Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!

Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!
peel, eat, repeat

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well it is another year and another Farmers Market Lovers Calendar is on the scene. This year’s calendar contains even more amazing watercolors from Dave and colorful prose from me for an exciting new season of local eating and recipes. Once again available starting around November 16 at, Pleasant Hill Produce Market, Step It Up Studios, Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley, Orinda Books, Orchard Nursery, Ace in Moraga and at a few farmers markets. Always easy to be had with an e-mail to me, and I’ll meet you almost anywhere to get you one and avoid all the postage and handling nonsense on the website! I have not been able to technically get a preview onto my blog yet but it is all over my website for a peek. Great gift idea for chefs, gardeners and lovers of art in your realm. As the mercury starts to dip my mind goes to bubbling, hot vats of creamy stuff. Polenta in the morning with neat melting squares of organic butter and maple syrup can change your life for the better of all humans coming into your sphere of influence. Evening time regrouping at a family table cantered around a baked crock of polenta with roasted vegetables, tomato sauce and melted aged Gouda can stop arguments and bring peace on earth. Butternut squash soup sipped piping hot with dollops of breathtaking crème fraiche floating topside or mashed cauliflowers with lemon oil add their swag jumping on the bandwagon to join all manner of warm, delicious offerings to feed body and soul. Winter gardens, precious even in decay, are slowing down with the short days but cruciferous veggies as well as lettuce, arugula, carrots, radish, beets, greens of all kinds and more are on their way to being picked soon. Peas grow well in cold weather too given a reason to climb, they will. Most winter crops will experience a drag as our climate cohabitates with frost but don’t give up hope for any of them. Love and care, mulch and compost and keeping moist during freezing nocturnes will keep your ground producing. There are a few farmers markets open year round to assist with you cooking groove. Todos Santos Park Tuesdays from 10 to 2, Pleasant Hill BART Wednesdays from 11 to 6, Diablo Valley at Kaiser Shadelands Saturday from 9 to 1, Martinez Sunday Downtown from 10 to 2 to name a few. There is no shortage of sumptuous offerings adorning heavy tables waiting to be tenderly concocted into heart fluttering and body warming delights. Nothing like a good vegetable soup as temperatures plummets to keep energy and imagination flowing enough to motive after early dark like a fast moving storm. As Holiday hustle exerts it’s anxious pull of soul crunching ambition to have the best party of the season, be the skinniest, get the most creative and unusual gifts, keep exercising, entertain in laws and out laws, walk the dog, feed the fish, work at school and job, force the amaryllis, decorate the house, find the perfect flipping tree…it can feel like a spiral of quinoa pulling you down but alas…there is hope and strategy to cope with it all. Number one is to re-evaluate the whole shebang. Do less. What can be adapted to create an easier schedule? Personally I tend to step back a foot or two from any kind of senseless consuming and make a whole bunch of something to give everyone including family, friends, teachers etc. I will do a jam day or spice mixture or bath salts, anything to keep me from spending everything I earned all year and having to get involved with a bunch of low blood sugar rampaging shoppers hell bent on the best deal of some imported nonsense. People like it when you make them something. It gives value to yourself as well as your recipient. Always take a walk and remember to eat breakfast and lunch with lots of fruits and vegetables exercising your jaw in a positive manner. Dinner can be a simpler affair but the first two shape your life and moods as well as the best pumpkin latte. Bring something healthy that you can eat to every party you attend and watch the alcohol levels coursing through stressed bloodstreams. Most of all breath and do it deeply a lot throughout the month. It will all be over sooner than later and it is a very magical time of year. Happy Holidays! This is a kitchen sink kind of stew. There are no rules. Use whatever you find at the market and have on hand. If you are feeling frisky add some crumbled feta on the top If kinky is more apt a mood top it all off w/ chopped Greek olives and drizzled lemon oil. Guaranteed to cure what ails you and even what don’t. Winter Vegetable Stew w/ Cous Cous or Quinoa 1 red onion, chopped or ½ bunch baby onions, sliced up the greens 4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 carrots, split and chopped 1 turnip, cubed 2 large Yukon gold potato, cubed ½ butternut squash, cubed 1 large parsnip, sliced 1/2 head of Gai lan, sliced (Chinese broccoli) ½ bunch rainbow Swiss chard, sliced 1 ½ cups cooked garbanzo beans 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup vegetable stock 2 tablespoons olive oil ½ cup chopped fresh mixed herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme, mint Salt and pepper 4 cups cooked cous cous or Quinoa In a large, heavy bottomed pot heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until slightly browned. Add the potato, butternut squash, parsnips, turnip and carrots. Sauté for 10 minutes until caramelized. Add garbo’s, tomato sauce and stock. Let simmer 20 more minutes and add gai lan and chard. Let simmer for 5 minutes until greens are bright colored. Add herbs and season w/ salt and pepper. Serve over cous cous or quinoa. Serves 8.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Day holds hope in minds of voters registered or not, conscious or not. Renewal, good or bad is always exciting. At our college park organic garden this week, on Election Day, while digging deep holes, pulling weeds and raking soil in preparations of planting spring blooming flowers with our special day students, I brought up the election. Apparently they had been sort of warned about talking politics but I stepped right into it and totally encouraged a conversation. It seems the older one gets the more significance Election Day holds along with more longing to share with younger generations the urgency to strongly encourage them to take control of their futures and changing times, one way done well with a good vote. Complete and total repeat and mimic of remarks and rhetoric that they have heard in their respective homes begins tumbling seamlessly from innocent mouths. "Someone really stupid did not do what they were supposed to do and now they are going to really mess everything up!" falls out of a sweet young man’s mouth. "Yeah but what about the right to have an abortion and women's rights and Social Security" remarks a beautiful young woman? “This is fantastic”, I say, conversation with respect to each other’s opinions is totally moving in directions to negotiate compromise”. “We are all entitled to our views and we can share them with each other on this great day of privilege”, I tell them. Blank stares from teenagers. Arguments start to set in and I think that maybe I may have screwed up but just as quickly as tempers flared that fizzle and these two particular opposing students, who are very much alike and have true respect and affection for each other start to compromise before our eyes. As the teacher that told them not to discuss it in the first place was getting ready to brain me realizes what is happening she joins in and makes a few amazing points of her own. Discourse is good no matter the age. This must be what the mediators of political debates that go well must feel like. I felt great. I felt hopeful for our future on that Election Day. I wonder if they realize that we live in a country where we get to actually voice our opinions out loud without hanging or decapitations. Our job is to make sure they know, but more importantly that they understand and comprehend this incredible and not always universal deed we are allowed to perform every once in awhile to keep things somewhat on track in our social and economic lives. What if we had enough money in the schools at middle and high level to really teach all students the importance of this knowledge and deed. In theory this is already in place in Gov, History and Econ classes but with the overcrowding and over worked teachers I opine that this just aint happening and when you factor in the brain of most teens and where their thoughts are most of the time I truly believe it an unfortunate truth that all this hard taught knowledge and efforts on the parts of parents and teachers just aint gonna play out until the twenties hit. Hopefully that coincides with a 4 year cycle.