31 August 2010

More Than a Birthday (A Photo Essay)

Just a few images from the wonderful weekend during which I attended our fantastically warm and welcoming baby shower, celebrated my 31st birthday repeatedly, put the baby's room in order, and got a promotion at work - all with special guests, Mom and Dad, at every step along the way.

bouquet of flowers, herbs and vegetables from Badseed farm, courtesy of special shower guest Brooke Salvaggio - who knows exactly what I love

A selection of The Best Onesies in the World created by some of the most creative and considerate people you can imagine. Individualized, personalized, thoughtful, and unique - each one(sie) is perfect.

chasing arrows made from recycled (or upcylced?) green corduroy pants

The Nesting Dolls Onesie - a spot-on depiction - Sergio with his iPhone, Emily with her book, and Baby with his/her eco-friendly accoutrements

Dad and Sergio put furniture together; Mom and I made curtains; the baby's room finally exists!

birthday lunch at Spin and birthday dessert at Glacé. And yes, I have two ice creams in my hand and no, one of them is not Sergio's. One is an affogato to share with Mom and Dad. If you've had Glacé's affogato you won't question this at all.

a gift from Mom and Dad; a pedicure - just what the 8-months-pregnant birthday lady needed

"... and your big fat belly!"

17 August 2010

Sexy Stir Fry

If you haven't been following Badseed on Facebook or enjoying the weekly email updates, then you have missed a lot of good food p0rn this summer. Each week, Farmer Brooke posts a runner-up and a grand prize winner in her "Sexy Veggie of the Week" contest. There have been some gorgeous vegetables all season long, and each week I can't wait to get the email to see who won.

the pin-up from Sexy Veggie of the Week - Grand Prize Winner , 8/6

Come Friday, when I make my way to Badseed (my 'happy hour' after a long work week - "next round of green beans are on me!"), I find that those sexy veg are as gorgeous in person and as delicious as promised. The week before last, the runner-up was the two-foot long Chinese red noodle bean and the grand prize winner was sweet potato greens. I bought both and decided to make what turned out to be a delicious stir fry.

my sweet potato greens and (appropriately) "Vegetables and the parts we eat" illustration

Chinese red noodle beans

I also grabbed a bunch of Thai basil (one of the runners-up from 3 weeks ago) for garnish. Except, it's really an integral part of the flavor, so garnish isn't quite the right word...

Thai Basil, Runner Up, 7/23

Try these three very sexy vegetables together in this very Sexy Stir Fry - you'll see what I mean.

Sexy Stir Fry
Serve with rice or noodles or - if you're a pregnant vegetarian looking for whole sources of non-soy protein - with quinoa! Serves 2 - 3.

1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 pound Chinese red noodle beans, chopped into 2-inch pieces with stem end of bean removed
2-3 T honey (Les Miller's raw honey from Badseed)
2 T tamari (or other) soy sauce
6 oz Quorn (or some local chicken, available at Badseed, or local tofu - whatever protein you desire)
the leaves from one bunch of sweet potato greens, trimmed from the stem and rinsed
1/4 cup peanut sauce
bunch of Thai basil (don't leave this out - seriously!)

• Mince and chop the garlic, onion and pepper and saute in a small amount of olive oil, just until tender.
• Add the noodle beans to the onion and pepper; stir in the honey and tamari, and simmer - covered! - until noodle beans are tender and slightly wrinkled - about 10 minutes.
• Add the protein. If you're using Quorn, stir fry for about 5 minutes, then add the sweet potato greens on top. Cover and allow the greens to wilt for another 5 minutes.
• Stir in some of the peanut sauce and use a fork to break apart the sweet potato greens as they continue to cook, wilt, and reduce. Continue to cook until greens are fully wilted and Quorn is fully cooked, adding peanut sauce as needed.
• "Garnish" (or rather, complete the full flavor spectrum) with whole leaves of Thai basil, as many as you see fit.

15 August 2010

Family Vacation in St. Louis

This year's big Akins family vacation was just a hop, skip, and a jump away (for us) in our friendly neighbor to the east - St. Louis. We hit as many highlights as the 12 of us could in a week (including Trader Joe's where I first learned of this St. Louis specialty - pretzel bread!).

bump shot at the arch

Sergio, my aunt Jetta, and three of the four kiddos journeyed to the top of the arch in those tiny little washing machines. (The Claustrophobia kept me from enjoying a ride in one of those when I wasn't pregnant - I didn't think I'd enjoy one much now that I take up even more room.) The rest of us stayed below and watched the documentary about how it was built and bought nostalgic bits at the 'mercantile shop.'

We all had a blast at The Magic House, had more chaotic fun at The City Museum and enjoyed a great time on our hot little excursion to something called "The Awakening."

Hollis and the Beanstalk (The Magic House)

musical (literally) chairs (The Magic House)

clowning around (City Museum)

Reuben on the run (City Museum)

Ling and the man who is "Awakening" (artist: J. Seward Johnson)

Minli says "thumbs up!"

And the kids LOVED (sarcasm) the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, the site of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In all seriousness, it was a pretty amazing place to see. And actually, (no sarcasm) there were some things the kids enjoyed; perhaps not the mounds themselves, but the learning center is pretty well equipped with lots of interesting, prehistoric things to see.

Papa atop Monks Mound - the largest of the Cahokia Mounds. Curiously, Monsanto is in the background on the left.

In addition to ancient things above ground, we saw some incredibly ancient things below ground, too, at Meramac Cavern. The Claustrophobia didn't get to me here, nor to my dad, I don't think. We all enjoyed our long but cold tour (and it was hard to complain about the tour being cold, given how hot it was the rest of the week).

Ling and Tyler inside Meramac Cavern

And when we weren't out and about, we were all happy to hang out, make duct tape wallets, read, eat, chat, fiddle with our iPhones and play Scrabble. Or Bananagrams. Or Jenga.

Sergio teaching the kids Scrabble

Or hang out and watch movies...

06 August 2010

Some Summer Highlights

Amid the summer's festivities and activities so far, there have also been some noteworthy vegetables (and dishes) - three of which I found particularly worthy of capturing "on film."

Earlier in the summer (but still too late to be spring), I bought peas from Bigg Blue Farm at Badseed Market. I had been hoping I'd find peas somewhere; after seeing so many farmers sell pea shoots all spring long, I figured there had to be a comparable number of peas to follow. But they are rare. There are sugar snap peas a-plenty, yes, but regular old shelling peas are few. So when I found the Bigg Blue peas, I snatched some up. I wish now that I'd bought every last pea he had.

recently shelled peas

I spent a very peaceful morning sitting in the sun on my church pew, shelling these peas - a little bit of zen. I had no idea how I'd cook them. I can't ever remember cooking fresh peas. I was considering mushy peas, one of my favorite bits of Britishness. But it seemed kind of a shame to boil and mush them, so tender and perfect as they were. I thought I might also blanch and freeze them for later - but that also seemed a shame. Ultimately, I decided to steam them with carrots for a plain and simple peas-n-carrots side dish for a "meat" and two veg. This turned out to be a perfect way to cook them while still allowing them their maximum pea-ness. Now I am just waiting for more peas in the fall; if I find any, I'm going to buy them all.


Next up on the list of memorable veg were these beets. We got them in our CSA share, I think ... or maybe I bought them at Badseed. I can't remember; we had an assortment. At any rate, by the time I pulled them out of the fridge to cook them, I'd forgotten that they were Chioggas. Until I sliced them open and found their psychedelic swirls. They were like peppermint candies, except that we drizzled them in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and baked them in a hot oven (425, maybe?) for quite some time. They were better than peppermint candies. By far. And so stunning.

On my last shift at CSA distribution, a friend was complaining about how she'd run out of things to do with all the summer squash we'd been getting. True, there had been an abundance of squash at each CSA pick up and at Badseed. But I hadn't quite exhausted my options yet - and besides that, I couldn't turn away the interesting shaped ones so I had my share of an abundance, as well.

So one night I made zucchini burgers (a la these eggplant burgers of 31 Veggie Burgers fame). Those almost-perfectly-round, ball-shaped squashes lent themselves well for this (one medium squash, two burgers), but you could use any of the zucchinis that have enough girth. I don't have a recipe for this dish, per se; all I can tell you is that I sautéed each relatively thick (1/4 inch or so) slice in a skillet until it was nice and brown, with thyme on one side and chipotle chili powder on the other side. (A good trick to remember: make some slices through the skin around the outer rim of each zucchini "patty" so the skin breaks easily when you bite into it.) Oh! And I added some cheese while the slices were still on the skillet. Any burger fixings are right with this - in our case I tossed in some meat-free deli slices for added protein. They were delicious burgers but all too short lived.

Good thing squash is still abounding this summer; I have a fridge-full of them and I'm ready for more.