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Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I Chose Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - Part 1: Personal Reasons

This week I picked up my first bag of vegetables, the first return on my investment in a local farm and my CSA. It is a gorgeous bag of seasonal greens, broccoli, and radishes; I feel like Peter Rabbit making off with the garden.

Community Supported Agriculture is a system for consumers to buy produce directly from a local farmer. The consumer “invests” in the farm before the season begins, giving farmers means to afford seeds, materials, and labor. In return, the consumer receives a “share” of the harvest, which often means that they will receive a box of vegetables once a week.

I hope to also share weekly pictures of the vegetable bounty on this blog. I planned to start with a little note about why I think that CSAs and local foods are a great choice. However, as I started to write, my little note became a highly referenced BIG essay. So I decided to split up the posts.

This week, I will be sharing all the personal reasons why I chose to invest in a CSA. These are all the things that add value to my life. Next week, I will talk about all my political motivations for investing in small farms and organic foods. This is where I will throw out words like “Monsanto” and “GMOs,” so if that seems potentially offensive to you, feel free to skip it. There will still be plenty of pretty pictures of ripe produce to come!

Without further introduction, here are the [personal] reasons why I decided to sign up for a CSA:

To get fresh, local produce

When I pick up produce from my CSA, I can be certain that my veggies have been picked that week, and were fully-grown and ripe when they were harvested. Not only does this make the produce taste better, but it packs a more potent nutritional punch than most grocery store produce. In fact, according to a study by the Institute of Food Research, grocery store fruits and vegetables can lose up to 45% of nutrients from the time they are harvested to the time they reach your kitchen counter.

Environmentally speaking, buying local means that my food was not shipped thousands of miles, using hundreds of gallons of fossil fuels to get to me. And, while I have no problem with farmers in Chile, I like spending my money locally and supporting people in my community. The farm that I have my CSA with now is partially owned by a friend of my sister, whose daughters met in dance class. Combining food and community is a lost tradition that I would like to include in my life.

To access affordable organics

My weekly share of produce from the CSA will cost me $400 dollars total (I am actually signed up for a less-expensive half share that will generally feed 1-2 people). This entitles me to about 20 weeks of produce. That works out to about $20 for a big bag of vegetables. To get a bag of veggies of similar quality (at Whole Foods or an equivalent), I would likely pay $40 or more.

I am thankful that this price point works for our budget, because buying organic is important to me. In my experience, small scale organic produce is much more flavorful and vibrant than conventionally grown fruits and veggies (try comparing a conventional strawberry to an organic garden strawberry if you want to test this yourself. Or try a grocery store hothouse tomato next to an heirloom variety at a farmers market. There’s no comparison).

I also prefer to avoid the pesticides and herbicides that are used in conventional crop production. I choose to limit my exposure to pesticides in the food I eat. Pesticides have been linked to type 2 diabetes, food allergies, ADHD, and cancer.

Avoiding conventionally grown products also means that I can avoid supporting companies and practices I disagree with.  For example, by choosing organics, I am not supporting Monsanto, a company that produces things like the herbicide, Round Up (more on this next week). Herbicides not only reach your body by consuming the crops, but there is a high potential for the toxins to reach a local water supply, including drinking water. Long-term exposure to Round Up may lead to kidney and reproductive problems.

Choosing organic, to me, means choosing to eat good, nutrient-rich produce, avoiding pesticides, keeping our water sources clean, as well as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and maintaining healthy soil.

To stay in tune with the seasons

Yes, there are many people who believe that eating seasonally is best for your health because your body has different needs during different seasons, and the right seasonal food will provide for those needs. If that sounds a bit too crunchy for you, I totally understand. (Me? I’m somewhat inclined to believe it. I certainly avoid cold salads and watermelon in the middle of winter.)

Even without the health claims, I am excited to ground my diet in the seasons this year. The fleeting nature of each crop will help me fully appreciate a dish that won’t be available a month from now. I look forward to watch my spring radishes give way to summer ripe tomatoes, to eventually terminate with hearty autumn squash. After all, won’t eating the seasons be the best way to become one with them?

Check in next week for Part 2: Political Reasons why I chose a CSA. It will be filled with ranty goodness and abundant soap boxery! Oh, and pictures of lovely veggies.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The old truck stop special: Biscuits and Gravy

I bet you saw this one coming the minute the Pessimistic Biscuits recipe popped up. What better way to dress up some disappointing gluten free "bread-stuff" (that's what I like to call it), than with some delicious meat gravy? That's not a rhetorical question. Please. Tell me now. Eggs and bacon? That's a fine idea, but eggs and bacon are better off without the biscuits. Yeah. Well, I guess we've arrived at the only logical conclusion: gravy is the way. The biscuits need the gravy, and the gravy needs the biscuits.

Gluten Free Biscuits and Gravy

Start with your biscuits. You can find our gluten free biscuit recipe here.

The Gravy

2 lbs breakfast sausage
1 tbs lard (or oil or butter)
⅓ cup Gluten Free Flour Blend
2 cups almond milk
½ cup Basic Chicken Stock
black pepper (to taste)

Once your biscuits are in the oven, brown your sausage over medium heat in a large pan. 

When the sausage is cooked through, remove it to a bowl for later. Try to leave as much of the oil from the meat in the pan. With the pan still hot throw in your gluten free flour. That's right. We're making a rouix - a rue (a roo?). Whatever. We're making it! We want to form a kind of thin paste. Add the lard or oil as needed. Once you have the right consistency, you want to stir frequently until the rugh (I give up) starts to brown, about five minutes. Then toss your meat back into the pan. Now add the milk one cup at a time, stirring and allowing it to thicken between additions. Next add the broth. Grind in some pepper and continue to stir occasionally for five to ten minutes, or until your gravy has reached the desired thickness.

By now your biscuits should be golden brown. Take them out; slice them up; slap some gravy on them and enjoy a more optimistic breakfast.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life Vol. 23

Since I shared the results of my old goals last week, I figured I would share my new goals for year 23 this week. I think that if I got all this done, it would be a pretty good year.


1. Create 12 collage art pieces.
2. Get a Portland Library card.
3. Pay off credit card.
4. Gather wild food.
5. Bicycle down Old Columbia Highway.
6. Help Grandma can food.
7. Submit article for publication as a freelancer.
8. Find a local swimming hole.
9. See a show at the Doug Fir.
10. Post a home tour on the blog.
11. Visit a PNW national park.
12. Learn how to drive a stick shift.
13. Write a book.
14. Reread Little House on the Prairie books.
15. Print favorite photos.
16. Learn to bellydance.
17. Throw a fancy family & friends dinner party.
18. Make an art journal.
19. Go out dancing with my sisters.
20. 50 HIKES!!
21. Take a volunteer position.
22. Get a fancy dress.
23. Discover a new favorite band.

There you have it. Does anyone else write goals lists for their birthday? Bonus points to you if you spot the repeat on this list from last year. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Bloody Rooster

the bloody rooster

This cocktail came to me in a dream or a vision or a hallucination. Was it a drunken stupor? I can't recall. It's  kind of a Thai twist on a Bloody Mary (more of that gastronomical cultural appropriation [yay!] that we're so fond of). I know that must sound like sacrilege to the pious. And I appreciate where you're coming from. I'm as devoted to the Bloody Mary as the next human person. But nothing is sacred, folks. Nothing.

The Bloody Rooster

2 ounces vodka
5 ounces tomato juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice (about one lime)
fish sauce
thai chili
lime wedge
ginger slice

Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Pour your measured ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Add a good squeeze of the Sriracha, and a splash of fish sauce. Stir until thoroughly chilled. Strain into ice filled drinking glass and top with a thai chili, lime wedge and sliced ginger garnish. It's a cocktail with cock sauce! That's double the - uh -  rooster.

thai bloody mary

doesn't our rooster have such pretty plumage?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

22 Before 23- A Reflection

I started making goal lists for each year when I was 21. I really like having things to work towards and reflect on at the end of the year. My birthday is this Saturday, which means that I am wrapping up year 22.

It's been a busy year, and a lot of things have happened that I couldn't even predict on a goal list, like a 5,000 mile road trip through 12 states and moving to Portland. With those things taking up my time, money, and energy, I didn't achieve a lot of my goals. But in the spirit of positivity, I decided to go over the goals that I did achieve.

1. Publish at least one article
Yes! I interned at a local online magazine, bePortland, and published several articles. Some of my favorites are here, here, and here.

5. Take more pictures
Success! The blog is really helpful motivation, but I have become much more accustomed to pulling out my phone to snap some pictures. Instagram helps.

8. 20 essays or poems
If you count blog posts and magazine articles...

10. Garage sale with Mama and Grammie
Done! I love going to yard sales with my mother and her mom. We like to get great deals in the ritzy parts of town.

12. Go to the coast.
 Yes! I've been to Seaside, OR, and Cannon Beach, OR, and will be at my grandparent's coastal property for my birthday this weekend.

13. Go to a concert.
Yep. Caught a concert with my friend Jordyn.

15. Day long hike & camp
I never got the gear for backpacking, but I did complete an all-day 13 mile hike in the Tetons last summer.

18. Create a small wardrobe of outdoorsy clothing
I have had pretty good luck in the Goodwill active section and found some REI yoga pants, a Smartwool base layer  and Patagonia leggings. I really need a waterproof jacket next.

21. Maintain a lifestyle & adventure blog
Yeah! Here we are.

As I mentioned above, I am taking a long weekend at my grandparent's property for my birthday. It is really secluded, and totally without wifi and cell service. It is also one of my favorite places in the world. I think it is a perfect way to round off this totally wild, ecstatic, stressful, wanderlusting, neurotic, plugged-in, adventurous year. 

See you on the other side.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pessimistic Biscuits

gluten free biscuits 

These are glass-is-half-empty kind of biscuits. I don't know if you've tried to make a gluten free biscuit, but it's rough. If you try to make them like a traditional biscuit, you get a mouthful of dust. Otherwise you have to settle for a kind of gluten free scone. Don't get me wrong; the only thing bad about scones is that they aren't biscuits. This recipe is somewhere in between. I think it's approaching the desired effect. Hey! It's gluten free baking, people. You get used to half triumphs and compromises (that's not saying much for my biscuits, is it?). Well, I've eaten many different gluten free biscuits. These are the definitely the best I've had.

Gluten Free Biscuits

1 cup corn starch (or tapioca starch)
1 tbs baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp xanthan gum
½ cup cold shortening (or butter)
¼ cup coconut oil (solid)
¼ cup almond milk
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 eggs (beaten)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients. Cut in your solid butter and coconut oil using a pastry cutter or butter knives or forks or any combination you like until you have pea sized balls or smaller. 

rather large peas

Now stir in your milk, vinegar and eggs until you're looking at a very stiff (even slightly dry) dough. Scoop out about a half cup of dough at a time and shape it roughly (real fast and loose) into a biscuit. Place your biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden on top. About now things should be looking, tasting and even feeling a lot like biscuits. And we're okay with that. I hope.

biscuits in the pan

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The spice of the season: Baja Burgers

baja burger

Here at muddle and stir we appreciate inappropriate cultural appropriation. So here's to all the oddball food fusion and mealtime malapropism. And three cheers for fast food chains that rhyme with Taco Hell! Don't mind us, just enjoy the burgers.

1 lb grass fed beef
gluten free buns (we bought these)
tomato (sliced)
cilantro (for garnish)

Cook your burgers however you like them. If you like yours rare like we do then we suggest you heat a cast iron skillet on high with a drizzle of high heat oil or fire up the grill. We want high heat to sear our meat. We have a hearty appetite for quality meat so we take our burgers by the half pound. 

prefectly seared burgers

Divide your pound of meat in two. Gently round off the edges; don’t over press it. Leave it thick and loose. Give it about three minutes a side over high heat. Be aware that eating under cooked meat can lead to food born illness and all that legal ass covering fine print you find on restaurant menus. You can always check your internal temperature with a meat thermometer if your worried. When the meat is done, grab a bun. Layer it anyway you like. We go with chipotle mayo on both buns, then burger, tomato, slaw, avocado and finally cilantro. It’s going to be piled high whatever you decide. Now bask in all the mile high meaty glory, and then devour it.

mountains and mountains and mountains of meat

Cool and crisp: Pineapple Slaw

pineapple slaw

It's Cinco de Mayo and it's time to celebrate with some grub! This slaw is the perfect topping or side dish  to all your Baja or Tex-Mex favorites. I love it on fish tacos, chile verde burritos, pull pork sandwiches, and Baja Burgers! Throw it on whatever you like.

Pineapple Slaw

½ large cabbage (sliced or shredded)
1 medium onion (sliced very thin)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp mustard
½ tsp horseradish
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup crushed pineapple (strained)

Drop all your ingredients into a large bowl and stir until everything is well coated with a light lather of mayo. That's it, folks. Enjoy the slaw.

slaw ready to stir

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Three To Six Waterfalls

Spring has arrived in Portland and I have been celebrating by spending as much time as possible outside. Last weekend, Gus and I took advantage of the sunshine to head out into the Gorge and hike up the Oneonta Trail. It's a relatively quick hike (it took us about 2.5 hours) and not terribly difficult- we are still working on getting back into hiking shape. But in this case, little effort has some big payoffs. This trail meanders past three waterfalls, overlooks fantastic views of the Columbia River, and is relatively uncrowded (compared to Angel Falls, and of course, Multnomah Falls trails). 

The trail starts at Horsetail Falls, right off the old Columbia Highway. There is a clearly marked trail where we began to climb up towards the next falls. Along the way, there are some breaks in the trees where we were able to look out over the Columbia River.

The trail evens out and it is a pretty casual walk to Ponytail Falls. From the trail, we descended into an amphitheater-like area where the trail curves down and behind the falls. The trail juts into a break in the rock wall, creating a passage, and there is plenty of space to sit for a backstage view of the falls.  

Sitting behind the falls was such a unique, fun part of the trail. I was stupidly giddy and excited about being out hiking once we hit this feature. Also, if it weren't for the crowd of college students and families collected at the passage behind the falls, it would have almost been like a setting in a Harlequin Romance.

Past Ponytail Falls, we crossed a rather-high-up bridge. Not to completely put-off any acrophobes out there, but apparently there has been some damage to the bridge, and it is only safe for one person to cross at a time. 

To get to Triple Falls, turn left onto the Oneonta Trail past the bridge. Here lays the final climb, through rocky switchbacks (Which requires some caution if you wear barefoot shoes like we do. I still have a terrible purple bruise on the bottom of my foot from stomping on a sharp rock).

Triple Falls is as the name suggests- a triple waterfall (does this mean that this hike features three waterfalls or six?). There is a viewpoint off the trail where a couple was picnicking. Beyond the falls, there is a trail that leads back to a bridge over the creek and a heavily wooded area beyond it. It appears that there are places for camping or just general playing around in this area.

To return, we doubled back on the Oneonta Trail and followed that trail back down to the Columbia Highway where we were parked. 

This was a great low-moderate intensity hike with incredible scenery. It was a great find for randomly picking out of our Northwest Hiking Guide. I really am in love with the Columbia Gorge and am so excited to make it my playground (and gym!) this summer and fall. Besides $3 late-run movies and ubiquitous vegan food, this may be the best part of living in Portland. 

Directions: Coming from Portland, take I-84 East to exit 35. Head west on the Columbia Highway, and turn off at the signs for the Horsetail Falls Trailhead.

Check out some of my other trail guides here and here!