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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glazed Apple Pastry

Years ago, maybe a couple decades ago, my mom gave me a cookbook - you know, one of those spiral bound fundraisers. I cut out all the recipes I thought I'd try and one by one, I have tried them.  There are just a few left in my to-try recipe box, and this came out yesterday. It's lovely, homemade looking, with a balanced and delicate taste. I'd passed it up because the dough has to be rolled, but it really wasn't the ordeal I'd imagined. Roll the dough out, drop the apples on top and fold it in - easier than pie. I used golden delicious apples from my winter CSA share, and added some cracked red wheat to the flour. The recipe is attributed to Beth Parker in Wyoming County. If you know Beth, please thank her for me.

Glazed Apple Pastry

Pastry: 1 1/3 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 c. butter, 4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is the size of small peas. Sprinkle water, a little at a time, over mixture while stirring with a fork until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Roll out on a floured surface to a 14x10" rectangle. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (My pastry leaked a bit at one corner, so I was glad I had it on a jelly roll pan.)

Filling: 4 c. peeled, thinly sliced apples, 5 T. sugar, 1 T. flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. salt
Glaze: 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar, 1 T. milk, 3-4 drops lemon extract, 2 T. sliced almonds

Mix together flour, cinnamon and salt. Toss mixture with apple slices. Place slices down center of dough. Fold up dough on each end. Fold sides over apples, leaving an inch of apple showing down center. Bake at 400 for 30-40 min. until golden grown. Remove from oven. Drizzle glaze over pastry while hot and sprinkle with almonds. Serve warm. Serves 6.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

I think roasting vegetables is the cat's pajamas, a metaphor I've been saving until now because I've had cats, and I know they don't wear pajamas. Yet if they did, they'd be little hipster prints, silky and low-cut for the girl cats, maybe tiny roses or violets, one little pocket, and for the boy cats, just boxers. Yeah. Anyway, that's how much I like roasted vegetables.

I roast 'em all, doused in olive oil and sprinkled with whatever I have on hand. Hot peppers, garlic, fresh lemon, Parmesan, fresh or dried herbs, cayenne or paprika... it works for any vegetable: sweet or white potatoes, onions, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, squash, peppers, eggplant... everything comes out perfect, and none of the vitamins are lost in boiling.

Recently I ran out of olive oil and couldn't get more for a few weeks. I know! Thank you. It was hard. But as this post is not only about metaphor but also about having the resilience we need to overcome adversity, I'm going to tell you what happened next. I drizzled the broccoli with toasted sesame oil I'd fished out of clearance. I love those carts, heaped with the weird and the obscure, and priced to sell. Not that sesame oil is so, so exotic, but it was affordable, and after the oil I sprinkled the little nubby heads with sesame seeds, rubbed it all in, and roasted them up. Yum. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Youngstown Cash Mob

We were inspired by the Cash Mobs in Cleveland, where people gather and instead of singing, as in Flash Mob, they pump money into a locally-owned business, just by buying something.

Our first event will be at Dorian Books, 802 Elm St., Youngstown, on Sat. 25 Feb. They're open from 10-5, and we'll be dropping in throughout the day. This gorgeous brick-and-wood bookstore is full of light and plants and a friendly Maine coon cat named Ernie. The floor-to-ceiling, handcrafted bookcases are creaking with hard and softcover fiction and non-fiction, children's books, coffee table books, and first editions. And for the impossible-to-buy-for? Gift certificates.

When we support a chain store, sure, some of the money stays here. There are salaries and some taxes, and then a big chunk goes off to HQ. Buying locally-owned means nearly all the money stays in the community, and small businesses don't get the sweetheart property tax deals that chains often do. Purchasing online has no local benefit at all, except for the p.o.

One more thought - if one small business goes under, it's really sad. But it doesn't take down the whole local economy. But it is really sad! So we're going to do what we can to keep them in business.

If you're on Facebook, visit Youngstown Cash Mob. And if you're around Youngstown Sat., stop by Dorian Books. We'd love to see you there.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Films About Water

All thumbs up for these two incredible films.

First, Alamar (2009 dir. Pedro González-Rubio). This little boy leaves Rome where he lives half the year with his mother to swim and fish with his father over a Mexican coral reef. It is as beautiful a landscape, waterscape, as I could ever imagine, and the story is profoundly moving and dreamy at the same time. The boy and his father are so in love with each other, and watching them have time to talk and discover hermit crabs and fresh coconut and sleep in hammocks without the buzz of clocks and cars is exquisite.

Our oceans are so, so beautiful, and we have never lost our potential to live with care.But we are careless, especially with our planet's water.

Tapped (2009, dir. Soechtig and Lindsey) follows the bottled water industry to Maine, where Nestle buys small amounts of property and sucks out billions of gallons of fresh water for free, then sells it back to the people of Maine. By selling water back to in-state residents, bottlers like Nestle, Coca Cola and Pepsi bypass federal inspection laws. What? Yep, your tap water is tested many times every day, but your bottled water may contain (as samples in this film did) arsenic, benzene, toluene, dangerous bacteria and a host of contaminants that would trigger immediate reaction if it were in your municipal supply. Not to mention the BPA in the plastic. And bottlers are selling the water back to you at a 1000x markup. It's complete genius on the industries' part, and complete insanity on ours.

But that's not all. The human and environmental toll for manufacturing and then disposing all those bottles is a nightmare. People living downwind from the petrochemical factories are sick and dying young. We go back out onto the sea to spinning gyres of garbage, largely plastic bottles, whirling masses that are larger than our country. The plastic breaks down over time and is swallowed by animals and washes up on beaches. One environmentalist scoops up a handful of  shreds of plastic - remember your rock tumbler? - from miles and miles on the shoreline, and calls it the sand of the future.

Watch Alamar to calm your soul and give you hope, and remind you what's at stake. This is a beautiful, beautiful film. And watch Tapped. One by one we'll stop buying bottled water, and the planet will be better for it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Clean Spot

When my kids were little and before they had a good sense of viscosity and centers of gravity, of course everything spilled. I remember a few epics. Early one morning, my step-daughter dropped a full jug of purple grape juice. Now let's pause here and watch in slow motion as I reach to lift the jug of juice off the grocery store shelf. Did I have a coupon? Was I boosting their antioxidants? Was I nuts?

Anyway, poor wee one, it slipped from her grip and she stood open-mouthed and paralyzed as the purple tide rolled in, splashing on the shore of the refrigerator door - up and under, and then back.

But no matter what went down, I tried to be good natured about it, noting that at least after the spill was cleaned up there would be one clean spot. My daughter remembered that the other day, and that made me  happy.

This was on my mind yesterday. The day before I'd dropped an egg. Not just any egg, naturally, but a huge locally grown, brown-shelled, happy life egg. What a gooey mess. The next day I knocked over a cup of coffee in the same place. And my first thought was, oh how sad - two spills but only one clean spot.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Merrie Wives of Newt

To paraphrase Molly Ivins, there are good politicians, and good human beings, and we do well to know what we want. All things being equal, sure, let's weigh in marriage history. But all things are never equal. Newt's resigning the House speakership under ethics violations seems a much better guide to his character, that and the fact that his ideas are completely nuts. Let's put a colony on the moon?
These aren't just regular celebs we’re putting through the machine, after all. Their personal lives have nothing to do with us. And that’s a hard and fast rule of mine – I will not marry any of them. And I do not waver on this. But besides that, it’s policy all the way.
I offer evidence of marriage irrelevance: George W. Bush and Barack Obama both have excellent marriages, by all accounts. So did Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Matters? No. JFK, FDR and  Thomas Jefferson had affairs. Reagan’s marriage to Nancy Davis began as an affair.
Problem is, it’s either a distraction or it makes us vulnerable to manipulation. Lots of people tell me they don’t vote the party, they vote the person. This is our new wave of independent voters. I’m sure some of them are independent because they’re so angry that both parties are puppets on corporate strings. But too many independent voters I’ve met don’t know the issues, and so they don’t know what the parties’ ideals are. So it’s easy to convince them – just throw a scandal on the fire.
Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. Remember how Karl Rove took McCain out of the primary back when Rove was backing GW: he had flyers tucked onto churchgoers’ windshields accusing McCain of fathering a black “love child.” Turns out his child was adopted from Mother Theresa’s orphanage, but the whisper campaign worked.
And look what happened to the last candidate who talked about the poor in a meaningful way – John Edwards. He was cut up and devoured by the media machine. If voters had thought to themselves, sad story, but I’m not married to the guy, and I agree with his issues, we might have had an incredible president.
Sure, sometimes it matters: if you’re the Speaker of the House, say, and are doggedly pursuing the impeachment of a president over an affair while you’re having an affair yourself, ok, you get the boot. But let’s ante up the conversation. We didn’t end up with half the people in America riding the poverty line because someone cheated on his wife. And a marital faithfulness won’t get us where we need to go.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood


There has been much woohooing after Komen’s rhetorical shift away from its announcement to withhold promised funds from Planned Parenthood. I think this event points out a number of current truths.

One is that citizen activism is alive and well, aided by social networking tools. One commentator on NPR remarked that Komen had damaged its brand, which I found a disgustingly shallow description of the idea that an organization like Komen relies on the consent of participants and donors who now have a swift and decisive way to demonstrate their disapproval.

I’m glad so many women rose up to defend Planned Parenthood. Millions of us have received care from the professionals there. I volunteered at the PP in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and knew the staff well enough to leap up and hug them when my pregnancy test came back positive (my pregnancy was planned and hoped for). When I hear male politicians rail against PP, I always wonder where the women are.

But to me the sad truth in the success of Planned Parenthood and Komen is that their work echoes against a failure of government. Komen is a private organization, and as such, is within its rights to fund anyone it chooses to. And Planned Parenthood, as well – even if 97% of its services were abortion, instead of the current 3% – can make those choices. The reason women feel so desperate about each organization is that there is a lack of accessible health care, cancer screening and cancer research for women in the public sector. So we cling to these private organizations like our lives depend on it.

And that sets up a power vacuum that can be manipulated, and not just politically. For example, industries that make and use BPA (bisphenol A), a plastic used in food/drink packaging with a suspected link to breast cancer, are funding Komen. And Komen is sending mixed messages about the link: nothing to see here. You can read more about the connection in this article.

We need publically funded, industry-neutral research on the connection between environment and cancer, and then we need courageous elected officials who will look Coca Cola in the eye and tell them that they are killing women, if the link is proven. And even if Coca Cola is underwriting politicians and media, we have to give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions. It’s insanity – it’s an outrage – that we are getting our essential health information in the alternative press because corporations are running our media, government, and apparently non-profits as well.

And finally, it’s time for us to grow up and work together on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in our country. No one is pro-abortion; we all agree on this. And it’s pretty obvious that making abortion illegal doesn’t prevent unintended pregnancy. In the 1950s, the teenage birth rate was twice what it is now. You can read about that here, along with comparative data on teen pregnancy rates in other countries. Of course it’s not just teens who become pregnant without intending to. Birth control fails, and people take risks. But with half the country living in poverty, a lack of affordable contraceptives is just exacerbating the problem. And so is poverty itself. Forcing women to keep children they can’t care for is not good for anyone. And even though there are loving couples who wish to adopt, there are more children languishing in the foster system than families willing to take them. This is no trivial statistic. A high percentage of those in our incarceration system come through foster care.

One-third of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives, including women of all races, socioeconomic statuses and religions. Let’s work hard to give girls the information they need to make choices throughout their lives. Let’s hold boys and men responsible for these pregnancies as well. And instead of keeping us locked in a culture war, let’s hold elected officials responsible for seeking solutions. Birth control availability and information, abstinence, adoption, work that pays living wages to families with small children, affordable health care and child care, opportunities for girls, and safe and legal abortion… we need all the solutions if we want to reduce the abortion rate as well as take care of the children who arrive in this world, wet and gasping and dependent on us.