Monday, April 29, 2013


This is, in all honesty, the fifth "spring has finally arrived in Wisconsin" post that I have attempted.  I'm a little hesitant to try writing one again.  The last four were typed, ready to go, just needing a few finishing touches in the morning...  and in the morning it was snowing.  Snowing a lot.  Not just in the air snowing, either.  Actual sticking to the ground snowing.

And I just don't have time for that shit.

But, I think we might finally be safe.  It was nice all weekend, and the 10 day forecast doesn't show it dropping any lower than 40 at night.  I'm actually letting the seeds sit out overnight tonight.  I spent all day Sunday in the garden, and I've got most of my seeds planted.

There is something about planting seeds that speaks to me like very little else.  They're like magic.  Seeds, compost, maybe making bread...  All three feel a little bit like making something about what appears to be almost nothing.  (In reality, though, I recognize that it's not almost nothing, mostly because I have a compulsive seed buying problem.  I tried really hard not to spend any money on seeds this year, and I bought at least 15 packages.  I don't have room for 15 kinds of produce in my garden...  I did a Google search on "seed buying compulsion" and there's no official term that I can find in the first page of results, but I did learn that brain scans on squirrels show activity in the same areas of the brain as human hoarders... so there's that.)  I've got my balcony mostly planned out, although there's probably more planned to go out there than can fit.  I'm thinking this year I will plant my squashes and pumpkins on the balcony and let them vine onto the railings.  Last year they went up and over the fence into the neighbor's yard and I had to climb up and over to get them.  I got bruises on my arms and ribs, and scrapes up and down my arms, and this year they have a new rottweiler puppy over there, so I'm pretty sure that's a terrible plan.  We'll see if pumpkins story high fair any better.

We are currently in the final week of the worst three weeks in the WI locavore year, and my mind has turned very strongly to fresh food.  We are in the weeks after the Winter Farmer's Market ends, and before the West Allis Farmer's Market begins, where I'm left with what I've got canned and frozen, and the lettuce and celery root that they're selling at Outpost.  I suppose if you lived in Madison you'd be fine... their farmer's market started last week.  Stupid jerks in Madison thinking they're so fancy.

Let me take a quick digression to say that most of my interest in growing food (and slight but certainly not TV show worthy compulsive seed buying tendencies...) comes from being scarred as a child by The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  For those of you who memorize kids books, that's the one where it snows for like five years and Laura and Mary almost walk out into the prairie because they can't see, and everyone almost starves to death before Pa goes and steals the seed wheat from in between Almanzon Wilder's walls, where he hid it, so Ma can make some super crappy bread out of it.

Moral of the story - hide some damn seed in between your walls or you will starve to death!!!

Now, I have heard some question about whether or not all the stories in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books are true.  I will acknowledge, perhaps, that this may have not actually happened, and, perhaps, that I will not starve to death if I don't hide seed between my walls.  I don't think you can prove it didn't happen, and the number one thing keeping me from hiding seeds in my walls is the fact that I'm pretty sure squirrels already live in there - and any type of grain would probably increase that problem.  But I can imagine, at this time of year, when nothing has started to grow and the canned foods are starting to run low, being in a situation where one could eat just about anything.  If there was no grocery store, today would be the day that I would start looking longingly about the yard for anything I could possibly put into my belly.

And there we have it, my friends, is how this random nonsense will transition into my annual "eat dandelions" post.  

I've said it before, dandelions are delicious.  They are just starting to come up in my yard, so I have not had the opportunity to make any recipes with them.  This is a good thing, because the dandelion season is very short!  I'm giving you the recipes now, so you can start planning your meals ahead of time.  In a week or so, the dandelions will be up and leafy, but not yet blooming.  That's when you want to get them.  Once they start to bloom, the leafs get bitter and far less delicious.  You can, of course, eat the flowers as well.

I hear too many complaints from my friends that eating locally/organic/healthy is too expensive.  To that I say, make some dandelions or don't talk to me about it anymore.  You want to complain about the prices of organic food, then eat the free stuff.  It doesn't even take that much energy.  Go out to your yard, and pull up some weeds.  You're probably going to do it anyway, so you might as well eat them.  (Okay, if you don't have a yard, you're off the hook.  I don't want you eating any lawn that you don't know what kind of pesticides have been sprayed on.  If you would like to come over to my yard and weed/eat, you are more than welcome!)  I saw dandelion greens at Whole Foods this weekend for $5.99 a bunch. That's expensive.  We're in a recession here, people... I think.  Is that over yet?  Anyway, times are tough, and I'm sure each person reading this has, at one point in the past week, thought "gee, I should probably save some money somehow."  Well save money by not buying food and eating the food that's there and has always been there.  Try it this year.  I dare you!  I think you might actually like it.  Let me know!

You can use dandelion leaves anywhere you would use any other bitter green - in place of kale, or maybe spinach (especially if the greens are very young.)  They're great in a salad or on a sandwich in place of salad.  

Here are a few of my previous dandelion recipes.

This year, I'm thinking about making dandelion jelly.  I'll report back on that one.

Happy spring!  Enjoy it while it lasts.  Spring is very short lived in Wisconsin!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Live Worms and Tube Grubs

I turned 31 two weeks ago.  That's right, I'm old.  I'm absolutely not one of those people who is ashamed of admitting their age.  It's probably because, for most of my life, people have basically thought I was 5+ younger than I actually was.  It's a blessing, or so I've been told, but up until two years ago I was still getting carded at our local mall.  You have to be 17 to be there without adult supervision.  It's cool when your 30 and people think your 25.  It's not cool when your 30 and people think your 13.

(Sidebar: my dad is one of those people who is ashamed of telling his real age - although I'm sure those aren't the words he'd use.  If you know him, ask him.  He'll tell you he's 39.  From my perspective, if I'm 31 and he's 39, it's starting to get awkward. 

So to celebrate my 31st birthday, and to celebrate this summer's upcoming blockbuster release, I sat down and watched all eleven Star Trek movies.  I promise you, people think I'm five years younger than I am because of my youthful good looks - not because of my maturity level. 

I could go into my opinion of all the movies (Search for Spock and Insurrection are underrated.  Nemesis is overrated - which is hard, because I'm pretty sure it's been described as the worst movie of all time... by me... just a few weekends ago) but I am not a movie reviewer.  If you'd like to read a good movie review, please check out The Mundane Adventures of a Fan Girl.  It's worth your attention.  Seriously, I know you're just wasting time at work anyway.

I'm good at a few things: making pasta, gardening, talking myself into an extra dessert... and theme parties.

Theme parties are my jam.

So, as a huge nerd throwing a big nerdy party, you'd better believe that I made some nerdy food to go along with it.  I have been watching Star Trek since as long as I can remember, and while I never directly thought "hmm... that gagh looks delicious," once I realized this was going to be a themed food party, my mind started racing.

 (For those of you who don't know, Gagh: 

For those of you who do know, I apologize for the fact that Dr. Pulaski was in that video, and for the fact that the Gagh in this video does not appear to be fresh.)

I do actually own the official Star Trek Cookbook, and that is where I went first, but as is the case all too often with my extensive collection of cookbooks, I just couldn't find what I was looking for.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure the Star Trek Cookbook was written by TV Producers and not chefs.

Here's what I ended up with:

  • Gagh (Beet Risotto with Squid)
  • Klingon Blood Wine (Cranberry and Blood Orange Sangria) and Romulan Ale (It's illegal - thanks Chris!)

  • Klingon Blood Pie (Cherry Pie - Thanks D!)

  • Ferengi Tube Grubs (Cheesy Orzo with tomatoes and zucchini)

  • Cardassian Vole Belly Sandwiches (Italian Beef Sandwiches)
  • Build your own Bajoran Hasparat (Veggie Wraps)
  • Vulcan Plomeek Soup (Veggie Soup)

Everything turned out pretty well.  The tube grubs were probably my least favorite (Orzo is  not a good vessel for mac and cheese) but it looked right so that's important.  The gagh was my most favorite.  It looked right and tasted great.  Okay, so it didn't move... but I think it was the next best thing.

Here are my recipes.  Feel free to use them the next time YOU sit down to watch all the Star Trek movies in order.  Into Darkness comes out on May 17th, and I will be there at the Midnight showing!  In costume?  Who knows...

Thanks to everyone who came over to celebrate with me.  It really meant a lot!  To those of you who had something better to do, I totally get it.  To those of you who RSVP'd yes but didn't show, remember - revenge is a dish best served cold!!


  • 1 lb cleaned squid - as many legs as possible
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup minced onions or shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large beets, fully cooked and cut into small cubes
  • 5 1/2 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice (8 oz)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Wash squid and pat it dry.  If you purchased any bodies (why?) cut them lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips and quarter tentacles lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squid strips and tentacles and sauté, stirring constantly, until opaque and curled, about 1 minute. (Do not overcook, or squid will toughen.) Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl to catch juices squid releases. 

Combine squid juices from bowl with fish stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and keep at a bare simmer. 

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onions and remaining garlic, stirring frequently, until pale golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add wine and beets and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Stir in 1 cup simmering broth mixture and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue cooking at a strong simmer and adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender but still al dente and creamy looking, 18 to 20 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)
Stir in squid and parsley and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Ferengi Tube Grubs
  • 1/2 pound orzo (about 1 1/8 cups)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated (about 3 cups)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pint jar diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 or 2 large garlic cloves (to taste), minced
  • 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, and add the orzo. Cook eight minutes, or until it is cooked through but still firm to the bite. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the diced roasted pepper and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, wide skillet. Add the zucchini and cook until the water evaporates and the zucchini starts to brown slightly.

Add the final tablespoon of oil and the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds, and add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning. Scrape into the bowl with the orzo, add the Parmesan or goat cheese, and mix everything together. Add freshly ground pepper to taste, and adjust salt. Transfer to the baking dish.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is just beginning to color. Serve hot or warm.
Vulcan Plomeek Soup
This, by the way, was about 100 times better than a regular butternut squash soup, or a regular tomato soup.  Not sure why the combination worked out to be so very good, but it was just absolutely amazing.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 head garlic 
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree (or any other winter squash)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger (I'm far too lazy to ever peel ginger, and I have no idea why recipes call for that!)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 quart jar whole peeled tomatoes and juice
  • 1 1/2 cups cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large bunch kale 
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.  Cut the top off of the garlic, and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper.  Tightly close the aluminum around the garlic, and bake until soft.  Allow to cool.  Once cool, you can pinch the base of each clove, and the roasted garlic will pop right out.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, 2 tsp. salt, and turmeric. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squash puree and garlic cloves and stir to coat. Add tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to allow flavors to meld, about 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth.   Add Kale, and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until kale is soft.  Season with salt and pepper.