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Our First Summer Harvest

10 Aug

We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest. 
– Orison Swett Marden

Summer Straigntneck Squash, Jalapeno Peppers, Bush Beans, Green Zebra Heirloom Tomatoes, Black Beauty Zucchini, Red Brandywine Tomato, Yellow Pear Tomatoes, Rainbow Cherry Tomatoes, Green Onions, Sweet Dumpling Squash

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Farmer’s Market 8.6.11

6 Aug

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Sushi Yum.

5 Aug

I am a huge, huge, huuuuuge fan of sushi. I just cannot get enough of it. However, it hasn’t always been this way.

I had my first piece of shrimp when I was 18 years old. I didn’t eat raw fish until about two years ago. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t use chopsticks for most of my life.  It didn’t feel natural! My kind and patient Japanese friend Emiko, worked with me for years on my chopstick skills. I just couldn’t seem to grasp it. Maybe it was that the food never enticed me enough to HAVE to use chopsticks-  until sushi came along of course.

Sushi. It is light, yet filling. It is colorful, flavorful, full of great textures and in my opinion, it’s food art! I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when my rolls are presented to me. And, it just feels clean (unless you get the rolls that have avocado, cream cheese, crab salad, tempura shrimp and then are deep fried and smothered in spicy mayo! Still delicious- not clean).

You may have heard of a little company (7,000+ employees since their November 2008 opening!) called Groupon.  Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in a localized market. In my case, Salt Lake City. I have been subscribed to Groupon for at least one year but I have never really come across a deal I just HAD to have.

Until today.

Rice Fusion Cuisine located in Salt Lake City serves  Japanese, Thai, Chinese , Vietnamese and Vegetarian fusion cuisine. With it’s beautifully modern decor and great ambiance, it is sure to please. And guess what? Rice Fusion Cuisine is known best for their sushi. I could not resist.

Today only, you can buy a$20 gift certificate for $10. Click here to get your deal!

And, to add insult to injury, here is a tutorial on how to use chopsticks.

Taught by a six-year old.

Colors of the Rainbow

3 Aug

Recently, I made a trip to downtown Salt Lake City, where my two 4′ x 20′ plots are located in a community garden. I weeded, trimmed and cut back plants to my absolute satisfaction. With the sun warming my skin, I looked over my plots with pride, taking in all the lush green, yellow, orange, red and pink. I lazily breathed in the earthy goodness. Why is gardening so therapeutic anyway?

The only plant ready to harvest was my Rainbow Swiss Chard. I carefully plucked the outer leaves off of my plants and I had an array of colors- red, pink, yellow, orange and green. I have never actually eaten Swiss Chard before, but I was told it is great for juicing, which I am an avid fan of. So, I thought I’d give it a shot. It is by far the easiest thing I have grown to date. I grew it from seed and it grew to maturity really quickly; 45 days or less. It was quite resilient with all the flooding rains and the opposing heat we’ve experienced this summer. You go swiss chard! Sadly, my spinach wasn’t blessed with the same tenacity.

I headed home with my surplus (seriously, I have a ton. If you want some, lemme know) of chard and began to prepare it. I enlisted Carter to help me with the washing and separating of the chard. He was marginally interested in the project- only because he had been the one to plant the seeds. We had an assembly-style operation taking place. I would inspect the chard (for damaged stems or worse- bugs!), wash the chosen chard and give it a quick shake. I would then pass it off to Carter who would blot the chard with a paper towel and lay it out nicely on a dry towel. Our system was very efficient and quite methodic. As I inspected, washed and shook, I would occasionally hear a snapping noise behind me. I noticed it the first few times and kept right on with my job. Eventually, there became a real rhythmic way to the snapping;  Snap-crunch-crunch-Snap-crunch-crunch-Snap-crunch-crunch

What the?

I turned around and to my sheer horror, I found Carter biting off a piece of stem off every. single. piece. of chard! What the?! What the?!

Now, let me just tell you- Carter is pretty much a carnivore. I have done my best to subtly impress my views on refraining from meat and eating a mostly plants-based diet. Let’s just say it hasn’t stuck. Or so I thought.

For some reason beyond my comprehension, Carter actually enjoyed eating swiss chard. So I didn’t interrupt him. I didn’t interfere into his exploration of this new vegetable. I didn’t shout, “You’re contaminating the chard!!” (I must admit, contamination always crosses my mind. I’m a bit of a germaphobe). I was simply content with the fact that if he CHOSE to eat vegetables, who was I to get in the way?

Perhaps because of his involvement in the gardening process (picking out seeds, preparing soil, planting the seeds, watering multiple times a week and finally, harvesting the chard), he saw more value and appreciation in this miraculous plant, and therefore, it appeared more appetizing.

According to Health.com, studies of after-school programs suggest that kids who garden are more likely to eat the produce they grow as well as the ones you put on their plate.

Here are some good ideas on growing a garden with the kiddos in mind and hopefully in turn, encouraging them to eat just a little more healthily.

Colors as vibrant as the rainbow helps too.

Family Food Throwdown 2011

29 Jul

Image courtesy of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

I like food. I like food a lot. Get use to lots and lots of posts about, surrounding, and including food on this blog.

My family has the same love affair with food.

Every year, my mother and stepfather sponsor a Family Food Throwdown (think Food Network-style food competition).  Ma and Pa choose a food item, and each individual or individual family does their own rendition of the selected item.

Combine a love of food with competition- you are welcome into my family at any time.

Previous Food Throwdown Competition Results:

FFT 2008 – Burgers
Winner: Andrea with the “Cowboy Burger”

FFT 2009 – Soup
Winner: Andrea with “Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup”

FFT 2010 – Cupcakes
Winner: Carly H. with “Death by Chocolate”

You’ll notice my name Carly W. does not grace any of those competition results…

I do enter every year and I am convinced that I will win every year. Let’s just say, people like food that they are familiar and comfortable with.

Note: Do not experiment with food when entering it into a food competition.

Andrea (the two-time champ) advised me last year to “always go with the tried-and-true”, meaning choose ingredients or ingredient combos that are always a crowd pleaser. Also, if you want a shot at winning, don’t even breathe the word “Vegan”.

Now, let me just say, I am a damn (yeah, I’m cursing now) good cook. I made a delicious Bleu Cheese Burger in ’08, dreamy French Onion Soup in ’09 and a to-die-for Cherry-Coconut Cupcake in ’10. So what gives?

This year, I was determined to win. The food? Pasta Salad. A BBQ and Summer classic. I pulled out all the stops and even spent $5 on 1/4 c. of pine nuts.

“I got this. I got this.”

Did I win? No.

Did I make it in the Top 3? Nope.

Is my recipe amazing and delicious enough to share here? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad (adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (lightly toasted)
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound whole wheat or gluten-free spiral pasta
  • 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Without emptying the water from the pot, lift out the asparagus spears and place them in a colander. Rinse with cool water.

Bring the water back to a boil. Add salt, if needed, and add pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta with cool water. Put into a serving bowl.

Place the asparagus on a cutting board. Trim off the top 3 inches of the asparagus spears, and put the tips into the bowl with the pasta. Cut the bottoms into several pieces, and set aside to use in the pesto sauce.

Use a food processor to make the pesto: With the processor running, drop in the garlic cloves and allow them to chop. Add 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and pulse to chop. Add the lemon juice, basil, salt, nutritional yeast, and the asparagus pieces (not the tips!) and olive oil. Puree until smooth.

Toss the pasta, asparagus tips, and tomatoes (if using) with the pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve. As the pasta salad sits, the flavors will develop.

Servings: 8

Carly’s Note: Add fresh bocconcini (mozzarella balls) or seasoned, grilled chicken or shrimp for a heartier version. 

Toasted.

28 Jul

Gladly. Yum.

Today I delighted in three (yes, you read that right) heavenly pieces of toast. Holy smokes people! I never realized how much I am fond of this most basic food- a food staple, if you will.

My favorite? Aspen Mills Squaw Bread with vegan Earth-Balance spread.

Oh. my. goodness.

Side note: Aspen Mills is a local Utah bakery with no website, no list of grocery retailers and no apparent way to order. Although it is apparently found in 7 other surrounding states, Aspen Mills bread is an elusive creature and if you find yourself lucky enough to come across it, snatch it up quickly- toast, butter and enjoy.  You may never be so fortunate again. For any of you local Utahans, I get mine at Whole Foods in Salt Lake City. 

So where did this indulgence with toast begin? I blame it on my father. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence watching my dad’s persistent daily routine. A creature of habit my father is (I just wrote this line with Yoda’s voice in mind).

4:00pm:
Dad walks in the house through the garage door, puts his lunchbox full of empty tupperware containers (my dad always took cereal to work) in the sink, places the mail on the kitchen counter and begins his toasting ritual. One-to-two pieces of toast daily with all the fixings like butter, homemade jam and even from time-to-time, a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.

4:03pm:
The distinct, smoldering, toasty smell begins to drift into the air of our home.

4:06pm:
Dad enjoys his warm, golden toast while opening mail. Depending on what bills mail he receives that day, either a cheerful whistling or an aggressive bashing on his drum set would ensue.

Believe it or not, I can’t recall a time as a child or teen actually enjoying toast goodness. It came later, as I aged in life and as I became much more “mature” and wise. Or maybe, this onset of toast fixation came as a result of reaching for my ever-evasive former carefree and juvenile life.

(How can I possibly still be going on about toast?!)

Either way, it is most definitely my comfort food. Is three pieces of toast excessive? Perhaps. At least it’s not three slabs of country fried steak I say.

Don’t you love that toaster? I found the image here and it’s actually available to purchase! Go on and get one!

Date Night

23 Jul

It’s common knowledge that when one experiences an earth-shattering, life-altering event, his or her loved ones- family, friends, church leaders, coworkers, neighbors, random lady at the local market- will recommend a book that “seriously carried me through the hard times” or “enlightened my troubled heart”.

I experienced such an event.

I had just found myself a newly single mother and a single woman. On the nightstand next to my bed, I had accumulated a large stack of books from said loved ones to help me heal and adjust to this new life.

I read them all. Some proved to be helpful- others I could barely get through. I don’t remember any of the titles (if I did, I would lovingly provide a self-help library here for your reading pleasure, because seriously, I had dozens of books!).

Except one. Oh, there was one.

I’ll never forget this literary “work”, given to me by a co-worker who was given to her by her son after her divorce.

Finding the Boyfriend Within, written by a colorful, homosexual and at times, irreverent man.

I’ll admit, I was not entirely excited to read this one. I thought to myself, “What could a gay man, in his mid 30’s, living in New York City, writing a gay/lesbian self-help book possibly teach me- a barely 20-something, single mother from Salt Lake City, Utah???” (Another time, remind me to tell you all how my snoopy, elderly and extremely conservative landlord discovered this piece of work!)

Reluctantly, I opened the cover and began to read the introduction. And then the first chapter, second chapter…

I have to confess, I didn’t actually finish the entire book. The writing wasn’t exceptional in my opinion- however, to my surprise and delight, the overall message was. Well kind of.

As the title “Finding the Boyfriend Within” may suggest, the overall theme of the book is about reflection, self-love and self-nurturing. The author suggests you acknowledge your own inner and outer beauty, write yourself love letters, give yourself gifts, send yourself flowers and even… take yourself out on dates! In public! Ack!

Although I have yet to write myself a love letter or send myself flowers (this does seem a bit self-absorbed), I have since tried to take his advice and apply it in the real world and I have dated myself (boy, that sounds a bit narcissistic- but really, this can be done in a modest way).

It’s a little uncomfortable at first, but believe you me, it ends up to be a grand time. Maybe even the best date you could ever have? Onlookers think it’s confident, mysterious and cool. At least that’s what I tell myself.

So, I find myself on the heels of yet, another heartache (alright, it’s been over six months, but it’s been a rough one, ok?!) and what’s a girl to do you ask? Take herself out for shopping, massage and a romantic sushi dinner on a tea-light lit patio on a perfect, summer night of course!

So to all you love birds and to all you lovely singles- Happy Date Night!

Happy, indeed.