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Archive for April, 2012

Monday Menus

I used to have a colleague who would sign her emails with a catchy little alliterative phrase like, “Marvelous Monday,” or Terrific Tuesday.” I thought it was kind of cute and sweet, but some of my colleagues would just roll their eyes… So, at the risk of annoying any readers out there, I am launching a regular feature with an alliterative name…Monday Menus.

I notice lots of bloggers do it. I’ve seen Frugal Fridays, Wordless Wednesdays, Meatless Mondays… I thought it might encourage me to post more regularly. I didn’t want to steal anyone else’s idea and I have found that lots of people wonder what we eat since we are a vegetarian family (yes, even the Czech mate – he’s a rare one!). So, once a week I will post a menu selected from the week’s many meals.

I do actually plan out the week’s menus ahead of time, much to the Czech mate’s amusement (reference Czech film, Pelišky), partly to make the shopping list and partly so I don’t have to think about it every day when I come home from work. And when it’s in writing on the refrigerator door the girls seem to accept that it is not up for discussion and we can just get to work on making it.

Added interest – let’s see how much really is local, seasonal or grown ourselves.

Enough gabbing – what did we have for dinner tonight?

30 April – Greek Night

Vegetable plate of carrot sticks°, cucumber sticks and radishes°

Spring dip (tvaroh°, chives*, garlic, oregano*, salt, pepper)

Romaine lettuce, arugula* and mustard greens*

Cherry tomato salad

Chick peas, plain and with wild nettle* pesto

Bread°

Feta cheese (the excuse for calling it Greek night)

For dessert, rhubarb* streusel cake and ice cream.

°from farmer’s market

*from our garden

The girls would like to let you know that it was yummy .

What did you have for dinner tonight?

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Put some cream and a few marbles in a small jar. Make sure jar and marbles are clean before the cream goes in.

Shake. (Over the sink in case it leaks.)

Keep shaking. Not leaking? You can sit down and shake!

Ask your Mom to shake. Ask your Babička to shake.

Shake some more.

After a while, butter!

Separate from the buttermilk, but save the buttermilk and make pancakes out of it the next day!

Remove marbles. (See? You haven’t lost them!)

Best butter we ever tasted!

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Panic Attack

**I actually wrote this a couple of weeks ago and haven’t published it because I don’t like the writing. I still don’t like the writing, but it’s not likely to get much better, so here it is…

Remember that feeling when you brought your first child home from the hospital? You read the books, you thought you were ready, but suddenly you find yourself thinking,  “There is no way I can take care of this little creature!”

“Calm down,” you say to yourself. You’re pretty sure you know what to feed her, pretty sure that when she cries it means feed her or change her, you know she’s supposed to sleep a lot and you know pretty instinctively how to soothe her.  But you can’t help feeling just a bit panicked.

I feel like I just brought home 14 newborns. I went to the garden center and bought fruit and nut trees today. To be specific:

  • 2 apples
  • a pear
  • a sour cherry
  • an apricot
  • two hazelnuts
  • 2 goose berries
  • 3 currants
  • 2 blueberries

They can’t be harder than taking care of babies, right?  They’re just plants. Except if they need something they won’t cry. I don’t know what or when or if to feed them. It’s likely that they’ll be dead before I even know what hit them. And then a colleague asked me what varieties I had gotten, and I didn’t even know, giving me something akin to the “ I must be the worst mother in the whole world” feeling. Panic!!

Fourteen holes to dig, 14 trees and shrubs to put in.

Suddenly the yard looks too small…even though I know it isn’t.

Where are we going to put them? I had it all planned out, and not just in my head! But I am second-guessing my ideas, and my husband has ideas of his own. With any luck he will do some of the hole digging, so I guess I do have to let him have some input into where they go.

All but the blueberries, apricot, cherry and pear were bare root. I was especially panicked about them, all naked and vulnerable. I plopped them into the compost pile and we furiously dug holes all week. They are in the ground now, hopefully recovering from shock and putting out little roots. The ones in pots are waiting. It turned cold (it’s flurrying today) so they may have to wait a few days until we can get out there to dig.

Planting trees is a profound experience. You are forced to think five, fifteen, 25 or more years into the future. How big will it get, how much room does it need, what will be around it in the future… I found myself saying to my daughter that maybe some day she’ll be telling her kids, “I remember when I planted this tree with your grandma and grandpa.” And I couldn’t help but wonder what the world will be like for my daughter and her children and how planting a tree is such a hopeful thing to do.

It made me think that if everyone had a little plot of land to tend, to try to make it  productive and sustainable, the world might be very different.  You have to think about the future, the environment, how even if you do everything to sustain and nurture your land, it’s connected to  what others do, too. The neighbors – do they use pesticides, herbicides, etc; the town – will it cut down the forest behind us, or let it be cut down; the region – acid rain, what’s upstream; the planet – global warming

You can’t avoid it and it’s why people growing their own food is so radical and such a threat to the World the Way it is.

And by the way, here are the varieties:

  • 2 apples, James Grieve Red and SIrius
  • a pear, boscova lahvice
  • a sour cherry,
  • an apricot, St. Julien
  • two hazelnuts. Lombardy red and white
  • 2 goose berries,
  • 3 currants,
  • 2 blueberries, Emblue and

(maybe I am not such a bad mother to these trees after all)

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I Eat Dandelions

Yes, dandelions. The kind growing in your lawn, the weeds that no one wants. (But weeds are just plants growing where somebody doesn’t want them. And I want them! So, I prefer to think of the dandelions in my garden as a perennial crop!)

Why?

  • I come from a long line of dandelion eaters. Every spring at easter time, we’d go find dandelions to make dandelion salad. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.

"Gathering the Dandelions"
painting by folk artist Gladys Lutz

  • They are delicious bitter greens, like arugula or mustard greens.
  • They are nutritious and full of vitamins. My mother always said they are a spring tonic.
  • They are local, seasonal, organic and FREE. Luckily, I have some growing in my garden.

How?

  • Pick nice young ones, before they flower. Don’t pick them from the side of the road or from places where dogs frequent.
  • Clean them real well.

After about 5 rinses, they start to look clean.

  • You can eat them raw in salads
  • Or try PA Dutch Dandelion Salad (recipe from the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook by Conestoga Crafts)

Young dandelion greens

4 slices bacon

½ cup cream

2 Tbsp butter

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

4 Tbsp vinegar

½ tsp paprika

black pepper

Wash dandelions and pick over carefully. Rollin cloth and pat dry. Put into a salad bowl and set in a warm place. Cut bacon in small cubes, fry quickly and pour over dandelions. Put butter and cream in a skillet and melt over low heat. Beat eggs, add salt, pepper sugar and vinegar, then mix with the slightly warm cream mixture. Cook over high heat until dressing is quite thick. Pour, very hot, over the dandelions, stir well and serve. Garnish with hard boiled eggs. We usually ate it with mashed potatoes.

This is how I had it tonight, served over boiled potatoes. Yummy!!

Encouraged by the idea of foraging and the wonderful recipes I’ve found on websites, especially Fat of the Land, I am branching out.

Yesterday I braised some dandelion greens in vegetable broth and put them on my pizza.

The next step is the blossoms. I’ve never used them in cooking, but I can’t wait to try dandelion fritters and dandelion bread.

Would you ever give dandelions a try? Let me know if you do!

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