Really? Obama Signs Away the Environment to Monsanto

President Obama signed an appropriations bill earlier this week. You know, the one that included legislation to let Monsanto rape, pillage, and plunder the earth?

Some people are defending it by pointing out that it was attached to some truly useful things such as funding for the VAWA. Others are saying that the Democrats didn’t know the Monsanto bit was in there. I am not buying it. 

I’m p.o’d at so many levels: the blatant disregard for environmental safety; ignoring the will and desires of the people; and yes, idealist that I am, I do feel betrayed that representatives who I’d considered “good guys” in the past supported this and accepted campaign funds from the makers of poisons. 

I couldn’t write about this yesterday. Within five minutes of checking my news on FB, I received word of the death of a friend’s wife after an eight year battle with cancer. Then, not long afterwards, this came down the wire. I physically shook and couldn’t think straight the better part of the day.

The battle isn’t over yet. Do something. Plant your own non-GMO garden. Call and demand an executive order to override this part of the bill. Just do something.


The Homecoming Feast: Hubby Tested, Doggy Approved

Hubby is on his way home from Michigan. Hopefully, he can negotiate the stretch of highway that skirts the southern tip of Lake Michigan without incident. Today we are on alert for yet another a late season storm that’s sprawling its way east just south of 1-80.

While I’m sure some cooks toy with the idea of groundhog recipes, I’m doing something a little more conventional and elegant. I picked up a turkey breast at Trader Joe’s the other day. We haven’t had it in a while. It will be seasoned with orange and basil tucked beneath the skin as well as a little salt and pepper, then roasted. Potatoes are a must, and there will be a green veg or salad. I’m thinking green beans amandine. We have brownies or strawberries for dessert. 

We’ll be able to make soup or sandwiches with it, and Oakley can have some, too.

So what are you having tonight?

The Savory Melange, Or How This Whole Thing Started

ImageOrion (1996-2010)

(Int: daylight. Zoom in on woman and dog on their return from the park)

Me: (putting bowl on island by the fridge) Puppy, what do you want Mommy to make you for your savory melange tonight?

Orion: (sits at attention)

Me: (opening fridge)  How about some green beans, sweet potato, and chicken? 

Orion: (cocks head at “chicken”)

Me: Ok. (mixes in his bowl, then takes it to the feeding station with Orion following) Orion, can you give Mommy a sit?

Orion: (sits)

Me: Good boy! (places bowl on mat; Orion devours contents, burps, and finds a spot for a nap)

We played out this scene daily for the last three years of his earthly life. Before that, I’d been feeding him was was touted as high-quality kibbles, only to deal with frequent spells of GI issues and allergies. After several days of bloody diarrhea and vomiting,  a visit to the vet that cost $140 to be told that he was “old and eats stuff in the yard,” I took him home, and fed him white rice for a few days until he was stable. Then I added gradually increasing amounts of chicken and turkey, and veggies with some banana thrown in as well.

It’s that simple. I had hints on refining it from his acupressure therapist and the owner of the store where I bought high-quality canned food for backup. But the rest of the time, Orion ate what we did. No chocolate, onions, walnuts, macadamia nuts, or grapes, but pretty much everything else.

He regained the weight he’d lost, returning to his healthy weight of 50 pounds, acceptable for a big-boned American Brittany. Up until the last week before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge due to lymphoma, he had the energy level of a much younger dog despite his heart murmur, walking for at least two hours a day.

My grandmother fed her dogs home cooked food, too. They were the kind that put the “mixed” in “mixed breed,” and with all that love and good meals, they lived to be outrageous old ages. All it takes is some meat, some veggies, and a few carbs to make a dog healthy and happy.

We collectively forgot that with the advent of processed food. Corn, an allergen and intolerance for the vast majority of dogs, is used as a filler simply because it’s cheap. Most of the ingredients in many of the commercial foods are used for the same reason.  It may be convenient to simply pour kibble into a bowl and let the dog free feed, but at what cost in the long run? 

For me, a lot of pet stain remover, many sleepless nights, and useless vet visits. Rest assured that I changed vets soon after that last visit. And let’s not forget the guilt tapes that kick in at 3:30 AM when I can’t sleep: I wish I hadn’t let myself get brainwashed about pet food. Why didn’t I notice that the grassy scent on his toes indicated a grain allergy? What if I had switched vets sooner? 

And then Oakley wakes up a little and gives himself a shake, making his tags jingle. He turns around, lies back down with a contented sigh bourn of a tummy full of sweet potato and turkey, then starts to snore a lullaby to lead me back to sleep.



In Praise of Cabbage

ImageAs I write this, the sky spits sleet and rain by turns. The week’s forecast resembles a holdover from last month with grey skies and crazy cold temps. 

Anyone in my neck of the northern hemisphere would do unspeakable things for just a little green about now. However, compromising one’s ethics is totally unnecessary. You just need to get a head of cabbage. 

The only ethnic cuisine I can think of that doesn’t have at least one dish with cabbage is that of the Inuit. It’s a hardy crop, able to tolerate some pretty low temps well. I’ve seen recipes calling for it in soups, salads, main dishes, and even desserts. Cabbage is also cheap, anywhere from 29-50 cents a pound. You can dress it up as Molly Wizenberg does in cabbage in cream (please see her book A Homemade Life for the simple recipe) or make a deliciously down-to-earth Indian stew with potatoes.

Skillet Cabbage is one of my go-to dishes. This recipe originally came from More with Less, a compilation of recipes from members of the Mennonite church. The basic recipe: 4 cups of cabbage sliced thinly, 1 thinly sliced onion, 1 coarsely grated carrot, and a clove of garlic. Stir fry the veg together (you may add slivers of leftover meat if you’d like, or tofu) and season with a tablespoon or two of soy sauce. If you want Indonesian, add two beaten eggs to the mix at the end of stir-frying and let them cook. For Vietnamese, top with some chopped peanuts. This is great as either a side dish or over rice or Asian noodles for an entree. 

As with any blank canvas, the possibilities are endless. 

(Many thanks to Cynthia Sanford for the inspiration)

Potage Bonne Femme, a/k/a Refrigerator Soup


(image courtesy of ) 

I’ve been cleaning out the fridge today. I’ve found two heads of cauliflower that need to be used (you did see my earlier recipe for the soup, didn’t you?). There are also some tomatoes, carrots, and a zucchini lurking about as well as a few potatoes. I have the better part of a tetra-pac of chicken broth. I think it’s time for some potage bonne femme. 

Sounds pretty fancy-schmancy, right? Well, I’m going to tell you a secret. Cuisine bonne femme means that the recipe has roots in thrifty French household practices, not restaurant food. It’s what you might have eating in someone’s home. It may be pureed to give it some body and creaminess, but it was made from the odds and ends of veggies that needed to be used up before they spoiled. The elegance comes from the simplicity.

Make a miripoix–chop up some celery, carrot, and onion. Saute in some butter or olive oil until soft, then add the broth and the the little treasures that you found in the drawers. You may add some rice or pasta. Adjust the amount of broth accordingly. Add salt and pepper to taste, maybe a bay leaf. Just let it simmer until the veggies are done. You may puree part of it as discussed above.    

This would work great as a first course, or with some cheese or hummus and crackers for a main. Or a salad. The possibilities are endless.

The Road Without a Map

Today is a snow day, one of respite and rest.

I hope. Please, Great Mystery, let it be both.

Last week felt like swimming though a tsunami of grief. Since the beginning of February,  social media friends and one who lives locally had to take the sad and sacred walk to the Rainbow Bridge with their companions. I wept, sent (((hugs))), hugged in real life. Along with the tidal wave of grief came ripples of anger–anger at the diseases that claimed some of them, at the aging process, at untenable circumstances.

Orion made his passage from lymphoma at 13 1/2. Nothing, between his age and his heart condition, could be done, and even if he were eligible, was I willing to put him through hell for six months of questionable quality of life. He wound down, still insisting on two walks a day at his favorite park until he lost the ability to walk. I stayed on the floor next to him until the very end. That was the weekend before Memorial Day.

I spent that summer trying to keep walking, breathing, doing yoga, anything to stumble into the new normal through the fog of shock and grief. Labor Day brought the light that dissipated the mist. I went to the Fox Valley Folk Festival. As I sat beneath a tree enjoying a hummus wrap for lunch, I realized that I was still here, that I still felt the old maple’s support behind my back, and that the sky was still blue. I sighed, and just sat for a while. 

Later that week, I dreamed that I heard Orion at the back door. When he wanted to come in, he would let us know with a deep “wooooooof.” As I approached the door I saw the most exquisite chestnut and white puppy between his front paws.

When Oakley and I adopted each other, I found out that he’d been born that week. He was scrawny and semi-feral and had a lot of un-adorable moments, but what teenager doesn’t? With the grace of a good trainer, we moved through the challenges. 

Oaks walked me as I finally surfaced on Sunday. The clear sky hinted at spring.

I still occasionally find my nocturnal wakings smeared with the last vestiges of guilt and grief over Orion. …switched vets sooner…recognized grain allergies earlier….titered sooner or not done as many vaccs…I should have hosed him off more often to get rid of the runoff from the neighboring farm…and then Oakley’s snoring jolts me back to the present. The questions about grain based food and doubts about vaccines had only recently started to surface in the collective questioning. 

Perhaps the objective of the grief process is not so much one of getting everything sewn up into a tidy bundle. Perhaps, instead, it is a question of acknowledging the holes, accepting that they will shrink and settle over time, but still be there. 

Oakley snuffled the old snow edging the trail at the crossroads. He tilted his head upwards, and sniffed the air. We walked off to the right, into the wooded portion, not sure of trail conditions, but knowing that we would get to its end in t