How many tomatoes is too many??

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Cherokee Purple, green zebra, Arkansas traveler and other tomatoes, blueberries, German rye bread, cantaloupe, peaches & cream corn. A delicious day at the market!

My dilemma at the Farmer’s Market when heirloom tomatoes are in season is always the same: How many tomatoes is too many? Possibly as many as I got today. Even if I eat tomatoes three times a day, can I really eat this many before they go bad? I can try! Sliced tomatoes with eggs for breakfast, tomato chunks in salad, bacon lettuce & tomato salad, more sliced tomatoes on the side of whatever meal I am having. Oh, my, yes, fresh tomatoes, yum! And if I have any left at the end of the week, then I’ll make  escalloped tomato casserole or tomato pie/tomato pudding, before I restock the fresh ones at next Saturday’s market.

This week I did get lots of Cherokee Purple, my summer favorite, and also some green Cherokee (an accident one farmer had that he then bred into several plants this year), green zebra, and the stripy red/orange/yellow ones that I can never remember the name of, and early Arkansas Travelers (the small ones) which are usually a late August/September tomato here. But the weather has not been conducive to great long seasons of summer tomatoes this year. There have been heavy rains which the Purples do not tolerate, so I was warned of not too many more. Meanwhile, corn & tomato meals daily!

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Summer Suppers

Back to the local Farmer’s Market for the first time in a month (I’d been out of town every Saturday). Summer food was in! Tomatoes! Blueberries! Corn! The last baby lettuces (a DSC_0343little leggy, but still fine)! Peaches! Green beans! Cantaloupe! Zucchini! Cucumbers!

I look forward to this influx every year – it’s hard for me to write new interesting things or recipes, because all I want is fresh corn (with a little butter), sliced Cherokee Purple tomatoes, a piece of cheese, and cantaloupe for dessert. Or an appetizer. Or both. So that’s what I had for supper. And it’s probably what I’ll have for supper tomorrow night, too. Yum!

It’s a supper too easy for any recipes, especially since I learned last year to microwave the corn in the husk…and the husk and silk slip right off without difficulty after 2-3 minutes of cooking per ear. This is where I found it this year: http://theculinarychase.com/2012/05/corn-on-cob-cool-and-super-easy-way-to/     and their photo of the last step before eating:

corn

Again, yum!

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Animals Make Us Human: A book review

Eventually I’ll get back to more food..and there’s only one book a month to review. I’m on vacation, so am eating well while reading. But I’m eating things I’ve eaten in previous 20150624_175143years (like this wonderful sub sandwich), and I don’t want to be too repetitive.

I finished my book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, for the June book challenge (reading one book a month from books that have been on my shelf for over a year, that is, purchased in 2013 or before) in less than a week, as I am still on vacation, and there is time for reading. Especially as it continues to rain almost every day. Yesterday was clear and sunny and beautiful, but this morning, already, there is rain and now-distant thunder heading our way.

This book has been on my shelf since 2010, although it appears to be my daughter’s book: 20150625_142116(0) copyshe is the animal behaviorist and there are slips of paper that are clearly hers marking pages. But there’s a plane ticket receipt of mine from 2010, when I first started reading. But obviously didn’t get very far. Even with that slow start, I enjoyed this very much!! I have heard Temple Grandin speak twice, and the co-author she works with still speaks in her voice. From her first book about being labeled autistic through her work with animals, she has a different and interesting perspective.

This book looks at the animals she knows and has worked with: farm animals like dogs and cats and horses, and then the meat industry animals with cows and pigs and chickens. She also discusses zoos and wildlife, areas in which she has been a consulted. My favorite story is teaching an Arabian horse to hold her ears properly in the show ring using clicker training. But there are many, many other good story examples in all chapters.

She speaks not only of research but of fieldwork, of observation of animals, to learn and describe their core emotions, and how things can be modified to help them to have better lives and experiences. I would suggest reading Animals in Translation first, as she references it a few times, but this can also be a stand-alone book. If I had star ratings, this would be 5 stars (and it is in my goodreads account).

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Book review and rain. And sun. And more rain.

I have finally finished my May book challenge book, here in almost mid-June. What can I say? There was a lot of stuff going on in my life. But I am now on vacation, in a quiet cabin in the woods, near enough to old friends to not be isolated, but quiet enough to relax without a schedule.

But I loved the book I chose for this month, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, by Tracy Kidder (an award-wining author) and his editor (from The Atlantic Monthly) Richard 20150615_211847Todd. It is not a how-to, but a series of articles on different types of nonfiction: narratives, essays, and memoirs; and the language surrounding them: facts and truth and accuracy, style, commerce, and finally a perspective on being edited and then being the editor. The authors tell stories. They reference both classic and not-so-familiar books, telling stories from them to illustrate their points. And they end with a short chapter on commonly seen word and language usage and grammar that they would “happily expunge from the language” (p.176). Yes, your pet word peeves, grammar mistakes, and more will be found there!

One of the things I have discovered in reading the books for this challenge (books that have been on my shelf for over a year, that is, purchased in 2013 or before) is that though I have enjoyed reading them, not all of them are keepers. One I will keep for the cover…or maybe just keep and frame the cover? Two I will pass on to friends or a book sale. One I’m not sure of. But this book, Good Prose, is a book that will stay on my shelves.

And the rain? As I tried to finish the last three chapters in the past two days, the weather has alternated between gentle rain and sunshine and a downpour of rain and sunshine…and then repeated several times daily. So when the sun is shining, I try to get outside, when the downpours descend, I have to retreat inside, and in between or with gentle rain, I sit on the porch with my iced tea, happily sipping and reading and marking passages with post-it notes for later perusal (a word they would like to expunge). Oh, well. I am writing informally, after all (which they also discuss). On to the next book!

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Beets & Summer Foods Coming In!

Oh, it’s time for the gardens to burst forth with produce!

We’ve been through strawberries season; it’s come and gone. Peaches are in. Lettuces are 20150606_093611still here, but leggier; it will soon be too hot for them. Green tomatoes are in; I found a few Black Russian cherry tomatoes from someone with a hothouse. Small pickling-style cucumbers are in; I prefer them for salads as they are thinner-skinned and less seeds. Cauliflower and broccoli are big and beautiful. And I found some beets! I love beets. These are cute little variously-colored varieties. I usually roast them; they are easier to peel when cooked.

Roasted Beets

Cut off tops and bottom roots, wash.  Coat lightly (lightly!) with oil, then wrap in foil and bake until done, about 45-60 minutes for a medium sized beet. Cool for about 10 minutes until you handle them, then slip off skins. Slice or dice for recipes. Or just toss on a salad, which is my preference.

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Resolutions and Recipes

If you read my January 1 post about last year’s resolution…you’ll know why I am writing this post about resolutions in April.

One resolution for 2015 was to try many of the 100s of new recipes I have collected over the years – or will find this year. I planned to sort though and start listing priorities and toss some recipes – and successfully did that in March!. Since I count carbs now and try to eat less processed foods, I am pretty particular about recipes with carbs – I save my carbs for things I truly love – and I already have a lot of those. So a lot of the baking recipes went by the wayside. Most of the pasta dishes went – unless I could substitute a vegetable for the pasta. Potatoes – depends. Yeast breads – oh, bread! – I make a glorious rich white bread and challah and angel rolls, and probably don’t need to know how to bake more. But I’m always tempted! Biscotti – stays. Gluten-free recipes for cookies and muffins will be prioritized, as they do have less carbs, and I can share with family and friends that are GF, too. Slow cooker recipes – I’d like to get better with my slow cooker, so am starting with that.

The first recipe is Shredded Barbequed Chicken from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution. I always have boneless skinless chicken breast in the freezer, AND I have some luscious looking new barbeque sauce, a present from a cooking friend.

And I failed to take a picture – but it was excellent!

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Book Review and Tea

Have I mentioned I love bookstores? An independent bookseller with comfy chairs and a coffee/tea/wine bar is highly preferred, but closely following that is a college bookstore, where there are all sorts of odd books relating to classes and interests at that university. And they have unusual tablets and notebooks and papers and pens, which I also love…but I digress. Back to the book. I found this book at a college bookstore, signed by the author (who had been speaking there) shortly after I started my doctoral program about 8 years ago. It’s a small book, but has been sitting, lonely, on my shelf, since doctoral programs while working full time do not lend themselves to pleasure reading outside of class assignments, as I’ve mentioned before. Hence its addition to this year’s Book Challenge (Read 12 books that have been on your shelf for over a year). http://roofbeamreader.com/tbr-pile-challenge/
He does not talk much about food, but does mention going to a diner for coffee in the mornings, a quiet time and place where he could write. I did the best I could, by reading this in a very comfy chair at home, with a mug of Constant Comment spiced tea (with a little Southern Comfort), because even though it is the end of April in Memphis, it is still cool enough to make me think about turning the heat on (the house is 66 degrees; outside it’s about the same but dropping), but will not. So hot tea is warming and comforting.20150426_210403
This is not a long book, but he covers a lot of ground. It is about the art of teaching; not the mechanics. He talks as a mentor, telling stories, from one experienced professor to a beginner, or less experienced. “Remember that your job is to demonstrate before students the process of thinking….you are trying to provide students with the sensation of thinking as well as the thoughts themselves.” (p.113). Things he discusses fit I well with what I’ve earned about adult learning theories. The only downside is his experience comes before the shift to online classes, and he has taught at schools where the face-to-face lecture, seminars and office hours provide opportunities for Professor-student interaction that I remember fondly (mostly) from my student days, but are scarcer now. He talks about academia, about intellectuals, about the political-ness and ideological perspectives from campuses, and the relation to education. “My teachers challenged me” he says “to reconsider a whole range of notions about the nature of reality that I took for granted.: (p. 152). But he does close with the thought to “Welcome change”. (p. 155)
The book is small, fairly short, not difficult reading, but interesting and thought-provoking. I have never had the desire to be in academia full-time, but I do enjoy teaching. So even thought I have taught college classes off-and-on over the past 20 or so years, I can affirm some of his points from my experience, but I can hear him speaking to me as one not as experienced and still learning. Always learning.

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Another good Saturday at the Farmers Market

Well. It’s supposed to soar up into the mid-80’s today, but right now it’s cold – in the mid-50’s. And the market is just close enough to the river to always have a good wind. It was a quick run through today, just lettuces and strawberries and eggs. Lots of strawberries, as I plan to make strawberry ice cream and strawberry sauce for good-bye party for the graduate assistants who are ending their time with us this week. Oh – and my once-a month treat of a chocolate croissant. I did get some regular loose leaf lettuce, but I also got a couple of the little Tom Thumb lettuces. They’re so cute!

Small lettuce with strawberries and fork for perspective.

Small lettuce with strawberries and fork for perspective.

One is enough for a salad. I was hoping for peonies, but the vendor says they have just budded…maybe in a week or two. That also tells me its been a cool spring – they are very late! But the strawberries will keep me happy for a while

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The Local Farmers Markets are Open!

Actually the market opened on the first Saturday in April…when it was frigidly cold. Always – the first and last days (end of October) are glove-wearing, hot-drink-holding, bundled-up-in-scarves-and-sweaters days.
Of course I went! But because we’d had snow as recently as the previous week, fresh veggies were at a premium. There were lots of greens, which are not my favorites, so I bought bread and eggs and cheese (all local).

Today's lettuce, asparagus, spinach, strawberries and a wall wedge of cheese.

Today’s lettuce, asparagus, spinach, strawberries and a wall wedge of cheese.

But this week, there were spring foods: asparagus – both green & red, lettuces, and amazingly enough, strawberries! Yummy, red-all-the-way-through strawberries! So, no recipes for that- just washed the berries and put them in a bowl and am snacking as I clean up around the house.

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Book Review: ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’ and maybe the way you look at food

      This is third challenge book of the year for books that have been languishing unread on my own bookshelves for over a year. As I am reading them, I am wondering, Why did it take me so long to get to this? This book is really as good as I hoped it would be when I first bought it!
      And even though Proust was a coffee drinker – I’ll quote a description of his breakfast in a moment – I am drinking mint tea. We are home from work with our
Breakfast with the birds and a brave daffodil trying to survive the snow.

Breakfast with the birds and a brave daffodil trying to survive the snow.

      2nd snow day in a row – yes, actual snow! In Memphis! And it hasn’t been above freezing since the snow began, so the roads are sill pretty icy and dangerous. So I am staying home, and drinking lots of pots of various teas.
      I had to actually go back and read a little about the life of Proust after I was one chapter into this book. I couldn’t tell if the author was being serious or tongue-in-cheek (actually a little of both). I really enjoy the tone and the language de Botton uses – I’ve put several other of his books onto my ‘to read’ list.
      I enjoyed this book – how can I not like a book with a chapter called “How to put books down” ? Or an author who uses words that I have to look up, like quotidian, etiolated, feuilleton, or munificent (which I did know, but hardly ever see in writing!)
      And of course food is mentioned in Proust’s seven volume ‘Remembrance of Things Past/In search of Lost Time’, including a famous scene about a madeleine and memory.  de Botton notes that as well as the importance of food to the author himself: “What did Proust have for breakfast?….two cups of strong coffee with milk, served in a silver pot engraved with his initials. He liked his coffee tightly packed in a filter with the water made to pass through drop by drop. He also had a croissant, fetched by his maid from a boulangerie which knew just how to make them, crisp and buttery, and which he would dunk in his coffee.”
      De Botton says “Food has a privileged role in Proust’s writings; it is often lovingly described and appreciatively eaten. To name but a few of the many dishes which Proust parades past his readers, we can cite cheese soufflé, a string bean salad, a trout with almonds, a grilled red mullet, a bouillabaisse, a skate in black butter, a beef casserole, some lamb with a Béarnaise sauce, a beef Stroganoff, a bowl of stewed peaches, a raspberry mousse, a madeleine, an apricot tart, an apple tart, a raisin cake, a chocolate sauce and a chocolate soufflé.
      I really did enjoy de Botton’s book and his view of Proust – not enough for me to actually want to read the 7 volumes of Proust’s life work, but enough to do a little more reading about Proust’s writing and his perspective on life, and the influences his works had on twentieth century literature.
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