Monday, November 9, 2009

Time for Fall: Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin (or Squash) Soup

We've been enjoying this delicious soup for decades, so I thought it was time to share. You can use pumpkin or any orange squash such as acorn or maybe even butternut. This year, I used organic pumpkin from our CSA. The pumpkin was the brightest orange I have ever seen. We saved some of the seeds, so perhaps we will be growing some of our own next season!

Enjoy the soup, serve it to friends, smile, and be sure to let us know about your creative variations!

Indian-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Servings: 8–10

For soup:
3 cups pumpkin or similar squash
2 cups Veggie stock (or water) [depending on desired

1 cup orange juice
2 T olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed (or 1 tsp pre-minced garlic)
6 oz sliced mushrooms
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp fresh grated ginger (or ¾ tsp ground ginger)
¼ tsp dry mustard
½–1 tsp salt

For serving:
2-3 Tbsp toasted, sliced almonds
¼ c plain yoghurt
a few dashes of cayenne

Cut squash in half or quarters as needed to bake. Bake face down in 375-degree oven on oiled tray or in an inch of water ‘til done (about 30–40 minutes). Cool and scoop out insides to gather 3 cups of squash or pumpkin. Blend squash with (some or all of) water or stock and puree until smooth and at desired thickness. Combine squash, stock and juice in soup pot.

In a skillet, heat oil. Sautee onions and garlic until onions are very soft. Add mushrooms, cover and cook 10 minutes more. Add sauté pan contents to soup pot. Heat together very gently, stirring as needed to prevent sticking on bottom of pot. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

To serve:
Pour soup into bowl or mug. Top with a couple shakes of cayenne, a dollop of yoghurt, and about 1/4 teaspoon of toasted almonds.

Serve with crusty bread, salad, and your favorite cheese or sliced avocado.


Friday, September 4, 2009

You can see Russia from my kitchen: Beet Borscht Recipe

In my vocational and volunteer travels, I tutored Olga in English when she first came to the US many, many years ago. She was delightful and taught me so much about what it means to start a new life in a new country; we became good friends, for which I remain grateful. Here's my version of her version of that Russian favorite, the refreshing cold beet soup known as borscht.

With all the fresh beets available for
locavores, this recipe should come in pretty handy. If you're someone who doesn't think they care for beets, I recommend you give this borscht recipe a try before you give up on such a healthy, colorful veggie.

Are you the type that likes to experiment and come up with improvements? Perhaps this brings back an alter heym memory or two? Your comments are most welcome!

Beet Borscht
Russian Cafe Version - With thanks to Olga
Servings: ~6-8

For broth:
3 bunches beets
10 c cold water to cover
1 t salt
1 T sugar
2 T vinegar (balsamic is good)

For topping (everything is optional except the dill and sour cream (for which you can,
however, substitute yoghurt)
¼ cucumber, diced
3 boiled eggs
½-1 c sour cream
2 green onions, diced small
1 sprig fresh dill
radishes chopped or cut into roses
boiled potatoes, quartered or diced

Prepare broth
Scrub beets well (do not peel), remove leaves (reserve for use in another recipe). Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer about an hour until tender, adding water if necessary.

Remove beets from pot with slotted spoon. Rub off outer skin (discard) and grate beets, reserving liquid.

Bring liquid back to boil, then add grated beets, salt, sugar, vinegar. Boil 2 minutes more, then remove from heat. Chill well.

In each bowl, place your choice of boiled potatoes, cucumber, beets; on top, add dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, chopped egg, dill, radish, green onion.

Serve very cold.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raw Beet Salad with Solterra Spicy Peach Jam

Here's a recipe for my (soon-to-be) famous Raw Beet Salad with Solterra Spicy Peach Jam.

This refreshing summer salad has it all: crunch, sweetness, tartness, and plenty of nutritious ingredients. Its secret ingredient is Solterra's organic Spicy Peach Jam. Depending on the type of beets you choose, it will have glorious color, too. I have used yellow beets, red beets (nice compliment to the optional fruit, and can bring back memories of those brilliant Summer Olympics in China!), and an amazing red-and-white striped beet that I recently picked up at our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Red Wagon Farms.

Enjoy! If you have ideas for improvement, be sure to let me know.
Ingredients per serving:

1 handful of your favorite fresh salad greens
1 small raw beet, cut into quarters and sliced to 1/8"
1 T chevre (goat cheese) or feta
1/2 T Solterra's Spicy Peach Jam
1/4 ripe peach or nectarine, sliced (optional)
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 t balsamic vinegar


Arrange greens on salad plate
Add sliced beets into center of greens
Place fruit around and between beets
Dot beets and fruit with jam
Sprinkle cheese over beets and fruit
Drizzle olive oil over all
Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar

Serve, toss, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Makeshift Murder: Page Fifty-Six Redux

The start of a crime novel, following these instructions from a Facebook friend:

Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence AS YOUR STATUS. AND POST these instructions in a comment to this status.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST book....

Working in a crime lab might not seem like a dream job to others, but for Shönbrun--dubbed 'Schön' by his younger sister Malva when she was first learning to talk-- that's exactly what it was. Since adolescence, which was but a blur now, Schön had spent his free time devouring crime novels--except when he was watching the crime dramas on TV or in the movie theatres. Now, at last, he'd savor the opportunity to put his vicarious experience to the test. He was working at the morgue.

Schön and Malva had lost their mother when he was only five years old and she was a little over two years old (Much later would they learn what had cut her life short so prematurely.). He and his sister had been raised by their father, a well-intentioned but rather fatalist, German-American shopkeeper who never felt quite right in his own skin. In those years, his father believed that a nation's lifestyle, history, technology, culture, art, and literature could change, but there was no chance that the gestures could be altered--like the hand gestures that accompanied his speech, whether he was aware of it or not; and it was those gestures that would drive Schön more than any of the other elements his father valued so much and tried so hard to provide for the two children before post-war disillusionment, ever more serious alcoholism, impending mental and physical collapse, brought him almost to the point of self-destruction. What this meant to Schön would become clearer only later.

Schön's boss Jon Hartley definitely ran a tight operation. Though he was several layers down from the top, he'd been in charge at the city's Morgue since the beginning of time--or so it seemed to all who worked there. A grey-haired, tight-lipped, deliberate, just-the-facts-m'am kind of guy, there was something troubling about the boss. Something portentous that could bubble up at any moment, sinister and unexpected. As with Roger Williams' charming little metaphor about the commonwealth as a ship,there was also a sinister subtext, namely, that a ship has a captain and a captain's orders are to be obeyed. But what if the orders ran you into the rocks??

Nonetheless, when Schön asked Jon if he'd break him in, he got the expected answer: Jon hesitated, then nodded slowly. After about an hour, Schön felt like he knew what he needed to do. The next night, with an air of quiet confidence, Schön soon convinced a colleague who offered to show him the ropes that he knew his way around in the lab. He was definitely 'in' the morgue now.

A fresh corpse had just arrived. Awaiting the autopsy crew, they followed the time-tested, cross-disciplinary instructions: "Cover and chill overnight."

References, p. 56, sentence 5:
Plastic Fantastic (2008). S. E. Reich
The Wordy Shipmates (2008) Sarah Vowel
A Game of Thrones (1997) George R.R. Martin
A cookbook of unknown origin.
A potentially boring computational linguistics text.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WTF - Don't Ask - Don't Tell and the US Constitution

I'm trying to understand this 'Don't Ask - Don't Tell' thing. As we all know, often the best way to explain a concept is to provide a good example or two:

So, let's substitute 'Jewish' (like me) or 'Christian' (like many of you) for 'gay'. If you just are Jewish/Christian, but you don't say you're Jewish/Christian, you can serve in the military to your heart's content. Of course, if you actually practice your religion (i.e., attend religious services, go to a Seder, sing in church, attend Midnight Mass, show up at a revival tent, light Chanukah candles...), then you're OUT of the military on your (Jewish/Christian) ass.

How can this policy possibly be OK for gay? Much less legal under the equal protection clause of our Constitution that guarantees equal protection of the laws for all????


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why We Don’t Have to Choose Between Big Business and Big Government

Back when the GOP was running things around this country, we heard a lot about reducing the size of Big Government and 'letting business handle what business was good at.' With the stranglehold they held on the three branches of our government, the neocons turned business loose.

Frankly, we can all see now that ‘business’ wasn’t so good at running things, except perhaps running them amuck. In fact, the truth is that it isn’t a choice between ‘Big Business’ and ‘Big Government’ at all. It’s all about qualities that make programs work, whether they are run under a management team that is public or private: solving today’s dilemmas is going to take honest, smart leaders with vision and integrity, regardless of their political party or proclivity for either of these divisive monikers.

For another example of labels that seem to drive opinions, we hear pretty much the same old chorus of the now-marginalized GOP decrying the current administration’s efforts to put the government back in charge. These kvetchers like to throw around those intentionally loaded (but scary and empty) phrases—like ‘socialized medicine’—instead of participating in the dialog about how to fix our broken health care system. When over 60% of US personal bankruptcies are caused by health care costs gone wild (up over 50% from six years ago, it’s time to join in the discussion and stop whining about what you don’t like. C’mon, give up on those unsavory swiftboat-y tactics that preempt meaningful dialog and that just aren’t workin’ anymore. In today’s world—where you experience the failures of past administrations in your life and in your checkbook on a daily basis—these questionable tactics won’t hold water.

I suggest we all put our heads together and drop ineffective and fallacious ‘either-or’ arguments so we can actually solve the tough problems that we face.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Twitter -- Getting in on the conversation

Twitter: How to get more targeted followers

After using Twitter fairly seriously for a while now, I feel like I’ve been on an absolute roller-coaster ride. How I wish I had chronicled my ups and downs along the way! First—like so many people—I thought tweets were utter stupidity. Teeny blasts of partial news. In fact, Twitter reminded me of that short story I read in high school (don’t ask when that was!) that had a title something like “Pfft!” The story was a sardonic description of depleted future literature of which Reader’s Digest’s abridged novels were but the tip of the iceberg. Rather, the prophetic author (sorry, if you can find it, puh-lease pass it along!) forecasted the shortening of everything, including news, into shorter and shorter sound bites, until all that remained would be a single, all-inclusive, barely pronounceable syllable! Okay, we’re not there yet, but we’re close. Read on...

Twitter is a humongous conversation whose ‘bits’ and ‘bytes’ are limited to 140 characters and to people who sign up and create a Twitter profile. Unlike face-to-face conversations, or phone conversations, you can ‘cheat’ by including links and conventional abbreviations. What’s more, you can reference prior conversations using a whole other set of Twitter conventions (explained quite well by blogger Deanna Zandt who clearly knows more about it than I do). And the most important piece is two-fold: (1) You can be ‘following’ the conversations of others, and (2) ‘followers’ are those who have chosen to follow your conversation. You can use Twitter as a replacement for email or IM, but I haven’t seen that Twitter is an improvement on those tools—yet. That’s Twitter in a nutshell!

So what about the question: what good is Twitter? My current guess is that Twitter has potential, and that we have to figure out what it is and how to unlock that potential for ourselves. You’ll read a ton about how to gain ‘followers’, those Twitter participants who read what you have to say. I would say that indiscriminately adding followers is probably a waste of your time and theirs. The only people who benefit from nonselective followers would be the marketing spammers -- you just started using gmail to avoid those people; why would you want them to triple-team you on Twitter? You wouldn’t. Enuff said. Well, almost enough. I did experiment with some of the applications that work like a bad chain letter and offer you followers by the thousands in a matter of days. I probably got about 20 followers from the chain before it went dead, which took 1–2 days. And, by and large, the followers were not going to be interested in anything I had to say or sell. They were just interested in selling me the kind of stuff that is spammed all over Yahoo if you are looking for ‘work at home’ or if you’re interested in earning $3,000 per month without doing any work.

So how do you get and become targeted followers? I think you leverage the search space of and around Twitter by taking two important steps:

        First: Develop a profile that says something about you--showing what you can add to the conversation--answering the question “Why should someone be your follower?”; and

        Second: Converse (okay, ‘tweet’) about topics that interest you or that are part of your brand--what you can offer to the conversation.

Once I started searching the topics I was interested in, and directing my conversational bits to things I cared about, I saw my followers steadily increase--and I, too, began to follow some kindred spirits based on the same principles. As I added important pieces about myself to my profile, I also saw followers increase; but by then, I was more involved in the conversation and less concerned about who was following or how many (but more on that later).

Last piece of advice. Take these four simple steps:
    1. Sign up on Twitter
    2. Lurk for a week or two
    3. Massage your profile
    4. See how you feel

As you can see, I’ve changed my mind about Twitter (for) now; but if you, too, are wondering whether Twitter is a ‘good’ thing or a useless time-suck, perhaps these tips will give you some new ways to think about the phenomenon and decide whether you want to try it out.

If it isn’t your thing, you can always click delete and move on to the next social medium. One thing is certain: Twitter won’t be the last of those!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The First Amendment -- More than the right to say what people want to hear

While I understand that the remarks made by University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill were seen as offensive by so many people -- My god, on September 12, 2001, this guy had the audacity to refer to the World Trade Center's victims of 9/11 as 'little Eichmanns' -- no one should doubt that the remarks were protected speech under the 1st Amendment, the foundation of our liberty in this country. Yet, soon after the remarks came to light, then-governor Bill Owens called for the tenured professor's ouster from the University. This was wrong: our Constitution does not prohibit you from saying things that upset (or, as in this case, disgust) governments, governors, or ordinary people.

Then the outspoken governor was criticized by advisers (and others) who actually knew about the U.S. Constitution. The next thing we knew, Churchill was under investigation by an academic panel at the University. Then, they threw him out.

How can we justify what happened to the award-winning professor as anything but a witch hunt?? Facts: (1) Churchill says what he says in the press; (2) Churchill's remarks garner widespread negative attention for the unpopular (to say the least) opinion expressed therein; and (3) the University decides to take a look at his work. Unless the University investigates the scholarship of every tenured professor, this is, by definition, a witch hunt!

Not that long ago, the University honored Morris Judd as an apology for ransacking his career during the hateful and dangerous McCarthy era when that (then) promising philosophy professor refused to take the bogus loyalty oath. How quickly we forget!

What a poor job of history education we do here in this country. And what a poor job we do of teaching the magnificent brilliance of our Constitution as the foundation of our civil liberties.

Churchill is now pursuing court action against the University. A Denver jury will decide the case soon. I hope the jury finds in favor of Churchill.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Recession Recipe - Sock Soup

Need to make room in your sock drawer? Want to stretch those recession grocery dollars? Here's a recipe that might help you bag both those 'birds' with one stone!

This notorious recipe has been bandied about in my family since those tough times we now call The Great Depression. No family member around today has actually imbibed. Why don't you dig out your soup pot and tell the tale?

Disclaimer: try at your own risk!

Depression 'Sock' Soup

1 medium onion
3-4 chopped cloves of fresh garlic
2-3 pairs of old socks (laundered, of course!)
8 cups water

Toss first 3 ingredients into a soup pot. Add water. Bring to low boil over medium heat. Simmer 'til done. Discard socks. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into ramekins (that's all they had back then. Ramekins for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; filled with sock soup).

Up next: shoe-leather steak sandwiches!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Don't let GOP Senator Gregg's doubletalk fool you

How do you get from $250,000 / year income to 'poor small business owner who can't afford to create any more jobs' in 25 words or less? Ask Senator Gregg, the GOP whiner who thinks NPR is a socialist network. In his NPR interview yesterday, he responded to his interviewer's question about President Obama's tax increases for the wealthy with some pretty sketchy reasoning.

When queried about the fact that these might be just the people who can/should pay more for the ultimate good of the country's recovery, Gregg mangled his logic into something like: Yes, but these are the people who, most likely, run small businesses; so they are the ones who create the jobs (do YOU work for a small business? ? ) and, from there, it was a quick sprint to the loss of jobs and the lack of new jobs. Well, folks, if your income is $250,000, that is AFTER expenses, including salaries. I don't think small business owners create new jobs with their salaries; they do that with their capital. If they're really in the business.

What was he thinking? And how was he thinking we wouldn't question it? That we'd be joining his side as soon as we made the link to Joe the Plumber? That one didn't work then, and it ain't workin' now.