Sunday, June 29

Couscous Salad with Vinaigrette

Here is this week's harvest from the CSA. Notice the HUGE green onions! They are larger than the onions I received a couple of weeks ago.

I used the basil, tomatoes and green onions to make a salad:

Couscous Salad with Vinaigrette

adapted from Southern Living

1 ¼ cups water
1 ¼ cups couscous

¼ cup vinegar*
2 Tbs olive oil
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped basil
1/3 cup diced sweet onion or green onion (if you use green, use mostly the white part and not as much green)

Bring water to a boil. Add couscous, stir, remove from heat, and let it set covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a medium to large sized bowl and cool in fridge until it’s no longer hot, about 10 minutes.

While the couscous is cooling, prepare vegetables and set aside. Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together vinegar through sugar. Toss couscous, dressing and remaining ingredients and chill or serve.

AH note: If you plan to make this ahead, I recommend holding off on chopping and adding the basil until you are close to serving. The basil gets a little brown overnight.

*champagne, white balsamic, white, sherry, etc or a mixture

Friday, June 27


Fresh-picked, local strawberries beat store-bought strawberries, every time. Hands down.

That is, if the crops are good and there isn't too much rain! Ha!

Question for you: was a flash used in this picture?

Thursday, June 26

Letter to Parents

Background to this post
Other posts labeled Vaccines

If some of you fear reactions in your child to vaccines, you may soon get a letter like the one below from your doctor, which is the product of a very new movement of organizations including the American Association of Pediatrics, to (in my opinion) bully parents into vaccinating and retain national control of the vaccine industry, in partner with pharmaceutical companies. This new group, which will be called Immunization Alliance, will seek to counter parents' rights to make informed decisions for their own kids. I wonder what goes on behind the scenes in doctors' offices that support parent's decisions to delay or fore go vaccinations? Surely they receive this literature and pressure.

"By not vaccinating your child you are taking selfish advantage of thousands of others who do vaccinate their children, which decreases the likelihood that your child will contract one of these diseases. We feel such an attitude to be self-centered and unacceptable. We are making you aware of these facts not to scare you or coerce you, but to emphasize the importance of vaccinating your child. We recognize that the choice may be a very emotional one for some parents. We will do everything we can to convince you that vaccinating according to the schedule is the right thing to do.

However, should you have doubts, please discuss these with your health care provider in advance of your visit. In some cases, we may alter the schedule to accommodate parental concerns or reservations. Please be advised, however, that delaying or "breaking up the vaccines" to give one or two at a time over two or more visits goes against expert recommendations, and can put your child at risk for serious illness (or even death) and goes against our medical advice as providers....such additional visits will require additional co-pays on your part. Furthermore, please realize that you will be required to sign a "Refusal to Vaccinate" acknowledgement in the event of lengthy delays.

Finally, if you should absolutely refuse to vaccinate your child despite all our efforts, we will ask you to find another health care provider who shares your views. We do not keep a list of such providers nor would we recommend any such physician."

From Barbara Loe Fisher: "The message from the AAP leadership to vaccine-educated parents is: you WILL give your children every vaccine that industry produces even it brain damages or kills them. You DO NOT have the human right to protect your child from vaccine injury and death because you MUST sacrifice your child for what AAP and government officials have decided is the "greater good." Your child does NOT belong to you and if you don't agree to do exactly what we say, we will make sure your family is denied medical care."

The underlying assumption is that if you choose an alternate schedule, you are doing it because you are confused and stupid, and the government knows better. You may think that is rash, but it's my opinion. If you are a parent who chooses to do individual vaccines instead of combination or multiple vaccines (an act that can significantly reduce the risk of reaction, both short term and long term), they will try to convince you it's unsafe to give them individually. This is an utterly false and negligent assumption. Were these vaccines designed to be given together? They were not. They were married up by the government for convenience to assure full vaccination. It was not because a vaccine given alone would cause increased health risk.

What trust has the CDC & AAP earned to dictate to you that your child is better off receiving 5 shots containing 7 vaccines at a mere 8 weeks of age rather than receiving each or some shots individually, when the child is older?

By the way, twenty-six years ago, the AAP concurred with the need to provide "simple justice for children" by passing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.


Monday, June 23

Pizza - a different way

I stumbled on an idea for pizza which Ryan and I tried the other night.

It was good! To arrive at this final product, I did the following:

1. Made dough and let it rise all day, used 1/4 of it and divided the rest and froze
2. Heated oven with pizza stone inside to 450.
3. Prepared dough and slid onto stone to bake for about 3 minutes before adding toppings. It ended up in an oval shape instead of a circle.
4. Added toppings (olive oil, garlic, salt, a mixture of cheeses, diced tomatoes)
5. Baked for about 6 minutes or so
6. Cracked three eggs over pizza and baked for a few minutes more and topped with french sea salt
7. Cut and ate!

Friday, June 20

100 Things

Money Saving Mom posted a link to a list of 100 things you can make and asked us to post what we made. My list is below (I copied and pasted, then deleted what I haven't made). From this list, what have you made? List yours!

Of the 100 things on the list, I have made:

5. Jelly
9. Guacamole
10. Pesto
11. Salsa
12. Mango salsa
14. Hummus
17. Gravy
23. Pancake mix
27. Pizza
49. Jewelry
78. Bread
81. Donuts (failure as a teen!)

I had spaghetti sauce and BBQ sauce on the MSM list but realized afterwards that I hadn't actually made those two items yet.

Wednesday, June 18

I was a wedding planner this weekend

...and I only made a couple mistakes! Ryan, however, saved the day a couple times. We're good for each other.

Two friends from church were married on Saturday, and I was the coordinator for the day. Many times I was told, 'you should do this for a living! You're so good!!' and I had never done this before! I thought, it's probably more fun this way than getting paid for it. Since I've been in plenty of weddings, I have enough opinions about what works and what doesn't work and what thoughtful things should be in place, so I was able to offer helpful suggestions, many of which were taken and implemented.

Upon walking into the church on the wedding day, the bride's father told me the bride's brother was lost and not there yet. It was about an hour till show time at 1pm. He had time.

"We have a problem". This occurred about 50 minutes before the wedding was to start. It came from one of the bridesmaids who said that a groomsman received a white vest and a white tie, not black. Only the groom was to have white. I quickly arranged to have Ryan make a run to the tux shop which was fortunately about 10 minutes away. He left and came back with the black tie and vest in no time. We can NOT have a groomsman dressed like the groom! That was save #1 for Ryan.

The bride's lost brother ended up arriving at 12:57 and was putting his tie on at 12:59 as I walked him down the hall, explaining what to do to seat the bride's mother. He hadn't been at the rehearsal and was clueless for what to do. We walked around the corner and there were at least 12 guests waiting to be the wedding would start a few minutes late. Readers, please arrive at weddings on time (ie early). Please and thank you. The brother was filled in and ready to go.

Minutes later, I nearly led the bride out into the hallway when the groom was just feet away! Fortunately, someone else stopped her and hid the groom. Whew. I can't be on top of EVERYTHING, can I?? However, the actual processional went very smoothly, which we worked on several times the night before with the timing of the music.

Following the ceremony, we organized for pictures. I had the bride's list ready to go and we started executing. I straightened bridesmaids necklaces, gave them facial blotting sheets (love those), got bottled water, and fixed the grooms too-long shirt sleeves. One less heroic thing I did was spill iced coffee from my travel mug on the purse belonging to the groom's mother. I held it while she was in a photo, and when I stooped to pick up her fallen wedding program...trickle trickle went the coffee onto her fabric, ivory purse. Blast. Embarrassment followed. I sent the purse off with Ryan to see if he could clean it some. Minutes later, relief came as Ryan returned with the purse, spotless. Save #2 for Ryan.

The rest was pretty uneventful. Save #3 for Ryan came after we departed from the church, and he remembered that we left the tuxes at the church. We had volunteered to return them to the tux shop. It sure would help if we had them in our possession! Back to the church we went...

I had a blast that day even though I didn't get to snap a single photo! My husband sure rocks.

Some of thoughts regarding the logistics of weddings:
  • Have bottles of water ready for the wedding party right after the ceremony.
  • Instruct the bridesmaids (and bride) to carry their bouquets low at their hips and not up tight at their waist
  • Get the larger group pictures out of the way, especially with family who are only needed for one or two shots. Let them move along after that.
  • Have someone do what I did to give cues and be a go-to person.
  • Avoid going to the bride and groom for questions or problems on the wedding day. Go to the coordinator, best man or maid of honor.
  • Make a list of formal photographs desired and give it to your photographer and coordinator.
  • Cover all the details you can at the rehearsal and Bride, have as much worked out as you can before the rehearsal.

Saturday, June 7

I bet you haven't had zucchini this way

Except my mom, since she made this before I did, a few years back. Hi Mom!

What do you think of when you think of zucchini? Ryan, being a man, said "green vegetable". I wanted him to say mush. Bland. Blech. Soggy. But, he didn't. So I'll lead into this post myself. I'm not a fan of cooked zucchini, or most squashes. Is zucchini a squash? I think it's a squash variety. Either way, grilling is the way you should have zucchini. Try this recipe. Face it, you need a new way to use the abundance of zucchini that comes with summer. Armed with this recipe, you will not shrink away from folks at church who drop off a bag full of zucchini! As we all know, when there is some zucchini, there is a lot of zucchini.

Grilled Zucchini with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette
serves four as a side dish

Zucchini has a high water content, so it's helpful to salt it and draw out some of the water before grilling. See instructions below.

3 small or 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or a dash of dried thyme)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used lime last night...all I had)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggianio (NOT the green can "cheese"!)

Wash the zucchini well and dry. Trim ends and quarter the zucchini lengthwise. Slice off the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the soft seed core by running a sharp knife down the length of each quarter; it's alright if some seeds remain (I actually forgot this step as you can see below). Arrange the zucchini, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Blot the quarters dry with paper towels.

(Note the water that is drawn out over a few minutes)

Heat a gas grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, whisk 2 T of the oil, the vinegar, thyme, lemon zest, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Set aside. Toss the zucchini with the remaining 1 tsp olive oil. Set the zucchini, cut side down on the grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until it browns and softens but doesn't turn mushy, 6 to 8 minutes. Cut the zucchini into 3-inch pieces and put in a medium bowl. Whisk the viniagrette again and drizzle over zucchini. Sprinkle on the Parmigiano, toss well, adjust the seasonings to taste, and serve immediately.

Ok, I confess. I made this quickly the other night and didn't follow the directions for cutting out the seeds or grilling the long segments before cutting into pieces. I recommend following the directions :).

I also have another recipe for grilled zucchini using sun-dried tomatoes and basil, if you are interested.

Friday, June 6

Our first "Harvest"

This week was the first pickup for the CSA that we joined. Thanks to a lot of rain and not a lot of sunshine, the harvest is a couple weeks behind from what the owners anticipated. What we got this week looks fresh, vibrant and full of good flavor and nutrients.



Collard Greens

Humongous green onions - I've never seen any this large!

We also got asparagus, rhubarb, tomatoes and a huge head of green lettuce. I trimmed the ends of the kale and collard greens and put them in water - the ends smelled like broccoli.

Any recipe ideas for kale or collard greens? I've never used either. I have a recipe from Heidi Swanson that I may try, called Meyer Lemon Risotto, made with barley. Ryan and I have been wanting to expand our repertoire of foods that are, well, truly good for you and that are a whole food. I bought some organic pearl barley at the East End Food Co-op today ($1.09/lb!). I also got other goodies, including the most wonderful raspberries my mouth has ever met, and some hippie things like organic quinoa ($1.49/lb!), agave nectar, raw milk, and bulk raw organic sugar.

The next thing I plan to make with the quinoa is what may become my new breakfast that appears to be flavorful, filling and probably better for me than any other breakfast I can imagine: Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa. I actually found red quinoa which the recipe calls for but does not require. What is convenient about this is I can make a week's worth at home and take it to work each day.

For those interested in the photos, I shot RAW, ISO 100, manual mode with a diffused Canon 430ex flash. I use Photoshop Elements 6.0 for editing.

Wednesday, June 4

Earthquake Test

Take the earthquake test. I got 8/10. How did you score?

update: this link should work now. I had a bad link previously.

Tuesday, June 3

So many recipes. So many pictures.

The number of food blogs in my feed reader has been growing. Some of the food blogs I particularly enjoy and from which I've either made recipes or have them in the line-up include:
  • Smitten Kitchen (thanks for the referral, Catherine!) I made her Chocolate Pudding and we loved it.
  • Joy the Baker - I haven't made anything of hers yet, but the recent cake looks delicious
  • 101 Cookbooks, by Heidi Swanson. She posts her own recipes plus those she tries from other cooks. I currently have her book, Super Natural Foods, from the library and want to try a couple recipes, at the very least. Heidi Swanson has great information on whole grains and natural foods which we all should consume more than we do. She comes from a vegetarian perspective but doesn't push it on the reader. Two recipes I want to try are here and here.
  • Pioneer Woman - Cooking - Ree's blog is just fun and there are many parts to it - ranch life, cooking, photography and fun posts. The egg dish I made for my grandparents the other week came from her blog and we loved it. I can't wait to try the Crash Hot Potatoes she just posted.
It's funny how we find things online. I don't even remember how I found 101 Cookbooks. I sometimes go from one blog to another with referring links and starting with Smitten Kitchen, I think I found Joy the Baker. Another random blog, maybe from one of the commenters on a post, had a link to Pioneer Woman. One common theme of the above blogs is the great photography.

What blogs have you enjoyed lately? I know I have a lot of lurkers and I also ask questions on my posts (like here and here and here)....but I think only one or two people actually answer (again, thanks Catherine :)! I do want to hear from you.