Sunday, September 16, 2012

Love This Time of Year

We're coming up on fall which I adore. I can be out mid-afternoon without roasting and can take my bike everywhere without fear of offending due to sweat.

Saturday I pedaled to the grower's market, something I haven't done in a long, long time. The crowds tend to put me off but going early negates that worry. I picked up purple beans, rattlesnake beans, a native melon, okra, collard greens, tomatoes, sweet corn and a multigrain loaf of bread. I would have loved to take more, but that was all I could fit in my pannier.

Some of the corn was roasted on the grill for vegetarian enchiladas and some was eaten as a side with a variation of this gumbo. I had forgotten how much I love okra and will definitely do a better job at planting and caring for it next year. We had the collards on the side tonight too and they were delectable with some spicy vinegar from home-canned pickled jalapenos.

Next Saturday I plan to hit the market again but with more storage space. It's apple season after all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's New

Things here are settling into a nice routine between work and home. Unfortunately more time is spent on the work side of things, but that's how it goes sometimes.

The garden is growing but I had less than ideal germination rates for the beets, turnips, rutabaga and the carnival carrots. This is mostly due to the seeds being a tad old, I think. We'll make do with what comes up! I'm also plucking tomato hornworms off the tomatoes a few times a week. They make for a good chicken snack!

The sunflowers are putting out seed which the goldfinches and sparrows love and Chipper the chicken gets to have any leftovers.

I'm still juicing every day and it helps me get through the long mornings before lunch. I think it's like a little sanity tonic when working with middle schoolers!

And last but not least, Lane has started a masters program--the house has never been cleaner!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cookin' Ahead

Now that school is back in session, time is really at a premium. To avoid the nightly "what's for dinner" conundrum I thought I'd try to get ahead of the game today. I prepped a few meals in advance in the hope that they'll be on deck when I get home too tired to start from scratch. Today I used the grill to roast 2 eggplant, corn, and a few bell peppers. The eggplant became a lemony spread for home-baked baguette. The corn and peppers found their way into some black bean enchiladas. We'll be eating those for days. I also roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic to stir into a basil pesto with pasta later this week. Pizza dough is also rising in the fridge for a night this week where we can grill up a tasty pie. And, while they have nothing to do with dinner, I also threw together a batch of chocolate chip cookies. There was no need to have the oven going and not bake cookies!

In the garden many of the brassicas have sprouted: tatsoi, turnips, rutabaga, kale and the spinach and beets are also showing their tender sprouts. I may be wrong, but I think some carrots have also started to come up. If I can manage to remember to water, we may have a good harvest at the end of fall. The added water has also helped coax the tomatoes into productivity. It's such a joy to be able to eat a cherry tomato (or two) while watering the garden. Bliss!

One part of the weekend that was far from blissful was the weeding of the mini forest of silverleaf nightshade that took over the side yard. These plants look innocent enough, but they are covered in spines and seem to proliferate through some sort of underground runner. I feel like I can never get rid of it and in some states (WA and OR) it is considered a noxious weed. I'd love to get that part of the yard more landscaped, or at least mulched, in an attempt to suppress this and other weeds.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fall Garden

The fall garden was planted today. Hooray! I "weeded" a good pile's worth of sunflowers that had blown over in a freak microburst that came through yesterday. I think we had gusts of about 60mph for about 5 minutes which toppled our sunflowers and broke branches all over the neighborhood. Weird.

Along with the preexisting tomatoes I planted the following seeds: parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, 4 varieties of carrots, 3 varieties of beets (including Bull's Blood), a lettuce mix, collard greens, spinach, tatsoi and red kale. The trick now is keeping it moist and watered. I'm so glad I was able to get these seeds planted today. Last year I missed the planting window and missed out on from-the- yard produce, which was a bummer. In other good gardening news, our neighbor across the way has agreed that we will co-garden his large lot this spring! I see corn, more tomatoes, peppers, beans and eggplant in our future...

Today we also met a lovely couple from this part of town. They have several fruit trees and will be out of town for a few weeks. We're going to keep an eye on their house in exchange for the fruit (pears & apples) and whatever is ready to harvest from their garden. Lucky us!

Yesterday I harvested at least 5 lbs of peaches from my school's orchard. We've been eating them out of hand all day and I made this incredible peach crumble. This is why we will never be able to truly go vegan--the butter made it all the more delicious! I went on a cooking spree yesterday baking two baguettes, two pizzas, roasted eggplant & tomato spread for the baguette and hummus. We'll be eating well this week!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Catching Up

School is back in session which is sadly leaving limited time for things like blogging. I really like my new students and enjoy being with those who have returned. Middle school has brought me more joy than I had ever imagined. Something about my own junior high experience had me thinking that teaching middle school would be miserable. It's not without it's quirks and irritations, but it is really joyous too.

At the lean-to I'm getting ready to plant the cool season crops. The garden beds have been cleaned and this weekend will be a compost/double dig kind of time. It's this time of year that I can enjoy being out in the garden as the days are getting cooler. I haven't planned exactly what I'll plant but I know we'll have plenty of greens and root vegetables. This summer the winter squash went gangbusters and we should have enough to last us for a time. Tomatoes are still producing too which is such a pleasure. There is nothing like a tomato straight from the vine.

I've been juicing tomatoes in my daily gazpacho juice which has been delicious! My students think I'm a little kooky, especially when the color of the juice is not particularly appealing and they've taken to asking me daily what's in it. I appreciate their inquiry and they seem genuinely interested, if not baffled and intrigued.

I've been cooking a lot from scratch lately--breads, beans, pizza, whole grains-- and it feels good to be back in the cooking saddle. When it's so hot outside the desire to cook gets sapped out of me and even using the outdoor grill hasn't helped much. Last week a neighbor gave me a huge bag of apples from a friend's tree which I processed into apple jelly. I'm looking forward to cracking one of those open soon and processing more fruits as they come into season.

The shade structure is still lacking shade, but it will be finished in due time. The sunflowers are blooming like crazy which makes the goldfinches and sparrows incredibly happy, not to mention the hummingbirds and bees. Things here at the lean-to are fabulous and perhaps once I get into the school routine, I can get back to blogging more often.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yard Pics

This morning there was a roadrunner on our gate. Although they are somewhat ubiquitous in Albuquerque, I never tire of seeing them. And to have one in our yard--fantastic! I had to take the picture through the screen door so as not to alarm it which is why it is especially lousy. As soon as I quietly opened the door, it hopped off and ran away.

Yesterday and this morning I worked on our shade structure/bike storage project. We were given some redwood stain and, although initially worried we'd have that 70's redwood deck vibe, I'm pleased with the results. I just need to use a brush to fill in some of the gaps and then we're ready for the roof.

The semi dwarf peach is totally taking over!

I've also been harvesting a few tomatoes from the garden and a winter squash every now and again. I had high hopes to plant beans, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant, but the no-maintenance volunteer squash and tomatoes helped my lazy side to put those off until next summer. Here is what appears to be a sugar pie pumpkin (also a volunteer).

Things are looking good in the yard and we had a neighbor say that our place has never looked this good in the 15 years he's been in the neighborhood. The yard is wild, but green and he could tell that we care about such things. I'm hoping for a more orderly look next year, but I'm glad we're not the scourge of the neighborhood.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blooms and Tomatoes

Today we ate the first tomato out of the garden. I think it's a yellow taxi which I tried to grow last summer and is a volunteer this time around. We shared it with some neighborhood kids who came over for help with bike maintenance. They were all surprised at how much they loved it.  They also took home some winter squash, about which they were giddy.

The yard is overflowing with sunflowers large and small. It seems to me that they may be blooming earlier than last year. Some of the wildflowers are also blooming. See...

These tall, single bloomed sunflowers are my favorites. A honeybee is coming in for a landing!

We finished securing the 2x4s for the shade structure and are ready for the roof. We're on New Mexico time so we'll see if it's complete by the time school starts in early August.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Veggie Juicin'

I packed all of these veggies and fruits into 2 glasses of juice!
(Thanks, Chile, for the inspiration & recipe.)

1/4 large cabbage, cored
1 cucumber, peeled
1 lime, peeled
1 large handful cilantro
2 large tomatoes
4 stalks celery
Handful of baby spinach
1 large red pepper, seeds removed

A very refreshing, tasty lunch.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thunderstorms and Fractures

The last few days have been fairly packed. Thursday Lane & I hiked the La Luz trail here in Albuquerque. I left the camera in the glove box, so there are sadly no pictures to: a) verify that we actually hiked and b) demonstrate the splendor of the views on the trail. Next time. I'm pretty sure there will be a next time even though we definitely over exerted ourselves. 4 miles in seemed breezy, but the 4 miles back out, at a steady pace to outrun an incoming thunderstorm was anything but breezy. It was stressful and a cadence that we would not usually have gone. By the time we got to the car, the storm was practically on us. We were soaked, lightning weary and I for one was so, so glad to see the parking lot.

This activity left me very sore on Friday, where I had to sit in a room for nearly 6 hours typing away at a computer to complete my written comprehensive exam for my Master's degree. I am very glad that is over, too. Later that day Lane had an accident, the details of which I will not disclose here. You'll have to ask him yourself ;) His arm is now in a splint and we will be paying a visit to an orthopedic doctor early next week for a more solid cast. He doesn't need surgery this time around, so that is good news!

Yesterday we went with friends to a local skate park to watch their son ride bmx and check out a bmx competition. Before the competition even started a young man was sent off with the medics after landing on his face, losing some teeth and spending some time unconscious. We watched the 14 and under division and those kids were pretty amazing. The heat was getting to us, though, and we returned home to the swamp cooler and some juice (apple, pear, carrot)

We've been having at least one glass of juice per day along with whole foods. I'm finding that I'm craving juice rather than cooked foods more often, which makes the juice I do have just that much more satisfying. Having said that, the planned menu today is vegetarian maki rolls with brown rice for lunch and pesto pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes and homemade bread for dinner. I'm planning for a veggie juice snack this afternoon as well. The tomatoes in the garden should be ready in a week or two and I can't wait to eat/juice those, too! With the exception of Lane's wrist, things are going well here at the Lean-to.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Morning Juice

This morning I juiced:
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pear, peeled and cored
  • 1 inch peeled ginger
So, so good. 

Then this afternoon I looked at what we had lying around and juiced:
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 5 pluots
  • 1 inch peeled ginger
  • 1 cup grapes
So, so good.

The melons will keep coming for a while and peach season is right around the corner. I'm also looking forward to tomatoes. I imagine juicing fresh tomatoes will be of such superior flavor.  I'm not having these juices as meals, but more like snacks or meal enhancers. We've really upped our fruit and veg intake with juicing and juices make for a much better snack than some things I've indulged in before.

I think the Breville and I are going to be good friends.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The 5-speed Breville....Thus Far

So far I am very satisfied with my 5-speed Breville centrifugal juicer. I just finished a giant glass of carrot-cantaloupe-apricot which was delicious (recipe below). Here are the things I like about this juicer:
  • It has 5 speeds which you can adjust based on the hardness of the fruit and veg. I think it helps get the most juice out; Not every fruit and veg is in the enclosed speed suggestion guide so I'm working out which speeds are best for which foods
  • Clean up has been pretty easy overall;the included brush is perfect for cleaning the basket
  • The design is great--I especially love that the pitcher fits snugly under the spout. and that the pitcher has a lid which prevents spattering
  • It's fast
  • The chute is wide--you can fit 3-4 whole carrots and 1/2 an apple quite easily; this cuts down on prep time
  • Most of the pulp ends up in the pulp catchment area, which also helps with clean up
  • The pulp is fairly dry, so I feel like much of the juice is being extracted
  • The chicken loves the pulp so nothing is wasted!
Some of the things I wish were different:
  •  I wish greens were included in the speed selection guide (like spinach, parsley and the like)
  • Clean up seems to require quite a bit of water. We hand wash all of our dishes and recycle the greywater into a bucket below the sink. It's painfully clear that this uses a lot of water to clean up. At least the water is full of food nutrients and it goes into the garden!
The pluses definitely outweigh  the deltas in this one. One thing I somehow hadn't realized was just how much produce goes into a juice. I made a two-glass batch of gazpacho yesterday that used: 4 tomatoes, 4 stalks of celery, 2 limes, 2 cucumbers, 1/2 an onion and a whole red pepper. If I had made gazpacho to eat, that wouldn't seem so shocking, but to drink it struck me as a lot of produce. I'm adjusting our CSA requests and co-op shopping accordingly and now the fridge has a lot more produce. I think juicing will significantly increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, which is definitely a good thing.

With all of the appliance purchases over the last 6 months, the counter is definitely getting crowded and all of them get used on a fairly regular basis (toaster oven, juicer, food processor, immersion blender and soy milk maker). I'm going to need a storage plan soon! If anyone has a favorite juice recipe, please add it/them to the comments.

Recipe: Beta Blast from The Juicing Bible

1 glass

3 carrots
1/4 cantaloupe-seeded and rind removed
2 apricots-pit removed

juice, whisk together and enjoy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Of Juice and Monsoons

Yesterday marked several moments of note at the lean-to. First, the wall next to the guerrilla orchard was tagged with really terrible graffiti. I don't mean that it was off-color or raunchy, it's just not aesthetically pleasing. I think a  mural or nearly any of the NYC train cars from the 80s would be fabulous. It would give the guerrilla orchard a certain je ne sais quois. Sadly, this is just a terrible tag and it just looks sad.

Second, my Breville juicer arrived yesterday and it's been put to good use! I made a grapefruit-lime-orange-cranberry concoction first, which was perfectly tangy. Then I tried a celery-carrot-apple-parsley recipe from The Juicing Bible. Something about it did not suit me at all and I couldn't drink it. Not so for today's modified Gazpacho that Chile posted. I didn't have any hot peppers or cilantro but it was delicious just the same. Very filling and satisfying.

Third, the monsoon season roared in with a vengeance yesterday evening. I could see the sky darkening, which was a good sign and thought we'd get a "regular" rain like the other night. Not so on this day. The rain poured, the wind blew and hail fell as though we should prepare for either a hurricane or a tornado. It was incredible. Thunder crashed, lightning bolted and we could not even see across the street for all the rain and wind. It turns out we received ~2 inches of rain! For a part of town that typically gets 7" a year, this was significant. We discovered two spots where the roof leaks in the kitchen, which can be fixed, but the clouds are mounting again and there is potential for more rain in the forecast. I can't imagine we'll get another storm like yesterday, but it certainly seems possible.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Escape to Cooler Climes

Over the weekend temperatures were forecast to be around 100 degrees which for us is just too darn hot. One way that we beat the heat is to head to the mountains of northern New Mexico. It is really beautiful and significantly cooler. Saturday we met a friend at Angel Fire ski resort to do some mountain biking. Resort writing is not our favorite type of riding, but it was nice to change things up. At Angel Fire our bikes and us ride up the chairlift and then scream down the mountain. Most of the people who ride there are downhillers a.k.a DH'ers. They wear full body armor and have bikes with enough suspension to do 10 foot drops. Because their bikes are so squishy they can tear down the trails without feeling the smallest bumps. They love this.

We love the scenery and the challenge of the riding. In fact, when we stop to take in the views, DH'er after DH'er will stop and ask if we're ok. They can't imagine why anyone would stop unless there was serious problem. Here we are enjoying one of these vista breaks.

It was great to get out of town and beat the heat. We're back to more normal temperatures and had the first monsoon of the season last night! There's nothing like the sound of rain when you've missed it for months.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Root & Squash Harvest

Today marked the garden moment I could not Put Off Any Longer--harvesting the root veggies that had been languishing in the triple-digit heat. Their greens looked sad, but their roots looked good.

I should have included something in the picture for scale because everything is really, really small relative to grocery store sizes. Even the squash are in miniature. Well, maybe not the acorn squash but I think the other two mystery squashes might be a tad diminutive. They are both about the size of a large grapefruit. If anyone can name what the orange and green speckled squash are, I'd appreciate it. My lazy gardening style includes throwing squash seeds into the compost/garden and sometimes we get some surprises.

Right now some turnips, rutabaga and carrots are roasting in a solar panel oven--a CooKit to be more exact. It's just too darn hot to run the conventional oven.

In other garden news, the squash are clearly producing and the tomatoes should be starting to turn red in a week or two. The sunflowers are also starting to open up. The garden is really coming alive!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Appliance Arsenal

Ok, maybe calling this post Appliance Arsenal is a bit strong, but I'm a sucker for alliteration. My appliance purchasing from the spring continued today with the Breville Ikon 900-Watt Variable-Speed Juice Extractor. The ratings were excellent and it came highly recommended from Chile of Chile Juice Reboot and other fabulous blogs. Her juices sound fabulous and I have the Juicing Bible on hold at the library. Between those I think we'll be off to a good start. When the temperature is close to 100 degrees, anything but chilled juice sounds too heavy. I'll let you know how it goes with my new, shiny nutrition machine!

If anyone has any juice recipes you'd like to share, leave a comment and I'll give it a whirl. I have to admit, though that the only thing I will not add to juices is banana. There's just something about them....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The End of the Apricots

Today marked the end of apricot season at the Lean-To. It was lovely while it lasted. I juiced the last 14 apricots into a thick nectar. What I will do with that, I have no idea. As you can see in the picture below, they were looking pretty haggard and there was only one that I ate out of hand. Many had succumbed to ants and birds, but that's part of the deal when you sign up to garden. At least in my opinion.

Inspired by Chile and her juice fast, I pulled out our juicer today. It is not a very good model as it doesn't juice greens or ginger--two of the things I'd love to be able to juice. I picked it up about a year ago from our former neighbors who were downsizing to travel this great land of ours and live in a fifth wheel with their two children ages 6 and 11. I haven't heard from them in some time and wonder how their adventure turned out. I knew their juicer wasn't going to be perfect for our needs, but for $20 I was willing to help out a neighbor and gain a mediocre juicer.

I harvested these carrots from the garden, threw in some cucumber and some ginger in the hope that this time it would get juiced. The results were pretty delicious. Whenever I drink fresh juice I get a little zing that lasts for a while.  The pulp goes to the chicken and we are all very happy.

I would love to juice more but am unwilling to shell out $400 for a great juicer. Does anyone know of a model between $100-$200 that will juice greens like kale, ginger, the usual suspects (carrots, fruit) and, possibly, wheatgrass? Links would be much appreciated

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Stone Fruit

The apricot tree has been providing us with plenty of fruit to eat out of hand. I think it will be a few years yet before we'll get enough to go through the effort of putting it up.

If you have more stone fruit than you know what to do with, this week's New York Times Magazine has a great interactive from Mark Bittman about several ways to prepare stone fruit. Many of them use plenty of sugar and some a fair amount of butter. You can find it here.

I hope you are enjoying the bounty of summer wherever you may be!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Out of Control!

The garden and yard have really gotten away from me this year. Luckily the native grass seed we planted last year came back easily. What also had no issue taking hold again is the vetch, which is good if it's used for its intended purpose, a nitrogen rich cover crop. It is not so good when you let it grow, and grow, and grow then go to flower and seed. I think I'll be battling the vetch in the veggie beds next season.

Things could be much worse. We could have to rely on rain to irrigate our crops, rather than the acequia which would be miserable as we haven't had any rain in a very long time. Right now I hear thunder and a few stray drops have hit the window. If it really opens up I'll have to go outside and enjoy it while it lasts.

A fire started on our beloved Bosque yesterday, jumped the river and seems to be fairly under control today. It is so difficult to see New Mexico burn. We love its wild places and national forest to escape the city and enjoy the beauty of this beautiful state. I hope the monsoons arrive with a vengeance and soon.

Because of our access to the acequia, we've been flooding once a week. This is what things are looking like these days. It is such a relief to walk through our gate and see the lushness that is our yard.

The plum and vetch is in the foreground with the peach looking lovely in the back. Behind the peach you might be able to make out the porch structure that is awaiting a roof. Behind the wheelbarrow is a massive weed (I think). I've been hesitant to do anything about it because the pollinators absolutely love its little white flowers.

We've been eating apricots daily from this tree. They are so delicious and their season is so fleeting. I'm afraid we might have a borer issue as there is a sticky sap-like substance oozing from the trunk. Darn. Chipper is enjoying all of her free-ranging.

The veggie garden. The vetch is growing up the fence which has provided shade for the plants inside during the hottest time of the day. Bumblebees also love the flowers. I'm looking forward to the giant sunflower flowering.

The peach regained all of its leaves and then some after the brief, but fruit-killing, aphid invasion of the spring.

I really dislike flash-induced washed-out pictures, but here is the best I could do today with this pic of an apricot.

The garden contains 2 beds-one that is cultivated with intentional seeding of carrots, lettuces, turnips and rutabagas (which I roasted in the solar oven for a work potluck today). This bed, however, is mostly volunteers with a few nursery-purchased seedlings. The volunteers are tomatoes from last year and squash/melons from having left the seeds in the compost. This plant is reminiscent of a pumpkin. Another looks to have either a watermelon or a Hubbard Squash. I'll try to snap some pics tomorrow for some id-ing.
 Things are definitely going well in the growth department. The weeding and maintenance departments are suffering from some busyness on our parts, but there is something really great about the chaos of it all.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The End is Near...

of the school year that is.

With just 2 weeks and 2 days left in the school year, things have really been busy. That isn't to say that things on the homefront are being totally ignored, because the lean-to is looking rather spiffy these days, or at least on the way to looking spiffy. The garden is growing lettuces, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, beans and lots and lots of sunflowers. We also have some volunteer mystery squash and tomatoes from last year coming in nicely. The grapes and apricot are also doing well. Our guerrilla garden missed out on a good watering during fruiting, so we won't have cherries this season. The peach also got attacked by aphids and won't be producing much fruit. The plum didn't flower at all and the apple's one flower produced one sad fruit that has already been eaten by pests. I'm trying to look on the bright side-at least these trees will put their energy into becoming established.

In the kitchen I added to the gadget arsenal with a SoyaJoy soymilk/raw nut milk maker. We were consuming about a gallon of soymilk a week and that was starting to add up both financially and in terms of packaging waste. I picked up a 25 lb bag of organic soybeans from the co-op and now we're having homemade soymilk daily. I've also made raw almond milk which was really good. With almonds at at least $11 per pound and soybeans at $1.29/lb we'll primarily be sticking with soymilk.

At school my outdoor ed students have really enjoyed solar cooking. They've been working on a blog and I'll post the link soon. Last Friday we made 16 batches of brownies for our school's Spring Festival. They were a success and some families learned about the ease, joy and deliciousness of solar cooking.

In the yard we have some other additions--a chicken-proof fence has been added to the garden so Chipper is roaming free yet again. Lane has also built a porch so we can have some shade in the summer. It will be a storage spot for the commuter bikes, an outdoor dining area and a spot for some tool storage. I'm so excited to be able to sit outside to read or enjoy an iced tea when the mercury rises!

Next week we have an adventure awaiting us in Arizona. For our next Westfalia project we need to pick up an engine in Flagstaff. Since we have to be there anyway we''re going to do some mountain biking in the area, which will be really great. Hopefully I'll remember to snap some pics and I can post them.

Summer break is just around the corner!

Monday, February 20, 2012


I generally eschew small appliances in the kitchen, figuring I can do most things a food processor could do by just spending a little more time with the chef's knife, mortar and pestle, and some elbow grease. Now that we've added an immersion blender and an 11 cup food processor, I can't believe I ever lived without them. Here is just a sampling of what I've made with the food processor in the past week:

  • Bread dough--sandwich and two rustic loaves*
  • Tofu-Tempeh "meat"balls*
  • Carrot-miso dipping sauce for above meatballs*
  • A gluten free salty pecan crust for a vegan pumpkin pie (which was amazing!)
  • Arugula-cilantro pesto
  • Coconut milk from shredded, unsweetened coconut*
  • Chopping and slicing of veggies

The immersion blender has also helped puree a couple of soups (a red lentil and a curried red kuri squash soup) and blend some walnut-miso dressings. I tried making mayonnaise with it, too, but was not successful. I may have added the olive oil too quickly.

All in all I am very satisfied with our two new appliances. They are broadening my recipe repertoire helping alleviate some of the ho-hum of stand by meals.

*Recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Finding Calm in the Kitchen

After a rather tumultuous week in the classroom, I am so glad to be spending some time with Lane both in and out of doors. After a decadent morning of sleeping in and brunch at Annapurna's we went for a hike in the foothills of Sandia mountain. Although we didn't have the blue New Mexico sky above us, it was a very pleasant hike in the wilderness area. Part of the trail wound through a cholla cactus "forest" and we saw many pinon jays and an especially lovely red-tailed hawk perched on a granite boulder. We found a trail new to us that weaves its way along a canyon and perhaps we'll be able to try it soon.

On the way home we picked up a few kitchen appliances I've been coveting for some time: an immersion blender and a food processor. Thanks to the food processor I already have two loaves of bread rising and am planning for some large batches of soup to be made tomorrow to put the immersion blender to use. While most consumerism really depresses me, buying two products that will ease food prep just seems to make sense.  And although I have a mountain of grading and planning also on schedule for tomorrow, I envision a good part of the day in the kitchen filling the house with delicious smells and making nourishing food for our family. I feel fairly calm when I'm in the kitchen, especially when I know something fantastic is on the way. I hope that these new gadgets will add to, not detract from, that calm feeling and the enjoyment that cooking gives me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Moving to a Plant-Based Diet

A few weeks ago we purchased a 93 Eurovan from a lovely couple in Santa Fe (pictures of the van should appear in future posts). He had recently had triple bypass surgery and now they have an extremely restrictive diet in the hopes of reversing his heart disease. This diet is vegan, except it excludes nuts, avocado, and any oils. She was sharing what a challenge it has been, yet how much better they both feel. After sharing some favorite vegan spots (Mint Tulip, Thai Vegan and Annapurna's) we said we would stay in touch about food in our lives.

This inspired Lane and I to change our diets. While not as extreme as that of our Santa Fe friends, we're moving toward healthier eating. Although we don't consume many animal products, we're trying to cut them out and live a plant-based life. I can't deny that last week I looked longingly at some cheese my colleague was having for lunch, but I do feel like things are changing for the better. It helps that I picked up Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian from the library. I love his writing style and his recipes have never steered me wrong. Many of the dishes are vegan, or can easily be made so (by not including cheese, for example). I'm also rediscovering my love for Japanese food. I've made a few soba noodle bowls with miso broth and vegetable maki. The last week has also seen  two batches of mole sauce from scratch. I used them to make roasted butternut squash enchiladas. They were downright delicious, if I may say so.

Other tricks I've been trying to be sure our lysine levels are ok (word has it vegans have trouble getting enough lysine) are to include some type of legume at each meal: miso in the salad dressing, or sauteed and crumbled tempeh on salads.

I haven't been on the totally straight and narrow, however. Yesterday I needed to whip up a dessert for a neighbor who was helping us with a project. What was the quickest thing I could come up with? Chocolate chip cookies. With butter. And eggs. I only made half a batch but that didn't stop me from scraping the dough out of the bowl, licking the spoon and stuffing two cookies into my mouth.

They were the best cookies I've ever eaten.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The first weekend of winter break we headed to the Enchanted Circle for some nordic skiing and yurt-ing excitement. Here are some pics from that adventure:

The yurt was cozy and offered all we needed to stay snug and well fed.

Wheeler Peak from the yurt

Fresh tracks after the storm. We saw two does and one buck mule deer.