Wednesday, June 30, 2010
One can shop in Flag and find most things, it just takes a trip to three or four stores. If it's summer and you can include the farmer's market, then you can find most good things fresh. I shop at Safeway for Frosted MiniWheats and Fruit Roll Ups, Tillamook Cheese, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and butter, Randall's meat market for steaks and pork chops (he does have good bacon, but no pancetta), the store called the Farmer's Market for almonds and apricots, cheap herbs, tortillas, jalepenos and bell peppers, New Frontiers for fish and organic produce (when in season, it's not astronomically expensive), and the CSA/farmer's market for coffee and eggs and surprising vegetables and fruit.
It takes half my life to shop for groceries. And the Farmer's Market here? I have to say, meh. I bought carrots, melon, tomatoes and somehow spent $20. Talk about half my life. I mean half my paycheck. People call Wholefoods Whole Paycheck. They should call Flagstaff Whole Paycheck except that it's neither funny nor full of pun.
Anyway, the pain in the ass that is the grocery shopping in Flagstaff can be made up for in Flagstaff's commitment to concerts in the park. Free concerts where you can bring a blanket and a picnic and snack and hide your drinks for hours. There's a concert a week plus extra fun festivals downtown every other week.
For the picnic tonight I'm making tarragon chicken salad, something with leftover goat cheese, and a salad from Food and Wine. Oooh. I just found the Food and Wine salad--Summer Chopped Salad with Quick-pickled vegetables. It calls for 3 oz goat cheese. Done and done. The goat cheese was on sale at New Frontiers so I bought some. Call it serendipity.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Here, it's tougher. Instead of clay, we have volcanic rock in the soil. It's warm and sunny enough in the day but it drops to almost freezing at night. And, in my fence-less neighborhood, we have deer. The neighbor's spray fake cougar piss on their plants to keep the deer from eating them alive. Essentially, I bought today some deer food. Not only tomatoes but basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and them. Delicious deer foods.
So I planted the tomatoes ($4.99 each for really big already plants--I do realize it's almost July) in pots ($14.98 each just for plastic!), and bought 1.5 cubic feet of garden potting soil ($4.97) to fill the pots. If I get a lot of tomatoes, this will be worth it, if I get ten tomatoes, which I expect, I will pay about $4 each. But I've paid that much at the Farmer's Market before. I put the pots on the deck though in order to keep the deer away. This might just invite them up which, if the deck collapses due to heavy-deer mass, that will make the tomatoes ridiculously expensive and then, even more delicious.
I still need to buy tomato cages. Perhaps that will keep the tomato-eying deer at bay.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
We had a camping spot by 11:00. No bugs. And yet, it wasn't time to make dinner. And we had two babies and two kids. The hiking options were somewhat limited. Still, we managed to occupy ourselves by holding each others' babies, finding sticks, leaves and rocks of certain dimensions and qualities in the woods around us.
Finally, thank god, it was time to make dinner. I made trout fried in bacon fat, served with a side of bacon, potatoes tossed in butter (I restrained myself and did not toss them in bacon fat), and cauliflower, feta and olive baked in the dutch oven, tossed in butter and olive oil because one fat did not seem sufficient. Everything tasted slightly oversalted but was essentially fine.
At dusk we looked for owls.
We slept in our new tent on our new air mattress. I'd been up since five and yet couldn't fall asleep. I had anxiety over what I cannot now remember. Something deep like how much butter is left in the cooler and did we put the garbage in the car or were the bears on their way right now. Erik says he fell off the side of the mattress because he's the heaviest of us four (the kids being in the middle). His weight created a little slide which he slid off and into the tent. He woke up breathing nylon. My neck had a crick in it but otherwise, the sleeping on the mattress far beat out the sleeping on the thermarest which is really just a pillow for the rocks. Good night cozy rocks.
The LA woman friend made the food from here on out but I helped. The first morning, she made delicious croissant french toast. And bacon. For dinner, she made salmon burgers with cucumber, fennel, apple coleslaw and goat cheese, wasabi and yogurt sauce. So even more delicious. I envied the creativity and wanted to eat the sauce all by myself (which I got to, later).
We went on a good hike even with the many kids and LA man friend played guitar by the campfire. Zoe, Max and I slept on the air mattress with Erik in the middle and everyone slept well, for the woods. In the morning, LA Woman made ham-cream, spinach, gratin with poached eggs. Does anything get more perfect than that?
No. And yet, all wasn't perfect. When we started driving out in the morning, my phone finally charged enough to tell me I had three messages from my housesitter. They were garbled with the mountain-reception but I got: fire. evacuation. pack important papers. Poor housesitter was my first thought. What in god's name do you pack for other people?
I finally got good enough reception to get the details. There was a fire behind the Little America. People in neighborhoods close in had been evacuated and in my neighborhood, we were to be ready to go in 15 minutes. Good thing we already had our camping gear.
When we got home, the housesitter said the firemen had come by, and, when she asked what to do if the fire got really close, told her to "spray down the side of the house facing the fire." I pictured the housesitter with the hose, looking around for the firefighters, hoping someone would come by and say, "OK. It's close enough. You can leave now."
The housesitter was amazing. Not only was she there when I'm sure she would rather have been anyplace else so she could grab Box the Cat if need be, she gathered up all our pictures, our computers, Zoe's drawings, Erik's collectible cameras and whatever important documents she could find. She did a better job than I would have done. She remembered Zoe's art. I am thinking of ways to repay her. Possibly I shall buy her her own hose.
The LA folks were coming to stay at the house so they could leave early in the morning. Who wants to stay in a stand-by evac situation? I felt like a horrible hostess. Also, for dinner I made carne asada tacos which were fine but compared to what LA woman made, entirely easy and kind of lame.
We're off stand-by evacuation now although another nearby fire has forced other neighborhoods to evacuate. Ahh, Flagstaff in June. Remember how I complained about Italy last year? At least the ocean was nearby so if fire threatened, you had the option of jumping in.
Monday, June 21, 2010
So we had heard about this great place, West Clear Creek, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest where the water runs like water, something that doesn't so often happen in the driest month in one of the driest states. Erik bought a book about Arizona Wilderness areas--West Clear Creek was supposedly the most remote region--perfect for camping with kids and dogs. So we drove out Lake Mary Road, past the swampy Mormon Lake and past Happy Jack. We took a right according to the Wilderness book and drove to the end of 81E where we saw a great overlook, a massive canyon where the earth had been peeled back to show all the planet's hard work of layering rocks. It was cool, driving up to the edge. Down at the bottom was the Creek. It didn't feel so northwesty up on the edge although there were plenty of ponderosa. Also, it turns out, plenty of bugs. We were outside of the car for six minutes when we were swarmed by gnats, no-see-ums, mosquitoes. I have never had a bug bite in Arizona--one of the benefits of the waterless world--and yet, I was sticking Max under my shirt and running for the car. Maybe there was something particularly buggy about edges of canyons. So we climbed back in the car, smushing gnats and mosquitoes against the windows, and driving inland. I texted the person who had been camping on West Clear Creek. She texted me an hour's worth of texts. It was much further away than any of us could have thought. I thanked her for spending all her texting money trying to get us to the Pacific Northwest through Arizona back channels but told her we couldn't go that far that night. So we looked on around there.
The next spot, you couldn't even see water, definitely safe for an itch free camping experience. I got out. Erik got out. We got the tent out because damnit, we've been driving for hours, we're only an hour a way from our house and it's getting late and it's our job to find the camping spot for our friends (who, because of their late start, wouldn't be getting there until after dark). Three poles of the four stuck into the tent, Erik said, this is a lot of bugs. We should go, I said. But we've been driving forever. But our friends will never find us back here in the dark, and we'll all be eaten alive. But where will we go? There were bugs everywhere. Mormon Lake, which we'd passed just a few miles before did have water in it--something Erik and I tried to find last summer and couldn't. It had been a wet winter. Wet enough to encourage five million mosquitoes and, since it was so remote, offer them only 4 pink bodies to feast on. We were the only lunch around.
Do you know where we went? Home.
In some ways, this is the biggest success of our camping life. It is hard to admit defeat. The car was packed to the ceiling and the roof rack box was packed to 200 times past capacity. But there was just no way to justify 1000 bug bites just because our mission was to camp.I couldn't imagine inviting these friends from LA to drive all that way to camp in I what was, upon further investigation, just a few weeks ago a swamp.
I texted the LA friends and told them to meet us at our house. They were relieved. They'd been driving all day and still had hours to go. I apologized to the house sitter and as we drove home, counted this as an accomplishment. It's hard for me to change plans in the middle, it's hard for Erik to give up on finding that perfect, and it's hard to get over the frustration of what felt like a wasted day. But it wasn't really wasted. Now we know where the creek is and how to get there. Now we've seen three (Grand, Sycamore and West Clear Creek) vast, revealing canyons. Now we know (and still know, scratch), that there ARE mosquitoes in Arizona. We've seen Lake Mary almost full and Mormon Lake with water. We know our car can, with Tetris like organization, fit 75% of our house in it.
We ate instead of trout pan fried with bacon, roasted cauliflower, olive and feta, and potatoes tossed with butter and Parmesan, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was delicious. Our friends showed up at 9 or so and we all got to sleep on regular, airless mattresses.
The next night, we weren't so lucky. More later.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
There were tree branches, logs really, dotting the trail. They had been pulled onto the path along with large stones and other driving hazards. These people must have been anti-OHV since sometimes, when you go back there, there are the sounds and smells of ATVs. I've never been harassed by one although a motorbike once felt compelled to do wheelies while Z and Erik and I were walking.
I didn't notice any real violent monkeywrenching. There were no caltrops. It added some very low-lying hurdles which added challenge and yet no danger for my low-lying legs. I like the idea of subversive activity in the forest although for all I know, the people in the forest were just gathering firewood and got too lazy and dropped their haul in the middle of the trail. But the placement of the logs seemed too deliberate for that.
Lupine is blooming. So is Indian paintbrush. The forest smelled strangely of dill (dill=food blog consistency?). After my run, I had to go to Target because Zoe appears to have lost the bottom half of her swimming suit. On the way, I first saw possibly those same three deer hop across the street in front of the car. Then, I saw a giant white eagle/sea eagle hovering over lake Elaine. At first I thought it was my gray heron (my because I see it almost every other day) but then I noticed it's sharp, curved beak and waved hello eagle instead.
At Target, I gave in to my desire to sleep while camping and bought an air mattress. Oh the decadence. And it might not even work. Last year, our friends brought their air mattress and I think I teased them about it when it lost air. Now I fear the karma will get me and I'll be sleeping on the un-airy ground without even my thermarest.
Still, if there are monkeywrenchers, deer, eagles and herons in my neighborhood, really must I go sleep in a tent on an unre. liable mattress when my mattress here is so very reliable? Apparently, I must.
Monday, June 14, 2010
We went to Maynard's Market in Kitchen which was in an old train depot--possibly my favorite restaurant venue. Their Black Box special was pork loin sous vide meaning it was boiled (I mean vacuum sealed and immersed in a water bath preheated to an exact temperature--like 160 degrees although I'm guessing at the precise number). It came with apples and potatoes sauteed with pork belly, meaning you couldn't go wrong there. Overall, it was good although not to-die-for good. A fine texture. We'll see if I follow through with this month's Food and Wine magazine's lesson on cooking sous vide. They say you can do it with a regular pot and a candy thermometer although they suggest that buying a $450 sous vider is the way to go. Overall, a thumb sideways for the restaurant overall because the poutine had no gravy and just cheese curds which meant the fries were strangely unflavorful and $16 pizzas. The pizzas were delicious but $16! Zoe ordered one!
Speaking of which, here's a difficulty: Zoe, Erik and I ordered food and drinks. Our friends, kid-less, ordered pizza. Erik and I ordered regularly priced ($25 plus) dinners. We divided the bill evenly because, unlike in Grand Rapids, the servers frown on the practice. We got the tip but still. They paid $70 bucks for two pizzas, poutine and 2 drinks. Erik went to the store after for more beer and wine but still, things did not, in this case, come out in the wash. Next time, I'll just bring my sous vider (or candy thermometer) to their house and boil them some meat. And serve it with bacon, which will make everyone happy.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Zoe said she would go with me to the CSA even though she’s “so tired.” She perked up when she saw the apricots. They were on sale, separate from our weekly pick up. I told her she could pick out a pound and left her to gather up our vegetables. This is our last CSA for the season. I’m sad. I like the challenge of figuring out what to cook with wheat berries, turnips, kale and rapini. In the middle of January, there’s nothing as sunny as a bag full of strange vegetables from the valley. I have a lot of thoughts about Phoenix, but my thinking about the vegetables is, if you’re going to water something, it may as well be food. And here, up at the very tip of Arizona where extreme weather means very difficult vegetable growing, I was grateful for the CSA.
As Zoe piled apricots into the Ziploc bag of pretzels she had just finished. I put the heavy potatoes, grapefruit and the green and yellow squashes on the bottom of the nylon bag I sometimes remember to bring and reuse at the CSA. It’s a stellar day when I remember those bags for the grocery store. On top of the squash, I put the sweet onions, and then had to arrange the tomatoes, peaches and arugula so none of that would get smashed. The eggs I bought were extra. I asked Zoe if we should get some sprouts. She said, sure. She liked sprouts. There really wasn’t a vegetable she didn’t like. I actually think it was she who first ate raw turnips and inspired me to taste them. She was excited about the peaches and the squash but was still piling in the apricots.
“I think that’s all that will fit in that tiny bag.”“But I like them so much.” How can you argue with an apricot lover?
There is a summer CSA. Should we sign up or avail ourselves of the Farmer's Market? Am I still supporting my agricultural community by buying what I want at the market or is it better just let the CSA challenge my culinary skills. I do like a challenge.
So what should I make for dinner? The best thing about the CSA is that it upends your expectations. You go with what you’ve got. I was going to make the oven-fried chicken again. Maybe I’ll also oven-fry some of the zucchini. Or maybe I’ll plate the chicken on top of the arugula. Corn always goes with chicken but so do potatoes. Maybe we’d count the corn as a vegetable instead of a starch. I’ll take the zucchini to Tucson, where we're going soon, and saute it with butter and some other surprise there. I can’t wait to find what they grow on the netherside of Phoenix.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
So the austerity measures to compensate for the not teaching include so far buying not Reggiano parmesan, buying two turkey Italian sausages and two chicken Italian sausages instead of four of the better chicken Italian sausages and making lunch at home instead of sneaking out while the big kid is at camp.
For lunches, I've been making refrigerator salads meaning anything that's in there is fair game. Today, green apple, smoked turkey thigh (turkeys suffer around here), tomato, avocado, with lime/scallion/pepper/mayo vinaigrette (the lime mayo being leftover from the salmon tacos). Delicious. I'm also trying to eat a grapefruit a day. Mostly because they make me feel a little high.
Before lunch, I took Z to camp at the ridiculous hour of 8 a.m. Who can be anywhere by 8? Apparently, we can. This is day number six and we've been five minutes late tops. She's loving camp where they play with balls and red light green light and crocodile crocodile what time is it, and who knows what else since she is already a teenager and prone to shrugging when I ask her what happened today. She has to take a gigantic lunch plus two snacks to keep her going. Today: cabbage, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, broccoli, pepperoni, string cheese, granola bar, pretzels and a fruit roll-up. Plus two drinks. She eats it all. They work her hard. After lunch, she goes swimming at Dolphin Day Camp. I think she knows she's a dolphin.
After I dropped her off, I hung out with Erik while the little baby slept. He never sleeps in the day so this was a great riot of fun. Then, I went running. Also, a riot since I've taken to running like Phoebe on Friends. The arm-swinging, skipping, turning kind of running suits me better since I don't run far, I might as well run weird.
Then, Max jumped in his jumper, laid on his boppy pillow, sat on my lap and ate while I typed outside on the deck. I feel extra-productive when I'm feeding Max and writing. I wrote for five hours today if you include this blog post and my status updates, which I do. I still have John Denver songs in my head as altered with the word "Grapefruit" instead of the word "Sun." Except now Dr. Write and High Touch got Rocky Mountain High stuck in my head via Facebook. Rocky Mountain High indeed. I don't think these are still the Rockies though. But I'll be heading toward them soon enough singing the other good John Denver song.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Erik said maybe I was drinking too much water, which I couldn't believe. Especially since I have cured headaches by drinking 48 ounces in a row. But when I slept fitfully Saturday night, waking up to still pounding headaches, I thought maybe I should give the water thing a rest. In the morning, I took a sudafed and 4 aspirin and then went to the gas station where I drank 20 ounces of blue Gatorade. And thus, my headache was cured. I'm now thinking it low potassium was the culprit but there's always a chance with the headache that the analgesics finally worked or the water was finally enough or the hormones righted themselves or the sun went down or the allergies abated. I won't know until the next headache but just in case I'm right, I bought a flotilla of Gatorade as quick cure.
I cooked a lot this weekend but nothing too amazing, possibly owing to the non-stop headache. My in-laws were down for Erik's mom's birthday. They were going to come the whole of June but now just came for the weekend. My vegetarian culinary skills will not be put to the test as much as I had hoped. For her birthday, I made salmon tacos with apple/cucumber salsa and mango/tomato salsa and lime mayonnaise. The recipe was from Food and Wine and it was a little too healthy for my taste and a little too sweet but pretty OK. I also grilled steaks and portobellos one night and made blender Bearnaise sauce. Almost perfect but a little too vinegary. I'm working on it. And yesterday, we went to Criollo for lunch/dinner after our hike to Kelsey Springs. I ordered the pork belly tacos. Rick had the tamales. Everyone liked the chicken skewers peanut dipping sauce. It is delicious there.
What should I make for dinner tonight? If I don't come up with something relatively soonish, the default will be tacos and I've had tacos two of the last three days. Although there's a recipe in food and wine for braised turkey tacos that sounds intriguing....apparently, this year tacos have replaced last year's pizza, which replaced the previous year's hamburger as the culinary adventure of the cooking class. Or at least the Food and Wine magazine writers. My headache is for now gone. Perhaps I should try something complicated.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Although they were going to come for all of June, Erik's parents are just coming for this weekend. They drove down from Torrey in 6 hours. This is making the trip a little more reasonable but for somewhere that should only be 4 hours away, it's still annoying. I need a helicopter.
We went to Beaver Street Brewery's new outfit, The Lumberyard. The building was gorgeous. A remodeled sawmill with corrugated metal walls and polished concrete floors. While we were in the bathroom, talking about how nice and new everything was, Zoe said, they didn't finish the floors that well to which everyone in the stalls laughed. The beer was fine according to Erik. Nothing too exciting. Erik ordered a Pilsner to which he says was "eh." The Kolsh was better because it was more hoppy, ended dry and was well-balanced (I made him come up with some adjectives). Rick, Erik's stepdad, said the Gold was good. Erik thinks if you make the light beers well it bodes well for the heavier beers. BUT, who cares about beer?
The food was mediocre. It's so sad because Beaver Street Brewing's food is also so mediocre. I ordered the Hot Italian Beef. No people. Have you ever been to Chicago? They pulverized the hot peppers, added something tomato-y to the jus, and the meat was fatty. It got stuck in my teeth. The bun came pre-soggy. Ick. Not pleased. Zoe ordered chicken wings without sauce. Those were better. Erik had sliders--mediocre. 2.5/5 (Erik prefers the rating system.) The fries were good. We're going to Criollo this weekend to have some proper food. Nachos with bacon which make you think, why didn't nachos always come with bacon? (I suppose that is the question for all food, but in this case, it's an immediate one).
This weekend, we might go to the Hopi Mesas. I hope to see some examples of the three sisters farming--beans, squash and corn. I've never been east to the Hopi reservation. Apparently, tourists can visit the first two mesas but they are not allowed on the third. I hate feeling like a tourist and an outsider but I presume it's my turn to do that.
Art walk tonight downtown and tacos for El's birthday. Fish tacos? Tofu tacos? Steak tacos with extra veg? There's a recipe in Food & Wine for Gas Station Tacos: bean dip, American cheese, pork rinds and beef jerky. Plus an apple. Because you can get apples at gas stations. I think we'll make Chipotle-rubbed Salmon Tacos with lime juice, orange, chiptole chile powder. And mayo. Usually I make chipotle mayo for fish tacos. This will be a little different.
Did I mention that Erik got me an Alinea cookbook for Christmas? I just now have time to read it. It's insane. 17 recipes for Wagyu beef. 23 for a goose dish. I did however make a rendition of their Opah. Recipe over here.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
I mostly cooked. I made a good portobello. The recipe's at that Poet's Pages and Vowel's blog. I like the title of the blog but the URL is dinner with NVP which I also like.
We came back and I tried to wrap my head around this food book that is trying to kill me. Let me tell you what I'm trying to do and then you can fix it. I'm weaving together my personal story about fertility, pioneerism, my grandmother's personal history and hometown, food, and sustainability.
Here are the working titles:
- In Season
- How I got my kid to eat 9 colors of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Making it Palatable
- You can grow anything anywhere although there are consequences
- A Permanent Home
There's a real title but that's a secret.
I think one of the narrative threads is going to have to go. This makes me sad because I spent the last 9 months putting it in there. It is hurting me a lot. I think it's going to have to be the grandma/Evanston Wyoming sections. Ouch. We'll see.
I do think that I know where I'm going though. Today, I went to check out the charter school Puente de Hozho that Zoe didn't get lotteried into. I had heard Gillian Ferris Kohl on KNAU talk about local elementary schools building their own gardens. I emailed a teacher there and went to see for myself. I do believe this counts as my first real journalist experience. Robert Kelty, a fourth grade teacher, met with me after school. He took his large, janitor-like set of keys and led me out the back door. Behind and between the school's four buildings is a courtyard. Half of it was Ponderosa trees, like all things Flagstaff, but the other half was tiers of gray dirt. Robert told me the kids and he had spent weeks pulling out weeds and elm trees. They'd hired professionals to cut down some of the Ponderosas to let in enough light. All kinds a people had volunteered to help. Aaron Secakuku, the leader of Pathways, a group that helps at-risk Native American kids in after school programs, John Taylor, a local landscaper, and the Hopi tribe which let them come visit their farm in Hotevilla.
The first beds I saw Robert told me had just been redone. These were the kindergartner's beds, lined with small ponderosa logs. He said they were trying to do the three sisters but that they'd planted regular corn seeds instead of Hopi seeds and, not only was it inauthentic, the corn probably wouldn't make it. This garden is going to be a dry farmed one. Regular corn needs regular irrigation.
In another bed, they students had made strips of rocks. In between those rocks, they planted long rows of Hopi beans. Above that, beans and squash. Above that, an empty bed, reserved possibly for melons. And, above that, tomato plants covered in blue, pointy hats. They'll live like that for awhile. I asked how long. Robert said, until they get really big.
They're planning an herb garden and they have peach, cherry and apple trees. I said, surely they need water. He said, maybe. But maybe not too much. He pointed to the roof of one building. "We have a drip system that was donated. We'll put gutters there. And we're getting a rain barrel. Or, rather a rain tank."
I am a bit slow. I imagined the drip system being attached to the building's hosebib like my drip hose at home. But no. They'll connect to to the rain tank. They'll water the garden with the rain they collected. An entirely do-it-yourself, with the help of the Hopi, the landscaper, Aaron Secakuku, and a few hundred elementary school students.
So far, there wasn't much to see but sticks stuck in the ground to encourage the beans to grow up and around them and the plastic hats to keep the tomatoes warm. The ground was so dry and gray-dirt looking. I don't know that if I were a seed if I could make it there. Robert Kelty says the Hopi said not to overwater the beans. They like drought. He admits the fruit trees might have a hard time. Sure, the whole garden might not work. But it might. I asked if I could come back and peak in the summer even though no one would be there. He said, sure and to come back in the fall too. The whole place could be covered in green.
In other good news, while I was there, the principal said some of the incoming kindergartners parents were waffling. Maybe there would be a spot for Zoe. It's an intense place. Only 2.5 hours of instruction in English. The rest in Spanish or Navajo. Dude. That's hardcore.