June 23, 2011

Red Beans and Rice

I'll be the first to admit it, I have a love/hate relationship with cooking.

Most days I don't want to be bothered with it and I scavenge for the easiest meal I can muster up in my fridge. I am the guiltiest of guilty when it comes to "single person food behavior." Unfamiliar with this behavior? You must eat with other people... I can make a bowl of oatmeal and call it dinner; eat dried ramen as a snack because I've run out of everything else and don't want to go to the store; and I've even sunk low enough to take out a head of lettuce, an unsliced cucumber and put salad dressing in a bowl and created a "salad" by taking a bite of lettuce, dunking the cucumber in the dressing and then taking a bite.... voila! Salad!

Not buying this whole single person methodology of nourishment? It's pretty sad some days but when I don't want to cook I REALLY don't want to cook. Other days, however, I return to the realm of normal eating habits and actually cook things.  Today my stomach was fortunate as I decided to get really fancy and make some good old red beans and rice. This particular recipe is the best one I've found yet and you really have to try it!

For this recipe you’ll need one lb. dry red kidney beans, 6 cups of water, 1/4 lb chopped smoked sausage (I use turkey sausage), 5 bouillon cubes, a chopped onion, 5 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. Creole seasoning, 3/4 tsp. of: cumin, coriander and oregano, 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of paprika.

Ready for this? I get really fancy and technical when I cook:

This step comes later but I thought I needed a picture here to add suspense...

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and let cook on high for 5 hours or let simmer all day on low. Yup, I'm a wiz in the kitchen...

When the beans are tender, mash a good majority of them against the side of the crock pot and then season to taste with salt, pepper, or more Creole seasoning. Once the beans are mashed let them simmer on low while you prepare the rice. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and toss in 1 tbsp. of white vinegar and 2 cups of white rice. Cover your pan and let the rice steam for about 20 min.

At this time, please do the I'm-so-hungry-I-could-eat-my-left-sock dance around the kitchen and try not to think about just eating the red beans sans rice. To distract yourself, chop some green onions for the next step (or cut them up with kitchen sheers like I do).

When you have patiently waited for about 20 minutes, test your rice to make sure it's nice and moist and kind of fluffy. Once mission fluffy rice is accomplished, grab a bowl and dish in about a cup of beans and half a cup of rice. Throw some green onions on top for the "ooh, that's pretty" effect and there you have it- a meal!

June 13, 2011

Unbearable Lightness

I honestly never thought that I would read this book, it initially didn't rank very high on my 'must read' list. Sure, I saw the Oprah interview and I've seen Ally McBeal so I was aware that Portia de Rossi struggled with anorexia for nearly two decades. What I did not know was that this book is not about the recovery from anorexia but an honest look into what the mind of someone who suffers from severely disordered eating.

If you are someone important to a young woman or girl, or you are one of the millions who feel inadequate when comparing yourself to the actresses and models on every TV, magazine, silver screen and giant billboard then please read this book. I promise it won't be a waste of your time.

June 01, 2011

Long Distance Vegetables?

If you haven't caught on already, I am relocating to Alaska for a teaching job in just over two months (eeee!). What that means is I have about 65 days to pack up all of my things and make sure that I am Alaska-ready before hopping on a plane.

To say that life in bush Alaska seems different would be the understatement of my summer (and summer's barely started). But for a moment let's push aside the mind-numbing low temperatures, lack of roads and recreation, ice fishing, water-distilling parts of this move and focus on the change that can make my hands go clammy and make me break out in a nervous sweat in about 15 seconds: Grocery Shopping.

Scammon Bay does have a store, it's true, but that store isn't like the corner grocery store you and I think of. From what I've heard the stock is unreliable at best and the prices make a convenience store in Aspen look like a steal. Instead, the only way you can really know what you're going to get is to purchase six months' to a year's worth of food in Anchorage and ship it out to the bush. This means lots of canned foods, frozen and freezable items, and lots of bake-it-yourself ingredients. For the sake of this post, we will forget (temporarily) that I can barely shop for one week at a time without forgetting something major from my shopping list... like an entire food group... and focus on the big, pink, polka-dot elephant in the room: what the heck am I going to do about fruits and veggies?! Even if I do have an unnatural love for mandarin oranges, I don't think they're going to cut it!

Here at home when I want fresh fruit or veggies I have plenty of options. Local farmers markets, roadside produce stands, and even chain stores devoted to locally grown yummies are part of life and offer a huge variety of organic veggies at fairly reasonable prices. For the past two summers I've gone the 100% local agriculture route and purchased a CSA share. Don't worry, I'm not going to dust off my support-local-agriculture, save-the-earth, be-eco-friendly soapbox (so calm down).

What is a CSA you ask? CSA, or community supported agriculture, is a great and affordable way to get locally grown, organic produce delivered right to your neighborhood straight from the farm. At the beginning of every summer you purchase a CSA share for an up-front fee that averages out to less than you would spend weekly at the grocery store for the same amount of food. This money goes straight to the farm and farmer you picked and he spends the money to plant crops, hire help, and support himself and the family. You choose a designated pickup spot and day and magically a box of veggies appears there for you every week. Seriously, it's like having a fairy god mother who delivers vegetables, how great is that?

Awesome, but what about me? I am moving to ALAKSA! There is no Farmer Joe on my block anymore... just Polar Bear Steve and he is not a vegetable-sharing type person. In the early stages of my planning I had pretty much resigned myself to frozen or canned vegetables and figured I would just have to get used to it if I didn't want to end up with scurvy or some other vitamin deficiency.  Then one of the handy dandy full-of-information people at the ATP iCommunity posted something about a place called Full Circle Farm. I immediately checked it out.

Full Circle is kind of like a CSA, but multiple farms instead of just one. Orders are placed on a weekly (or in my case, because I am so far out there, every other week) basis. The best part is they ship to the bush! In my village, boxes are delivered straight to the school as our designated pickup point and if veggies are damaged or frozen in transit they will replace them in your next order. I may be living hundreds of miles away from a city, in a village with no roads or road access, but even I can have some fresh produce. Thank goodness for long distance veggies!!

If you are living in the Colorado/ Wyoming region and would like to try a CSA, I highly recommend Grant Family Farms. They are very reasonably priced and if the upfront cost is a problem for you go ahead and give them a call, they will work with you on a payment schedule. Their produce is absolutely fantastic and they have options to add meat, bread and cheese to your weekly order as well. In the fall I really recommend their canning shares... yum!