You are probably wondering what strawberries and the blues (as in the musical blues) have in common. Well, I’m not sure they have very much in common at all other than M and I having something to do with both today. It has been a long and full day, and I’m going to rush this post out so I can keep up with my commitment so please pardon any typos, mistakes, and things of that ilk. Plus, I’m a little tired, and mistakes are more likely to happen when I’m tired.
I was up at 5:00 this morning, for no particular reason. It’s a lovely time to be awake. The sky was just starting to lighten up, the birds were singing and chatting, and there were wisps of fog drifting and dancing across the top of the pond. About the time the sky started to turn a beautiful shade of pink, I began my morning yoga practice. I finished as the sun rose just above the tree line. It was a great start to the day.
It’s an exiting day here at Breezy Acres. M and I decided to give ourselves an early Christmas present. The photo above is your first clue.
After giving it much thought (and much savings), we took ourselves to a local (independently owned) ski shop and invested in cross-country skis. Yay!!
M had to go back to work immediately after we made our big purchase so neither of us have tried out our new skis just yet. That will be my outdoor time today. As soon as he gets home, we’ll be trying them out in the future-woods as that seems the best trail for us (newbies!). We have gone cross-country skiing a few times in the past, renting the skis and boots at a local park. The great thing about owning skis is now we can go whenever we feel like it. The rentals at the park are available on weekends only. Sometimes the snow falls during the week and is gone by the weekend. We won’t have to worry about that now.
I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it went. Hopefully we’ll have lots of fun and no injuries.
Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. ~ Dorothea Lange
M and I went to Akron yesterday evening to see the exhibit Detroit Disassembled: Photographs by Andrew Moore at the Akron Art Museum. The photographs are amazing. One of the descriptions of the exhibit mentions how Americans go to Europe to see ancient ruins whereas Europeans have been coming to Detroit to look at their modern-day ruins.
The photograph that amazed me the most was of a book depository for the Detroit public school system that had been abandoned. The top floor was burned in a fire (“Birches Growing in Rotted Books”). The books and the mess were left to rot. No clean-up was ever done. Over the years, birch trees started growing out of the clumps of decomposing books. Trees growing out of what had once been trees. Amazing. One of the themes in the exhibit involves the way nature is reclaiming the city. Some of the old manufacturing plant ruins have even been classified as nature preserves. Imagine that.
For a few years M and I have been discussing going to Detroit. We have friends who live there. Detroit has a jazz festival that always gets rave reviews. And we’ve never been. Seeing Detroit Disassembled clinched it for me. We have to go.
(Akron Art Museum)
If you’d like to learn more about Andrew Moore or see some of his photography, visit his website.
Since M and I both like to walk, we parked half way between the art museum and the place where we were having dinner (the museum and restaurant being in opposite directions). It was a nice little walk and we once again got to explore the outdoor portions of the city (which fits in nicely with my outdoor challenge).
One of the things that stood out for me last night was how many trees they have planted throughout the area we were in. I’ve noticed them before, but they seem to demand a little more attention from me yesterday. Perhaps it’s a result of seeing the photography exhibit and what happens when a city is left to fall apart and go back to nature.
It was a lovely evening, all in all. I always enjoy our visits to Akron.
For this morning’s adventure, I stepped outside to watch the moon set and the sun rise. It’s a beautiful, warm morning with an almost tropical feel to it. Breezy. Humid. But without the palm trees. We don’t have palm trees in northeastern Ohio (except for the occasional fake plastic palm tree planted in someone’s front yard).
I’ll be enjoying more of the great outdoors later. Maybe. We’re thinking of going to an Akron Zips soccer game this evening. It depends on the weather. There is a cold front expected tonight. With the heat of the day (in the 90’s, they say, today) and the clashing air masses, that may well bring storms. So, we’ll see.
I don’t typically think of stews as a summertime meal. However, Vegetable Stifado from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite dishes to make this time of year. Almost everything in it can be found locally grown and freshly picked or, better yet, in my garden.
I vary the recipe a little in that I like to add extra tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I use a zucchini and a yellow squash, and 2-3 different colors of peppers (green, red, and yellow were on the menu when I made this the other day, but I’ve also used orange and purple). I leave out the optional okra (because I am not a fan). The potatoes I used when I made this the other day were small, thin-skinned new potatoes so I scrubbed them well and left the skins on. This stew freezes well. The potatoes might get a little mushy but it’s a stew so it works out okay, even thickening it a little. The recipe calls for it to be served over rice. I’ve been known to substitute couscous for the rice.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large potato (about 2 cups cubed)
- 1 medium eggplant
- 3 cups undrained canned tomatoes (28-ounce can)
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 scant teaspoon dried)
- 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 cup frozen sliced okra (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried)
- ground black pepper to taste
- grated feta cheese
In a large stewpot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat until just softened. Cut the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the pot. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Add the eggplant and the juice from the tomatoes, setting aside the tomatoes. Stir in the water, salt, and rosemary. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, the stew can be simmered uncovered.
While the stew simmers, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and the bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. When the potatoes are just beginning to soften, add the squash and bell pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the reserved tomatoes and add them to the pot, along with the okra, lemon juice, and dill. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add black pepper to taste, and remove the rosemary sprig if you used the fresh herb.
Serve topped with feta cheese.
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. There are a lot of good recipes that don’t take nearly as much time as many of the recipes do in Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (Cookery). Sundays At Moosewood has some fantastic recipes but they can be complicated and/or time consuming. Moosewood Cooks at Home was a great cookbook to have while I was working (outside of the home) because most of the recipes don’t take that long to prepare and/or cook.
Green, which is Nature’s colour, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving.
~ Paul Brunton
As promised, here is a picture of the pickles. Aren’t they beautiful? I think so. We opened a jar of them yesterday to taste-test them and they are delicious. Much better than store-bought pickles.
One of the arguments against local shopping is the cost. I know because I’ve used that argument on more than one occasion. However, I’ve come to realize that for some things, local shopping is the best way to go either in terms of quality or cost or both.
I’ve purchased many a cheap item from one of the big box stores (that I often refer to as the Evil Empire) and had to replace it not long after buying it. That’s hardly a good way to save money. It also equals one more thing (or several more things) taking up space in a landfill. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it is best to spend the money up front for a quality item rather than save money now only to have to spend more later.
This time of year is the best time for buying fresh food and putting some away for the winter months. I’ve heard it said that eating a healthful diet is costly. Compared to buying a couple of burgers from a 99 cent menu, I suppose it is. Compared to what you’ll have to spend later on health insurance, maybe not.
When you buy locally grown produce, you also reduce your carbon footprint. The food doesn’t need to travel nearly as far so what you get is fresher and generally more nutritious. You can get some great deals at a local farmers market or through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This also helps support your local economy and local farmers.
August 1 – 7 is National Farmers Market Week here in the U.S.. Not sure where to find a local farmers market? No problem. Visit Local Harvest, plug in your zip code or city and state, and they’ll find one for you. Local Harvest is a great website with all kinds of resources for you.
If you can, take the time this week to visit a local farmers market and partake in the bounty of your local harvest. You might even want to try something new, a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before. Or just stock up on something you know you like and preserve some for the winter months. One of the things I love about canning tomatoes is opening up a jar of them in January and immediately noticing the fresh tomato-y aroma that brings back the warmth of summer.
Oh, and that 17 lbs. of broccoli I processed and stored in the freezer? The cost was $17.00. One dollar a pound for fresh, delicious, nutritious broccoli is not bad. Not bad at all.
I’ll get off my soapbox now. And as a thank you for reading, here is a pretty shot of the moon and clouds taken one morning last week:
Last week I blogged about supporting the economy by buying local and supporting your local businesses. My lovely daughter-in-law stopped by with a comment and a link about The 3/50 Project. I had not heard of it. Thank you, Merdi, for the info and the link. If you have not heard of it, or you have but you’ve forgotten about it, please take a moment or two to check it out. Even better, participate if you can. It’s a wonderful idea.
As you know, my weekend was filled with beans and the processing of beans. But it’s not all work and no play around here. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.
The car was due for its 30,000-mile check-up/tune-up. M scheduled it for Saturday morning. I decided to go along to keep him company and because he enticed me with a walk in Kent and breakfast at Wild Goats Café. It beats sitting around in the waiting room at the car dealership (even if they do have coffee and donuts, a large screen television, and plenty of periodicals to read).
The walk from the dealership to Wild Goats Café is exactly one mile. It was a nice little walk mostly on Main Street heading into Kent. The morning was sunny, hazy, and very warm but there are plenty of trees to provide some shade and there are actual sidewalks to walk upon (something we don’t have out here in the country). By noon it was feeling more hot than warm and we appreciated the shady spots even more than when we started out.
After a delicious breakfast (with plenty of iced tea) at Wild Goats, we walked over to the Franklin Mills Riveredge Park which is only about a block away from the café. The park follows the course of the Cuyahoga River through Kent and is named after the original settlement along the river. You may have heard of the Cuyahoga River. It’s famous for having caught on fire in the late 1960’s. It was at one time known as one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.
It has always been my opinion that the shortest, easiest, and least expensive communication with the invaluable back country would be to let the courses and the distances be taken to the mouth of the Muskingum and up that river to the carrying place to the Cuyahoga, down the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie.
~ George Washington
The name Cuyahoga means “crooked river” in the language of the Iroquois. It is indeed a crooked river, as you can see from this map. The water quality has improved over the years thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of hard-working people and, as far as I know, the river has not caught on fire since the 1960’s. (For those interested in such things, Great Lakes Brewing Company has a beer which I think was named for the Cuyahoga River: Burning River Pale Ale. It’s an excellent and wonderfully hopped ale.) Areas that were once devoid of fish now support 22 species.
The park has seen a lot of improvements since we moved to this area ten years ago, including the bypassing of the Kent dam (something that was not without controversy). One of the problems with the water quality in recent years has more to do with stagnation due to the dams along the river than it does with pollution (although I should point out that pollution continues with urban runoff and sewer overflows being two of the main sources). If interested, you can read more about the Kent dam project here.
It’s a nice little park. The dam, constructed in 1836 and having some historical significance (I read somewhere but can’t find it now that the dam is one of the oldest in Ohio), was left intact. The waterfall was reestablished by pumping recirculating river water through a trough around the lip of the dam.
We enjoyed our walk. There were other people out and about, enjoying the park. Some were playing in the river, cooling off.
We saw several turtles sunning themselves near the dam area. The water around the dam seems to suffer from some of the same problems we are having in our pond this year (pond weed and algae, oh my!). In a way, that was reassuring. It means our pond weed and algae problems are not unique to our pond and therefore not a result of something we did or did not do.
After exploring “Heritage Park” (the lower area that was “created” around the dam area when the dam was bypassed) and reading some of the interpretive signs highlighting some of the history of the dam and river, we climbed the stairs to the observation platforms and walkways.
I’m not sure how much more there was to explore as we didn’t stay too long or go too far. One of the things missing in that area of the park is a public restroom. I don’t know about you but if I drink lots of iced tea with my breakfast, I’m going to be in need of a loo at some point in time. So we made our way back to the dealership (where they have restrooms for their waiting customers — a good thing to have if you’re serving unlimited free cups of coffee).
You can tell where the dealership is located by looking up for the giant flag. I tried a search to find out why car dealerships fly giant flags but was unable to come up with a good answer other than what appear to be guesses such as to catch the eye of the customer in order to lure them in and to show their patriotism (which may be good guesses for all I know). I wonder if they started flying those behemoths around the time “buy American” became a popular theme in car advertisements?
We picked up the car, went to Hartville Market to see what the farmers had for sale, and then it was back home and back to work. M did some Project Patio work and I took on the rest of the beans.
(At the Hartville Market)
I think I would rather have been doing this:
But then, the beans wouldn’t have gotten processed and we wouldn’t have had that gorgeous stir-fry for dinner. It’s all connected in one way or another, isn’t it?
I am happy to report that after 2-1/2 days of kitchen duty, I now have 20 quarts of yellow beans tucked away in the freezer. I may have to give some away. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to buy a bushel of the yellow (wax) beans. Next year I think I’ll get a peck of each type of bean they grow at Hilgert’s. There are three varieties of green beans to be found at Hilgert’s (this year, at least): Kentucky Wonders, Bluelake, and Italian. A peck of each plus a peck of the yellow will give me 20 quarts of a variety of beans.
I did blanch and freeze some of the green beans (the Kentucky Wonders and the Italian). I have 8 quarts of those. All in all, that’s a lot of beans! (Does all this counting of quarts of beans make me a bean counter??)
The food is so pretty this time of year.
Everything is so colorful and delicious.
All you need to do is add a few grains and you have the beginnings of a great meal.
In other food adventure news…
Today I finally got back to my cookbook adventures. I may have to rename that as I made something that a friend suggested. I did not follow a recipe, just (some of) her suggestions. I stir-fried some of the fresh yellow beans that I put aside just for that purpose, having picked out nice, slender, tender beans. I added some other veggies I picked up at the Hartville Market yesterday (peppers, candy hybrid onions, carrots, green onions, and zucchini) and then flavored it all with black bean sauce and some chili garlic sauce for heat.
We had it over rice noodles. Delicious, nutritious, and quite satisfying for our “big” Sunday afternoon meal.