Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stand and deliver!

It's a miserable rainy day. PK is at a conference. Except for an hour or so of paid work, I have nothing pressing. In short, I'm blessed with a perfect day at home alone with a big block of uninterrupted time to write. Except for one thing. Sitting at the computer for hours on end makes me so cranky. And creaky. And fat. I can feel my butt revolt as its capillaries close off, then spread out in defiance to fill my cushy office chair. I'm afraid to look, but I think it drapes over the sides.
 I'm compelled to get up and walk around, climb the stairs, stretch. On a nice day, I find it particularly difficult to stay seated. I have fantasized often, but obviously without imagination, about a work station that requires me to stand. As I became one with my chair this morning, I had an AHA!! moment induced by this New York Times Magazine article. It's all about the effects of exercise on weight. It concludes:
In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”
YES! I shoved my chair aside and bolted for a bookcase full of little-used tomes. My keyboard now sits atop three generations of the Atlas of Oregon, a picture book entitled Tibet, and my son Quinn's master's thesis. My mouse roams over History of ArtMacmillan's Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia, and Bill Moyers' World of Ideas. How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal and Ghostwriting for Fun & Profit prop my computer screen at the appropriate angle. I have been standing for nearly five hours. I am so happy! Perhaps the ever-resourceful PK will look upon my improvised "stand and deliver" space and rush out to his workshop to whip up something more aesthetically pleasing. Til then, it's me and the books.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A spectacular late-bloomer

This cactus hangs all year in the solarium, and for the past few springs, it has come to life with amazing three-inch long luscious-looking stunners.

Right now, this baby has about 30 bedazzling blooms in various states of emergence, which are driving the hummingbirds outside insane.  At least 25 years ago when I was working for a newspaper, a woman I interviewed—she called herself the Plant Doctor—gave me this cactus in a much smaller state of being. She was moving and needed to off-load.
I stuck it in a six-inch raku hanging pot and paid scant attention as we raised two boys and some tomatoes and made a living and the years flew by. I don't even know why I kept it. It's was a spindly sad-looking specimen for most of its life. It never produced a flower.
Despite its homeliness, I brought it along the four years we moved to Grants Pass for our son, Chris, to go to a better high school, and then hauled it back when we returned in 2004 to our country home. It's still in the same pot, the same soil as the mid-1980s. The cactus first exploded with color and drama in 2006 or 2007 and is now kicken out the jams more spectacularly than ever before.
I've never really understood "late bloomer" but now I do. Twenty-five years? Come on!  And in my irresistible impulse to apply metaphor, I think of the human late bloomers I have known, and I think they are even more richly colored and interesting than the cactus. The cactus, after all, will soon revert to dormancy. Those human late bloomers? They just get more colorful.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sex in a VW bug?

On January 1, 2010, I made this one New Year's resolution:  
Figure out the difference between what I have to do and what I want to do and make necessary adjustments.
Granted, this resolution is a lot more complex than resolutions to: "lose 10 pounds" or "give up carrots" or "have no more sex in the back seat of a VW bug." (I have never had sex in a VW bug,  but I know someone who did, and I bet she's reading this. Some things cannot be forgotten despite the passing decades. And I know the headline on this post will get more attention than any other. It may even trigger a search engine looking for porn!)
But back to the boring and nebulous business of resolutions. I have made some headway. I've figured out what I want to do, and, at least in part, how I want to do it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ultimate low-carb burger for spring

As I think I've mentioned, I got religion again for the low-carb regime, and a cold frame bursting with greens is an indispensable dietary aid. This sandwich is a bit of a challenge to pick up and eat, but here's what's in this "hamburger."
  • One slice of Alvardo St. Bakery sprouted whole grain sourdough bread,  toasted: 15 carbs and 2 grams of fiber for a net carb count of 13.
  • A small grilled burger made with McKibben Family Ranch ground beef, which is raised in Oregon's Willamette Valley, grass and clover fed, and free of hormones or antibiotics. I buy this at Gooseberries in Grants Pass, our only convenient source for natural foods except for the GP Growers' Market on Saturdays. I break up the grilled meat to make it easier to eat, and also to cut down on the portion size.
  • A generous smear of homemade chipotle sauce
  • Commercial ketchup
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes - the best tomatoes available this time of year
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Sliced red onions
  • About six large whole fresh lettuce, spinach, or chard leaves
This is super easy and so good! Why eat those fluffy and tasteless carb-inflated burger buns?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Southern Oregon Soul Food

What is Southern Oregon Soul Food?
It's an earthy mix of vegetative extravagance—if there is such a thing—and carnivore indulgence.  It's a super savory blend of summer's preserved harvest mixed with especially dear winter and spring garden gifts.
In summer, it's a shopping trip to the garden with a will to work with whatever is ripe and ready.  It's a flair to dispense with recipes and rely on your culinary instincts to throw together whatever you have on hand to create something fabulous.
Here in Southern Oregon we're blessed with mild weather that encourages gardening nine months of the year. Our landscape is hill and vale, and those of us in the valleys are entrusted with rich bottom land begging to be cultivated. Not that the land gives itself up to easy harvests; a lot of work goes into every tomato and pepper. But for half a year's effort, there's a full year's eating pleasure. Want more?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring, for sure

 The weather has been generally rotten for the past couple weeks.
The only way I know for sure it's spring is that summer crops are bursting forth in the solarium.
I cheated and bought one cherry tomato plant at the Grants Pass Growers' Market.
It already has blossoms!

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants soon to be potted.
Outside, overwintered lettuce, spinach and chard are pumping out the vites in the cold frame.
We take for granted that we'll have fresh greens from the garden or cold frame  nine months of the year.
I'm not sure how ordinary that is.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Creamed kale with dried tomatoes. Two, maybe three cheers!

It's April. That must mean it's time for kale! Oops. Looking back on my recipe posts, it looks like just about any time is kale time in Southern Oregon. And aren't we lucky?! I just happen to love kale, especially over-wintered kale that is crispy, crunchy, sweet in salads and delicious in soups etc. Then, of course, there's creamed kale with dried tomatoes. (I would say "sun dried" tomatoes, as just about any dried tomato is named thus. However, these tomatoes were sun-ripened, then slapped into the food dehydrator. So their summer-sun induced sweetness is preserved, but technically, they are air and heat dried.) Whatever. If you got em, use em in just about any way—and with kale, garlic, and heavy cream they're especially divine. Here's a guide.....not exactly a recipe, to creamed kale with dried tomatoes. If you cook at all like I do, guides work better than half a cup of this, a quarter cup of that, and two teaspoons of butter. (You always need more butter!)
Three different kinds of kale, left to right: red ursa, winter red, improved dwarf Siberian.
So here's how, loosely:
1 big bunch of fresh kale ( I used all that was in the basket above.)
2-3 handfuls of dried tomatoes, chopped or broken
2-4 cloves chopped garlic
Veggie or chicken broth as needed to steam
Olive oil and/or butter as needed (or desired)
Whipping cream, about a quarter cup (Or half and half mixed with sour cream. Why skimp?)
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:  The pictured kale is fresh from the garden, but kale is readily available in large bunches at most markets. Strip the leaves from the center stem and chop coarsely. Some people save the stems and use them in soup stock etc; I feed them to the compost worms.
Put a little olive oil and/or butter in a fry pan (I have recently been converted to the Cuisinart Green Gourmet pan, which my Aunt Ellen ensures me does not exude toxins into the food or air.)
Put the tomatoes into the pan along with a couple of sloshes of broth. Cover and cook on medium heat til the tomatoes are reconstituted, 5 to 10 minutes. Most commercially prepared so-called sun dried tomatoes are already pliable and won't need as much time. Add the kale and chopped garlic and stir together, then cover again until wilted, five to seven minutes or so. Add cream carefully—a little goes a long way. Season. Heat through and serve.

A GREEN dinner. In addition to the kale, we had green chili/turkey enchiladas suiza and cabbage and cilantro slaw with chipotle dressing. 

In the garden numerous bunches of kale are ready to be picked and processed. By that I mean blanched and frozen for next winter's soups and casseroles. In the meantime, there will be lots more creamed kale and super green salads.