Recipes I’ve tried 3

I’m back to using the crockpot. And, boy, does that feel right. Or, it felt right on Sunday morning when I made something that was half eggplant lasagna and half crockpot spaghetti. I was not into it the following morning when subbed rice for oats in this banana bread overnight oatmeal (turns out I was out of oats) and didn’t properly adjust liquids and cooking times for the rice and ended up with burnt, crusty, banana rice.


You win some, you lose some.


I also made so much of the eggplant spaghetti that between that and my regular lettuce wrap sandwiches that I take for lunch some days I didn’t have to cook everything else. The good news is the everything else I had intended to cook kept and I’ll be able to make it next week. The bad news of this is that while I was super into that eggplant casserole on Sunday, by Friday the sight of it made me want to cry. Variety is really the spice of life, people.


I’m choosing to focus on the positive, though. This next week I’m going to be getting a bunch of things that I’m going to can which means having a meal already planned and ready to go is a win for me. Most of this week’s share is peppers and green beans so it is produce is headed for storage in the form of pepper jelly, more pepper chutney (not pineapple this time, though. Maybe peach) and dilly beans. I am also getting more beets and some broccoli. I am planning on making a new beet salad (or maybe a roasted vegetable sandwich spread) and some curry that I’m going to toss the broccoli in. Broccoli might not be a traditional curry vegetable but you cook what you have.


I am so excited about the dilly beans.



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This morning I got up about an hour and a half before my alarm. I was awake and the cats knew I was awake so there was no point in faking it. So, I went about my business and did my morning stuff.

I am still doing the loving-kindness meditation. So, I focused on my breath, I let thoughts go when they popped into my head. But, one thought kept coming back. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets. I was like Arthur Dent with the word ‘yellow’ floating around his head looking for something to attach to. Crickets. It is autumn now. Crickets. Isn’t it nice to hear one last summer song. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets.

Then, I noticed that there was a glitch in the cricket song. Like an abrupt reset in the middle of the chirp. So, I breathed and I breathed out and listened for it. It happened again. This is when I remembered that my new morning alarm on my phone is the sound of crickets. No one last summer songs for me. I get a summer song every morning!

Sometimes, even when you are trying to be present and aware you still contextualize things. I brought a story to those crickets and that story was wrong.

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Recipes I’ve Tried 2

This week, I foolishly tried a whole bunch of recipes that didn’t involve my slow cooker.


That was a mistake.


But, I did have a revelation because of this and I’m going to carry it forward: I get bored eating the same stuff over and over again so I should never double a recipe. Ever.


This week we got more peppers (joy of joys), beets with their greens, leeks and kale. I still had asparagus from the previous week and a small cantaloupe. So, I decided to make pork chops with leek sauce to be served with rice and asparagus (and green beans because sometimes I just can’t help myself when I’m grocery shopping), leek, bacon and swiss quiche, creamy kale and sausage soup, beet and feta salad and fruit salad.


The fruit salad was an inspired choice. I ate it with pretty much every meal until it was gone. (The last serving of it I dumped into a smoothie with some extra kale). And, the beet salad was great! I used this recipe from the Scrambled Chefs. I left out the parsley because they didn’t have it at Aldi (and I wasn’t going to make another stop just for parsley) and I substituted lime for lemon in the vinaigrette because I already had limes in the house. I will definitely make this salad again. It was delicious and stupid easy.


For the creamy kale and sausage soup, I used this recipe from diethood. I used a turkey kielbasa, which was probably a mistake. It didn’t have as much flavor as I wanted it to have. And, the soy milk didn’t stand up well to the boiling. I should have added it later. But, I’d probably make this again. In the slow cooker. And, not on the stove.

I made this quiche earlier in the summer for my parents and it was delicious. I didn’t want to make my own pie crust (especially when baking a blank shell for even a little while meant having to have my oven turned on longer than I wanted it to be on), so I went crustless. And, they didn’t have Gruyere or swiss at the Aldi (and if I wasn’t stopping for parsley, I certainly wasn’t stopping for swiss) so I used cheddar jack. I had all those beautiful beet greens, so I tossed them in as well with the leeks. That was a good call; the outcome was pretty delicious.


Which brings me to the last thing I cooked this week. I didn’t get around to making these until Wednesday, which is less than ideal. Wednesday is a long day (and I really should have been working on an abstract that was due on Friday instead of messing about in the kitchen). But, man, these pork chops were freaking delicious. I didn’t even get to the making rice or steaming asparagus and green beans. I just ate them with the fruit salad and the beet salad. I used honey mustard, pineapple sage, and a subbed in bourbon for brandy and Greek yogurt for sour cream. (I only have fruit brandy in the house for making sangria and that didn’t seem like a good call in the recipe). The substitutions were good and I would definitely make these again.


Finally, this week I put up some pineapple chutney. I didn’t have the red peppers the recipe called for, but I have my fair share and then some of hungarian peppers, so it ended up being sweet and spicy. I think I might use it next week as part of my liquid for some carnitas.


The weather has been terrible for farmers this summer, so I’m not getting the usual bounty of zucchinis and summer squashes this year. But, I’m enjoying what I’m getting. Although, next week we will be getting more peppers, so I’m going to have to get super creative so I don’t start drowning in them.


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Way back in 2011, I read Loving-Kindess by Pema Chödrön. I can’t say that I’ve thought much about it this book since then. But, recently, as a practice it has come up. Sometimes, Staying still, being quiet and being present is so easy. I don’t want to say that I’m a meditation genius (because nothing could be further from the truth) but some days I wander and some days I just sit and follow my breath. If I’m having a particularly wandery day, I like to use a guided meditation from one of the many, many apps that I have for this purpose. (Many apps. If it was free, if I had a coupon, if someone has recommended it, I have downloaded it.) And, the ten minute meditation that I’ve been doing this week has been a meditation on loving-kindness. Earlier in the week, it was pretty easy to do. You just breath and follow the prompts. So, you make statements in your mind hoping that you may be happy, healthy, safe and at peace. Then, you pick someone you like and you make the wish that they may be happy, healthy, safe and at peace. Then, you pick someone that you have trouble with. You see where this is going. Earlier in the week, I was picking people I had interpersonal conflict with. People that I like, people that are in my life, people that for some stupid reason or another I’ve had some kind of drama with of late. And, that was also pretty easy because I like them, deep down, even if I’m having drama with them.


This morning, though, boy did I ever bite off more than I can chew. The person I picked was Judge Randy Degeest who has been in the news (and a subject of much discussion amongst my friends) for giving a child rapist a suspended sentence instead of jail time.  The charge that the defendant plead to is a Class C felony in Iowa and can carry a penalty of up to ten years according to at least one website . Ten years is way more than ten months. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe that we all make mistakes, even judges? Maybe I was thinking that I wasn’t in the court room and that I don’t know all the details and that it is easy to judge things that aren’t decisions you’ll ever have to make? Whatever I was thinking, this was swinging for the fences. Safe? Sure. Healthy? Sure. But, I couldn’t make the sincere wish that I hoped he was happy. I could make a sarcastic wish. I was a little stuck.


Thankfully, I set a timer and could be done when it went off.


Meditation is hard enough. You don’t have to go out of the way to make it harder for yourself. But, at least I learned something about myself. I’m not as flexible or as forgiving as I’d like to think I am. Well, now there’s something I can work on.

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Recipes I’ve tried

In an effort to be an adult, I paid the money back in April for my very own CSA share with the lovely Porter Farms. I thought to myself, “hey! I can support a local farm! And, make sure I eat plenty of vegetables all summer and into the fall! Look at me being a good citizen and being an healthy eater!”

Eating that many vegetables in a week takes planning. You have to want it. And, since I’m finishing my dissertation and doing all manner of things to try and be better employed, both now and in the future, I don’t really have a lot of time to be spending day-to-day on food. Or, at least on thinking about it. The good news is, taking the thinking out of a thing requires planning, too. Unless you’re planning on living on frozen dinners and take out. Those things don’t require planning.

So, what I’ve been doing is waiting for the email on Thursday saying what will be in Saturday’s bag, looking at the next week’s schedule and seeing when I’ll be where so I know how many meals have to be portable and/or able to be served cold, and then I make a plan for all of those vegetables.


Last week I had the Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup, only I used my own selection of seasonings, yellow instead of red potatoes and I added a zucchini and some celery because I had those lying around. It was pretty good. It made a ton of soup. I can definitely see making it again, although I need a plan for jazzing it up in the later stages because by the time you get to day four of eating lentil soup, you no longer want to eat lentil soup.


I also made this brown sugar slow cooker chicken. It was great, although I think next time I’ll go with the recommendation of subbing in Dr. Pepper for Sprite and I think I’ll add a bit more corn starch. The sauce never did really thicken up at all. I served it with some asparagus I bought and a mash made out of potato and kohlrabi. The kohlrabi made the mash superb. I forget how much I like kohlrabi until I’m eating kohlrabi.


And, I made this cucumber caprese salad with the tomatoes from the share and some cucumbers I bought. I’m not a huge fan of cucumber. But, this with the chicken served cold was a pretty nice lunch.


Finally, I replaced the oil in a boxed brownie mix with shredded zucchini, since I had them lying around and I had that for dessert all week.

I’ve been stockpiling hot peppers for a few weeks now and I think it is the time to put up some kind of pepper chutney and then a small batch of pickled peppers with whatever is left. I’ve gotten wimpier as I’ve gotten older when it comes to eating spicy foods and one pepper is enough to last me a week. I have at least five Hungarian hot peppers in my fridge right now. I also have poblanos and cubanelles and I feel like at least one habenero. That’s a lot of heat.

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Looking at my knitting

So, I started a project in the dark days of winter simply because I wanted something bright to look at. I started a garter trap. Everything about the project was strategic. I picked annoyingly bright yarn from my stash. It is beautiful yarn, don’t get me wrong, but it is not quiet yarn. It is yarn in colors that scream at you. And, then I picked this pattern that is so stupidly easy that it requires nothing from me but to knit. And, occasionally increase. In the end I’ll have a loud, striped, trapezoid.

It is fun. I like it. I like having easy projects to do. But, I haven’t completed a knitting project in so long that I feel itchy. Do you ever get the feeling? Itchiness from not being done with something? Well, now every time I look at the project I think, “Ugh, why am I not further along?” The answer to this is, of course, simple. I am not further along because I knit, at most, once a week. That will take it’s toll on a piece.

And, of course, it’s not the only knitted thing I have started but have not finished. There is this lovely lace piece that I only seem to work on at lace guild (and I’ve only managed to be available/in town for one meeting and the seminar this year. I didn’t get any knitting done at the meeting, but I did get to show and tell. And, at the seminar I started something else I’m not done with. It’ll be a beautiful tatted thing if/when it is done). And, there is another lovely piece dedicated to a character I loved from a book. It is the dreambird pattern. It’ll be beautiful when it is done, in a magenta, a cream and a nut brown. But, because of the short rows and the counting, I feel like I can’t stop in the middle of a feather which means I don’t want to pick it up unless I can devote the time to it.

But, I’m still stuck with the irritating feeling that I haven’t finished anything at all this year. Usually, I make about a dozen projects a year but I feel short of that in 2015. Now it is 2016 and I’m on track to make exactly zero knitted things.

With that in mind I took the Captain America craze in May as an opportunity to turn out a hat. A single hat with the Iron Man arc-reactor in intarsia. That’s it. That’s all I’ve completed so far in 2016.

I feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore. That’s not true. I’m a person who looks at their knitting before they go to bed and thinks, “Ugh. Why isn’t that finished yet?”

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I’ve always had a bend towards what I like to call the dirty hippie lifestyle. I’ve baked my own bread, canned vegetables. I continuously brew kombucha. And, I’m obsessed with aromatherapy. But, I am also very disdainful of this lifestyle that I have a bent for because I have a healthy appreciation for science and I see a lot of anti-science and anti-understanding in the hippier parts of the internet. Or worse, when the communities I am a part of are dismissive or silencing of members who want to see a little research. I’m all for doing what works best for you and if what works best for you is knowing a little bit about the efficacy (or not) of a treatment before you try it then, I’m all for that. Even more, I don’t want snake oil salesman to be able to con people who legitimately need help because there is no one doing the research that needs to be done (or because the people doing the research are being dismissed without being heard).

That being said, without any research at all, I’ve had a tremendous amount of success dealing with stress by doing a little aromatherapy and a lot of meditating. Well, maybe not a lot of meditating, sitting still, as it turns out is incredibly effing difficult.

So, it pains me to admit when I’ve done something completely hippie and it’s worked out fine.

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The First Rule of Yarn Club

Is that you talk about yarn.

The second rule of yarn club is that you think about yarn.

The third rule of yarn club is that obsess about yarn.


So, anticipating that this year would be a difficult year for me in PhD school, I gave myself something to look forward to. I joined a couple of yarn clubs. (One of them is the Bad Women’s Yarn Club. The other was a club run by Kate Davies. All color work and beautiful Shetland wool. Amazing.)I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll get yarn and patterns in the mail and I’ll be able to knit and look forward to knitting and everything will be wonderful!”

And, it is wonderful to get yarn and patterns in the mail. But, I’ve done almost no knitting. I periodically get out the Shetland wool just to sniff it. But, I’ve not begun any of the patterns.

It’s a little exhausting, actually.

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Out of Work and Unheard

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article about why Trump is getting the support that his is getting.. I keep thinking about it because I am left-leaning and most of my friends are left-leaning and so I spend a lot of time with people who are watching Trump win state after state in the run up to the Republican convention with confusion and shock and disgust. I keep thinking about it because most of my friends and family come from a position of relative comfort and privilege and, reading this article, it occurred to me that we might be missing an opportunity to practice what we preach and listen to someone whose life experience is different from ours. It might be time to listen.

I want to make a few things clear. I think Trump plays to people’s base emotions and that he is stoking a lot of painful, angry and dangerous fires. I think his treatment of protestors is abhorrent. I think he holds beliefs that are untrue, unsupportable and disgusting with respect to women and minorities. I think America does have a lot of structural racism and other problems that need to be addressed. But, I don’t think that is entirely the reason he is doing so well. And, so this article really stuck with me. We’re in this place, as a country, where we need to decide what we value and then we need to work to support that. And, we need to decide together. Which, of course, means we may need to listen to and interact with people who hold opinions we dislike. I don’t like Trump. But, if talking about trade and examining the effects of trade agreements on the lives of Americans will help us all move forward, then it needs to be done.

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Framing and Understanding Discussions

A friend of mine teaches a general world history course to college Freshmen. She was recently telling me about a frustrating incident where she was teaching about context and understanding historical events but one of her students wanted to show off his knowledge of facts.

She was teaching about Ivan the III and how some historical sources call him Ivan the Great and others call him Ivan the Terrible. Her student couldn’t let go that there is a different Russian ruler (Ivan IV) who is also known as Ivan the Terrible. She kept saying, “This is true, but this is not the point. The point is that this one man is known historically by these two names and this is because some people saw his reign is great and some people will deeply hurt by his actions and thought he was awful.”

She had to revisit the topic in a subsequent class because it is an important point that needed to get across. When you triple the territory of your state, you’re going to make a lot of people happy. You’re also going to make a lot of people unhappy. So, depending on if you were part of the expansion or you were expanded into, you might have a different view of the event.

As researchers, this is something we come across everyday. There is the data and there is our interpretation of the data. But, data often lends itself to multiple interpretations. Sometimes, you can get to the same point from two different paths. The world is like that.

With this discussion with my friend fresh in my mind I posted an article on Facebook about ten revolutionary women that we don’t often learn about in school. I thought it was an interesting article because women have been involved in lots of movements globally but we don’t learn about their involvement. Women and minorities, peskily, get scrubbed from history. (They either make history but are asked to sit down because its not the best photo op or people don’t talk about them (and then when they do, they don’t actually mention them by name.)So, hearing about diversity that actually existed in historical movements not only broadens our understanding of how those movements worked but also can give us a sense of the complexity of the historical event. (Instead of, say, just “memorize these names and dates. Some important stuff happened.”)

So, I posted this link and then then watched (in horror) as a discussion played out in the comments between my conservative father and a friend from a former Yugoslavian country. I stopped the discussion pretty early by asking my Dad to no longer comment (largely because he was doing some rhetorical things that DRIVE ME CRAZY, but that is a post for another day). The thrust of the discussion was this: my father wanted make sure that I knew that communism was bad and killed lots of people and that we shouldn’t honor all of the women on the list. Of course, learning about someone and their actions is not the same as honoring them. My friend wanted to make sure that my father knew that celebrated Western women like Margaret Thatcher caused suffering abroad AND at home. It devolved from there. Mud was slung. As someone who loves my friend and loves my father, I stared at my Facebook for a few minutes trying to figure out how to reconcile the two viewpoints before just giving up and asking one side to just cool it.

Later in the week brought the anniversary of the 1991 Belgrade protests. After the initial protest on March 9th (protesting the rule of Slobodan Milošević and his party), there was more violence, police brutality, and, well, the Bosnian war and NATO bombings and, we all remember the ’90s, right?

It occurred to me that my friend and my father might actually agree on a few things (if people weren’t so rhetorically contentious.) And, it also occurred to me that the same Ivan the Great/Terrible framing issue was relevant to this car-crash Facebook discussion.

For my Dad, communism was a real threat and Soviet communism was a scourge that needed to be wiped from the Earth. The Soviet government (and other communist governments) were responsible for thousands of deaths and other untold human horrors and communism had to go. So, communism going was a victory! One for the record books! Excellent work, good job, everyone!

But, for my friend in Eastern Europe, regardless of what it had been before, the victory my Father and others like him heralded opened up a decade of protests in the streets, political killings, police brutality, the selling off of national assets (in ways that did not benefit the people), a war in Bosnia filled with atrocities and NATO bombings, all of which the current states have yet to completely recover from.

When thinking about any event, historical or current, we sometimes need to step back and think about what baggage we’re bringing to our interpretation. Why do we think a win is a win? What were the consequences of the event? Are we leaving anything out to get to our interpretation? These details are important.

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