Thursday, June 30, 2011

Current Culinariousness...

 even though we don't have a garden yet, we have the great fortune of living next to someone who does.  someone who recently went out of town, and who left me in charge of watering her about-to-totally-domino tomato plants.  JACKPOT!

seriously, one of the best things about summer is a texas tomato.  i can't wait to grow my own.  a summer tomato sums up why vegetables, gardening, and life in general is awesome: this plant sucks up water and sunlight and carbon dioxide and turns it into sugar and oxygen.  to reproduce, it makes a flower, and behind the flower begins to swell a green bead. sun and water create more sugar, and the bead fills with seeds and juice and tender flesh and grows red and sweet.  and pick it!  and eat it! and the plant just makes more and more. tomatoes are a summer eruption in my mouth.  I LOVE THEM.

my kitchen candy jar.

anyway, so we started to get a whole bunch of these awesome tomatoes, big and cherry, red and yellow.  i was determined to use them to their greatest potential, as well as the delicious organic meats and vegetables i had acquired from a recent grocery store adventure.  also, i had some ethical fish to deal with.  so let the foodblithers begin!

i have never been the biggest chili fan, but in recent years i have acquired a taste for it--especially now that i've learned how to use a slowcooker thing.  d. loves chili and devotes a lot of time and attention when he makes it, and his techniques inform my own chilimaking.  it seems more like a winter food, in some ways; however, chili made with a slew of fresh tomatoes and onion is a revelation. we don't do chili with beans--just diced tomatoes, onion, browned ground buffalo, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, salt, garlic.  slow-cookered on low for 6 hours.  i used about 5 smallish whole tomatoes this time, coarsely chopped. the skins slipped off during cooking and i just fished them out, but that was super time i'll actually peel them.  right.

i did squeeze out their seeds and keep the remaining 1/2 cup of juice, to which i added 1/2 cup lone star beer. and dumped that in there too, right at the beginning.  YUM!

then, just to be silly, i made cheese popovers from a recipe straight out of The Joy of Cooking (p. 637, 75th Anniversary Edition) to go with the chili.  now granted, i've had a lot of time and eggs lately for such silliness.  but it was a leisurely 45 minutes well spent.

so, we ended up having tasty chili and popovers for dinner, and there was way too much, so i stuck the leftovers in the out-of-town neighbor's freezer.  i figure, gotta pay up, you know?

rainbow trout is on the Super Green List from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, and it was also on sale the other day.  i have had great luck with trout whether i sautée or grill it, and this was going to be a sautée kind of day.  after rinsing it off and drying it thoroughly, i dunked each filet in a mixture of 1 (silkie-sized) egg and 1/4 cup milk, then in a flour/breadcrumb/dried spice combo (i know tarragon and basil and garlic powder were in there). 
after getting the fish happily sauteeing in some pre-heated, pretty hot butter and olive oil (skinside up first!  let it brown! then skinside down), i started steaming some spinach.  i had already been boiling some red potatoes.  i love when 3/4ths of the stovetop tops are occupied by deliciousness.
in the time it took the spinach to wilt to perfection, the fish was ready to go.  i love me some rainbow trout...the fillets are long and thin and get just a bit crispety!
if you eat meat, specifically pork: i suggest you get some good pork.  not just because it's more ethical if it's from happy pigs who are raised naturally and humanely and killed with respect; it is SO MUCH MORE DELICIOUS. it's like you can taste that the pig independently foraged for, and ate, flowers for breakfast. in this particular case, dan grilled these pork loin chops, seasoned with salt/garlic/olive oil/paprika, for around 6 minutes a side.  and we had it with rice and salad with tomatoes/fresh mozzerella.  i accidentally started eating it before i could take a picture of it.
so i have all these millions of cherry tomatoes now, may of them the golden pear kind, and i'm like, i can't eat all these.  not for lack of trying, either, but there are only so many sunbombs you can eat in one day!  there is only one thing to do.  make tomato soup.  not just any tomato soup, i thought...golden cherry tomato BISQUE, because that sounds fancier and more summery.  and i decided to have it with these colorado mountain lamb chops i had nabbed, with a side of simple parmesan noodles. yum. yum.

 so i chopped up ALL those cherry tomatoes and three big ones (i squeezed out the seeds but didn't peel anything....again), and the other half of the onion, and like 5 garlic cloves (we REALLY LIKE GARLIC) and i threw it all in a biggish pot with some butter/olive oil (per usual), and started cookin' it. i added a few glugs of chicken broth, and i threw the spice cabinet at it.  after letting it all melt and sizzle and stir together for about 20 minutes, i added about one glug (1/4 cup maybe?) of heavy cream.  after letting it simmer for one minute more (gently!), i blended it up and returned it to the pot.
now, it was time to grill up the lambchops. not much to that, i seasoned them with salt/garlic/paprika (my favorite combo!) and massaged them with a little olive oil.  as we are rare meat eaters, i did them on a pre-heated gas grill on med-high heat for 4 minutes a side.
the parmesan noodles were a simple matter of breaking up spaghetti noodles, boiling until al-dente and adding a bit of butter and parmesan. BAM.
lamb is one of my favorites, and this was delicious...however, i have to say, i like the lamb from the austin farmer's market a bit better than this colorado lamb.  something about texas grass maybe? the soup was definitely the best part of this meal, in my time i make tomato soup, i will DEFINITELY peel the tomatoes though.  i PROMISE.  really!  again, we gave the leftover golden cherry tomato bisque as a tithing to our tomato-bearing neighbor, and i hope she enjoys it as much as i did.  tomatoes are so bleeping good.

i sure love cooking and food, and i feel deeply lucky that i get to eat dinners like these.  thank you for your attention, dear reader...more news from the 'farm', and further adventures in baking, are coming soon! stay tuned!

Grocery Store Adventure!

one of the main reasons we began this TUFsperiment was to become more aware food consumers--more simply, better grocery shoppers.  taking steps to produce some of our own food is good progress--pilfering the neighbor's garden, the daily egg, dreaming of our own vegetable patch-- but grocery shopping will always be a major part of our food consumption. so i'm in the market for a non-big box grocery store.  the saturday farmer's market is awesome, but it's not saturday in the middle of the week!

another factor: non-big-box grocery stores are not cheap.  that is to say, big-box grocery stores ARE cheap, but for all the wrong reasons.  i expect to pay more for ethically- and sustainably-produced food, because the production costs are not masked by mass factory food practices.  i also find myself spending SO much money anyway on any given big-box run, and i realize that i rarely check prices on anything....i just fill up my cart, wince at the check out line and assume that i've gotten the everyday low price on everything.  that's not being a very conscious consumer!

so i decided to scope out a non-big-box grocery store, and i decided to set a reasonable limit and stick to it: $150, calculator out, every item in the cart accounted for.  i was going to try to do a 'normal' kind of big box grocery run at a non-big box 'fancy' store for $150.  hypothesis: i can get way more than i think at the non-big-box for a reasonable about of cash.

procedure: i headed straight for Wheatsville Food Co-op, but the parking lot was full.  undaunted, i carried on down guadalupe in search of The Natural Grocer, a small store i had noticed before but hadn't ever really thought about.  its full name continues, " Vitamin Cottage," which i always thought was strange.   but there were parking spaces, so i went for it.

i always notice the smell of places first thing, and the natural grocer had the smell of a fancy grocery store...i always imagine this particular scent to be a combination of wheat grass and bulk grain and dirt, and it's distinctive to non-big-box fancy schmancy grocery stores.  i kind of like it, but it smells expensive.  i selected a wheeliebasket, got out my calculator and began exploring.

shortly, a casually-official looking gentleman approached me and asked if i was finding everything all right, and had i ever been here before?  i said no, this was my first run at the natural grocer, and that i was getting my bearings before the real shopping began.  he said he was Robert, the general manager, from denver!  he was here to check out the newish austin store, and he asked  if i had any questions about anything.  i said, how much of your produce is locally-sourced?  he said that since the natural grocers by vitamin cottage was based in denver, they worked with many farmers and artisens in the denver area and from around colorado.  but he realizes that people in austin really like to support their local community, and that he was actively looking to work with local growers.  i thought that was a pretty decent answer, and robert seemed like a nice fellow.  i said, what's the deal with 'by vitamin cottage?' he explained that they had started as a natural vitamin and supplement outfit, but that the business really started growing when they started selling organic/natural groceries.  he said the natural grocers took pride in being 100% organic.  (i have some questions about the systems that label things as 'organic,' but that bears some more research.) at any rate, he seemed sincere.

we spoke for a bit about the fact that food that is ethical and sustainable is more expensive than mass-produced food, and he pointed out the fact that the grocery store had no fancy displays or deli/meat counters or anything like that, and this was in an effort to keep prices lower.  he also showed me that there were a lot of different items on specials or sales in the hopes of offsetting the higher price of natural/sustainable/ethical foods.  i explained my $150 experiment, and he said he would be checking up on me over the course of my grocery shopping to see how the store was holding up to my expectations and budget.  i was impressed that he seemed genuinely interested in my experience (and experiment!).

i acquired the following items (all organically grown/produced, according to robert):
lettuce/spinach/red cabbage/broccoli (colorado)
2 tomatoes (from gonzales tx!)
onion/garlic/red potatoes (colorado)
avocado/lemon/lime (?)
cantaloupe (colorado?)
fresh mozzerella cheez
lambchops/sirloin steaks/chicken breasts/ground buffalo/pork chops (meat = VERY EXPENSIVE for good reason)
frozen broccoli/peas
canned green beans
bottled juice (2 lemonades!)
sliced provelone (horizon farms)
salsa (local)
chips (garden of eaten or whatever)
pickels (bubbies?)
pasta sauce

for just under $147.  i was impressed!  this represented a significant grocery run for a very reasonable amount of cash at the non-big-box-all-fancy-natural grocery store.  hypothesis, first trial: confirmed!

over the course of my rounds, robert and the other store employees did check on me and were extremely helpful. i ended up chatting with them for a little while, and found i could have a source of FREE organic vegetable odds and ends for guinea pigs and chickens--all i had to do was call!  at check out they boxed up all my groceries (they don't use plastic or paper bags--just left over boxes) and even gave me a free re-useable grocery bag.  i kind of felt like a celebrity or something, actually.  it was very pleasant.

at any rate, my grocery store adventure at The Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage was educational and validating.  just the act of keeping a close running total on the contents of my basket was enlightening, and discovering i could do a real grocery run at an expensive smelling store for a reasonable amount of cash was encouraging.  plus everybody was super nice and i got free stuff out of it.  so the moral of this story is: i will probably go back there! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Twitter and Tumblr

so here it is!  our compost pile!  i finally got it started.  see, it's got lots of hay in it.  i've even put some extremely exciting scraps in it, like radish bits and used compostable all-natural dryer sheets.  i mean, this is a happenin' compost pile.  the carbon and nitrogen are totally working it with all the micro-organisms and...


baby chicks?

you clicked on this because you wanted to see gratuitous fluffy baby-avian cuteness from our absolutely precious new baby chicks?
forget the compost heap!  introducing...
Twitter and Tumblr, the french marans (twitter) and ameraucana (tumblr) chicks.  ta daaaa!  twitter is the gray one and tumblr is the reddish brown. i ended up going to callahan's for chicks after all, because i couldn't wait!

twitter is a french cuckoo marans, which (probably) means she will lay dark chocolate brown eggs someday.  the guy at callahan's said she would have 'blue' plumage, and her down is silvery soft.  (marans always has an 's,' even if you're talking about one marans....isn't that weird?)

we got them on monday, and already i've been able to tell that twitter is an interesting little character. at first i thought she was just more shy than tumblr--perhaps a little timid, even--but after further observation, i think she is just a bit of a cynic.  she submits to being picked up, and even snuggles up to one's fingers after a few moments.  but she has a kind of gallic shrug about it all--oui oui, you are huge, i am tiny, you are going to pick me up, eh...l'enfer, c'est le géant .  que existentialiste.  by the way, she will eventually have feather pants.  LOVE. THAT.

 tumblr, on the other hand, is a pistol.  she will run and leap and hop and squirm and yes, even make a paltry (poultry?) attempt to fly to avoid being captured.  but once she is securely in hand, she is quite friendly and inquisitive.  and even snuggly.

if twitter is an existentialist, tumblr is a revolutionary.  she can already fly further than i thought chicks could even dream of flying.  she is, after all, an ameraucana...destined to have spectacular cheek feathers and lay beautiful turquoise eggs.  she will nearly fall asleep in my hand, just to hurl herself in the air toward her home base a moment later.  and she is a tiny reddish-brown poof.

they are cute together in their mini-run on the back porch, trying out their chicken instincts!  tumblr loves to scratch the food dispenser, and twitter is already a bug catching ace.

at any rate, they are a brave new TUFventure, and terribly cute to boot.  i hear they turn into gawky teenage hens in about 6 weeks (4 weeks from now), at which point we introduce them to pearl and ninja.  with the right amount of luck and distraction, that process should go smoothly--and will of course be set down here in detail ad nauseum, dear reader.
other TUF blithers shall be conveyed in the near future: ethical seafood preparations, compostual progress, plant-sitting the neighbors garden (laden with tasty tomatoes!) and a surprising recent grocery store adventure.  and of course (forgive me): updates on twitter and tumblr.  stay tuned! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ah, (Backyard) Wilderness!

per usual, friday morning i moseyed out to the back yard with the dogs to have a quick cavort and to release the ladies.  pearl and ninja are always glad to see us these days, eager to flop down the ramp for the daily scratchings--and lately there's been an egg-gift waiting for us right off the bat.

this morning, they seemed particularly eager to get the pecking started.  pearl especially tends to be a bit lazy, and might lounge on the hay for awhile before getting down to the business of dust bathing and grub hunting.  but this morning they both hopped down straight away.  i thought nothing of it, and opened up the coop to check for an egg.  instead, i saw:

 a formidable, and beautifully marked, Texas Rat Snake.  i froze for a moment.

now, i am not afraid of snakes. in fact, i live with a lovely amelanistic corn snake.  but this was definitely the biggest snake i'd ever seen not in my terrarium on my dresser.  and it looked pretty TUF.

it wasn't after the chickens, of course, they are (barely!) too big.  it was after those delicious eggs.  since it did not put on a famous rat snake tail shakin' white mouth showin' kinked-up display, and since it even had a rather sated look on its face, i had a pretty good idea where my morning egg went.

after freezing, my next instinct was to grab it.  it's not poisonous, it's just big! and i'll just pick him up, toss him over the fence, no big deal, i've seen the nature show guys do it a thousand times...the snake is watching carefully. i make a move toward it. the snake kinks up a bit.  dan looks at me.

"please...please don't stick your hand in there and try to grab the snake," he says patiently. he reaches for the rake and attempts to spaghetti the snake gently around the tines.  the snake is not having it, and has great snake strength.  after a brief struggle, the snake decides to beat it and...leaps? is an odd choice but...sort of LEAPS down and slithers off, all 5ish feet of him.  so, i guess we saw him off.

thus, an ancient, near-forgotten, oft-repeated conflict plays out in my backyard.  humans modify their environment, and domesticate useful animals.  the environment modification for domestic animals attracts opportunistic wild animals, who recognize a buffet when they see it.  the human must banish the wild predator, as the useful domesticated animals are helpless without human protection.  plus the human wants the eggs for herself.  the human wonders what to do about the snake issue, and begins to brainstorm possible preventative solutions.   but the human has to look at the magnificent reptile with appreciation, and a certain different are we really, that texas rat snake and i?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Eggzchange, Etc...

i had the great fortune to make a first-time TUF give away...a  half-dozen eggs to stephanie and earnest, our lovely neighbors a couple houses down.  i say eggzchange, because look at that smile i got in return!  i promised them many more eggs in the future, and thanked them for helping us begin to fulfill one of the original TUF objectives.  i am so glad we have neighbors willing to accept, and even endorse, our attempted TUF exploits.  plus just being generally awesome.  THANKS Y'ALL.

it is possible that this weekend will see the acquisition of two new chicken additions.  a colleague-turned-friend has a full-on RANCH not far from here, just a little further east down the road really.  austin is super-urban north, south and west of/on IH35, but one goes just a bit east and shortly finds one's self in climes quite rural.  the ATX is expanding so quickly, though, that even my friend's ranch might be a totally urban farm sooner than anyone imagines!

pearl and ninja have been doing incredibly is a joy to watch their daily scratching and peckings and explorings.  they have both learned to go up and down the coop ramp, and are consistently putting themselves to bed when the sun goes down!  i even trimmed pearl's nails a couple weeks ago, and she didn't seem to mind that much.  they are giving us an egg a day, sometimes two.

in terms of resource consumption, we acquired these two chickens on may 15th.  they came with a $2 bag of organic chicken feed from callahan's that we still have not yet exhausted, although we will have to get some more in the next week or so.  the next day we got a $2 bag of hay from same establishment, and only JUST ran out of that.  and i am liberal with the hay.  first thing each morning i let them out of the coop whilst doing dog duty, then close the ramp up at night after they have hit the hay.  (literally!  that's where that COMES from! well, kind of.)  anyway, thus far, the time/financial commitment has been dwarfed by the eggs and entertainment they have provided.  i am definitely enjoying chicken keeping, and highly recommend it!  and, of course, i am looking forward to our near-future additions.
pearl and gwen

the coop, contents, and interested parties

in other TUF-related news, dan grilled the most delicious farmer's market ThunderHeart Bison NY strip steaks i've ever had in my LIFE the other night...they were marinated in worchestershire sauce, fish sauce, cayenne pepper, and sea salt, and then grilled about 6-8 minutes per side.  he MAY have basted them with butter while they were grilling. MAYBE.  they were pretty thick, and we like them horrendously rare.  paired simply with rice and green beans, the dogs didn't even get any bites. well, okay, they got a TINY BIT at the end. i aim for full disclosure.
i mentioned in the previous post that i would find and/or create a list of ethical fish choices; as pointed out by a dear old friend, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has put out an amazing list!  because just posting that link was too easy, a future post will be dedicated to my own handlings of fish on the "good choice" or SuperGreen List.

so stay tuned for that, new chickens, and more TUF blither! thank you for reading, Dear Readers!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Culinarious Explorations

lately, Totally Urban Farming has cruised on a comfortable plateau as we adjust to the new summer schedule. pearl and ninja, the dear silkies, have been providing eggs on a daily basis, and only just as of today have we been able to collect 7 in row without using them in something scrumptious!

the neighbor's compact, TUF front-yard garden has begun the bumper yield of golden cherry tomatoes, and this is one of the first handfuls. when she gives them to us, she always tells me they are for col. snuggles (our tomato-gobbling guinea pig). he gets some of them, but i skim a few off the top. they are delicious--just picked and warm, they taste like sundrops!

what follows is a chronicle of some cooking adventures lately.  i love cooking, but i am far from an advanced cook.  i find that rarely anything i make comes out the same way twice.  i guess you could say my cooking style is.....approximate?

I. sauteed tilapia.  i love fish!  all fish!  and some fish are more ethical than others...i intend to assemble a list of ethical edible fish soon.  i have read that freshwater fish like tilapia tend to be a good choice, as they are farmed here in north america and the farming techniques aren't too hard on the environment.  but i should do more research...

we often buy fresh fish at the big box and freeze it, letting it thaw in the fridge or submerging it in cold running water in the sink if we're in a hurry.  tilapia generally holds up to both these treatments well, as long as they are fairly hefty fillets.  i make sure to dry them off very well before sauteeing.

this fish was dipped in one well-beaten egg, then a mixture of unbleached all-purpose flour, breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and dried basil.  then it got sauteed in a mixture of butter/olive oil heated up past the foamy stage.  for crispy flaky goodness, i think it was maybe 2-3 minutes a side? yum.

II. rotisserie chicken.  we got the toaster oven that has a rotisserie function as a wedding gift, and it is one of the most useful appliances i've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  we use the rotisserie aspect of it more than the toaster!

it is great for cooking smallish chickens around 3 lbs, cornish game hens, and the occasional pork/beef/lamb roast.  we have even done ducks up 5 lbs, and it works like a champ.  it's awesome in the summer too, because it doesn't heat up the house like the oven does. 

this was a farmer's market bird, about 3.7lbs.  i rubbed it with olive oil/seasalt/garlic powder/paprika/rosemary/basil, stuffed it with a carrot and garlic cloves, trussed it, and let it roast-isserie for about an hour and 20.  i started the cabbage when the chicken had about 10 minutes left to go, and let it sit while i finished everything.

III. purple cabbage.  one of my favorite vegetables for its flavor, color, cheapness, and ability to last forever. i start by melting 1-2 tablespoons of butter in my biggest pan, waiting until after it foams, and then toss the cabbage in there.  i kind of semi-stir fry it for a little bit, until everything looks buttery, and then i add chopped up garlic or green garlic. then comes a substantial glug of white wine (or red, depending on what i'm drinking!), and i let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, with the occasional stir.  the color turns really lovely and translucent, and it becomes sweet and tender.

IV. jalapeno-cilantro soup **SEMI-FAIL**.  it looks good, and it had really good stuff in it (cream, avocado, farmers market onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes). but the recipe called for...i kid you not...EIGHT cups of heavy cream. (8).  which is a stunning amount of heavy cream.  determined to give the delicious-sounding soup a shot, i bravely executed the steps of the recipe.  but i freaked out after adding 3.5 cups of heavy cream, so i improvised with some on-hand half-and-half. i abandoned dairy addition after another cup of that, however.  i physically couldn't deal with that much cream!

but we tried the soup anyway, and it was extremely rich, even after my cream-reducing freak out.  much more like a sauce or fancy dip rather than soup.  frankly, we didn't like it much.  and i hate when i go out of the way to make something that sounds so delicious, and then we don't like it!  what a waste!

but fear not: we gave the leftovers to the neighbor, and she said she loved it. THANKS BONNIE!  it is so good to have neighbors!

V. chocolate mousse.  after the creamy soup fiasco, i had some heavy cream left over.  it was burning a hole in my sweet tooth pocket. (i'm not sure that actually makes sense, but you get my meaning.) i had the thought that chocolate mousse could be pretty easily made out of heavy whipping cream.

I WAS TOTALLY RIGHT.  i whisked it vigorously (a great workout!) until soft peaks stuck around.  then i melted some chocolate chips and folded them in.  THEN i poured it in coffee cups and covered it with saran wrap, and stuck it in the fridge.

one hour later: BAM. chocolate mousse as good as i've ever had in a restaurant.  so worth the curse of the creamsoup!

at any rate, i've been pleased with my cooking adventures lately.  for the record, i've also been "training" for a "5k" that i'm "going to be doing" here at the end of next week.  (it's true, i've been really jogging and stuff.  i'm kind of proud of that, but i'm not bragging, because i'm not sure how long it's going to last! but i'm glad i'm doing the race!) also, exercising regularly makes me feel very entitled to delve into as much culinary experimentation as i like.  so there!  stay tuned!

Zucchini Muffins

the smell and texture of zucchini muffins hold a lot of nostalgia for me.  i have them most firmly associated with the highland park cafeteria in dallas, and i think i must've been pretty young when i had my first one...they taste like warm, comfortable memories!

i used zucchini from the farmer's market, 3 silkie eggs and unbleached all-purpose flour. i have found that the latter is slightly more expensive, but seems healthier and ...heartier? than the more processed regular bleached flour.  it says it is all-natural and has lots of fiber, and isn't especially different-textured. so i'll take it!

so, preheat the oven to 400.  lightly grease a muffin pan.  grate 2 cups of zucchini, skin and all, on a regular box-style grater.  it appears that one medium zucchini equals just about 2 cups, which surprised me!  put the grated zucchini on paper or dish towels and squeeeeeeeeeze out all the moisture.  (don't be obsessive though.) set aside.

whisk 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, pinch salt (sea preferable) and hefty pinch cinnamon in a small bowl or large measuring cup.

in a bigger bowl, dump 1/2 cup vegetable oil, followed by 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup brown sugar (or whatever kind of sugar/combination...i love brown sugar). cream until fluffy.  add eggs, one by one, with a solid beating in between each.  add a teaspoonish (or capfulish) of vanilla extract.  mix it all up well!

introduce the flour mixture to the sugar mixture one third at a time, stirring quickly and not too much.  lumps are ok!  fold in your tasty zucchini shreds.  (this is a good time to 'quality assurance check' the batter, if you're a batter fan, like yours truly.)

fill the muffin pan's muffin cups about 3/4 full, a generous glop in each one.  pop in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.  trust your schnazz to tell you when they are done--you can tell by the smell!  (and when something stuck in one of 'em comes out clean...)

cool for about 5-10 minutes in the pan, and then de-muffincup the muffins and devour.  extra decadent is a little soft butter spread on a sliced muffin half.  and see those tasty green zucchini bits?  you're totally eating vegetables, right?? MMMMMMMM. (they will keep for 1-2 days, maybe a bit longer in the fridge.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

TUFcation Musings and Marvels

happy june!  school's out, new science teaching job on the horizon, loose ends tied up, ready for new adventures in frolic and farmlife.  we decided to take a quick jaunt down to the coast for some beachery (debeachery?), and wound up first in corpus christi, then port aransas, boat drinks in hand.  thanks to sara and tim for fledgling farm-sitting!  it is lovely to know that weekend getaways are still possible, even with zillions of pets, thanks to generous friends.  i thought i was being pretty cool when i said, hey, keep any eggs you find!  but they were already farm-sitting for another friend with some 20 chickens, and had already collected a dozen from this way TUF-er TUF!  they are good totally urban farmers themselves, with some lovely tomato and pepper plants growing bushy in the back yard.  i am thankful for the people i know.

we stayed the first night with some dear old friends who are in the process of opening a restaurant in corpus, and then we drove up to port aransas for a lovely evening spent right near the beach.  by chance we found a fantastic motel with an aviation theme; the inn-keepers were pilot people, and each well-kept room referenced a moment in the history of  aviation.  we stayed in the Women Pilots room, which featured pictures of many lady aviators (who were COMPLETE BADASSES) from the early- and mid-20th century.  of course there were some pictures of the most famous Amelia Earhart, but she had her very own-themed room!  these two women caught my attention the most--i may need to do some more research.  such. badasses.

The motel also brought free breakfast to our door in the morning, which consisted of some locally-concocted apple fritters, coffee, and juice.  i highly recommend The Harbor Inn if you're ever in port aransas!

we also ate at The Venetian Hot Plate, where i partook of an incredibly fresh-tasting, locally caught fish called a 'triple tail.' this mahi-mahi-esque (ha!) fish came grilled with a roasted corn and tomato relish, which wasn't very italian until i got to the wonderfully garlicky risotto.  and the bread/olive oil RULED.  as did our whole little seaside vacation!  i didn't even get sunburned this time, and the swimming was soothing.

on the way to and from the gulf coast, i found some new amazement in the vast fields of crops that line highway 37.  of course, anyone who's ever been on a road trip has seen, and even may have dozed off to, the miles and miles and acres and acres of fields of food crops.  but for some reason, even thinking about the care and time that goes into small-time vegetable gardening makes me gape at these huge fields.  they are both awesome and terrifying: who and/or what harvests all that produce?  who/what keeps it pest-free and weeded?  how much water does it take, what waters it, and where does all that water come from?  i realized i didn't even know what crops i was seeing as we passed by.  i am reminded of the reason why i started all this TUF business--i want to feel less removed from food.

so now we're back, and i'm ready to devote some time to becoming TUF-ier.  next post will feature some new cooking conquests, like zucchini muffins!  i still want chicks!  stay tuned...