Things Consumed

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Friday, April 18, 2003

Blah blah blah... Test... test... cookie? Cookie? Polly wanna cracker? *whistle*
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:53 AM

Saturday, April 12, 2003

This microphone appears to be dead. Very dead.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:43 AM

Friday, April 11, 2003

posted by Arlene (Beth)3:32 PM

Hello? Is this thing on? *tap tap tap*
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:31 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Mmmm. Crisp granny smith apples.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:58 PM

Mmmm. Mitchell's strawberry ice cream.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:26 PM

Monday, April 07, 2003

Mmmm. Pear pie.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 AM

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Weeks of being discouraged that my country is at war has caused me to suffer appetite problems. I ate boring SANDWICHES instead of exotic curries and soups and homemade desserts. I lost interest in cooking, or even eating attentively. Sometimes, my stomach hurt, and food didn't 'settle' with me promptly after meals.

Now that I'm regularly participating in peaceful anti-war activities, and now that I've found enough good sources of non-corporate news to feel like I can be well informed, I'm feeling a little bit better. And with that improvement has come an interest in doing something life-affirming relating to food, other than the charitable contributions I'm already making to groups the feed the homeless, the ill, and refugees.

So I'm gardening.


I'm starting seeds. It's very comforting that, no matter what the human capacity for violence is, that it is still possible for people to nurture tiny plants. To coax them to grow from tiny seeds. To give them light and water and rich soil, and watch them grow and thrive. To enjoy their flowers and their fruit, and to watch the white butterflies that visit our yard enjoy their pollen. To know that other people all over the world are doing this as spring comes to their home. To know that people have been doing this for thousands of years.

I started my first batch of seeds on February second, a week or two after S built me a small tomato greenhouse from fabulous salvage yard windows. I sowed chemically untreated, organic seeds in our sandy yard, which we'd amended with a bit (but likely not enough) of organic compost. I planted Tigerella tomatoes and opal basil in the greenhouse. Along the cobblestone path that S has put in, I planted thin, curving rows of lambs ear, red poppies, golden chard, and Greek basil and oregano.

In the greenhouse, each and every tomato seed is now a thriving young plant. The opal basil looks heat-wilted - I'll move it to a cooler location.

In the first weeks after planting the rows of veggies along the path, we failed to mist them regularly - we were mistaken to believe all the forecasts of rain. Our neglect doomed all but a few of the poppies.

So, in recent weeks when the world seemed full of ill will, I tried again inside, where it's easy to keep a more vigilant watch over seedlings. Half a dozen small tomato seedlings and two zucchinis rewarded my improved effort, and are now hardening off outside in four inch pots. When they're just a little larger, they'll go into an improved version of our garden's cool, sandy soil.

Our eastern windowsill space is now occupied with soil mix and the seeds of lemon cucumbers, black beauty zucchini, and lettuce leaf basil. I planted them seven days ago, just before the cold weather we've had this week started, and already I have two tender shoots with two leaves each stretching toward the sunlight. Today I planted half a dozen golden chard seeds, which I'll start outside under plastic as an experiment in moisture retention. I've also planted a few cilantro seeds, which I'll try to plant in waves for a constant culinary supply.

It's very soothing to sit in the garden, listening to the birds and looking at the tiny flowers on my rosemary plant, or tickling the greenhouse plants to make their stalks stronger. It's quiet, the air is fresh, and the insects seem to like our work. It makes me feel a bit better about life on this planet.


S actually PET A BEE today. The bee was minding its own business, enjoying one of our lilacs, when S was attempting to confirm the superior scent I had reported from that particular plant. He sniffed, he paused, spotted the bee, and then he reached for it.

Me: "You're not petting a BEE are, you?"

S: "But it's small and fuzzy!!"

The bee did not sting him. It did sort of kick at him with its rear legs, for what that was worth.


I'm doing experiments on pear pie. Specifically, I'm trying to figure out why everyone seems to love apple pie, yet fabulous pear pie is neglected. Do a google search: there are about 3,040 hits for "pear pie" and 354,000 for "apple pie." But pears make pie equal in yumminess to apple pies.

My research involves making several pear pies with the same recipe, but different varieties of pears. I'm two pies into my research. S is my very willing research assistant.

My pear pie recipe is as follows:

  • enough fresh pear slices to fill a deep dish pie pan (5-6 large pears)
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cardamom (ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (ground)
  • 2 tablespoons of white flour
  • top and bottom pie crusts (generally, 2 cups of unbleached wheat flour, 3/4 cup of unflavored Crisco, and a few tablespoons of cold water, cut together and mixed well to form a non-sticky ball of dough. Do not knead. Roll out after filling is ready, to prevent the crusts from drying out.)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F or so.

Mix the powdered ingredients together before mixing them in with the pears. Make the bottom crust slightly thicker than the top one. Add the pear mixture and the top crust, sealing the edges just by squishing them together, or by pressing a pattern into them with a fork. Poke a few steam holes in the top of the pie, and bake it in a 400 to 450 degree oven until it smells great, usually about 45 minutes.


So far, the winning pears are juicy, red organic pears from Rainbow Grocery, whose pear name escapes me. I've also tried bartlett, which had less juice and pear taste but which were firmer. There are several Asian varieties of pears I would also like to try. I'll report the results of my research here when it is complete.


After this long break, shouldn't I post more recipes? I suppose. Tonight I made chili and blue cornbread for dinner, and those are good recipes to share.

Arlene's basic chili

  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers of your color choice, diced
  • 2 teaspoons or more of your favorite chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 cup of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of cooked kidney beans
  • 1 can of cooked black beans
  • 2 cups of water

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, and then add the bell peppers. Add in the spices and mix well. After the onions and peppers are slightly tender, add the crushed tomatoes, and beans. Sautee until the tomatoes begin to bubble, and then add the water.

Bring the chili to a boil, and then allow to simmer for 20 minutes or so. This often tastes better the second day, after the flavors of mingled.


A note about chili powders: they're all different. I grew up using the dark brown, ultra-mild chili powder that the 'Spice Islands' brand uses. But there are ALL KINDS of chili powders. Habanero chili powder is so hot, you'll wonder if the paint will peel off your kitchen walls when you're using it. It can drown out other flavors if used in excess. Cayenne powder has a sharp flavor. Chipotle chilies make a good, smoky chili powder. New Mexican Red provides a very pleasing flavor with plenty of heat, but still allows you to taste the other ingredients. Today I tried 'Seasoning from Hell,' which is a mix of many spices and a few chili powders, but very little habanero powder. I've had the tin of this powder for several years, and it's lost much of its heat. Try several kinds of chili powder and pick one you like.


Blue cornbread

  • 1 cup blue corn meal/flour
  • 1 cup unbleached wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or less)
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • egg replacer equivalent to one egg

Peheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together in their own bowl. Mix them together, attempting yet failing to get a smooth, lumpless batter. Don't mix it too much. Pour the batter into a greased pan, and bake for about 20 minutes.


That's all for tonight.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:52 PM

Thursday, April 03, 2003

The war is still hampering my appetite, and redirecting my energies to my anti-war blog. But I'm working on some new recipes and comments, and will try to post here again by the weekend.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:12 AM

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