Scrumptious Simple Salad

Scrumptious Simple Salad

Food shouldn’t be complicated, unless you want it to be, a la red pepper foam or microgreens or any number of things from French cuisine.  I very much enjoy patronizing the abundant restaurants of the Twin Cities that feature beautiful, delicious, complicated food; Heartland is the latest possible destination for gastronomic joy while my mother is town.

However, when I’m cooking at home, especially a midday meal for myself alone, I very much want simple yet tasty food.  What often results is a surprising, unplanned combination of ingredients I have stashed away in the fridge and pantry that somehow resolve themselves into a sandwich, soup, or, as they did yesterday, a hearty salad.

I began by cubing a slightly overripe pear, which you cannot see under the other ingredients, but it’s there, I promise.  This was topped with ripped up local hydroponic leaf lettuce from LaBore Farms, an indulgence of mine throughout this past winter winter that has proven a culinary ray of sunshine in the midst of heaps of snow.  Scattered on top were a cubed, relatively mild local gouda, goji berries (which added a lovely chewiness and a punch of antioxidants that I’d highly recommend), a smattering of cilantro and chopped green onion, flax seeds, sliced almonds, freshly ground pepper, apple cider vinegar (another health powerhouse), olive oil, and the smallest sprinkle of salt.

I was a bit skeptical about the cilantro, but wanted to use it because I hate wasting anything and have over half a bunch left over from pad thai toppings this past weekend.  It proved to be the perfect foil to the sweetness of the pear and nutty richness of the gouda, almonds, and flax seeds.  All in all an incredibly tasty and satisfying salad.  And to think, if I’m this excited about a late winter/early spring salad, I may just explode when asparagus is finally available 🙂


EXCO and Herbalism: how learning should be.

EXCO and Herbalism: how learning should be.

It has taken me this long to finally get to an EXperimental COmmunity education class, despite months of good intentions.  But in a way I’m glad I waited, because I think ‘Some Herbalism‘ will prove to be an excellent example of what grassroots, community driven, and free education can be.

I arrived fifteen minutes late to the first class today due to the silly mistake of thinking the address was ten blocks north of where it actually was.  The living room of the class facilitator was entirely PACKED with well over twenty people, mostly young, lots of crusty punk/hipster type kids, everyone enthusiastic and ready to listen and learn.  In spite of my developing cynicism for the fate of humanity as a whole (more on this later, it’s unavoidable really), I can’t help but think that we must be in for some sort of positive sea change when you can get a couple of dozen people together on a Thursday afternoon to talk and learn about an essential aspect of alternative and local health care.

The topic of this first class was White Oak Bark tincture, and the facilitator not only harvested twigs and purchased enough vodka for us all to make our tinctures, but created a handout describing proper harvesting, uses of the tincture, and a general step by step explanation of creating any sort of bark tincture.  After a relatively brief introduction on the class in general and the tincture preparation specifically, we all got to shaving our bark off our branches and chatting about this, that, and the other.  I’m already expecting to make some wonderful acquaintances at the very least as a result of this class.

This class, like all others in the EXCO ‘curriculum’, is free.  I don’t think I can say that enough, because while I have the utmost respect for most professors and can potentially see myself becoming one someday, I think true skills sharing in a community cannot have a price.  Instead it is rooted in passion and compassion, an authentic desire to share what one loves and knows with others.  Though it’s still at least a year away, I am delighted by the prospect of creating a space for this sort of priceless skill sharing and idea generation in the future house that Ben and I will have.  Education comes in many forms, all of them valuable.

What kinds of classes would you like to facilitate?  What free community classes would you take if they were available?

And now, for a gratuitous picture of an artsy accident:
Thanks to Benjamin for having a camera handy to document the serendipitous uniting of scissors and coffee grounds splash-over.


St. Paul’s Community Creativity in Concrete

So I have approximately 42378t2 great ideas for blog posts, some of them themed, some random musings, all much more exciting and community-minded than the metacognitive junk and I am sometimes prone to.  But life and work and quilting and Mere Existence is ASTOUNDINGLY BUSY AND DEMANDING at present, and blogging is one of the first victims of the time crunch.

However, there is an extraordinarily lovely opportunity for community art that I just must share, and the timeliness of the deadline insists that I share it today.
It’s sidewalk poetry!  Written by residents of St. Paul!  The process is nearly as community oriented and efficient as you can get; any resident of St. Paul can submit a poem (deadline is April 17th!) and a certain number are made into what are essentially sidewalk sized stamps that are used several times around the city when a sidewalk block needs replacing.  Aside from the initial stamp creation, I’m guessing that the project is relatively low budget because nothing new is being created while the prolific poets of St. Paul have their words immortalized.  I don’t live in St. Paul (though I’m just barely across the river) and don’t yet have enough confidence as a poet to submit anything I’ve written, but hopefully a year or two from now Minneapolis will embark on a similar project.

Read!  Write!  Create with delightful abandon!  And then share your work 🙂

Simple & sustainable wedding planning update

I counted today and we’re precisely 66 days out from the wedding, which sounds like quite a lot and nothing at all at the same time.  Most of the major details are nailed down at this point.  We’re waiting to get sketches from Soren, a local jeweler who does custom work and we’re almost entirely sure will be making our wedding rings.  The menu for the reception is pretty much set, we’ve almost accumulated enough secondhand glasses to etch for our favors, and a lineup is in the works for readings at the ceremony and music at the reception.  We even have friends brewing some delicious Trappist style beer for the reception as our wedding present.

But how are we doing on our mission statement, might you ask?  Back in December in the initial throes and stresses of wedding planning I sat down and came up with a mission statement so that throughout the process Benjamin and I could be sure we were remaining true to our values rather than an idea of what a wedding is ‘supposed to be’.  We want the event to be simple, sustainable, beautiful, quirky, and filled with the people we love most.  So let’s break it down…

SIMPLE: Still surprisingly difficult, but I think we’re making great strides toward simplicity.  We don’t have a wedding party.  We’re doing a super short ceremony.  We’re having homemade decorations and branches cut from Ben’s housemate’s parent’s place instead of flowers.  We did a single invitation with websites rather than a super stuffed envelope with an RSVP card preceded by a save-the-date card.  There are complications to be sure, but I think we’ve succeeded in eliminating most elements of a wedding that we don’t actually need/want.

SUSTAINABLE:  This has ended up being the most contentious element with parents, because several times sustainability has come in direct conflict with efficiency/ease.  We’re still a bit stuck on the dishes issue (any volunteers to help wash for a bit at the reception?  I’ll be asking you later 🙂 ), but between encouraging bicycling, having a menu featuring local/seasonal food, and aiming for zero waste in all elements of the reception, I think we’re getting there.

BEAUTIFUL: I’m not letting myself spend too much time imagining precisely what I want our wedding to look like, because with expectations often come let downs.  However, I’m wearing the dress that my mother made for her wedding to my father 32 years ago and will be bicycling with Benjamin while wearing that dress, and I can’t imagine many things more beautiful than that.

QUIRKY: An unavoidable trait, I think, in anything I do.  In the best way of course.  I’m planning on folding paper cranes to join strings of lights and fabric for the yard decorations at the reception- this coupled with the glass etching will result in a craft party complete with wine in a month or so.  We’re having various friends play their various styles of music in the yard/on the porch throughout the evening.  We’re planting a tree, either beforehand in commemoration of our wedding, or at the ceremony.  And have I mentioned yet that we’re biking between the ceremony and reception?  We’re certainly not the first to do so (thanks Phil and Jana for being adorable!) but hopefully our bicycling entourage of friends and family will make the journey memorable for at least a few Minnehaha Parkway passerby.

So all in all, things are still in progress.  I’m certain that in the end a few concessions will have to be made to make things work, but I am committed to having an exemplary wedding.  ‘Nough said.