Posts Tagged ‘local business’

#Chopped. It’s what for dinner (adventures in cooking).

May 9, 2013

A few weeks ago, I spent a day helping a friend traitor to the cause pack her kitchen for her move to Austin.  Since I’m one winged, the most I could do was clean out her fridge.  We started talking about all those parts of/left over items that you use a few times and they get shoved to the back.  We both can, shop farmers markets and generally try to minimize our carbon foot print (her husband makes a wicked beer by the way).  Fast forward to a get well soon gift from a college friend who knows of my love of canning and quirky gifts.  The result ? 2 jars of beer jelly (you read that right, beer jelly) from a Brooklyn company called Anarchy In a Jar.  I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed.  I like beer, I like jam/jelly.  But along  the lines of I like chicken and I like peanut butter cups, I’m not seeing how they work together.

The only thing saving me at the moment is the Food Network.  I’m sick of daytime television as I am recovering from this Bankart repair.  On a whim In a moment of insanity, I decided to do my very own Chopped challenge.  Mostly to alleviate the fear of opening the jar of beer jelly.  For the record, beer jelly has a heavy beer taste with a sweet undercurrent along the lines of apple juice (which makes sense since they are the top 2 ingredients). I didn’t know any of this before deciding to use what was in my fridge to make dinner using the beer jelly as the gotcha.

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

So there are my mandatory items: all selected before the opening of the jelly (or reading the label).  Knowing that jelly can be a bit sweet, I went with something salty to try to balance it.  I prefer a bit of a kick so went with the horseradish sauce.  The meat is from the absolutely fantastic 8 O’clock Ranch  (really, if you are in their delivery area and don’t buy from them?).  The walnuts and spinach are from Wegman’s.  The horseradish was rescued from my friend. I used the gluten-free soy in my fridge but needed the smaller one for the pic.

I created a marinade of the jelly, 2 tablespoons of horseradish and a tad too much soy (I had to cut it with 2 tablespoons of local honey).  It probably should have been a jar of jelly and 2 tablespoons each of the horseradish and soy.  I had to use the honey to kill a bit of the salt.

I seared the pork on both sides on a very hot grill pan  turning 4 times (these were completely thawed boneless chops).  In what would cause the Chopped judges to take off points for creativity, I opted for a variation of a spinach salad.

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

With the meat resting, I chopped the egg and added it to the spinach and walnuts.  I cooked the pancetta (points off, it was a bit saltier than I expected).  Then deglazed the pan with the vinegar (around 2T and 1T of Dijon mustard).

Frying pancetta

Frying pancetta

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

I tossed the warm pancetta into the salad to get a bit of a wilt, tossed in the dressing platted  I’m sure I would have been axed (I forgot a starch; you know how those judges are).  But a ton of fun when trying to figure out how to use beer jelly.  And yup.  I contacted Anarchy in a Jar to see where I could get a few more bottles.  I’m really not in the mood to start making beer jelly.  But it is a great base for fun cooking.

May 012

Really glad I was kicked off before the dessert round.  :)

Advertisements

Simply #bostonstrong

May 1, 2013

Along Boylston
Along Boylston

Make shift Memorial at Copley.

Marathon pic2

Marathon pic3

Marathonpic4

Marathonpic5

marathonpic6

Also at Copley.

marathonpic7

Re-glassing of Marathon Sports.
Marthon Sports Reglass

For the first time since the marathon, I had to be in the Copley area.  I snagged a few pictures.  I’ve always thought that make shift memorials were weird.  As I wandered around the one that has sprung up on the Boylston side of Copley,  looking at random pictures, quotes, I understood.  New Englanders in general don’t show a lot of emotion.  There were tears shed.  The ever-present car horns that are Boston were absent, nary a Duck Boat in site and the street musicians were absent. Copley has changed.  We are still struggling.  We need the satellite trucks gone.  Our farmer’s market needs to open on time.  We will heal.  We are changed.  But we are #oneboston.

I’ve lived here longer than anyplace aside from my native Chicago.  I’m proud to call Boston home.  And our city will only be better.  Because, to quote the incident commander, “It’s what we do.  We are better than them.”  We are #bostonstrong.

The Employment Road: Part I

February 4, 2012

I’ve spent most of the past two years looking for a job, working as a temp. During the process, and it really was more of an ordeal than a process, I learned a ton and had my typical wacky adventures.  I promised myself once I had an honest-to-God offer letter, I’d write about some of the more interesting tales.  None, zero, nada, zilch of what I’m writing about happened at the company that now employs me.  All of these are my (probably) distorted perceptions of some of the truly insane things that happen when you start to look for a job with a bit of I applied for a position of “event planner” (I loved, loved, loved that aspect of a former job).  The company screened through a placement agency (common) and passed me on to the company.  I didn’t think that the employment questions from the placement agency matched the job description I had been given but I know enough to know that there are a lot of let’s-see-how-you-can-handle-this type questions.  At the time, I was grateful that nobody asked me about flowers because the only thing I know about flowers is that white flowers are culturally inappropriate or appropriate and they all make me sneeze.

I drove over to the corporate headquarters located on a nondescript office campus.  Yes, it was lovely like the recruiter told me (note, these are things I don’t care about).  Yes, it was right off of a main route (right after a left merge which means it was really off one of the prime Boston bottlenecks!), and yes, they had a cafeteria (see things I don’t care about).  Little did I know these observations were the only “normal” experiences of the day.

Do you remember these guys? I interviewed with them.

They exist!

They exist!

 

In what can only be described as one of the most surreal interviews of my life, I was transported to the world of the Spartan cheerleaders.  Ok, I am the first to admit, I am not exactly the most overtly bubbly person in the world.  I tend to arch an eyebrow and have beyond a sarcastic/sardonic sense of humor that if you don’t get, well, there is a reason I adore the I-95 section from Philly to Maine.

They flapped. They clapped. They showed me a rah-rah video.  I’m thinking ok, this is event planning: when are they going to ask me about my budgeting skills, my favorite places in some major convention cities, great ‘escape’ places for reward trips.  You know: drilling me on the industry.  The Will Ferrell interviewer told me about his team.  Apparently, somebody was able to book 4 Broadway tickets and the customer was so grateful, his employee was sent a box of Godiva chocolates! (each word emphasized, each word said with great enthusasim…each word made I’m-really-interested-in-what-you-are-saying-face smile while my brain was churning, um Godiva? Dude. 12 pieces is like $15 bucks. And the chocolate isn’t that great.)  The Cheri Oteri interviewer asked me what my favorite travel experience was: I honestly had to pause and think.  I said it was either watching the whales dance across the ocean in South Africa or being in Paris (anywhere. It never gets old for me).  I get I’ve been all over the world and back again.  I’m lucky.  The Spartans looked at each other and said, almost in scary unison, you’ve been to Paris with an inflection of “you had dinner with the Dali Lama?” Cheri continued to explain the services offered and about how the customers were the “elite” of American society.  I really struggled not to laugh.  I suddenly connected the dots: this is the place you call when you want to redeem your credit card rewards points from American Express for something other than movie tickets or Starbucks cards!  My first thought?

There were some actual issues with the job itself and the company after I did some research (I never would have interviewed with them had I known who they were at the time).  In the middle of the recession they had 20 openings. The reason? After six months, they offer benefits and a set schedule.  The average length of employment in this position is just under six months.  It’s a burn and churn that is open 6a – midnight with no fixed days off, no set schedule, and no request for time off for the first year.  I’ve kept my eye on the company.  Every six months, they have about 20 or so openings.  They are not growing: they are burning and churning people.  It is a port in the storm economy: but having worked retail and in call centers, I know they can make a fixed schedule with a need for variation.  There (should) be statistical data that shows call volume, work loads, and other metrics.

After doing a bit of research (and getting a short-term temp job), I withdrew my name from consideration.  I knew it wasn’t a good fit: I’m not peppy.  I knew I’d run into problems with their lack of a schedule and my inability not to get sick, winter traffic (remember the Winter of 2010?) and a 40 minute commute.  It took me 3 attempts to withdraw my name: they kept calling telling me how happy I’d be to work for their organization: how they always had fun.

We Want You

We Want You!

Stewing Over Some Ideas

January 8, 2012

I freely admit, I have an ongoing love affair with my crock pot.  The I only have one huge thing to wash (no dishwasher here!) is a major selling factor.  It’s probably energy efficient (which makes up for my unhealthy love affair with my iPhone but that is a different tangent!).  This weekend I spent some time on the prowl at local thrift/resale/consignment shops trying to come up with some fun ideas for decorating my condo.  I know this will be an ongoing project this year … but it will be fun.  My goal is to only by the couch new (unless I can find a killer one at one of the few consignment places I found) and try to re-do the entire place for under $2,000: mostly using finds from other places and spaces.  Who knows? It will give me something to do . . .

Anyway, back to my unhealthy crock pot obsession: this week for my SOLE challenge I made some beef stew.  I have enough leftover for a few lunches which is EXACTLY what I need!

2 lb beef spare ribs

1 quart canned whole tomatoes

2 lb carrots

1/2 c dry sherry

1 c water

2T herbs de provance

Slow cooked beef stew

Slow cooked beef stew

The bread is from the Mass Local Food and was made from local ingredients as well.  Although we’ve had an insanely mild winter to date, there is still a certain amount of self-satisfaction when I open an ingredient I canned over the summer!

Soup that’s good for the SOLE

January 1, 2012

As usual, I goofed on the deadline for the publishing dates for the Dark Days Challenge (maybe I should use the calendar that I was given for Christmas?).  I was reading the re-caps of the others participating and came upon a fantastic article the at explains (for me anyway) one of the reasons the entire SOLE “trend” is very important.  Barbara at the Crowing Hen posted a wonderful article about the conditions in the meat industry in the US.  For me, it’s that PLUS the insane amount of energy we expend getting items from the farm to the grocery store.

As the writers over at EmptyWheel noted regarding a complex cotton subsidy program:

“In WTO language, Brazil was allowed to suspend its obligations to  U.S. companies under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property  Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This constituted a major threat to the profits  of U.S. agribusiness giants Monsanto and Pioneer, since Brazil is the  second largest grower of biotech crops in the world. Fifty percent of  Brazil’s corn harvest is engineered to produce the pesticide Bt, and  Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Pro is a popular product among Brazilian corn  farmers. By targeting the profits of major U.S. corporations, the  Brazilian government put the U.S. in a tough spot: either let the  subsidies stand and allow Brazilian farmers to plant Monsanto and  Pioneer seeds without paying royalties, or substantially reform the  cotton program. In essence, Brazil was pitting the interests of Big  Agribusiness against those of Big Cotton, and the U.S. government was  caught in the middle.

The two governments, however, managed to come up with a creative  solution. In a 2009 WTO “framework agreement,” the U.S. created the  Commodity Conservation Corporation (CCC), and Brazil created the  Brazilian Cotton Institute (BCI). Rather than eliminating or  substantially reforming cotton subsidies, the CCC pays the BCI $147  million dollars a year in “technical assistance,” which happens to be  the same amount the WTO authorized for trade retaliation specifically  for cotton payments. In essence, then, the U.S. government pays a  subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers every year to protect the U.S.  cotton program—and the profits of companies like Monsanto and Pioneer.”

How many sustainable jobs would $147 million dollars create for local economies?  Yes, I live on a dry bones budget: there are 2 things I simply cannot avoid buying from big time producers: cat food and cat litter.  I have a 14-year-old cat: I’m not switching his brands, he’s too old.  Part of my resolution for this years is to buy as much as I can from SOLE providers, then local merchants and local chains last.  Will it do anything to help revive the economy of my community: doubtful.  Is it a teaspoon in bucket? Yes.

Any way, for my blogged about SOLE meal of the week, I made a huge pot of Cuban inspired black bean soup.

2 lb black beans from Baer’s Best Beans (soaked overnight, drained, rinsed)

2 quarts canned whole tomatoes from Old Nourse Farm (summer CSA), with juices

3 medium onions chopped from Shared Harvest

3 medium jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, chopped (from Mass Local Food)

4 cloves garlic also from Shared harvest

2 quarts cold water (you may need to add more while cooking the beans).

For me, it was simple, dump everything into a big stock pot cook until beans are soft.  Blend with an immersion blender.  Add hot sauce/salt as needed.  I garnish with a local cheese.

 

Resolutions and other nonsense

December 29, 2011

I’m not into New Year’s Resolutions – mostly because there seems to be a lack of creativity “I’m going to go to the gym every day” or “I’m going to quit smoking”.  A blog post circulated today about the UU church working on a wider justice, spiritual formation, more inclusive in its cohesiveness in the discipline of discussion.  Look, if I go to the gym every day, maybe it will help other members of my health insurance company (I mean, I’d probably be healthier and not spend as many health care dollars and all).  And no, I don’t smoke.  But, for me, many of the New Year’s Resolutions (like giving up things for Lent) have a self-serving motive.

The past year has, to me anyway, seemed to further create an us versus them divide.  99% vs 1%, Congress versus each other versus the American people, a complete and total increase in rising tensions: if you have a job, the insane competitiveness to prove why you should keep it, over and over.  It’s draining.  Maybe that has always been adulthood (how the hell would I know? I do know we have an amazing ability to glamorize and romanticize the past).

I think somewhere in the back of my head, I’ve always had this notion that people create resolutions on New Year’s Day after making a promise their higher power to never do anything like that again as long as they live.  Ok, that is probably my twisted humor after spending a few too many semesters at the overly politically correct institute of graduate theological education.  That and I’m a jackass.

This year, I decided to make a bucket list of some strange goals, some normal goals and a few I really have little control over.  If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t and I tried, well, ok.  I’m not going to involve going to the gym in this list.

1) Purchase as many items as I can from locally sourced suppliers.  Some things are out: cat food! Jackson only eats one type and I’m not about to go through changing the food of a 14-year-old fur beast.

2) Less trash tv; more books.  Ideally, I’d like to read 3 books a week.  Some fun, some more thought-provoking.

3) Have a job with benefits.  While I’m grateful for my temp job for the past 7 months, I’d really like to drop the 100% payment of my health insurance.

4) Write actual letters to my friends.  You know, the types with stamps.

5) Be more creative in my cooking.  I can make a killer potato soup but maybe expand out my culinary skills.

6) Give up on the fact that on opening day, I am 100% convinced the Cubs will not make the World Series.  I’m trying reverse karmic psychology on this: work with me.

7) Plug my ears and shout la-la-la-la when anybody equates my dislike of President Obama as being racist.  I don’t like how he has governed: I’m sure he’s a nice guy for a south sider but I’ve not been impressed with his presidency.  I think he was set up from the start as many thought he was the second coming of Kennedy or Christ depending on who you spoke to about the topic.  I didn’t like him in the primary, still don’t.  Of course, my standard for POTUS is either LBJ or Andrew Jackson depending on my mood.

8) Make the decision to redo the condo or sell.

9) Buy new storm windows.

10) Buy a hair dryer. It’s been on my to do list for 5 years. I only remember it the first really cold snap.

11) Go to NOLA this year.

12) Resist all temptations to dress up Laffite as clown for Halloween.

Localized Gumbo

December 18, 2011

For various reasons, I missed my annual trip to New Orleans.  I love New Orleans (maybe not as much as Tim Tebow loves the church, but it’s probably pretty close).  Eating in New Orleans is like taking a cab ride in China. . . . it’s a culinary adventure being deathly allergic to shellfish and all.  Still, I’ve found ways to eat (and drink) across the Crescent City.  I laughed when a recipe for gumbo floated across the in-box this week.  Aside from the obvious miscues (roux and okra?), the processed food and urging people to buy pre-chopped goods to save time (hi, your making ROUX people. . . . you can chop celery.), I started re-formulating the recipe in my head to make a GF, shellfish free gumbo.

1 cup of olive oil or melted butter

2 1/2 cups of GF Flour (I used King Arthur’s)

1 lb of sausage

3 cloves garlic

1 quart of whole tomatoes/basil

1 tsp of thyme and basil (dried)

4 cups chopped onions

4 cups chopped celery

8  cups chicken stock

2 green onions, chopped.

meat of 1 chicken shredded

1 teaspoon gumbo file

Hot sauce to taste

Ok, making roux is a pain and lost art (check out Top Chef from a few weeks ago if you don’t believe me).  You have to heat the oil and gently stir in the flour.  Then cook without burning to your prefered shade of brown without burning.  Initially you have to stir it consistently and constantly but for the last hour (yes hour) you can stir every 5-10 minutes.  The trick is to get a deep brown color without burning; after about 40 minutes it should look like the color of peanut butter.  I bake the sausage in the oven at 400 until done while making the roux.

Remove from heat allow to cool a bit.  Here is the fun part: whisk in the chicken broth quickly to minimize clumping.  I’ve found it’s easier to minimize lumps by putting the stock on the stove top and allow to warm via the heat from the oven.  Dump in the remaining ingredients, and cook on low for several hours.  I skipped the celery because I didn’t have any.

Easy after you get past the roux: it’s easy to see why this dish is one that was used to stretch food budgets.  Wikki has an interesting article on the history of and variations on gumbo.  Suffice to say, it’s a regionalized chilli cookoff. I wound up with enough for lunches this week and froze enough for almost a second week of lunches.

Meat: 8 O’clock ranch

Produce: Nourse Farms (peppers and tomatoes preserved from the summer)

Piccadilly Farms (onion, garlic)

Shaw’s Farm (butter)

King Arthur’s Flour (GF flour)

Red Tents, Lowe’s & Tebow . . . . thoughts from mid December

December 13, 2011

Two stories seemed to populate my twitter feed yesterday: The Houston Police arresting the OWS protestors under tents, outside of the view of others.  And Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising dollars from All-American Muslim on TLC (in fairness, supposedly BOA, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and GM also pulled their ads but those companies said they didn’t have any additional ads scheduled).  Facebook seemed to be teeming with Tebow.

Ack. I’d rather swallow cyanide.  The arrests out of public eye disturb me.  I’m not saying the Houston police did anything wrong.  It is the perception of arresting individuals outside of the public view when the individual is being arrested at a public assembly.  I really don’t have enough vested in the entire OWS movement (aside to think it’s hopelessly organized without goals for first order change) to even think it’s going to make a difference (ok, let’s shut down ports for day labors to protest imports?).  What does disturb me is the keeping the press away from arrests, breaking up camps and events in general: it happened in Boston (in our pretty liberal city with a Mayor For Life).  I’m also bemused in that ironic way that defines me that the only time various cities can seem to act together is in arresting citizens who really aren’t breaking any major laws.  Heaven forbid cities work together for something like, oh, job creation, sustainable development or crazy things like that.  Let’s face it, the OWS protestors/campers really didn’t do a lot of damage compared to winning say, the World Series and a good Nor’Easter or such event would have sent many scurrying.

Oh Lowe’s.  Once again, a company caves to the views of a few.  First, the group that managed to get Lowe’s to stop ads managed to raise the profile of a so-so cable show (brought to you by the network of the pro-creating crazies in Arkansas (what are they at? 20 now?), the objectification of children as beauty pageant contestants and the whacko kate/jon/children drama).  The sad reality is that Lowe’s is (compared to Home Depot) a low activist company: very few dollars donated in the past election cycles.  Seriously? You are going to go after Lowe’s for advertising against the trumped-up right-wing ‘values’.  Um, while you are at it .  . . how about going after Delta and Expeida for supporting the LGBT community? Or Goya for daring to sell food that is traditional found in Latin American cuisine? And Lowe’s? Seriously? You are running from a fringe group.  I’d say boycott Lowe’s but most would run to Home Depot … and well, Home Depot has a worse record since buying local is “more expensive”.  Rolls eyes.

Which brings me to number 3.  Tim Tebow.  Ok, look, he is probably a nice kid.  He is a Florida Gator so…that’s a strike.  I don’t believe in a view of any faith that starts off with “Let me first give thanks. . . ” (I’m pretty sure there is a part in The Bible about praying in private….which makes that weird pose he does annoying).  My thought (and in all fairness, I’m suspect of any born again anything) on Tebow is this: he’s what 23? Who isn’t dumb at 23?  I’m bemused at best by his comments on marital relationships when he is admittedly an unmarried virgin who has already published his autobiography!  Look, I get that he is a PK missionary kid: he is a good quarterback.  He hasn’t done something to fall from grace like Lance, Tiger or Maguire.  I hope he doesn’t: not because OF his faith but because I hope he is a decent person.  I don’t believe he has a “divine talent”, it cracks me up the amount of time people have spent talking about Tebow (ok, this week Boston plays Denver so…).  Maybe Tebow became “hot” because of Penn State and people wanting to believe in football again (for those of us who follow the SEC, we’ve seen this annoying pose for y-e-a-r-s).  Maybe Tebow became hot because of the insane 4th quarter comebacks (note to Tim: don’t try it against New England or in the playoffs).  Who knows. But there are a lot of devout football players: the difference, most of them are not white quarterbacks.  Maybe why that is Tebowmania drives me nuts (that and his gator heritage).

But if you are going to boycott Lowe’s please don’t go to Home Depot. . . .

Best laid plans. . . .

December 12, 2011

There are a million reasons I could never be a parent.  Most of them involve my utter lack of ability to plan and execute to a “normal” level.  Take today for example.  ALL day I sat around thinking “potato soup”.  I completely obsessed about it: and came home to find out that I didn’t have any potatoes. Massive #fail!  Sigh.  Fortunately, I had some onion soup left over from when my mom visited: 100% local (except the cognac).  I mean, my mom whipped this up one afternoon when I was at work. WHO whips up onion soup? (aside from the obvious?).

Onion Soup

Oh winter soups . . . .

I was so glad to have this to come home to have as my Plan B!  I spent the weekend in Atlantic City: had a good time but realized how bland commercialized food can be.  Honestly, I found myself wondering how much junk I put into my body when traveling: I honestly would have flunked tell this salad from its companion apart.  The food wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t good.  I’ve become used to the freshness of food.  Somebody remind me of this come January when I’m looking for an avocado.

So, for the soup:

Broth based on veggies from Shared Harvest CSA and beef from 8 O’Clock Ranch.

Onions from Red Fire Farm

Cheese from Grasse River B Ranch (via 8 O’Clock Ranch).

Not local: Cognac.

 

Random Acts of Kindness

December 6, 2011

So, apparently my car decided that it wanted to see a mechanic today, not tomorrow which fit my schedule much better.  I had a hunch I had a loose cable connection but honestly just don’t have the grip strength to open the latch of the hood of the car.  So, on my way home the blasted thing died.  I saw it coming and was able to ditch into a parking lot of a Nissan car dealership.  Ok, if you *live* near these guys, go there for car repairs if you have a Nissan family of cars.  I spend my time complaining about poor customer service (aka Best Buy) and frustrations on common courtesy.  Here is what happened today:

My car dies 1/2 way up their driveway (great, eh?).  They push it up hill.  Try to run the diagnostics: because I have a Ford (and hush, it’s 6 years old, 90K miles and no problems) they can only offer to replace the alternator.  They were not 100% sold that it might not be a slipped cable or a cabling issue.  They didn’t want to just slap in a $500 part/labor item when I could be towed to a Ford dealer (they do business with them and suggested them, hey, that works for me) and have a lesser repair bill.  I’m thrilled.  Then the service manager said “I’m not charging you fo the diagnostics: we can’t diagnosis because of the differences and it’s not right to pass a bill to you.” What?  ::blink::  He then called over to Ford, said I was being towed over and made sure they could look at my car tomorrow morning (they closed at 5:30 today, it was 4:45).  I think I’m in love.

I get over to Ford, they are ready, fill out the paper work and confirm they don’t have a loaner.  The rental place doesn’t have anything until tomorrow mid-day and the woman tells me “why don’t you wait until we run the diagnostics: your lights, dash and other items are coming on before renting a car.” It still could be the alternator.  It still could be a few days.  But in both cases, two different service departments went out of their way to make sure I didn’t spend extra money.  I’m not a long-standing customer, I’ve never been in either one before.  Maybe a bit of restoring of people looking out for people: maybe another side of doing business with local merchants.

I’m mostly just grateful for random acts for a few people today: I hate dealing with cars and while I don’t have the bill, I’m not completely freaking out about what comes next.