it got a bit hard to see at times. I may or may not have been humming to myself during the torrential downpour that hit right as I was crossing New Jersey Avenue....

I'm bikin’ in the rain
Just bikin’ in the rain
What a nice summer feelin'
It’s not sweat, for a change
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark along my path
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for a bath
Let the stormy clouds chase
Every car from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face
I ride down the lane
As grease splashes from my chain
Just singin',
Singin' in the rain.

 Skiddin' in the rain
Skee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dwee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I'm drippy again!
I'm singin' and bikin' in the rain!

Why am I riding
And why do I sing?
Why’s this midsummer
As rainy as spring?
Why do I get up, grab Ollie, and ride,
Happy and helmeted
 With grease on my shin?
Why is each commute
A trifle to do?
Because I am bikin’ along with you.

I'm glad it was today's deluge that soaked me to the bone, rather than last night's rainstorm when Kenton and I were bound for a birthday dinner at Iron Gate in our summer finery. Oh, it was raining, so we took a cab. (Sorry, Ollie!) Oh, that meal. Worth another post all to itself. Soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

You know it's summer when...'s 95 degrees with 95% humidity.

...another mid-afternoon thunderstorm is brewing.

...the first ripe tomato appears in your garden!

Monday, June 9, 2014

At your service

Up until about a month ago, I'd never heard of a serviceberry. Thanks to a passing comment from the nature-loving, Michigander vice principal I work with, now it's one of my favorite plants ever. If I could resist devouring the berries the instant they're picked I might be able to come up with a recipe for them beyond "eat out of hand." They look kind of like blueberries, but I think taste closer to black currants. In short: they're delicious. And abundant right now.

According to Better Homes and Gardens -- which is not my usual go-to garden resource guide, mind you, but their snapshot in this particular instance makes a good case for why you should run out and get one to plant at home -- "Serviceberry is rare in that it offers interest in every season. It kicks off in spring with beautiful white flowers, which develop into tasty purple berries that attract birds in early summer. Or harvest the berries and use them to make delicious jams, jellies, and pies. The plant's bright green or bluish green leaves turn stunning shades of red and orange in fall, and its silvery bark offers winter appeal. You can grow serviceberry as a large shrub or small tree."

Wouldn't you know it, there are 4 of these berry-laden small trees at the school garden I maintain a few days each week. And I am clearly not the only one who loves them....

How can we get kids to eat more fruit? Plant serviceberry trees in their schoolyard. Nice work, Tyler Elementary outdoor classroom team!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Good morning kisses

It's not often that I come skipping into the kitchen on a Friday morning at 7am. (Usually, I am either still asleep then, or grumpy that I'm not still asleep then and rummaging around the fridge for a snack because of course if I'm up at that hour I'm starving.) But THIS Friday, when I woke up to get ready for a morning teaching stint, I had chocolate meringues to wake up to. Ahhh....

Before I proceed any further, let me just thank two amazing mothers: my own (who gave me the standing mixer) and my boyfriend's (who gave me the idea to make these most delicious of confections that, until last weekend, I had never heard of before). FINALLY, a good use for all of the dang egg whites I keep generating with all of these custard desserts I keep making.

I know, it's a tough life.

Speaking of tough, consider the half year of unemployment of my poor standing mixer. Since I've more or less given up gluten, and thus bread-making, he's been sitting there sulking, stashed in a large tote bag under a table in my kitchen for the better part of the past six months. But now look at him: beating egg whites and sugar and cream of tartar like a champ:

Though I was nervous, after my only other attempt at meringues a handful of years ago failed miserably, I opened up my oven last Friday morning to two trays of delicate, perfectly set cookies with melty chocolate centers. At first, I was actually a little worried they hadn't cooked all the way through -- they seemed a bit sticky on the outside, where I recalled meringues of my childhood being quite dry -- so after taste-testing one (purely to be sure that I would be the only one suffering from food poisoning, should it happen from undercooked cookies) I turned the oven on the lowest setting for about a half hour while I got ready for work. I taste-tested another one, which was a bit more firm, turned off the oven once more, and headed out the door.

The rest of the two dozen cookies disappeared over the next two days during a series of picnics, brunches, and raidings of my kitchen by a meringue-crazed boyfriend.

They were perfect. So I'm sure you'd rather I just stop yammering here and get to the recipe. Here you have it: an adaptation of the (in)famous "Forgotten Kisses."(There are some really great tips and visuals here, for those of us new to the meringue-making racket.)

Chocolate Meringues
(almost foolproof)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 3-4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (er, so, like half of your 1/4 tsp spoon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar, finely ground in your coffee grinder (and if it comes out a little coffee-flavored, well then, enjoy the mocha meringues!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or peppermint extract, which I am to try next)
  • ½-1 bag Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips


Set racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and frothy, about 20 seconds.

Add the cream of tartar and salt; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and soft peaks form, 45-60 seconds.

Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until glossy and stiff, 4-6 minutes.

Beat in the vanilla extract, then fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Use two spoons to drop heaping tablespoons on the prepared baking sheets about an inch apart. (They don't really spread, so you can put 'em quite close together if you're short on space.)

Place the cookies in the oven, shut the door and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven for at least 8 hours or overnight to cook.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container…in you can resist eating them all on the spot, that is.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Finders eaters

After being up to my elbows in berries yesterday -- making strawberry jam, balsamic roasted strawberry and chocolate chunk frozen custard, gin and berry cocktails, a glaze for part of a late lunch of swordfish and grilled asparagus, and of course scarfing a hearty handful of whole ones as I bustled around the kitchen -- one would think that I'd have had my fill of luscious red berries for awhile. Nope.

I'd splurged on a flat -- yes, that would be *6 quarts* -- of strawberries at the Bloomingdale farmers' market yesterday morning, and yet the discovery of one single, perfect, red berry in a planter next to the front steps as I came home this evening had me giggling like a schoolgirl. There's something special about harvesting ones I've grown myself. And getting to them before the neighborhood squirrels, I mused as I promptly popped the strawberry into my mouth. Rodents 0: Me 1. (Considerably better than last year's record -- rats 6: me 1.)

As I tell the kids at school: you need to be diligent if you want to get to the berries first. Keep an eye on those strawberry plants. They turn red, they're yours. Finders, eaters!

your friendly-neighborhood food educator