Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Local Beef -IT's What's For Dinner!

Last week there was a recall, by JBS Swift Beef Company, of 41,280 pounds of beef. Possible E. coli contamination. Then, on Sunday, they expanded the recall to 380,000 pounds! click here Say that out loud once! Three Hundred and Eighty THOUSAND pounds of beef. . . that's 1,520,000 Quarter Pounders. Yikes.

On Sunday I ate a slider for lunch. I'm sure you all know what a slider is, but just in case you don't, it's a mini-hamburger. About a quarter of a quarter-pounder. When I got home and found out about the recall, I wasn't worried. Because the slider I ate was made from local beef. It came from a happy cow who used to life at Marin Sun Farms click here. Delessio, the restaurant where I ate, serves local organic food click here and they post where the food comes from. This is not only good for the restaurant's business and their customers, it's awesome for the farmers.

If you eat beef, you should be concerned about this huge meat recall. E. coli contamination means there's poop on the meat. Who wants to eat that? Not me. And I'm sure not you. There are lots of ways to find local beef. Ask around. Google "meat CSA". You'll find a source and you'll be glad you did.

And when you are done enjoying that rare t-bone steak that came from a critter who used to mow a pasture just down the road, watch Food, Inc. click here. You'll be glad you did. . .

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eating Meat

I eat meat. Not often, but I do. Lately, it's been something to ponder.

Here's the deal: I love sushi. There is something about fish protein, raw or cooked, that works for my body. I crave it. And when I'm craving it, all I have to do is think about walking into Yum Yum Fish to place an order site here and my mouth starts to water. They make a killer spicy scallop roll and their saki (salmon) sashimi is delicious. My favorite roll is saki, cucumber and avocado and they will make it for me. If you get to sit at one of the three tables in the tiny space which smells of fresh fish and have tea while you eat, all the better. Or, taking a selection of items home to enjoy is also nice because you can eat it on your own dishes with your favorite chopsticks.

Lately, though, I've been eating less sushi. Not because I crave it less, but because we are over-fishing the oceans. It would be a shame if future generations didn't have the privilege of eating fish. Not to mention that messing up the biosphere of the ocean by allowing fish to go extinct couldn't be a good thing and would most likely have catastrophic consequences for mankind and the earth.

Not to mention that my favorite sushi fish, salmon, has gotten all kinds of bad press in the last few years. . . I don't want to eat a piece of raw farmed fish that grew up swimming through water full of fish poop eating food with high levels of PCBs, who died colorless because he never had the opportunity to eat ocean krill and ended up on the market with "color added". Farmed fish has PCB levels 16 times higher than wild fish and, according to this article by National Geographic click here causes the decline of the wild population just by existing. Since I am now choosing to do what the movie "Home" suggests and "Believe what I Know" click here I will be having a conversation with my sushi chef to figure out if the salmon I so enjoy is wild or not. And I will choose to eat it, or not, based on that information.

How does one know which fish are doing fine and which are dwindling in numbers? Should we just not eat fish unless we catch it ourselves? I'm done ignoring the facts about our food supply. Ignorance isn't bliss for me any longer. And yet, I'm not really ready to take fish, a protein that works well for my body, out of my diet. I want to be able to eat fish occasionally, raw if I choose, and I want it to be safe for me and for the fish.

Mr. Green found a useful guide, recently, created by Seafood Watch, a program that is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium click here. It has lists of which fish are Best Choices, Good Alternatives or fish to Avoid. The guide can be printed out, folded up and tucked into your purse or wallet so next time you are dining out you can check the list. Brilliant. My favorite fish, under the Good Alternatives heading, has an asterisk. The info next to the asterisk says "Limit consumption due to concerns about mercury or other contaminants."

I'll be taking the list with me next time I go to eat sushi. And I'll be asking a lot of questions. And then I'll be making an informed choice. Which quite possibly means I'll be skipping the salmon. We'll see.

Tomorrow's Blog: Eating Meat - Part II - I eat Beef.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Urban Gardeners

This is our small urban garden. Even though we are on the third floor, we are the only non-commercial residents in the building so we get access to the small rectangle of dirt in our "backyard". We get to our spot of green by climbing down the fire escape. It's a beautiful, warm inviting spot of about 200 square feet with a palm tree on one end.

We (I) decided we should turn the patch of oxalis "out back" into a garden in early April. I guess that's when the gardening bug hits for someone from Idaho. What I have learned since then is that people start their gardens in March here in San Francisco! Who Knew?! The only thing my inner clock inspires me to do in March is build another fire in the fireplace.

The really amazing thing for me about the garden space is that it sat fallow for six years. Nothing was done with it. The only thing that grew there was oxalis season after season. A very clean plot of dirt for a city gardener! I would even venture to say "organic".

Mr. Green agreed to the garden - a bit reluctantly - and the fun began. We did some internet research to find out about getting rid of the oxalis. What we found out was it's almost impossible to get rid of. In order to really make it go away you have to dig down twelve inches and sift the dirt, throwing away all the bulbs. Then you have to weed it consistently, never letting even one plant bloom. After five years, it will be gone. Yes, I said five years.

Undeterred, we pressed on. The next weekend just happened to be sunny and beautiful. We borrowed a shovel from our neighbor and descended the fire escape. It really didn't take very long to get the almost solid green matt of plant matter off the top of the soil. I only wish I would have taken a picture before we removed it! In the shot below you can see some of it piled on the patio. Needless to say, there was a lot.

The shot above is during the sifting process. We went to Home Depot and bought a piece of screen. The ingenious Mr. Green cut the bottom off an old trash can and made a huge sifter with the help of some scissors and duct tape. Sifting consisted of one of us shoveling three shovels of dirt onto the screen and the other rocking the can back and forth until all the dirt sifted through, leaving a ridiculous amount of oxalis bulbs to remove. We worked two or three inches of forest mulch into the top six inches of soil as we went. The forest mulch bags made great containers for the bulbs and they, and all the plant matter, got hauled to the compost pile at the dump the next weekend.

It took an entire weekend and two evenings just to sift the dirt. Quite the arm workout. We came in each evening covered in a fine coat of dust with streaks of mud on our arms and faces and barely able to lift our arms. And yet, I have to say that it was much easier than it would have been with the soil I'm used to in Idaho. The Outer Sunset soil has a lot of sand - because it used to be a sand dune - and was very easy to sift - no clay, no clods. We did find some construction debris. Hunks of cement, pieces of tile, nails, etc. We managed to get the whole thing sifted, mulched, organized into rows and planted in two weekends plus three

During the process Mr. Green fell in love with, and took total ownership of, the garden. I came home from work on the Monday after we planted and he said we were going to have to do something about the cat. He caught her digging and chased her out. Seems she thought we were creating a huge sandbox just for her. By Tuesday evening, after online research by Mr. Green, we were the proud owners of a "ScareCrow" (see top picture). This amazing, and odd looking, device was just what we needed. Hooked to the hose, and set in the front edge of the garden, it watches. If something enters its line of site and triggers its infrared eye, the rainbird attached to the top sprays back and forth really fast three times. Scared the crap out of me! To see a description click here: ScareCrow. Mr. Green bought ours at Orchard Supply Hardware OSH which I hear is a pretty cool store. I've only forgotten to turn it off twice. . . and yes, I got wet both times.

The cat only got wet once. It was in the middle of the night and she promptly came in and hopped up on the bed to let us know. She steers clear of the whole space now. She goes down with us and hangs out while we are weeding or walks the fence line and sits looking down at us, but she doesn't get near the dirt. Smart cat.

Below is the progression from sifting to organizing to planting.

We planted all organic plants and seeds, mostly from Sloats Garden Center Click Here. They are a bit pricey, but just down the street. We made the rows so it would be easy to weed, planted every other one. We were expecting A Lot of oxalis. We covered the "walking rows" with some brown paper on a roll (very similar to grocery sacks) that Mr. Green had.

Then we waited. This was not easy for Mr. Green. Being a new gardener he wanted everything to come up right now. The first week he commented that he certainly understood why people bought plants instead of planting seeds. . . for the instant reward of seeing green in the dirt!

With a couple of rounds of weeding and Mr. Green's TLC the garden has flourished over time and we now have tomatoes in bloom (Everyone says we won't get tomatoes, but I'm holding out for enough sun in July!), 3 types of beans in bloom (these little buggers were supposed to be bush beans, but they are All Over the place.), beets that are about an inch and a half in diameter (I've never planted beets before and can't wait to EAT them), scallions almost ready to eat (also a new plant for me) and four different kinds of peppers in bloom (these guys seem small to me, but, hey they are blooming), cucumbers (also a bit small) and a pathetic stand of carrots. I've never had great success with carrots. My dad could grow them like crazy and used to give me a couple big bags each fall (out of sympathy, I think). OH, and Squash! Looks like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors!

So far we have picked three batches of spinach, which grows really really well here. Delicious! We've had salad & also steamed a bunch. I'll pick the last batch off these plants on the weekend and then start over with fresh seed. Mr. Green has also enjoyed a pile of radishes & already replanted them. I'm not a huge radish fan. He loves them. The second batch of the season is coming along well.

The best part of the garden is coming home from work, pouring a glass of wine, sitting on the 2nd story balcony in the late afternoon sun and chatting while we watch it grow. I realize, just now, that this is what my parents used to do when my dad would get home from work in the summer. Only they were looking out at 80 acres of farmland. I used to join them. We are creatures of habit, aren't we? Makes me smile.

I'm so looking forward to the larger produce!

I love touching the dirt. If you have a spot of land, plant a garden. It's a great way to get your earth fix.

Oh, and the Oxalis? Literally haven't seen more than one or two plants while weeding. Guess that whole sifting thing was worth all the effort!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Veggie Paella Outer Sunset Style

Dinner is served!

As promised, even though he spent hours fixing the sink, Mr. Green made Paella on Sunday. This veggie dish is just plain delicious. I don't know if it's the saffron or the variety of vegetables or the pan. We've tried it with different whole grains including farro, which has a nice nutty flavor and chewier texture and is my favorite substitute so for for regular brown rice. When we have paella I always eat more of it than I should and then I eat it for breakfast!

Boise, Idaho, the fair city where I resided for 19 years, has the largest Basque population outside of the Basque country. Some of the many benefits of this are a Basque Bar (Bar Gernika), a Basque Restaurant which is part of a quaint little inexpensive downtown hotel (Leku Ona) and a Basque Market (The Basque Market). There is also a museum and a palla court! All situated on a beautiful tree-lined street that is often closed for festivals and special events - where the Basque Market makes, and sells, Paella.

Basque paella, cooked outdoors in large flat copper pans, is a feast for senses. It's beautiful to look at and the smell is irresistible. The pans themselves are beautiful! I have had the privilege of eating it not nearly enough times and it's wonderful. This paella has shell fish and chorizo in it, so it's different and a much heavier dish than our veggie version. And, a treat. Not something that fits in to my diet more than once or twice a year.

Our veggie version is also a feast for the senses. One that I can eat much more often! I say "our" very loosely. I do very little of the actually cooking. On Sunday I got the vegetables out of the fridge, sliced the potatoes and did clean-up. Mostly I just stand around and sip wine when
Mr. Green does the magic. I like that.

The labor in this dish is all in the cutting of the vegetables, which takes about 20 minutes. Putting it together is a breeze and the smell get richer and richer with each addition of vegetables. I love it because it's beautiful on the plate, it smells amazing while it's cooking and it is an amazing eating experience. The veggies retain their character and each bite is slightly, deliciously, different.

Here is the recipe:

Veggie Paella Outer Sunset Style (by Mr. Green)


EVOO, aprox. ¼ cup - enough to cover bottom of pan

6-8 SMALL potatoes, sliced to 1/8"

1/4 cup raw almonds, split length-wise

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 small onions, coarsely chopped

1 - 1.5 cups coarse chopped mixed peppers (green and colored Bell - Anahiem - Lipstick - etc.)

1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut to approx. 1"

1/2 cup fresh shelled peas

3/4 cup yellow zucchini, coarsely julienned

1/4 cup pimiento slices or roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped

2 medium firm tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cut green onions, loosely chopped

14 oz jar of artichoke hearts (in water)

generous pinch of saffron threads (see photo)

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

juice of one large lemon

4 tablespoons tomato paste

Cooked grain to yield around 5 cups - short brown rice, farro, etc.

approx 3 cups water

Prepare the grain ahead of time being careful to NOT fully cook the grain. It should be chewy as it will finish cooking with other ingredients.

In small bowl add saffron threads to 1/2 cup cold water and set aside.

In large flat bottom skillet heat the olive oil - medium-high setting.

Evenly spread out potatoes, and pepper flakes. Brown potatoes on one side.

As you turn potatoes, add almond pieces, garlic, onions, peppers and green beans. Sauté for 5 minutes.

Add peas, zucchini and pimentos. Sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Add saffron mixture, lemon juice, spices, tomato paste and an additional 2 1/2 cups water.

Bring to boil and make sure spices and tomato paste are well mixed.

Add grain, reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Once moisture is taken up by the grain and it is about fully cooked add green onions, tomatoes and artichoke hearts.

Cover and simmer until green onions are wilted - it's time to serve!

This is not a traditional paella in any way. Usually the grain is cooked in the pan with the vegetables. This muddles the individual flavors of the different ingredients and makes everything a bit mushy. Cooking the grains first allows the vegetables to maintain their crispness and character. You can add anything you might want . . . asparagus tips or any other vegetables. You can also add other spices. One nice addition, at the end, is a little smoked paprika. No salt mesquite seasoning is good also.


By the way, not going to the grocery this week didn't work out. We didn't have artichoke hearts. At least we bought them from the little store up the street.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Planned Obsolescence

I love Sundays. I try to keep them slow and easy.

Today was a bit of a test. We had to replace the kitchen faucet. It seems that planned obsolescence is starting to take over in our 19-year-old apartment. So far this year, we've lost the dishwasher (it's now a glorified dish drainer), the microwave (I prefer it broken, anyway) and now the faucet. The sad thing is, the new one that we bought (and installed after only one return to Home Depot) has a plastic sprayer. How long will that last? And can we replace the sprayer without replacing the whole unit? Believe me, we (meaning Mr. Green mostly) don't want to go through the process again. I mostly just stood around and handed tools and turned the faucet off and on, while Mr. Green was more inside than outside the cupboard, banging his head and knuckles.

A job well done and the new faucet works like a dream! But for how long?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Civil Unrest

Here I sit prattling on about my farmer's market trip and people are dying on the street in Tehran. Horrible. Just horrible. I am so sorry for Iran.

Farmer's Market Shopping Spree

We usually go to the Alemany Farmer's Market, but this week we shopped at the San Francisco State Farmer's Market, which is just up the road by Lake Merced. I go to farmers markets for a lot of different reasons beyond the importance and logic of buying local. I like friendly people who know where the veggies came from, produce that is fresher than what's in the store and food that is better for my health. There is the entertainment factor. There is always some sort of delicious prepared food for lunch. Sometimes there's music. I like handing my money to the person who will keep it and use it. Not a worker who hands it to another worker who hands it another worker who hands it to a finance person who hands it to. . . you get the idea. And the lines are shorter - it's alot more fun than going to the grocery store!

We left this morning on our bikes, me wearing a backpack with a market bag and plastic sacks inside. Mr. Green has a carrier on the back of his bike, so he'll get to strap down the less delicate of the produce on the way back. After pumping up all tires, (we
haven't ridden our mountain bikes for a few weeks) we were off to a nice downhill ride most of the way.

The market isn't huge, but it has a nice selection of produce vendors, about ten, half certified organic and half not. We started with corn. We talked to this vendor last week and said we'd be back so I felt obligated to buy from him even though his corn doesn't look as fresh as the corn in the stall next to him. I picked up four ears and asked how much they are. He says fifty cents apiece.

Then he says, "You'll really like those ears." "The seed is expensive." "It grows great and doesn't require any spraying or anything."

My mind is now yelling - YIKES! Spraying?!

I'm positive that last week he said he wasn't organic but it was only because they hadn't been on the land long enough and they don't use pesticides or herbicides!

Mr. Green says, "Do you think it's GMO seed?"

The farmer says, off-handedly, "I don't know."

Mr. Green and I exchange "the look".

Now what do I do? Say thanks but no thanks and buy from his neighbor or buy the corn and live and learn? It might be GMO. It might not. It's not like I've never eaten GMO corn. Considering that I've eaten corn on the cob since I got my front teeth, and I grew up in a large farming community, I've eaten a lot more GMO corn than non-GMO corn.

I'm already standing there holding four ears. I buy them. I'll ask first next time.

Then it's a container of Rainier Cherries. Big and fat and yummy looking. Expensive and irresistible. They won't be around much longer, so we'll eat another pound. They won't last past Monday evening if they last that long. I know that the Bings are better for us b
ecause they are dark red, but we like the flavor of the Rainiers.

We are picking up ingredients for Mr. Green's Paella, which will be the main dish for Sunday dinner. So, a couple small yellow zucchini, green beans, peas to shell, tomatoes and two fresh heads of garlic with greens still attached. There is a bread vendor - Beckmann's from Santa Cruz - so a loaf of whole wheat bread which is really going to save us from visiting a regular grocery store this week. Yeah! And, he's giving samples of their angel food cake. It's to die for yummy. I'm not buying any, but it's a nice treat.

We end our shopping spree by sharing a crepe filled with spinach, tomatoes and cheddar cheese seasoned with a little lemon juice. Tasty and filling and just really good. We also bought a slice of banana bread and apple bread from the sweet French nun who is raising money so they can build a shelter here in the city. If you talk to her, you'll buy something just because she's so nice.

What did we leave for others? There were all different types of summer squash, peppers, various colors and sizes of tomatoes, fresh salsa, artichokes, onions, various colors of beets, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, snap peas, strawberries, soap, fresh drip coffee and coffee beans. Also, beautiful bouquets of flowers which would never survive the bike ride home. Oh! And fresh fish. Six or seven different kinds of locally caught fresh fish.

One of the coolest things there were artichoke blooms! I've never seen them before. They are huge and the "choke" blooms out Purple. Smells sweet and slightly artichokey. Who knew?!

A note about the soap: She's happy to talk about how she made them, what is inside them and which is best for different skin types. She has a lot of different kinds. They scent combinations are wonderful. Not overpoweringly smelly. Nice.

A fun little market without all the hustle and bustle and big crowds of the Embarcadero market or even the Alemany market. An easy shopping experience. I recommend it!

We packed up the produce. I took the fragile stuff in the back pack, including the bread. Mr. Green got all the tough stuff and ended up with a nice garlic tail cascading off the back of his bike. We looped around the lake and back up the Avenues. We stopped by a yard sale along the way and got a $5 DVD player to replace the one that went to DVD heaven recently. A young French couple and their two children are moving to Mexico City to work at a French school there. He teaches math in French. She teaches French in French. Good luck to them and may they be safe.

Once home, we stowed the bikes back in our crowded garage. Frank took the truck back to pick up the DVD player. Impossible to carry on the bike. I unpack the produce, take its picture and then add it to the other stuff in the fridge. Except the cherries, which I wash and start eating immediately! So sweet and really juicy.

What did we spend? With the two bottles of water that we bought because we forgot to bring water from home (I'm ashamed to say), about $38. Produce was only $23 of that. Well worth it. With the veggies left from our CSA delivery, a lemon and almonds purchased from the little market up the street, and the stuff in our pantry, we won't need anything else this week.

How far away did the food come from? The furthest was two hours. About 120 miles. Not bad.

I obviously need to write down the purveyors of all this stuff. I feel bad that I'm not mentioning names and farms. Next time I'll take my tiny notebook with me. As I sit finishing up today's blog, we are snacking on the cherries. We've eaten more than half, already!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Technology & Determination

In my over-zealousness to "Put It All Together" I managed to cause a huge headache for myself. . . I thought that I couldn't change my screen name on Twitter, so, without even checking to see if I could, I started a new account.

Guess What? You CAN change your screen name on Twitter. I'm assuming that you can't on Facebook. (?) Not that it matters at this point. When I realized my mistake, I deleted the new account and tried to change my screen name on my old account.

Guess What Else? If you cancel an account on Twitter that doesn't make the screen name available again. The name goes into the Twitter holding pen (I envision this to be like the holding pen on a factory farm just before the kill floor - all those abandoned screen names milling around, bumping up against each other and mooing, waiting to be deleted). I don't know how long the abandoned screen names stay there. . . I'm not that patient. I panicked when I couldn't change my screen name on my old account to my cool and heart-felt new name and tried to sign in to the new account which I had deleted.

Guess What Else? Twitter, in all their smartness (and I mean that) saved my account for me and gave me the opportunity to easily reinstate it. Instantly. Right now. With no scolding or hand wringing. I did. Now I get to migrate all my followers on Twitter - for no reason beyond my own eagerness - to my new page.

If you are one of my followers Please follow me at greenfoodjunkie on Twitter.

I Live and Learn. Slowly. But Surely.

Have a Technologically easy day!

NOW Guess What?! I get to migrate all my Twitter Pals to my new page.
There are two great movies out there right now to see. . . funny how things surface in pairs.

One is free & you can watch it on the net. It's called HOME. Beautiful beautiful beautiful footage from all around the world with insightful information about the global condition. A hopeful ending. Make organic popcorn the old fashioned way (in a pot - on the stove), pour a glass of wine and enjoy.

The other is one you'll have to pay $9 to see. It's called Food, Inc. A great combination off all the stuff you probably were already aware of put forth in a format that is both shocking and not surprising. Don't buy the popcorn. It's a Monsanto product. Bring water in your own bottle. :)

I'm a farm community girl. I've seen animals in all their pieces and parts. The most shocking thing for me, in this movie, was the unidentifiable blobs that scooted along conveyer belts and went through a lot of bleaching processes surrounded by steam and large pipes - in my head I kept saying, "Wait a minute! What is that? Rewind! I don't get it. Is that chicken? beef? some sort of pork leftover? I don't know what that is!" as it turns out, what was ground and ended up as a frozen square that fit perfectly into a box was. . . yes, folks - the % of fat additive in your lean ground beef. . . just the fat additive. All alone. Frozen in a box. Yummy? See the movie. Find a local source. They are there. Just look.

Also, new to my world is a Farm Fresh to You box every other week. What fun! An organic surprise at my door every other Tuesday. We get a small mixed box. If you'd like to see what they have to offer, go to www.farmfreshtoyou.com and click on one of the food choices on the right hand side of the page. Tomorrow our small box will contain a mix of local, organic, seasonal fruits and veggies that we will use as the basis of most of our meals and snacks for a few days. It doesn't last long.

We also have a small organic garden out back. I'll post pictures soon. We planted a whole month late, but things are coming along. So far we've enjoyed radishes (Frank's favorite) and spinach (2 pickings). It's fun and easy! Grow your own!

All the best,

A not-so-new passion

My blogging intention is to share with a wide audience the same stuff I share with my friends. Whether it's great street food in sf or why it might be fun to raise a garden (even if it's in a window box) or Yoga for Inflexible People (I'm so inflexible I own the DVD but haven't tried it yet) or my latest life adventure, I will tell all about it here. . . and thereby attract like-minded people who care enough to make the small changes that will save themselves and the planet. Here's to life! Live It.