Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Harvest, Peanut Butter, & Fashionable Thoughts

I can't say it enough: I love being a member of a CSA.

The weather in LA was surprisingly chilly and rainy last week. It was reminiscent of the east-coast autumns of my childhood. The perfect antidote to the cold? Soup, of course, and thanks to my CSA, I was able to make it organic, local, and fresh:

Fall Harvest Soup

-CSA yellow squash
-CSA fingerling potatoes
-CSA kale
-CSA Swiss chard
-CSA leeks
-dried lentils
-yellow onion
-organic, fresh garlic (about 3 cloves)
-sea salt
-tricolor, freshly ground pepper
-crushed red pepper & cayenne because I'm a spicy-food FREAK and can't seem to exclude this from any meal I make, no matter what.
-olive oil

farm fresh kale and Swiss chard

This soup can be made in 5 main steps. Ideally, steps 2 and 3 will be completed simultaneously in order to enhance the ease and efficiency of making your soup. Here we go:

1. Wash and chop all vegetables.

2. Boil water (with a dash of salt) and add chopped potatoes to it.

3. Rinse the lentils and then add them to a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and allow to cook on medium or low until they are softened. I recommend following the package instructions.

4. Saute the chopped onion, leeks, and garlic. You can then add the carrots. Once all of these ingredients are softened but not totally translucent, add the chopped yellow squash and then finally the chard and the kale. The chard and the kale take the least time to soften and don't need much room to cook (much unlike the garlic, which doesn't cook well if it's added late in the saute-ing process), which is why I added them last.
the saute process

5. Once everything is softened enough, add everything (including the spices) to the pot that contains the potatoes. You may need to add more water if the water's looking low. Bring it to a boil and then allow it to simmer for as long as you wish. The longer it simmers, the more integrated and complex the flavors become. Also, a note about spices: I don't really measure these, but rather, add a little at a time and go with my palate. Just keep adding and tasting until you're satisfied. That's my philosophy. 

the pot of soup, early on in the cooking process

Some cool things about this soup:
-like I mention above, I used local, organic CSA produce, which means it was environmentally-friendly (local crops=less transportation required=less pollution) and healthy (organic=pesticide-free)
-kale and swiss chard both contain calcium. Oh, and the calcium is more absorbable than the calcium in cows' milk, just sayin'. 
-it keeps well in the refrigerator for a while, and tastes great (sometimes even better) once it's reheated (I reheat by putting it in a pot and cooking it on the stove, as we don't have a microwave at my house, but I'm sure microwaving would yield decent results, too) 

Now, don't think you need to have the exact ingredients that I used. You can make your own version of Fall Harvest Soup and it'll be wonderful! I'm mostly posting my own recipe just to encourage people to cook with whatever they have around, though I will say that the soup I made was quite tasty. But really, you can use anything: Don't have chard or kale? Try chopped spinach. Don't have fingerling potatoes? Use any old potatoes! Lentils can be substituted with white beans, pinto beans, really any legume. Maybe throw in some celery, which I would've done if I had some on hand.

Something I would highly recommend, however, is using leeks and carrots. If you don't have leeks, regular onions will do, but the subtler, softer flavor of leeks tends to cultivate greater harmony with the other ingredients as compared to the harsher flavor of regular onions. I didn't have enough leeks so I compromised and used equal parts leeks and onions. Carrots are pretty integral and I can't think of a good substitute. In French cooking, there is this concept called The Holy Trinity, which means celery, bell pepper, and onion, and is named such because it's considered the mandatory cornerstone of every French meal. My own personal Holy Trinity consists of celery, onions, and carrots, which I consider to be the foundation for any soup or stew. 

Another recipe that I want to share is something I also made the day I made the Fall Harvest Soup, and this is my Peanut Butter Banana smoothie. The autumn chill made me hungry for something a little heartier than my usual, mostly-fruit smoothies, and so I decided to go with some ingredients of the nutty and spicy variety:

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

-1.5 bananas (or however many you prefer), chopped and frozen
-2 TB peanut butter (I use Trader Joe's "Creamy Salted" kind), or however much you like
-2 TB Trader Joe's Vanilla Hemp Protein Powder
-1 cup (or however much you like) of Vanilla almond milk (I alternate between Pacific Natural Foods and Blue Diamond brands)

All you have to do is put the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, creamy, and absolutely freaking delicious.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit
My finished product, which lasted approximately 45 seconds.

I've also been preparing for fall in other ways, namely, stocking up on clothing other than my Los Angeles Summer Uniform (i.e., tank top and jeans shorts, due to the hot weather). As a supporter of all things environmentally-friendly, of course I had to stop by Crossroads. Yes, yes, it is the "Gucci" of thrift stores, but whatever. It's still recycling, it's still affordable, and therefore, I still like it. I found a pretty decent jacket/coat there, which I plan to alter slightly, once I muster up the cash to join a local sewing 101 class. 
The better to hypnotize you with.

I'm a bit incensed about the continued promotion of animal products in the fashion world. It's bad enough that Gaga had to wear that god-awful meat dress (which is a whole other blog post in and of itself, although my "short" opinion is: her decision was grossly ill-informed but had an unintended positive impact on people who wouldn't have otherwise re-considered their animal-informed fashion choices). A woman I admire oh-so-much, intelligent and adorable Ellen DeGeneres, handles this best (it isn't until about 4 minutes in that she does this). Anyway, my points are, what the hell are we thinking, seeing it as cool to wear the flesh and fur of other living beings!? and, you can find plenty of recycled, and therefore not directly perpetuating of animal-informed clothing pieces (as in my 1/3-wool coat example, above) and non-animal pieces (as in my duct tape wallet example, below). 

By the way, I completely understand the argument that by wearing animal parts (as I said, the jacket I just bought is 1/3 wool, which typically comes from sheep "fur"), it sends the message that wearing animal parts is acceptable. And I know that some vegans and animal rights folks oppose even the recycled (i.e., thrift-store or already-been-worn-and-therefore-not-contributing-to-new-production) animal pieces, because of this. I am in no way advocating the use of animal products in our clothing choices by my purchasing a used 1/3 wool jacket. However, I do realize that by supporting the recycling of clothing, even those consisting of animal parts, I may or may not be perpetuating the trend of wearing animal parts. On this issue, I am very torn, but for the time being, I think it is worthwhile to support the recycling of all used materials, even if those materials originate from animals. I do not, however, support the manufacturing of new materials that are derived from animal parts. 

Right, so... In other autumnal preparatory news, as I just alluded to, my boyfriend and I decided to make duct tape wallets yesterday. It's pretty simple to do, and the special colors that we used are easy to find at your local crafts store (I tend to go to Michael's for most of my supplies). His is pretty awesome-looking, so I'll post a photo of it soon, but for now, here is my own work-in-progress: 

That's a note-to-self on my hand. My philosophy: What gets written on the hand gets done.
That's all for now. I should wind down for the night. I plan on shopping for my fall's supply of delicious, vegan skincare and cosmetics tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I'ma continue diving into False Priest (do with this what you will, music connoisseurus rex's). This particular video makes me lose my mind a little, it's so good. God.

peace and carrots,
“We try to have these “holy fuck” moments where you’re really having your mind blown, especially if you’re listening to it on headphones.” - Pitchfork. Photocredit.
P.S. I kind of really want those turquoise boots. So long as they're vegan-friendly. 
P.P.S. Yeah, I know, what the hell are they doing, wearing feathers in this photo!? And I know for fact, as I've searched far and wide for synthetic feathers, that 99.9% of feathers you see are the real deal, bona fide bird feathers. Do I still love Of Montreal, even though they're wearing that? Yes. But I also love my parents, and they eat animals. A person cannot be vegan in every breath she takes, as much as she might like it to be that way. Again, this is in no way meant to advocate or support the wearing or eating of animals. This is not to say it's okay with me that they're wearing feathers just because they're Of Montreal. This is simply to say, I like the band but I recognize the disconnect between my beliefs and theirs, as per this photo, and, I'm being honest.

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