Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CSA Weeks 21-24: Done and DONE.

Whew! That felt nothing like 24 weeks, darlings. Maybe it was because we only bought a half-share and were therefore less overwhelmed by random produce, but this year’s CSA was much more manageable than last year’s. Let’s see how it wrapped up (spoiler: anticlimactically).

Week 21 didn’t happen because it flipping snowed. In October! I hate the East Coast sometimes. The One Straw crew didn’t feel safe driving to the market, for which I couldn’t blame them. It was the first time in 23 years they missed a summer market day. Everyone stayed home, and we got twice the veggies for Week 22:

There we have some garlic, bok choy, sweet potatoes, multicolored peppers, broccoli, and it looks like some scallions. The bok choy, peppers, scallions, and broccoli went into this lovely stir-fry with some cashews:

I’m sure we added some garlic, too. Garlic is great because it can just hang out in the Crisper and keeps for a nice long while.

We’ve been really into dicing and roasting sweet potatoes this fall. Sometimes I do them plain, with just some olive oil and salt and pepper, and other times I add a little maple syrup and ginger. I can’t remember what I did this time, but it was delicious. Fun fact: roasted sweet potatoes are an excellent breakfast.

Week 23 didn’t happen either, but not because of any shenanigans by Mother Nature. Red and Lucy and I went to the beach because I had a three-day yoga training weekend. It was wonderful and exhausting and we took a huge pan of Vcon’s Pumpkin-Baked Ziti with us so we wouldn’t have to cook. Here’s a picture of my girl meeting the ocean for the first time:

So we got double the veggies for Week 24, which seemed an appropriate way to finish out the season:

So much leafy greenage! We got spinach, mizuna, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, and I think that’s it. We got two of a few of those, so forgive me for being a little confused.

We had to make space in the fridge, but in doing so we found some sticky grossness and also some random bits of onion skin and other detritus. So Red brought out the vacuum:

I suppose we didn’t use all the sweet potatoes after all, as we had one left over for to make this soup:

This is Double Mustard Greens and Roasted Yam Soup from Vegan Soul Kitchen. We made it last year and loved it, so I was glad to have it again.

We picked up some carrots and made this stir-fry with the mizuna, some of the broccoli, and one of the heads of bok choy. It doesn’t look like much in the photo, but it was yummy.

When we realized we had missed a bok choy and a head of broccoli, we kicked ourselves, then steamed up the broccoli and sautéed the extra bok choy with some garlic and all that beautiful spinach. Over rice, it made a perfectly simple and satisfying dinner. And thus did our 2011 CSA experience come to an end.

Like I said, this year was much better than last year, but we were still finding our feet then. This year, we’re old pros. I’m very thankful for One Straw. One of the things I love about them, aside from their excellent food, is their communication. Joan is always available to chat on market days, and she sends out emails when there’s something we need to know. I found her CSA wrap-up email especially interesting, because she explained how this year’s cracked-out weather really affected their harvest. We had a super-hot July and then a really rainy September, so the hard winter squash didn’t fare too well. The beets didn’t have a good time of it, either. The spinach was delicious, but it made only infrequent appearances at the market. Because of a lack of sunshine, the broccoli heads were very small (and being broccoli lovers, we noticed). Evidently many East Coast farmers experienced the same conditions, and flooding left some without a harvest at all. This is very sad, because I’m sure they are small family farmers, like One Straw, and the weather determines their livelihoods. It really brings into focus just how interconnected we all are, and I hope next year is kinder to those who dedicate themselves to feeding us healthy, natural food.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Southern-fried Thanksgiving.

I love it when I start a post with an outright lie. We didn’t fry all that much, and certainly didn’t Southern-fry anything, however one does that. We did, however, make a ridiculous amount of delicious food.

Red and I, along with my parents, flew down to Charlotte (remember when I went there?) to spend the holiday o’ gluttony with my sister at her new house. Yay, new house! All that lovely space. I am so jealous. She and her boyfriend have done an admirable job of filling it, though, with the aid of this handsome fellow:

This enormous beast is Sampson, and he is still a puppy. When he finishes growing, I am going to laugh and laugh because he will almost certainly outweigh my sister. He is the sweetest, mellowest dog I’ve ever met—and not even a year old! Lucy is that calm when she’s waking up from anesthesia. We had many snuggles and even let him get up on the couch, which, strictly speaking, he is not allowed to do. He is a beautiful boy.

The day before Thanksgiving, Red and I learned of a new vegetarian restaurant in town. We absolutely had to try it! It’s called Fern, Flavors from the Garden, and you’ll just have to Google it because they’re too new to have an actual website. It is really lovely:

Such a great use for Mason jars.

Felt pockets on the wall! With living plants in them!

They poured us glasses of cucumber water, which is totally delicious and I don’t know why I’ve never made it myself. We started with jalapeño hush puppies (with Daiya, for those of you who worship the stuff), which I loved and I am no great lover of jalapeños, believe me.

Look at my pretty First Chakra Juice:

I know it’s ultra-hippie to have a juice menu named after the chakras, but we just covered them in my recent yoga training weekend, and I have a chakra poster (this one, actually) on my wall at work, and I have a chakra ring that I bought in Salem with my friend Jess, so I guess I am a little ultra-hippie, no? And yes, I brought my yoga mat with me to North Carolina.

My entrée was already vegan, and they veganized Red’s easily. Feast your eyes:

Green Goddess Soup

Warm Kale Salad

It was good we fueled up, because we headed downtown to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Red and I can be very snobby East Coasters, but we’ve decided we can visit any city with a modern art museum. Well played, Charlotte. It’s right next to the Mint Museum (which, no, is not about currency), which I visited last time, so there was a nice sense of familiarity. I did not see the sign banning photographs, so I took some.

Me and Marilyn.

The rest of our visit was very domestic, as befits a family holiday. On Thanksgiving, my sister, Red, and I cooked up a storm—no, a goddamn tornado, and I had to stay sober the entire time because it was a very small kitchen for three people and I didn’t want to injure anyone (or, worse, spill my drink). But the day started off right, with these yummy vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls (made the night before, because can you imagine? you’d have to be up at 4 to have them ready for breakfast):

The recipe is here, and aside from its being a pain in the ass in the way that all cinnamon roll recipes are (knead! rise! roll! slice! roll! rise! KILL ME), I can’t say enough good things about it. The rolls were perfect. The icing recipe looked like it made a vatful, so we halved all the ingredients except for the spices and rum, because my family likes to party.

Release the Kraken!

Most of the day was pretty chill, and we played a very satisfying game of Monopoly. My sister has the set we used as kids, and man, it has survived some craziness. I’m pleased to report that I won, although Red did remarkably well for his first time playing Monopoly ever. We’ll civilize him yet.

Before we started cooking in earnest, we needed appetizers. The omnis had their own stuff, and Red and I made Tami Noyes’ Seitan Veggie Crowns. There’s a reason they were named’s Appetizer of the Year! Go, Tami! BTW, leftover filling mixed with a little extra vegan mayo makes for a delicious sandwich.

Once we started making dinner, it was on like Donkey Kong. We made garlic mashed potatoes (vegan and omni), green bean casserole, bourbon mashed sweet potatoes with pecans, Appetite for Reduction’s Sweet Potato Biscuits, stuffing from a bag (you know you love it too), and Sage and Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Gardein with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce (Gardein’s Thanksgiving menu is off the hook). We used malbec instead of cabernet, and it was a delicious substitution. Even my dad loved the Gardein!

We carved a V in our mashed potatoes so there’d be no confusion.

I was too stuffed to eat dessert, but the day before I’d made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan with a Vengeance. I made it last year, too, because it is easy and fantastic. Shout-out to Red for his peeling/slicing assistance. Actually, I made two pies—it turns out that the recipe makes one pie when you have a big-ass ceramic pie dish, but two when you’re using disposable grocery-store pie tins. So, a bonus pie! Who could complain? My sister didn’t have maple syrup, so I improvised and used a combination of molasses and rum. Again: Problem? Where? (I forgot to take a picture, so if you want one, it’s in here.) I ate plenty of it the next day, don’t you worry.

No trip to Charlotte is complete without a visit to Lebowski’s, so we made a family pilgrimage there on Black Friday. Vegan White Russians and french fries, you have my heart. I was committed to not buying anything that day, so I guess I failed, but it’s not like I got up at 3am to stand in line with hostile strangers jonesing for a discounted Xbox or something. That shit scares me.

Bar lighting is so flattering.

On Saturday, it was home again, home again. I am so thankful to have been able to spend Thanksgiving with people I love, in a city that cares about its vegans at least a little, remembering what really matters.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving thanks for Poplar Spring.

I know I’ve said it dozens of times, but Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary is one of my favorite places. Yes, it takes forever to get there (okay, 90 minutes) and we can’t make the drive as often as we’d like, but it is always worth it. So, despite the fact that I was still nursing a sniffle and Red had gotten off a plane the night before, we packed up some cornbread and drove down for the annual Thanksgiving with the Turkeys.

Since we were early, there was plenty of parking, but from what we saw later, that didn’t last long. According to Deb at Invisible Voices, who has the inside track on these things, as many as 800 people showed up! I totally agree with her that Poplar Spring should start marketing the day as the World’s Largest Vegan Potluck. It was wonderful to see so many people excited about the animals—and so many kids, too!

Her favorite game was dropping armfuls of straw on her head and running around.

But first, we had to pass this understated marvel of good taste to get there:

This is the Casa de Amor, and by all that’s holy, if it isn’t the trashiest mega-mansion in the entire county. The fountain is out of frame, but the Internet tells me it’s illuminated by rainbow lights at night. If you’ve ever been to Vegas and seen the fountain display at the Bellagio, that’s what I’m envisioning. There are also big-ass eagles atop the fence. It is truly a triumph of drug money or other unsavory enterprise.

Once we made it to the sanctuary, we checked in on our friends the goats:

We then wandered down to the chicken yard to find Deb, but were distracted by this handsome fellow:

Would you believe he’s a pheasant? I always thought they’d be drab birds, meant to blend in with the forest. Not so, evidently, because he is as colorful as any tropical bird. Perhaps other varieties of pheasant are more sedately plumaged, but he is quite striking. I believe he’s a newcomer to the sanctuary, and I don’t doubt he’ll attract much attention.

Poplar Spring also recently welcomed two young turkeys, Tilly and Cosette (no promises as to who’s who, though Deb says that Cosette may be soon renamed something more appropriately masculine if suspicions prove correct):

Edward or Arthur (I can’t tell them apart) spent a bit of time hollering in his distinctive peacock way, though I didn’t see either peacock strutting around with tail unfurled. It was nice of them to let the turkeys have center stage.

True to form, the rabbits kept to themselves in a cozy pile:

Allison and Twinkle don’t need much personal space.

Here’s lunchtime for the turkeys, who are always very excited to be the center of attention:

Cosette and Tilly went back for seconds.

Once the turkeys had their buffet, it was time for ours. Red’s and my strategy is to split up and hit different tables, so we can try as much food as possible. I think we did exceptionally well:

I grabbed those strawberries for Red, because I am the Best Wife Ever.

I did sneak off to the dessert table first and snag two pumpkin whoopie pies because I was sure they wouldn’t last. I was right; when I went back after snarfing my lunch, the desserts were pretty well decimated.

Here’s an example of how well matched Red and I are: We each spied a crate of clementines, and we each grabbed one for ourselves and one to share with the other. When we met up with our loot, we had four clementines! I would have felt greedy keeping all of them, so we gave two to our tablemates, one of whom worked for FARM. You were all lovely, tablemates. (Protip: Get to Poplar Spring early and drop your stuff at a table so you’re not sitting on the grass. This is the first year we figured out that trick.)

This year, the party had a surprise guest speaker: Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet (which I own, but haven’t read, because you know how it is). It can be tough to rig up a good sound system outdoors, and I’m not sure everyone heard him, but he was well received and I hope he had a good time.

After lunch, we moseyed over to the pig yard:

Piglets Paige and Patty.

If you look closely, you can see Red back there!

I couldn’t resist the ‘tock shot.

We needed to head home to Lucy, so we stopped by the gift shop for a new calendar (it’s almost January and I need to continue being That Person at work). Deb’s photos are beautiful and really capture the personality of each animal.

For all the beauty and joy of the day, I was saddened that Opal wasn’t there. Opal, grande dame of turkeys, passed on in April after kicking ass and taking names for seven spirited years. That’s a damn good run for a turkey who, like she was, was bred to be killed. She ran away from a slaughterhouse when she was just a youngster and came to Poplar Spring in 2004, after her kindhearted adopters realized that a sanctuary was the best place for her. Although her beak and toes were cut short and I’m sure this caused her pain (as well as made it difficult for her to walk and eat), she was unfailingly gentle and loved to be stroked. She was truly an inspiration and will be missed by so many, human and nonhuman alike.

Opal and I at last year’s potluck.

Another year, another early Thanksgiving. I’m so grateful for places like Poplar Spring, where animals can not only live free from fear and pain and express their true natures, but where we humans can remember that we always have the opportunity to be better versions of ourselves.