Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

August 31, 2007

Last nights harvest

I realize that I am a little late with this, seeing as how it was yesterdays harvest, but I didn't have a chance to post yesterday; the harvest was a good one though.
In the picture you can see from front to back, jalapenos, anaheim chilies, yellow pear tomatoes, Zuchinni, black beauty bell peppers, large cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, green bell peppers, artichoke, cucumber, heirloom swiss chard, and green beans hiding in the back. I think that is all of them.

The big surprises this year were the green bell peppers, which I have grown every year, and which every year I have been very unhappy with. This year I am very very happy with them. The only difference that I can assume may have made the difference with them is that the drip system that I set up earlier for our vacation this spring does not water over the plant, but at it's base. In years previous I have found that my peppers get the white sunburns on the sun facing parts. I think this is due to the water pooling in the dips of the pepper and refracting the sun on them, thus burning them.

The other big surprise that I've had this year has been the artichokes. Last year we planted one just to see if it'd grow and it did, and toward the end of the year we got one tiny artichoke off of it; whoopee! This year I tried planting two plants and got them in the ground earlier in the season and these two are the 4th and 5th we've taken from them and there are a couple more on the plant. As we go along, they also seem to get bigger, and more tightly compacted more similar to the ones you might find at the grocery. My experiment for them this fall, will be to see if I can over winter the plants. In CA where I grew up, they are a perennial and get to be quite big if you let them, and will carry a lot of 'chokes per plant at one time. I am going to try a method that I saw italian families in New York use to over winter fig trees. I will pack the plant in straw, layers carefully mounding over the crown of the plant. Then wrap it in burlap and plastic to support it. It may not work, I don't really know, but that's the best part of gardening I think, trying out ideas, and passing them along. It'll be worth it if it does work though with early and plentiful artichokes.

My dissappointments this year have been the pumpkins again. I don't understand what the difficulty is with growing these d**n plants are, but I just don't seem programmed to do it. The only ones I have every gotten and the only ones that I have thus far this year are the wild volunteer plants that I can't get rid of. That's the other great thing about gardening, there's always next year to try again!
May your garden be green and your fruits sweet!

August 29, 2007

Thought for Today

The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
~ Paul Fix



August 28, 2007

In with the new

Well, so far so good! We spent the majority of last weekend working on finishing the front room and upstairs landing with the Red Oak flooring that we have. You can see the difference between the original kitchen entry on the left after we had ripped out the old carpeting and the new interlaced (that was a pain in the butt by the way) flooring on the right. I have to say that we had the flooring angels on our side during this weekends work. Although we did get a much later start than we had hoped too, somehow all of the corners and vents and walls seemed to land dead on in line with a plank seam. Had this not happened, I would have had to find some creative way of ripping the boards and lining them up correctly so that the rest of the floor wasn't crooked. Any way we made good progress, A~ and I haven't had a good home remodel project to work on since the recycled concrete work we did this spring and we always enjoy working together; this time was no different!
Here's another before and after. This is our front sitting room. Mainly it serves as a landing strip for our boys when they hurl themselves down the stairs which you might have noticed are not finnished yet. This will be my project for the next week or so. I fear that it will be slow going; I could by all of the finished bull-nose stair peices but at $40.00 per 5' piece, I think I'll be putting the old table saw to use thank you very much! I have been successfull in finishing off the entry ways to the bedrooms over the last couple of days, so I am not to worried about the stairs. Measure twice cut once right Dad? (It took a long time to learn that lesson I'll tell you!) Below is a picture of the finished bedroom entries. I have to say I'm pretty proud of the work I did, seeing as how I've never done it.

We still haven't decided on how we are going to ifnish the flooring. We are leaning towards the Tried and True product that I reviewed HERE, but we just aren't sure. It has to be durable, and waterproof, but we would like to avoid the polyurethanes if possible. Notice on the first before and after picture of the kitchen entry; the yellowing that can happen after just a couple of years. PolyUrethane is photo sensitive and will do that. Oil and wax penetrating sealants won't, or at least that is my understanding.

I was curious, it seemed there was a bit of interest in the wood flooring when I first posted it, is there any questions about the installation process that I can adress for any of you while they might be fresh in my mind. I know Phelan at Homesteading neophyte just did some nice wood flooring in her place, anyone else planning on it?


August 24, 2007

Thought for Today

If everybody’s grateful how come nobody’s satisfied?

~Ryan Adams - Words

August 23, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I’ve finally finished reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”; what a good book! So much of what I have always taken for granted has been challenged. I have always felt that a lot of our nations eating disorders and health problems come from a disconnect in the way that we eat. Throughout history, mankind ate specifically what was available to them. Because of the way that nature cycles, man too would have to cycle. Red meat for instance was something that was consumed primarily in the fall and winter months when the cows were their fullest and fattest and wild game was free of its many parasites and at times was one of the only protein sources available. The fatty, starchy foods like potatoes, pastas and such accompanied these as they were byproducts of the past growing seasons crops. In the summer we would have enjoyed the freshness of our gardens. Greens, peas, tomatoes and vine crops like summer squash and cucumbers would have come to us with spring chickens and fresh fish. This would break the monotony of the year and allow us to appreciate the change when it came. We didn’t have a choice then, and until recently only the very wealthy could afford to truck/fly their food in when THEY wanted it.


Today we have a choice, many in fact; industrial produce, organic, beyond organic, local farmers and kitchen gardens to name a few. Maybe it’s this saturation of options that is working against us. My children will take the easiest way when given a choice and will pick the tastiest things to eat first, it’s in our nature. What this book has done for me is to separate and identify what many of the choices entail, after all how can you make a choice based solely on marketing? I am not radically changing my diet, but rather have been slowly directing it over this last summer, making conscious choices based on information rather than automatic ones based on ease. It wasn’t easy to keep ourselves fed in the past, and making some of these choices makes it a little more difficult now. Rather than running to the store to follow whatever whim we have for dinner, we try to plan more and make the stops at the local farmers while they are available. We’ve also made a concerted effort to focus on what I have in my own garden; zucchini and greens for lunch, and tomatoes with basil sandwiches for snacks.


How has this affected me? Well, I’ve lost over 20 lbs this summer, I feel much healthier, and I’ve gotten to meet some of our local farmers and learned how much we have available locally that I was never aware of. I have to say thank you to D~ at crunchychicken.blogspot.com for suggesting the book in her book club that I began with but read far too slowly to keep up with. I also have to thank my sweet wife who always has dinner for me when I come home and who has accommodated my discoveries and changes as they’ve come about. I know I sound like I just got an Oscar, but if you don’t take a minute to thank people when it comes up then you forget too and I don’t want to do that.


Any one else read/reading this book?

What’s your take on it?

Have you changed your eating patterns lately, how?





August 19, 2007

Out with the old...and dusty.

Well Sunday was definitely not the day for rest this week. After, I am ashamed to say a terribly late start, (We're still sleeping in the basement to keep cool and it's so dark that with no alarm clock it's hard to pull ourselves up early.) we began to tear out the carpet and mouldings.

It wasn't terribly hard and our two youngest (9&10) we right there pulling staples and carrying scrap and carpet tack strips out to the trailer; jeez I hate those things. The hardest part of the whole thing was the stairs, I swear there were staples every three inches.

I made it a point to take this rather nasty picture to illustrate further why it is that we are doing all of this work. With our son being allergic to dust and mold spores, this cannot be healthy. Mind you this was a sample from one part of the floor; the total amount was quite a bit more. We are not the type to just let the house go either. My wife keeps a beautiful home for us, and is very good about regular vacuming. I was amazed to see that even though we take our shoes off, and have not quite been in this newly built home for 3 yrs that this much dirt and dust could have accumulated.

This is what we're shooting for, I guess you could call it a before and after of sorts. The left is our kitchen/dining room that we finished before we moved into the house. The right is the subfloor ready to receive wood. When we initially decided on wood, we had looked into doing tile instead. It seemed to us that the cost and the potential for it to be skewed or uneven were too high. (Attention all do-it-yourselfers: know your limits.) At any rate, it turned out cheaper, and we really wanted wood anyway. If you've ever considered doing this and thought it might be too hard, it's not really that bad.

A~'s been painting all day today, and we should begin laying flooring this weekend. I plan to document it for posterity, and as always to share with you.


SLC Green Building Center

Saturday we went down to Salt Lake city to go to "The Green Building Center" our local supply center for environmentally friendly and more natural building products. We came to look for alternatives to polyurethane finish for the hard wood flooring that we are preparing to put in.
In addition to replacing the carpeting in our home with hardwood flooring, we are painting all of the common areas. This is something that we had planned already, and since we are doing it primarily to improve the health of our living environment, we have taken time to research some alternative products to the standard ones available at Lowes/Home Depot.

The main product that I wanted to look into was OSMO's Polyx oil.

"Ingredients 50-60 % solids (High Solid) Base: natural vegetables oils and waxes (sunflower oil, soy- bean oil, thistle oil, - carnauba and candellila wax), paraffines. Additives: siccatives (drying agents) and water-repellent additives. Solvents: disaromatized white spirit (benzenefree - in compliance with purity demands of the European pharmacopoeia)."

This product from what I gather is sort of the cadillac of the natural penetrating sealers. It is a German product and passes the very rigorous German standards for water repelling and saliva fastness. (This last bit was an unusual one for me, but essentially it means that little ones drooling or biting on the product won't degrade it or harm the child. ) I like what I have read about the product but have a couple of issues. One is that it's a foreign product; I'd like to keep my dollars here if at all possible. The other is that it has a longer drying time. 18-24 hrs between coats, and is a little funky smelling. We will be living in the home while we area finishing the floors, this is one reason that we want to keep away from the high odor treatments also, and it will be hard to avoid our stair for 24 hours while it drys.

Another product that I was shown was one called "Tried and True".

"Tried & True Original Wood Finish is made from highly refined, highly Polymerized Linseed Oil and pure Beeswax. This product is 100% solids, and has no solvents or heavy metal driers. The recipe for this finish is adapted from a Shaker finish and an English Arts and Crafts technique."

This was the product that I came away likeing the most. I initally thought that it was not meant for wood flooring, after later looking into it further I found that their website had a complete separate section describing it's use and benefits as related to hardwood flooring. I liked this product for the simplicity of it's ingredients. Lindseed oil and beeswax. Also because one of the other things I have found was a recipe to make a DIY foor polish based on beeswax and I think they would be more compatible. It also takes about 24 hours to cure, but smells much more pleasant. This is also a USA product and is manufactured in NY. It covers about the same amount of space, but also costs considerably less ($59.00/gal compared to $94.00/2.5 L)

On another note. An added benefit to using this type of oil/wax sealants is that when the floor or even just the heavy traffic areas need refinishing, you don't need to strip and sand the entire floor to do it because otherwise the old and new wouldn't match. This type of finish allows you to merely burnish and clean the worn area, and apply locally a new coat of finish. Much less trouble and much less cost.

We also purchased our interior paint here; a product called American Pride.
This is a ZERO VOC paint. Yep, no chemical nasties here. Not low VOC. ZERO. We think we are going to be very happy with this product; not only is it much healthier (it has a slightly yeasty smell rather that the typical plastic bag smell of paint.) but we spot tested it when we got home to check the color and it covers very well. Oh yeah, and at $29.00/gal it's about the same or less than many conventional products out there.

I hope I've been able to give you a better idea of some options that are out there. I'll be doing some more research and possible calling some of the companies. When I know for sure I'll let you know and give a review of the performance.

Tried & True Wood Finishes

OSMO Polyx

American Pride zero VOC paint

August 18, 2007

Eat Local Salt Lake City

I have recently found a local food challenge group in Salt Lake City that is beginning a month long challenge to eat local foods and support local food producers tomorrow. From what I have read on their blog, I really appreciate that they are encouraging people to participate at whatever level they feel comfortable participating at. I am not decided yet on whether or not to participate actively. I have been working this year towards trying to incorporate more local foods into my daily routine. A lot of what I include comes from my yard, while a good portion also comes from neighbors and local farms. With us getting ready to tear up a lot of the house to redo the flooring I don't want to bite off more than I can chew (pun intended). I don't think that I have a lot, or any, local Utah readers, but I encourage any that may drop in to give this a look. There are some truly great vendors out there and Utah farms grow and produce a lot of delicious foods. While we are in Salt Lake tomorrow I hope to get to the Salt Lake Farmers Market and get some of the afore mentioned good foods.

August 16, 2007

Thought for Today

Health is not simply the absence of sickness.

~Hannah Green

August 15, 2007

Moving toward a healthier life

We have recently learned that our oldest son has allergies todust, dander, and mold. He also has what is known as asthmatic croup; in essence, he has asthma that manifests itself as a croupy cough and lasts sometimes for weeks at a time. It has gotten progressively worse over the last couple of years to where he has had to use inhalers regularly and at times steroids. We were finally recommended to go to an allergist to find out if he had any potential allergies that may be a trigger for his asthma. Low and behold, he does. Of course the doctor’s first suggestion was to get C~ on daily doses of prescription meds like Zyrtec or Allegra. My wife and I don’t have a problem with prescription medicines per se; they allow a great number of people to live much more satisfying lives than they would be able to without them. However, our belief has always been that we should try to do our best through healthy choices and environmental changes to try and remedy the problems first, and then move to medicines as a final alternative. It is a common belief among many health experts that because of our quickness to use and sometimes abuse both prescription and over the counter medicines has caused many common ailments such as colds and flu viruses to mutate into strains that are not affected by current medications. I also believe in allowing our bodies to have time to learn to adapt to and deal with it’s ailments on its own.

(DISCLAIMER: I would by no means ever deny anyone in my family, or anyone else for that matter, medicines that are required for their immediate care or well being. I do not advocate nor do I promote living life free from pharmaceuticals as the expense of ones health. C~’s asthma is not critical right now, but could progress to that point if not dealt with.)

His asthma was one of the main reasons that my wife and I began to research natural cleaners and more organic lifestyle options to begin with; he has no one on either side of his family with asthma, and we had learned that a potential cause for it may be the daily exposure to chemicals in cleaners, detergents and household furnishings that we all endure. It is a great concern of ours that his dependance on medications has been growing, and for all of the simpler changes that we have made previously it still seems to be progressing. When we learned about potential causes, or at least things that may be aggrivating it, we wanted to do what we we able to to create a healthier environment. Since we have been using organic cleaners he has not had a major “episode”, however his worst time of the year has always been in the fall – spring. (The times when you spend the most time indoors.)
The other main suggestion that our allergist had for us to try to control it, is to remove as much of the carpeting in our house as possible; particularly in the common areas. Since our position is that we want to try to control his asthma environmentally as much as possible before putting him on drugs we are actively pursuing this. I have done some reading on the VOC’s contained in your typical carpet and padding and we were going to try to take this step in the future anyway, removing the carpet that is, this just changed the timeline. So now we will spend the majority of September ripping out approx 750 sq ft of carpet and padding and replacing it with red oak flooring. I know this is not the most environmentally sustainable flooring option that we could have chosen, and were it not for the fact that we already have large portions of our home done in this material we probably would have chosen another, but it is a flooring that will not need to be replaced for the life of the home, and in such will greatly reduce both our contribution to the landfill, as well as future owners of the home, not to mention providing a much healthier place to live. We’re planning a trip to the green building center in Salt Lake City this weekend to look in to some finishing options that will not include us having to live with all the nasty fumes from Polyurethane or the like. I am leaning towards a penetrating sealant based on natural oils and waxes rather than a surface sealant, but need to educate myself further on durability issues.
Hopefully in by thanksgiving we should have a much healthier living environment for our family and can minimize our need to have our kids on prescription medications. Do any of you or your family members have to deal with this type of respiratory problems? Any advice or things I could take into consideration would be great.

What compost you say??

Well, it seems that this is what happens when I multi-task during a really good documentary. I left out the compost part last night, but did put it into the title. DUH!

All I was going to do was remark that with all of the canning prep yesterday; there was a lot of goodies left over for the compost pile. I have been rolling my new tumbler around the yard every night, and opened it this Saturday to make sure it was moist enough; I think that I will break the 2.5 month mark on this batch. It is cooking away nicely. I am not going to continue adding new stuff to that batch until it is completed. Now having two tumblers, I can begin building a second batch while one is decomposing. I have noticed a boost in the garden also this week, after adding the finished and screened compost from the last batch, no wonder they call it “black gold”. Well, now at least I don’t feel so dumb, I didn’t want you to think I equated our canning with compost? Eeww. On the contrary, I am looking forward to enjoying all of it this winter.

Till later then.


August 14, 2007

Canning and Compost

Came home today and my beautiful wife had been prepping cuc's, beans and the fixings for what she called "chow chow"; I later learned that chow chow is a kind of relish with green peppers, red peppers, cabbage, and onions. We cut, prepped and canned until the kids had gone to sleep.
Total for tonight:

  • 3 quarts of pickles
  • 4 pints of pickled beans
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint of chow chow
  • 1 Quart and 1 pint of salsa.

Everything that we canned tonight came from our local farmers or from our garden. It's not going to keep us over the winter, but more will come for sure.

P.S. I tried some of the chow chow, and it's delicious. I can only describe it as tasting similar to bread and butter pickles, but slightly different with a little spice.

August 12, 2007

Calling in the volunteers

Calling all Vounteers! Calling all Volunteers!

I like to think that it is a sign of a healthy yard and good biology going on in the ground that I am able to get healthy strong plants popping up with no planting or assistance from me. I guess I like to think of it this way so that I don't have to accept the fact that the yard is just a little chaotic and things are in a slight case of disorder at all times.

The first picture is a pumpkin plant with a bit of history. Two years ago, I tried to have a compost pile in that area. It was an open pile that got started a bit too late, and never really got "cooking" like I had wanted it to. Long story short; the next spring, after the pile had decomposed quite a bit over the winter, I tilled the whole lot into the ground to finish off and was going to leave it like that for a while. A couple of weeks after tilling it, I noticed a bunch of sprouts that seemed to look like some sort of squash. Turned out that the pumpkins that we had chopped and put into the C-pile were still viable and very robust. Last year we had a ton of pumpkins that grew wild in this area. Seems I still had some seed in the ground there. That with the fact that my compost tumbler is right above it and leaks a little has made this the best pumpkin plant in the yard.

Here's another volunteer. This little guy is growing quickly, despite having only partial sunlite. You see this tomato plant is under the overhang of my kitchen. facing east. It only gets direct morning sun. It is flowering though, so I have hopes for a 'mater, later. The strange thing is, this area has never really been used by me for anything. I certainly never planted seed there. I can only assume that a bird dropped a package for me with some fertilizer and seed together. Or perhaps my kids had a little too much fun cleaning up the garden with me last year.

Do you keep your volunteers? Have you had any luck with them? If I get good fruit from these, I am going to save some of the seed for next year I think. They earned it after all.


August 11, 2007

Future recycle

Made a great find the other day! Our city is building a new main city hall and sheriffs department HQ. Somebody must have messed up in a big way, because yesterday their dumpster was overflowing with this 4' Diameter PVC pipe, and some 6" PVC. These are going to be used in the future as some sort of hydroponic system. I love being able to find something that's being thrown out and reuse it for something that I have been putting off. These would have cost me quite a few bucks to get new.

Now I just have to stumble over an air and water pump and I'll be almost there.

Thank you.

I thought I would take a minute tonight to say thank you to the fellow bloggers out there that link to me. I appreciate their support, and wanted to make sure that I follow suit in directing others to them.







I don't know if I missed anyone, if I did please correct me. If you haven't dropped in to any of these sites please do.

August 8, 2007

I am what I am.

Why am I the way that I am? Do you ask yourself this question? I seem to be asking it of myself more and more of late. I grew up in sunny southern CA, with a house lot I figure to be somewhere in the neighborhood of .19 acres (this is just a guess, Mom, if your reading you can correct me.). We never had a garden that I am aware of. My mom did always plant flowers and things in the yard to make it attractive, but I never got the impression that it was a passion to her. My dad, having been made to weed the garden when he was a kid was not so ambiguous about his determination to not garden, yet I look forward to gardening every day and sometimes yearn for a place in the country where I can have a small "pocket farm" (Liz I stole your phrase.) of my own and do my best to provide for my own needs. I look back and remember the things that I always was fascinated by, and realize that I can’t understand what it was that got me interested in them in the first place.
I have always liked to grow things for instance. I remember getting a houseplant from my mom when I was a kid, and training it to grow up my walls and across my ceiling. I loved to see it there. Still today, I can get endless satisfaction from just experimenting with plants and watching them grow and evolve. My office has begun to resemble a small greenhouse.
I was also incredibly interested in the old time ways. That is to say that if I could have gone to a Daniel Boone camp or something as a kid I would have been in heaven. I remember I used to get books on American Indian crafts and try to make them out of things I could gather in the canyons behind my house. I made string out of yucca fibers, throwing weapons from scrub oak and rocks, and tried my hand at game traps; I never caught anything. (I’m sure my mom’s thankful for that. I can just imagine her face if I had brought home some jackrabbit for dinner at 10 yrs old.) Today that translates to my interest in finding simpler ways of doing things. I remember being 9 yrs old in Sweden visiting my family; I went to a place called Skansen and found that the living history museum was one of my favorite things ever. Today I like to go to places like This is The Place state park to learn and see how things used to be. Last year, the family and I were in Ohio visiting my wifes side of the family and spent a day checking out the Amish. Oh man, did I love it there, I think the wife was afraid I was gonna move her back and give her a bonnet and a butter churn.
All this being said; how do we get to where we are? I work in the IT industry, and every day wonder how I ended up here? I don't have any peers of mine that have this same fascination. I am curious from you, those of you homesteading or even just those of you with interests that are maybe just a little outside of average, Nature of Nurture?

Compost Day

You may remember a while back when I built myself a DIY homemade Compost Tumbler from an old pickle barrel and some salvaged wood. Today I pulled and screened the finished product of that endeavor. The rich brown humus that is the finished product couldn't make me happier. I was told that if you can't recognize what was put into the compost then it is done. Well, this pile has garden cuttings, grass clippings (some of those from the last addition are still recognizable but barely.), egg shells, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, sawdust, paper towels and shredded documents from work. I'm sure there's a lot of other things that I can't remember, but it is a very well rounded mixture I assure you. I was not really too happy with the physical performance of the composter itself however. The plastic barrel that I used as the main portion of it, was warped pretty seriously because of the double to triple digit heat that we've had this summer, plus the couple hundred degree internal temperature caused by good composting action. I have a method that I am going to try to solve the problem with it, but in the mean time, I was able to procure a new, metal food grade barrel for a measly 3.00 dollars. It was originally a bulk wheat barrel for the Church storehouse and I got it from their thrift store. I haven't modified it too extensively yet. I only punched a bunch of holes in the top and bottom. The lid is removable so I can take it off to add content, or water the mix. Rather than put this barrel in place of the other one, since it has no side opening yet. I decided to leave it on the ground, and roll it across the grass to tumble it. This method I am happy to say, took considerably less time to come up with, and works great. I thought I'd try something new, and post a short clip of it here.

Hope that works for you. It's my first time useing YouTube. So I'll mark two days ago, August 6th as the day I loaded the composter with the goods, and we'll see how long this batch takes to "cook". The last time I did it, it tooks something like 2 1/2 months, I kept adding as I went though. This time, I filled it with kitchen scraps, grass and sawdust and I'm leaving it at that to see how long it takes. Having two tumblers now, I can get one going good, while I start collecting in the other.
I'll keep you posted.

August 3, 2007

Ratatouille & Eggplant Parmesan

Tonight I cooked. I stopped by a local small farm on the way home from work earlier this week and had to use the veggies that I picked up there. I had some zucchini and eggplant, tomatoes from the yard, picked up some onion and bell peppers as mine are lagging in the garden this year and decided to make ratatouille and some eggplant Parmesan. This was not inspired by the movie mind you. I learned to love it a long time before that.
The bottle of Newcastle Brown ale next to the plate (Not a very local purchase, but I need to spoil myself once and a while.) and the not very well plated ratatouille have something in common to me, and always bring back good memories. When I was 19 I was invited to England for a semester to study at the University of London. During my time there I fell in love with Newkie Brown (Newcastle Brown Ale). I needed to work to save money before I went there though and took a job for the summer at a small mom and pop cafe. "The French Gourmet", was a great place to work. The owner and her son and daughter were like family to me, and taught me a lot about cooking. Ratatouille was one of my main duties every week. So to me these two are a great combo. One helped get me to the other.
If you've never made it, you really ought to try it out. You can eat it alone in a bowl like a vegetable stew, or have it for breakfast over a fresh omelet with Swiss cheese, or like tonight serve it with something else like Eggplant Parmesan and soak it up with some french bread and olive oil.
When I cook, unless I am following a strict recipe, I just wing it. I don't generally measure anything and season to taste so my recipe is a little vague; do with it what you will. You can substitute for what is available if you like, what I used were the traditional Provence ingredients.

Onion cubed (1 inch or so); I used two good sized ones.
Bell pepper cubed ; 1 large or two smaller ones.
Zucchini cubed; I had about 3-4 cups I guess.
Eggplant cubed; about 2-3 cups.
Tomatoes cubed, If you have a lot of fresh tomatoes use only those, cube about 5-6 cups worth. If you are short on tomatoes you can supplement what you have with a can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of tomato sauce. (That's what I had to do.)
1 Whole Head Garlic peeled and chopped rough.
Herbs; basil, thyme, parsley (I also added a little rosemary because I like it.)
Olive oil
1. In a medium to large stock pot, add some butter and olive oil. Yes both, olive oil has a higher smoking point and will keep the butter from getting that burnt flavour that is will get if heated to high. I do this because I like to sweat the onions and then get the heat up high to caramelize the sugars in in them and "burn" the edges a little.
2. When the pot is heated, add the onions and salt and pepper them. Sweat them, till they are nearly translucent. Add the garlic and and then turn up the heat for a little while. Watch it here because if you burn the garlic it will be nasty. You want to see the onions starting to brown on the edges and stick to the pan just a little. These are the yummies, you want them.
3. When you see that they are browning, deglaze the pan with some white wine, or cognac if you have it. If your don't use alcohol at all use some vegetable broth or water, just be careful of the salt content in broth. I happened to have some cognac, I don't even remember why, but I added about 1.5 - 2 shots of cognac to a shot of water in a glass and added that, stirring and scraping off all the yummies that were stuck to the pan.
4. Add the bell peppers and herbs and reduce the heat to a med simmer.

(pause to smell the good smell coming from the pot... mmmmmm.) OK, back on track.

5. After about 3-5 minutes add the zucc's and eggplant and tomatoes, salt and pepper again. to taste. Cover and simmer for 45 min - 1 hour. Check and stir periodically so it doesn't stick.
6. Before the eggplant are quite done (not quite soft but not hard at all), remove the cover and cook it down a bit to condense the flavors. This is a good time for the taste test to see where you are seasoning-wise and adjust as necessary.

That's it. I hope you give it a try if you haven't had it before, it is a great summer treat to make with all the fresh veggies we have access to.

For the Eggplant Parmesan I just sliced the eggplants into 1/2 inch thick slices, mixed some bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese 50/50 and added some salt and pepper to the crumbs. Dipped the eggplant in some beaten egg and covered with Parmesan.
I fried them on a med heat in the same oil/butter mix until they were browned and just softened. If they look a bit too dark it's probably OK. the cheese will darken a little more, but tastes great regardless.

Now I think I'm hungry again, maybe a little midnight snack; ratatouille is great cold too you know?

August 1, 2007

Thought for Today

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.

~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755 - 1826), (The Physiology of Taste, 1825 )

What I'm reading

I am not a fast reader, let's get that out in the open. It's not that I am not a good reader, on the contrary, I think I am actually a very good reader. It's just that I am hyper analytical I think. I read something, then a few sentences later I get an epiphany, and go back to re-read it. Either that, or I get distracted by something else, and completely just lose where I was at for ten minutes.
Lately I have been working on this book. I initially began reading it as a part of Crunchy Chickens book club but alas, I am a book club drop out; just too damned slow I guess. Actually I was in the middle of reading it when we headed out on our marathon vacation earlier this summer, and haven't been able to read it again until lately as I had to wait for it to be available at the library again.
At any rate, I know a lot of you are familiar with the book. Have many of you read it? It is absolutely one of the best non-fictions books that I have read. This book has caused me to, whether I like it or not, rethink a lot of the way that I eat, and how I want to eat and feed my family in the future. I, like so many, had really been starting to buy into the organic foods propaganda that is the marketing du jour for foods, and until reading about the ways that a lot of the "organic" foods are processed, really did assume that it was happy cows in California if you know what I mean?
I have been reading the chapter on Joel Salatin's Polyface farm. I was so impressed with the lengths and measures they take to mimic in essence what is a completely natural cycle. The cows fertilize the grass, while leaving it short enough for the chickens to clean up and "de-parasite" it while aerating and further fertilizing it. The woods protect the watershed, and allow the grasses to flourish. Every facet of the farm is tied to multiple other facets to create a complex and diverse polyculture and produce a very high quality product in a very efficient way. I have been looking into more local foods, and have been actively buying what I can from some of our local farmers, but am sad to say I haven't found a lot of them, or that they are not easy to get to. The search continues however, and my garden which has been sorely lacking this year seems to be getting into shape now.
If you have not heard of this book, I highly recommend it. If you are very happy with your current diet, and prefer to be ignorant of where your food comes from, I don't. Don't take that as a challenge, or a put down, just understand if you read this book, you can't help but to start rethinking what you eat.