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Monday, December 31, 2012

Green Chile Sauce, Finally!

I have lived in New Mexico for a year and a half, I have worked in green chile fields, I have roasted green chiles, and I have added them to many recipes, but until last night, I had yet to try to make my own green chile sauce. As I sit here eating eggs with rice and green chile sauce, I am so glad that I finally took the initiative and pulled out a bag of frozen green chiles from the freezer. I let it defrost all day and when it was finally time to make dinner, I opened up the zip-lock freezer bag and the aroma of roasting green chiles came rushing out. I was immediately nostalgic for days spent packing freshly roasted green chiles into 1 lb. freezer lock bags. I even thought fondly of harvest days spent hunched over chile plants, though significantly less so than roasting days.

I used a recipe I found online as guidance during my first green chile sauce attempt ("Traditional-Style New Mexico Green Chile Sauce" from, but I made several deliberate changes and a couple based on available ingredients. I diced a huge clove of elephant garlic and put aside a tablespoon for the rest of the dinner. I put the majority of the garlic clove (this clove was seriously giant) in a medium sauce pan with olive oil over medium heat and cooked the garlic until it was soft. I then added two table spoons of whole wheat flour, a teaspoon of cumin, and sprinkled in a lot of salt and pepper (I accidentally added quite a bit more salt than I intended to). I continued to cook these ingredients for about two minutes. Next, I added 2 cups of water and a vegan boullion cube. I stirred the ingredients, encouraging the boullion to dissolve, brought the mixture up to a boil and then lowered it to a simmer. While the broth was simmering, I peeled the skin from the chiles and removed the stems. At first, this task was rather unpleasant since the skin kept sticking to me and the chiles, but then I pulled the skin from chiles under a a light stream of warm water and suddenly it was easy. Once all the chiles were stemless and skinless, I sliced them into thin rings and dropped them into the broth with some "Italian Seasoning," which is essentially thyme and oregano. The whole sauce simmered for about ten more minutes. The major deviations from the "traditional recipe" were: no onions, 4x as much cumin, veggie boullion instead of pork stock, and Italian Seasoning instead of just oregano.

We ate the green chile sauce over chorizo with elephant garlic, spinach, and white rice. I have to say that the green chile sauce was the best part. It was so good, I literally ate the sauce with a spoon. Later in the evening when we were watching Breaking Bad (it was a very New Mexico evening), I was craving the chile sauce so badly I had to grab another spoonful as a snack. This morning, I piled it on my eggs and rice. I think this homemade sauce is going to replace sriracha in my life (at least for a while). I only have 1.5 lb. of green chile left in the freezer and so many green chile dishes I would still love to try. Green chile really is a treasure.

Green Chile Sauce on Toast and Green Tea, on my new Fika set.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Important! Salam Academy Kids!

Hey Kids!

I wanted to get this information to you earlier, but traveling and holiday activities have kept me quite busy. Here's the low-down on science fair: If you have approval on your project (everyone except Mahmmud and Odey) and you are allowed to do it at home (everyone except Layla), you should be experimenting all break! Remember to record data in data tables in your LAB NOTEBOOK; write down the date and time everytime you work on the project and write down EXACTLY what you do. Have the data tables drawn before you write in the data. Make sure that experiments are done more than once. Results MUST be repeatable.

In addition to experimenting, you will write two sections of your research paper: the introduction and the methods. The intrpduction is the "research" part of the paper. You will have to read about your topic and learn as much as you can. Then, write a 2 page esay "introducing" your topic, which should include the history of the topic, general background knowledge and informatiion, and a description of why your specific project is interesting, why other people should care about your project, and how your project will help people or advance science. Your methods section is like a procedure, but is written in paragraphs instead of as a list. The methods are written in the past tense, since you should have done the experiment already. It should sound like this: "one hundred mL of water was added to 50mL of olive oil and allowed to settle. Two drops of food coloring were dropped into the oil/water mixture and was observed for two minutes. Observations were recorded every 30 seconds for the 2 minute period." If you use sources that were not on your original References list, please make a new reference list. The introduction and methods sections will be typed in 12pt font and double spaced and printed so that I can mark it.

On the fist day after break I will collect your introduction, methods, and your lab notebook. I will grade these three things and they will count as a separate "project grade" and will therefore have a large effect on your overall grade. Please work very hard on this assignment and take it seriously!
I'd love to see Salam Academy send students to States again this year! And, I know you would love to have sonme extra cash and glory :)

Mrs. Brisbin

Some Vacation Pics!  We went on a Christmas Eve hike on part of the Appalachian Trail near Harper's Ferry Maryland. It started snowing when we reached this overlook and it was really incredibly beautiful! Pauly, the Brisbins' giant golden retriever likes his gentle leader about as much as Gnasher does and he was rubbing his face all over the rocks trying to get the leader off his nose.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

This time of year...

I'm not really sure why I am a bah-humbug about the winter holidays, but I do have some hypotheses. For a while, I thought that I was just bitter because my Christmas budget was smaller than other peoples. I remember going back to school after the holiday break and hearing the fanciful stories of Christmas loot. Some kids got trampolines or TV's or gaming consoles, coach bags, and Seven for All Mankind jeans. My Christmas's were not nearly as fanciful, and sometimes I would make up stories about presents that I had "received." Just like my dad was "away on business" when I had sleepovers. Looking back on these Christmas's, I am grateful that my mom did not spoil me rotten. I learned the value of hard work and while I was materialistic for a long time (and still am, a little) at least I worked for my fancy things and really appreciate them. So, I don't think my residual feelings of inadequacy from elementary school or high school are what contribute to me being a bah-humbug.

I do have some nice Christmas memories. My mom took me into Manhattan to see Macy's Santa Land and we went to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and the Christmas windows on 5th Ave every year. I loved this tradition, even if it did leave me with a life long fear of elevators after being suffocated in the overcrowded direct lifts to Santa Land. And, we drove to Florida to see my grandparents almost every year. I literally went to Disney World just about every December for 14 years. As a child, I knew my way around The Magic Kingdom like it was the 4th of July Carnival at the local Volunteer Fire Station. I had some amazing Christmas gifts that I will never forget, like my American Girl Doll. I do have some awful memories, too, like the year we went to my father's house for Christmas and he took us to his in-laws, where my brother and I were ignored and neglected all day. But in general, my Christmas's were mostly pleasant and fun-filled.

So why do I feel a deep annoyance whenever this time of year rolls around? I hate walking into a store and being blasted by Christmas music. I hate driving down my street and seeing Christmas lights. I hate those stupid blow-up dolls people put on their front yards. I hate the expectation of giving and receiving gifts. It all drives me crazy. I think that deep down, the thing that really angers me is the assumption that everybody in America is so, so happy to max out their credit cards and consume like crazy. Not everybody loves Christmas and a huge portion of the country doesn't even celebrate the holiday! When Jamie told me that our neighborhood was having a Christmas Decoration Contest, I felt really compelled to buy a Menorah and put it in our window. Now that would be unexpected! I was raised Christian and I still feel affronted by the Christmas takeover of the world every December. I am really not sure how it feels to be raised in another faith tradition and be drowned in Christmas every year, but I would suspect that others may be even more annoyed than I am. Despite my ranting, I don't see the overpowering, exaggerated, and pompous parading of Christmas merchandise and decoration dwindling in the years to come. I suppose I will go on sneering at Christmas decorations and dreading Christmas shopping and worrying about my checking account.

Although the Christmas hull-a-balloo disgusts me, I am looking forward to spending the holiday with my in-laws in Virginia. Jamie's family is so warm and inviting and fun to be around that I enjoy any time spent with them, even if I do have to endure holiday flying. There is a certain feeling of wholesomeness, acceptance, and love that accompany the holidays with the Brisbins, which I think is what all the decorations and gifts and lights are hopelessly trying to create in the Wal-Marts and Shopping Malls. It happens naturally at their house and I wish for everyone that future Christmas delight can be created organically and that eventually we will no longer be subjected to the trashy tinsel and candy canes. I know it is a big wish, but I think that if we examine our values, anyone can have the best Christmas ever. Here's to the best Christmas ever (if only I could initiate it by popping my neighbor's singing-waving-light up-inflated Santa and reindeer)!

These are my only Christmas decorations...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Foster Pup

A couple weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine noticed that the pit bull puppy that was living under a portable classroom building was getting much skinnier as the weather cooled. She decided that the dog really couldn't stay there and called animal control. This was a hard decision, because stray pits generally meet a pretty deadly end when animal control picks them up. Luckily, an amazing organization, Second Chance Shelter, took the pup in. This shelter is run completely by volunteers and donations and helps older dogs and unwanted breeds find homes and gives them enough time to find the best home, unlike other shelters. My friend posted pictures of this pit bull pup looking for foster parents or a permanent home for the puppy. She was absolutely adorable, and she got a full time home almost immediately with one of the other teachers at the school, but it made me think about fostering.

My biological father and I don't have a relationship anymore. When my parents started their divorce, I was in kindergarten. We all lived in the same house for two more years, until my mom finally took us and moved to a rental house an hour away from my dad and the house I grew up in. Promptly after we moved out, my dad's mistress moved in, with her chihuahuas and her marmosets. Yes, my future step mother had several monkeys. Which, obviously made her pretty cool in my kindergarten head. She was also about 27 (I think?), wore trendy clothing, and was a cyclist and raced with my dad. I always had an obsession with animals and owning them. I fantasized endlessly about having a farm or living in Africa with giraffes in my backyard or having a dolphin best-friend. My mother hated animals and had no interest in having them in our house. She tolerated a house cat, but we would never have a dog or a monkey. As my mother got older, she developed a debilitating fear of dogs and literally freaks out when a dog comes near her. This divide between my parents in their attitudes towards animals played a large influence in which parent I preferred. I preferred my dad. I wanted his attention and I wanted to hang at his house, which was steadily turning into a zoo. My stepmother purchased a breeding pair of marmosets and a golden tamarin. My dad built a menagerie for the growing monkey population at our house.

Then, they started fostering litters of puppies that were too young to be adopted yet. There were actual baby puppies at my dad's house. The weekend could not come fast enough! The first litter was german shepherd puppies and My dad ended up keeping one of them- Shelby. They waited until Shelby was full grown before they fostered another litter, but this litter was even cuter, if not pure breeds. Again, my dad kept one of the puppies. I thought that this charitable act that supplied me with a constant houseful of puppies was the most amazing thing on the planet. I begged my mom to foster puppies, too, but she could not even consider the idea.

When I finally reached high school, I still loved puppies, but I also loved driving around with my friends on the weekends, cheerleading, football games, and working in the restaurant where I bussed tables. I began skipping weekends at my dads house and our relationship was beginning to unravel. At the same time, my step-mom had her second daughter and began pushing much more aggressively for my father to sever ties with my brother and I. I think she was bitter about being a second wife and resentful towards my father's previous life. She certainly wanted her family to be the first family and for all of my father's resources to directed towards her children. She began telling me that her family was going to move to California and that I would never see my father again. They never moved to California, but I haven't seen my father since high school. At some point my dad came up with the idea that my minor acts of rebellion in high school meant that I was a disgrace to the family. He stopped calling and I was no longer invited to their house.

For the last year of high school, I felt that my impeccable grades and my extracurricular activities while holding down a job and paying my own car insurance would surely convince my dad that I was not a disgrace. I hoped he would find out that I was ranked 9th in my class of 300 or that I received a full academic scholarship to the university I was accepted into. My mom still talked to him about financial things and whenever she did, I was always curious if he asked about me or if he seemed impressed that my college bills were so low. I finished my first year of college with a 4.0 and volunteered with St. Vincent de Paul Society, was a Big Sister, a mentor, and visited a children's hospital weekly. Maybe this would convince my dad I was worthwhile? My brother and I called him on Christmas and left him a voicemail wishing him happy holidays and letting him know that we missed him. We never heard back. Despite this, I continued to do things with the hope that my dad would hear about them and think that I was not a failure. Oh, Maggi finished graduate school? Oh, Maggi traveled the world? Oh, Maggi got married? Surely he would hear these things, change his mind about me, and reach out to me. We would have a tearful reunion and forgive each other and have a wonderful relationship for ever more.

When I saw the puppy on my friends facebook page, looking adorable and needing a place to stay, the part of me that wants to convince my father that I am a worthwhile human being woke up. I thought, my dad would be so proud to know that now that I am an adult, I am fostering pups too. I also have a very soft spot for pit bulls and know that they can be the absolute sweetest, despite their reputation. I really did actually want to help the dog. I contacted the woman running the shelter and let her know Jamie and I were interested in helping. Soon after, she came by the house with two potential foster dogs to meet Gnasher. One, Charlie (a brown and white pit), really stuck out as sweet and special. She was so nervous to come in our house and was scared of Gnash at first. Gnash barked in her face, like he does to all dogs that won't play with him, and she cowered and hid behind the daughter of the shelter volunteer. Then all of a sudden, she relaxed and started playing with Gnash. They wrestled and played and seemed to get on magically. Charlie stayed at our house that night and in the morning we took her to the vet to get a shot for her tapeworms. She pooped out tapeworms for the rest of the day, but remained sweet, gentle, and tolerant of Gnasher's constant harassing. We took her to the dogpark yesterday and she acted rather aggressively, which was unnerving, but not all dogs are dog park dogs. Overall, she has been a pleasure to have these last couple days and I think we will all miss her in our own ways when she finds a permanent home. I will however, be grateful to only have one dog again. I certainly didn't expect it to be so much extra work to have an extra dog. And, I miss the way Gnash behaves when it is just us.

Today, Jamie and I had a SCUBA class that lasted all day. We didn't want to leave the dogs crated for as long as we knew we were going to be out of the house, so we left Gnash inside, and we left Charlie in our small, but bigger than a crate, backyard. When we got home, Charlie was gone. Apparently she had jumped our 6' fence, jumped into a neighbor's yard (same fence), and jumped back out of the neighbor's yard. Eventually, someone thankfully took her in and did not call the pound. These nice people were so smitten by her, they may actually adopt her. The thought of her leaving makes me a little sad, but it would certainly be nice if she was only 2 houses down and we could still see her from time to time. When I walked into the house and realized she was gone, my heart dropped and I felt like I had let her down as well as the shelter, myself, jamie, and in some weird twisted way, my dad. I know that my dad will never know about my efforts to help this dog, nor would he care. As much as this experience has taught me that one dog really is enough, it has also been another lesson in having honest motives and truly doing things for the right reason. Someday, I will grow out of trying to impress my father, but probably not for some time yet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Winners

It is Sunday evening of thanksgiving weekend, which means the fun is just about over, but this has been a truly lovely thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving started with Gnasher and I taking a nice 45 min. run through a delightfully quiet and seemingly empty Kirtland AFB. Gnash now knows that if the park is empty when we get there, he gets to run off leash, which is pretty much his favorite thing. Holiday luck shined on him and he got a full mile of off leash frolicking. I then went to a holiday yoga class at Nishtha yoga. Dharmashakti, my teacher from teacher training, did an amazing job crafting a creative class that challenged everyone; it was impressive how he was able to cater to such a diverse group of students. He even provided chair yoga modifications for one participant. When I got home, the cooking began. I made a vegan apple crisp, my tofurkey, and vegan mashed potatoes. Jamie made pumpkin pie and stuffing. A fried of ours also worked in our kitchen and made his own stuffing and mashed potatoes.

My tofurkey was absolutely a winner (meaning it was better than last year's). The texture and taste of the Trader Joe's tofurkey was noticeably superior to the brand name tofurkey, but the vegetables and herbs I had access to through my CSA this year were also of much higher quality than the veggies I have used in years passed. I helped grow the turnips, carrots, and garlic on the farm and my herbs, celery, and sweet potatoes came from regional organic growers that participate in our CSA. I really think that local, fresh, organic vegetables taste better. And the response to my roasted vegetables was even more enthusiastic this year. There was so much food at the party we went to, it was a little overwhelming. There were 4 dishes of stuffing and something like 6 pumpkin pies. We ate buffet style and found a place to sit and eat, which was not at a table for most. I missed the thanksgiving tradition of eating at a table and passing around dishes. I also missed some of my favorite thanksgiving foods, like pilsbury crescent rolls, but I certainly did not go hungry. Not everyone was inclined to try the tofurkey (there were 2 turkeys, 2 hams, and several ducks also available), but several people did sample it and at the end of the evening all of the roasted veggies had been scooped up, leaving a lonely half tofurkey in the roasting tin to be taken home for leftovers.

One thing to note about TJ's tofurkey: the included gravy is downright gross, If I had sampled it, I would have tried to make my own vegan gravy.

Another thanksgiving winner was the apple crisp, for which I deserve very little credit. I used Isa Chandra's recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen web site ( I tried not to change anything, although I did use fuji apples instead of roma, because the local orchard that provides tree fruit to the CSA gave fuji apples in the box this week. The apples tasted fine, actually fine is an understatement, so for future crisps, know that fuji apples are an admirable stand-in. Pretty much every recipe of Isa's that I have tried has always been amazingly delicious and this apple crisp stays true to that track-record. If you like to cook vegan, but have not yet learned of the post punk kitchen and the several books that they have published, hop right on board, you won't be disappointed.

Food always plays an important part in thanksgiving weekend, but having time off and doing what I enjoy is just as important. On Saturday, I jumped from 10,000ft and practiced 180's and 360's and then had my first stand-up landing without coaching. Today, a friend and I went to a full primary series class and then met up with Jamie and her boyfriend at The Grove, for the best breakfast ever. Jamie and I just got back from seeing Lincoln, which was hugely entertaining. As someone that generally gets bored in movies, this movie held my interest from beginning to end. And now that I have a full belly of thanksgiving leftovers, I will be going to bed thinking about returning to the classroom tomorrow. I am thankful for this thanksgiving weekend and am already looking forward to next years (a little).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to make a Tofurkey taste good!

I have been unwilling to eat conventional meat for many years; my struggle with meat products began when I was in 8th grade. So, finding happy thanksgiving foods has always been an adventure, especially when I also stopped eating dairy products five years ago. My parents are amazingly accommodating, and they made many dairy-free sides for me like butter-free corn and potatoes, smashed turnips, pilsbury croissants, and other delights, but they did not prepare any imitation meat for me. I am sure that if I requested it, my mom would have obliged, but it became my thanksgiving contribution to prepare the Tofurkey. The first year I brought home a Tofurkey from Trader Joes, I diligently followed the instructions on the box, and honestly it did not taste very good. I think the honest truth is that actual tofurkey, the textured vegetable protein that the stuffing filled ball is sculpted out of, just is not delicious. But, anything can be dressed up for a special occasion and tofurkey can too! In the years following that first tofurkey thanksgiving, I perfected my tofurkey preparation procedure, and my tofurkies now taste very, very delicious. Last year, my carnivorous husband enjoyed the tofurkey I made for thanksgiving so much that he suggested we purchase a second one after the holidays and have it for dinner on a random regular night. This is a true story and I am going to share my secrets for a tofurkey so good even the non-vegetarians at your table will have no choice but to compliment you.

Your basic Tofurkey roast can be purchased almost anywhere these days, but surefire sellers are whole foods and local organic chains like Sprouts here in the Southwest. The baste and the vegetable bed are key for making a delicious Tofurkey.

First, prepare the baste:
1/2 cup olive oil
The Juice from a whole lemon
4 garlic cloves pressed (more if they are small)
Salt and Pepper (be generous)
Fresh Sage, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary torn

Next, cut your selected root veggies into 1" cubes. I suggest turnips, sweet potatoes, small red potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onions. The turnips and parsnips really add a lot of flavor, it is best if they are included!

Toss the veggies in the baste and then arrange in a roasting pan or a corningware dish.
Rub the remaining baste all over the torfurkey (thawed and metal ends removed) and then place the tofurkey on its bed of veggies.
Pour any remaining baste over the tofurkey and then lay sprigs of fresh herbs over the torfurkey.
Cover with aluminum foil or glass dish cover.
Cook at 350F for 1hr 15 minutes.

The box says to slice it thin and they are serious! The thinner you slice your tofurkey, the better it will taste.
The gravy that comes in the box is a yummy addition, but the best part of this dish is the stuffing and the roasted veggies.

Also, tofurkey leftovers may be even better than 1st day tofurkey!

All that being said, today I went to Trader Joe's today to pick up my tofurkey for this thanksgiving, but TJ's has developed their own tofurkey and was not selling the brand name product. Rather than shopping around, I bought the TJ "tofurkey" and am going to prepare it the same way I would a real tofurkey. I will report back as to which one was better!

Also, if anyone has any vegetarian thanksgiving tips, please share!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

On Farming

My internship at Skarsgard Organic Farm is wrapping up and my final week starts on Monday. I have been fortunate to have many new experiences while working on the farm and I have a new-found appreciation for how hard farming really is. I also feel much more connected to my food, having nurtured and cared for the plants that I eat, from seed to my plate. As I move on, and I am no longer farming everyday, I think the connectedness to my food will linger. I feel like I now know these plants and even if I did not plant the kale that I am eating, I know every step of growing kale and the other vegetables that I have cared for over the last four months.

I have thought about farming like a deep stretch in yoga. In the beginning, an intense pose is uncomfortable and I naturally resist it, maybe by tensing opposing muscles or by thinking negatively about the pose, but if practiced enough, eventually I can relax into the pose, surrendering to it, and that is when I can finally find comfort and attain the benefits of the pose. At first farming was really, really hard - harder than I ever expected. For the first two months, I was often limping by the end of the day and when I got home, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain. In order to get through it, I took more ibu profen than I have since I had a stress fracture in my foot, soaked in epsom salt baths, and rubbed arnica gel on my lower back every chance I got. Despite all my home remedies, my lower back hurt too much to do many of the things I usually love doing. I was too sore and tired to run or go to yoga. I was pretty much in too much pain and too tired to do anything but eat, sleep, and then get up and go back to the farm. I resented the farm because the work was sapping joy away from other parts of my life. I felt angry when I was at work because I was hurting; I was not able to focus on the meditativeness of the work or enjoy being outside because all I could think of was my lower back. Whenever I heard that we were headed to the green chile field, I cringed and mentally prepared for a long day of misery. There are some tasks on the farm that are not actually farming, like picking up the milk order from the local dairy and driving it to the warehouse or spending the day filling 1lb. bags of roasted green chile, that I looked forward to as a welcome reprieve from bending to harvest or plant. For a while, I only looked forward to time spent away from the farm.

Sometime in the last two months, either the work got a lot easier or my body finally adjusted to farming and I started enjoying my time at the farm. It is true that the harvest changed; we are harvesting beets, carrots, turnips, kale, chard, kohlrabi, radishes, and lettuce now instead of tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and green chile. The root vegetables and leafy greens need to be washed, so usually we will harvest for half a day and then spend the other half of the day washing veggies at the warehouse. The tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers did not need to be washed, so we would harvest for almost a full eight hours and then send a truck full of vegetables up to the warehouse at the last minute to be covered and put in the walk-in cooler. So, perhaps the shift in my feelings toward the farm is due to more variety in the tasks and less strenuous harvesting, but I think I have also experienced deeper change in mind and body. I am much stronger now; I can lift things I never could before and my biceps have a strange new density to them that I haven't felt before. As the painful ache in my back has receded, I have been able to happily run after work again and no longer feel like the farm is stealing from other parts of my life. I have begun to feel very lucky while I am at the farm. Sometimes I look around at the open sky and can't imagine working inside again. I feel so happy when I eat something that I know I started from seed and cared for along the way. I feel like I am part of something good, I am producing healthy food for people.

I feel a certain sense of sadness as I prepare for my departure from the farm. I often experience this same type of sadness when leaving a position; I find that I am just starting to settle in and beginning to feel comfortable, like I finally have the hang of it, right when it is time to leave. I felt this way when teaching outdoor environmental education on Orcas Island and even with teaching middle school science last year. I have a sense that if I just had a little more time, I could be really good at what I am doing. Some of the jobs that I have not had enough time in, like on Orcas, were my choice to leave, but others have not been my choice. I was unable to sign a yearlong contract with the Middle School this year because we were supposed to move to a new base in December (we aren't anymore). And, I knew the farming internship would end at the end of November when I accepted the position. No matter why I leave, I am always left with an incomplete feeling, like I am leaving something unfinished.

I am going to continue to work-share on the farm so that I am able to keep working for my food and stay connected to the farm. A work-share can be 2.5 or 5 hours a week and awards the work-share participant with either a half price or complementary medium sized CSA box.

Monday, November 5, 2012

On "Eating Animals"

I have just finished reading Jonathon Safron Foer's, "Eating Animals," and it has stirred up quite a few emotions and thoughts. The book is essentially a manifesto against factory farming and considers two possible moral solutions to the issue: selective omnivory or vegetarianism. I have participated in both of these eating philosophies in my lifetime. For a long time I was vegan, not because I felt that all animal products should necessarily be avoided, but that the good choices were so few and far between that it was easier to just say no to everything. This was especially true when eating at others' homes; it is much easier to say, "I eat vegan" than to say "your meat or eggs are not good enough for me." Recently, I have been much more of a selective omnivore; I have eaten New England lobster (one of the most sustainable fisheries in the U.S.), I have eaten local goat cheese, I have eaten a local chicken that I killed and butchered myself, and I am thinking about buying live turkeys for thanksgiving from a friend of the organic farm where I work. Foer argues that selective omnivory is romantic, unrealistic for most, not likely to change the current system, and still cruel in many ways. Obviously, Foer believes that vegetarianism is the only way to truly combat the factory farming system, but I am not sure that I agree with him. Despite doubting the necessity for strict vegetarianism, I agree with many of the points made throughout the book and the book has reinvigorated my commitment to obtaining food from reliable sources.

One point that Foer makes over and over again is best summed up in this excerpt: "Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand... that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory - disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh." When I read this I was reminded of many people's responses to me acclaiming "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Food, Inc.," which generally sounded like this "Is it another gross story that will make me not want to eat meat?" and while the answer is sort-of, the point is that they knew already. Most people really don't want to know where the food comes from (even though they already do), they just want to enjoy their bacon. And yes, bacon tastes really, really good, but is our culinary delight worth the effects it is having on animals and the environment and deep down, our conscience?

In the yoga community, vegetarianism is often seen as something that good or true yogis partake in. This belief is generally based on the teaching of "ahimsa" which means non-violence and gentleness and vegetarianism is believed to be a manifestation of ahimsa since one is not supporting the slaughter of animals. Personally, I feel that choosing vegetarianism alone does not mean that one is in the practice of ahimsa and that one must be non-violent and gentle in every aspect of their life to be honest in their claims of practicing ahimsa. For example, many people who are vegetarian consume a huge amount of soy products in the form of meat and dairy substitutes and processed foods; soy is planted as a monoculture in the U.S. and is destroying natural grasslands, using a large amount of fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides, and is contributing to the dead-zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is greatly harming marine life. So, therefore, I would argue that this type of vegetarianism is violent towards the environment and has effects that spiral out through ecosystems near and far. In addition, I think it is a bit of a cop-out for most yogis to be vegetarians, believe they are practicing ahimsa, and then not think about it anymore. If you are a vegetarian but are not friendly to people you interact with, or litter, or do not take care of yourself (lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, excessive sugar intake), or drive a gas-guzzling vehicle, or eat non-organic foods shipped from far away, are you really being gentle and non-violent in all parts of your life? What if you ate animals you met, that you knew had a good life, ate vegetables that were grown organically, nearby, and were seasonal, if you made healthy choices, treated others well, and cared about the extended impact of your choices, would you be practicing ahimsa? Maybe and I would argue yes.

I presented this argument at my yoga teacher training this spring and my yoga instructor, who eats meat, responded with a story from his own teacher training. In trying to convince the students in his training that eating animals is cruel and violent, the instructors sat down the students and showed them a film of cows being killed in a large-scale slaughterhouse. It is common knowledge that cows are often abused in these facilities and sometimes are not unconscious at the beginning of the butchering process. The thought of cows being violated with electrified sticks or being skinned alive is jarring to think about and even more upsetting to see; but, we all know it happens, we just would rather not think about it or see it. My yoga instructor felt that his instructors were violating ahimsa and were being violent towards him by forcing him to watch this unsettling film. He felt offended and was obviously not converted to vegetarianism by the experience. When I first heard this story, I agreed that the instructors were being violent by forcing this experience on the students, but after reading "Eating Animals," I am reconsidering my opinion. I still believe that vegetarianism does not equal ahimsa, but perhaps my yoga teachers response was so defensive because he knew the cruelty was true and wrong, but he really wanted to keep eating meat. I think this is true for most people. They know that the meat bought in the grocery store cannot be consumed with a clear conscience, but they really want to eat it, so they deny the truth or pretend that they do not know it.

While reading the book, I often felt offended and upset by things described in the pages. The author continuously conjured up images of extreme cruelty that are disgusting and frighteningly sadistic. The treatment of pigs described in the book made me cringe and take a break from reading. I felt that the detailed descriptions were not necessary and were sensationalist. By responding in this way, I was essentially proving Foer's point. I did not want to think about the slaughterhouses. I did not want to think about the cruelty. I did not want to picture pigs noses being smashed in. And, I don't even eat meat from factory farms. I have, however, been eatings "organic" eggs that are not from small-scale local farms recently. Eggs are really one of my favorite foods and as soon as I can have my own chickens, I will, but right now my eggs are coming in my CSA from an organic cooperative called "Organic Valley." Organic does not mean that the chickens are treated well, and I am unable to see the conditions. Organic Valley seems like a good company based on their website, but I can't really know.

So, having considered this book, what should I do? What should anyone do. Foer says you must be a strict vegetarian. I understand his argument and I subscribed to it for a long time. It is easier to just say no to all animal food products than to pick and choose. And, once you start eating meat sometimes, you will inevitably eat some factory farmed meat at some point. Also, you don't eat alone; other people see your food choices and are affected by them and I have had friends say that they tried vegetarianism because I inspired them. If others see you making poor food choices occasionally, it is doubtful that you will be seen as inspirational. Foer also believes that there is not enough small well-run farms to provide meat for all at the volume we are used to consuming it, and certainly not at the price we are used to. Many people do not have access to good meat, or can't afford it. I certainly couldn't afford to eat quality meat three times a day. But, maybe that is a good thing too. What if instead of withholding our support, we supported family farmers that shared our values. They would be paid a fair wage and would be able to produce fewer animals, better. We would only be able to afford meat once or twice a week, and our health and the health of the planet would grow exponentially. Whether one chooses vegetarianism or selectively supporting animal farmers, it is important that we do not make the choice in secret. One vegetarian or selective omnivore will not affect the system; we need to share our feelings and opinions with others. The cruelty and repulsiveness of factory farms cannot be a taboo topic as to not offend our company eating bacon cheeseburgers, we need to acknowledge and respond to the tragedy. And then we need to make honest decisions based on that acknowledgement that we can personally make with a clear conscience.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Bottom of the Box

It is Friday, and we still have a ton of food left from our CSA this week. We ate take-out on Tuesday and I made a pizza last night, which does not use up very many vegetables. Going into the weekend, we had 9 radishes, 3 acorn squash, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, apples, and rainbow chard. As it is getting cooler outside, there is less to do on the farm, so us interns have been moved to a 4 day a week schedule. Today, the only thing I have going on is an interview for a lab tech position at UNM (I really want this job, cross your fingers!) and the first session of a 3 day yoga workshop starting this evening. My interview was 30 minutes long via skype, and so the rest of the day has been left to cook up veggies from my CSA box. I decided to make a radish/tofu cream cheese dip and acorn squash soup.  Both recipes ended up being very easy and quick, and have been some of the tastiest things I have made in a long time; I think the soup got the most enthusiastic response from Jamie my food has ever received. Jamie declared the soup as the best squash soup he ever tried and even suggested I give the recipe to his mom.

I started with the radish and tofu cream cheese spread for an early afternoon snack. I put 7 cloves of garlic in the food processor with a splash of olive oil and minced the garlic. I threw in 5 of the gorgeous easter-egg radishes we are growing at the farm, and minced those, too. Lastly, I dumped in a whole container of Trader Joe's "not cream cheese" and pulsed the processor until it was blended and creamy. The spread is actually as pretty as it is delicious. It has a light lavender color and specks of red and purple. The flavor is strong, savory, and zingy. I toasted two pieces of rye bread from Sage bakery, a local bakery that supplies bread for the CSA, and generously applied the radish spread on the toast. Jamie and I each had a slice. And then I toasted two more pieces of bread and we each had another slice. I almost wish I had a party or a potluck to go to so I could show off how simple and delicious this recipe is, but I'm also a little glad I get to keep it at home.

Next, I started work on the acorn squash soup. I based the recipe on the one showcased here:, but as always, I made some changes based on what I had available and how spicy I like my food.

My ingredient list:
3 small acorn squash
salt, pepper
olive oil
2 red gala apples, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 vegetable bullion cubes
4 cups water

I used larger quantities of all the spices than in the original recipe because I really like food with bold flavors. I used the two red apples because that is what I had. I eliminated the shallot and red onion because I did not have them. Otherwise, I essentially followed the original recipe.

First, I cut the acorn squash in half, scooped out all the seeds and stringiness, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. I put foil over the baking sheet because it was suggested and I assumed the squash must leak a fair bit when they are baking, making the sheet difficult to clean (this was not actually the case, the foil could have been saved). I baked the squash for 50 min. at 400F. In the meantime, I chopped the carrots, apples, and onion and put them in a large soup pot with olive oil. When the acorn squash was done, I scraped the squash from the skin with a spoon and put it to the side. It was time for my interview at that point, so I had to take a break. Skype interviews are really hard! Even harder than I thought they would be. I was nervous and excited and feeling a little crazy after the interview, but I got back to the soup. I cooked the carrots, onion, and apples over medium heat until they started to soften and then added 4 cups of water, 2 veggie bullion cubes, all the spices, and the squash. I brought the mixture to a boil and then lowered to a simmer and held it there for about twenty minutes. I, unfortunately, do not have a sweet immersion blender, so I put the soup in my food processor in two batches. We ate the first batch for a late lunch and put the second batch in the fridge. This recipe was surprisingly quick and easy and results were really amazing. If you are wondering what to do with winter squash in your CSA box, I highly recommend this soup recipe!

I met these sweet goats at the Los Poblanos North Valley farm this week. It made me want goats of my own even more! I keep daydreaming about homemade goat feta.

Monday, October 22, 2012

First Freefall

Yesterday was a milestone in my skydiving career; when I let go of the airplane, my instructor did not have my pilot chute. Instead, when I let go of the plane, I presented a nice arch with my hips forward and my legs extended with pointed toes, but I was falling faster than I usually do because my parachute was not opening, yet. It was up to me to reach down to the handle behind my right hip and toss it underhand out and to my right. Once I did this, I returned to my arch with both arms extended out in front of me. I heard the pilot chute catch air and start to pull out the main parachute. Now everything began feeling the same as my jumps usually feel. My parachute began opening over head and my body shifted from falling belly down to hanging vertically from the parachute. I watched the chute fill up with air rather slowly and then pulled down my brakes several times to aid the end cells in opening and inflating. I took a deep breath, and thought, "I threw my own pilot chute, I fell through the air unassisted in free fall and pulled my own pilot chute. I really, actually, truly skydived."

The difference between this jump and my last was small, and huge. On my last three jumps, my instructor removed my pilot chute and then inserted a "dummy" handle where the real handle usually lives. After I let go of the airplane, I arched, then reached and pulled the dummy handle, and then returned to my arch. My chute was already opening when I started falling from the airplane, but there is a short (app. 3 sec.) free fall. Everything happened really fast and it was important for my to do my practice pull really quickly or my chute would open before I pulled and I would not pass the skill. On this most recent jump, everything went a little slower. I had more time to enjoy the falling sensation and the wind in my face; I was able to focus on my body position and pull the handle deliberately. I was nervous all over again, like it was my first jump ever, and when that chute opened I was breathing deeply with a huge smile spread across my face, enjoying the adrenaline rush. The extra seconds of free fall felt like an eternity, but an eternity that I actually wanted to last forever.

On my next two jumps I will be waiting a full ten seconds before I throw the pilot chute. These jumps will be jumps two and three in category C, and are considered "free fall jumps." I seriously cannot wait for that opportunity. Next week, I will also have my radio taken away and I will need to complete a landing pattern on my own, without help from Rudi. The thought of landing on my own scares me quite a bit, I am sure I will be full of butterflies the whole time I am at the drop zone again next week. But obviously, I am looking forward to those butterflies and hopefully succesfully completing another step towards my A-license.

In other news... I was shopping for dog food at PetSmart last week and kept being pulled towards the doggy costumes. They were on clearance and oh so tempting. I picked out a frog costume that said priced as marked, but it was not marked. It was really, really cute, but I thought that I really should not waste money on a halloween costume for my dog. I told myself that if it was less than $15, I would buy it. I brought the costume up to the register along with the huge bag of Blue Buffalo grain-free dog food, Kong Wobbler that acts as a physical puzzle and rewards the dog with treats, and a replacement green ring (one of Gnasher's favorite toys that he completely destroyed). Before having the cashier ring up the merchandise, I asked her to price check the costume. It was $12, Gnasher would be a frog. My total was $105, which made me cringe. I think I spend a little too much on that pup. When I brought home the costume, Gnash was excited to wear it and let me put it on him. As soon as it was on, his behavior changed. He kept constant physical contact with either me or Jamie, and only wanted to cuddle and nap on top of us. As soon as we took the costume off, he was running around like a maniac again. I am not sure if that means he likes it or not, but I did get some amazing pictures.

[Gnash chewed the top off of the Kong Wobbler the following day instead of figuring out how to get it to dispense treats]

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Noble Death of a Lovely Chicken

A co-worker of mine, John, used to rent an apartment from a woman that ran a herd-share. A herd-share is like a farm-share, but instead of paying a membership fee or working a couple hours a week for a box of veggies, you pay a membership or work a couple hours for fresh, local meat, milk, eggs, and cheese. The herd consisted of dairy cows, meat cow, pigs, goats, and chickens, and members get a share of some of the highest quality food products from a small scale family operation. John helped out with the animals in return for the experience and delicious food and therefore is now skilled at slaughtering and butchering as well as caring for happy farm animals. As part of my internship at the organic farm, we sometimes participate in classes on the farm and John proposed a class on chickens for us. Several of the interns (including me) are vegetarians (but for different reasons) and while we were nervous about the class, we voted that it would be a very worthwhile experience. John's friend/old landlord recently decided to downsize her herd, and donated some of the older chickens to our class. We set a date for this past Thursday, and the class was on.

I said that the interns were vegetarians for different reasons. I believe that humans are omnivores and that it is natural for us to eat meat, I just don't agree with how meat is generally produced in this country. I think that the industrial food lots and slaughter houses that supply most of the meat found in the grocery stores are disgusting and cruel. I don't eat meat from those places because I do not want to support what their operations. My abstinence from mainstream meat is something of a boycott; every dollar counts and if enough people join in they will not be able to destroy the environment with huge waste ponds full of antibiotics and hormones while being incredibly cruel to animals. Meat like that is not happy meat. But, I personally feel that meat that I or a friend obtains by hunting is happy meat and livestock that is raised properly and organically is also happy meat. It is not enough for meat to be "organic," however, and I will not eat organic meat from Whole Foods; I really need to see the animal or it needs to come from someone that I really trust and I absolutely do not trust Whole Foods. The chickens from the herd-share meet all my criteria for happy meat and to actually slaughter and clean it myself made it even more authentically aligned with my values. I was excited for this experience and excited to eat happy chicken, but also a little nervous about killing the chicken with my own hands.

On the day of the class, John brought the chickens to the farm in the same dog crate that Gnasher sleeps in. The chickens had a bed of hay and a watering contraption in their crate. They were truly beautiful chickens: two roosters and five hens. I guess I was expecting them to be the fat white chickens that you see in chicken houses being exposed  in documentaries. These chickens were all different colors and looked strong and healthy.

We set up a large pot over a propane burner and put a ladder over saw horses to hang the chickens from and allow them to bleed out. John took a big rooster from the crate by grabbing it by its legs. Once it was upside down, it calmed down quickly. He used a slip knot to hang the chicken from the ladder and let it calm down for a couple more seconds. John showed us where on the neck to cut and had each of us feel the jaw bone to make sure we understood exactly where the cut needed to be made. John killed the first bird, explaining as he went along; he was was quick, careful, and respectful, and thanked the chicken with a kiss to the cheek before making the incision. When the blood was running into the bucket, there were several full body spasms with dramatic wing flapping, and then the chicken had passed. The chicken remained hanging over the bucket to allow the rest of the blood to drain out, and it was someone else's turn to choose a chicken.

My co-worker Nick went next, followed by Jess, and then it was my turn. I chose my chicken, a smallish female with lots of personality, and took her from the crate. When I was trying to catch her feet in the crate, she kept ducking away from me and cowering in the far back corner. When I finally caught her and pulled her out, she made a crying sound that was heartbreaking. As soon as I had her upside down she calmed right down and I hung her from her foot from the ladder. John handed me the knife and I found the spot right under the jaw bone where I needed to cut. I was nervous mostly because I was worried I would not be fast and swift and I would cause the poor hen to suffer. I made the first incision quickly and blood began rushing out of the wound. It was a little shocking how warm the blood was and a little disconcerting to be covered in fresh, warm blood. The second cut was a little more difficult to make, but I was able to do it and then I held her as she hung over the bucket and bled out. It is important to hold the bird as it dies so that it does not come free as it spasms and land on the ground. It was sad to feel the life drain out of the sweet bird that had just been so animated, but I knew she had lived a good life. 

 After each of us had carefully and thoughtfully killed a bird, it was time to de-feather them. We dunked the birds in 150F water with a bit of detergent for about 2 minutes. It was important to have the water at this temperature to avoid scalding the skin and the detergent was equally important to allow the water to get beyond the oil secreted by the birds oil gland and reach the follicle. As soon as I lifted my chicken from the hot water I began bushing the feathers off against their natural grain. Most of the small feathers came off so easily it was a bit surprising. The larger feathers in the wings and tail took a little more effort but came out easily enough. The difficult part was removing feathers that had broken close to the follicle, and there were quite a bit of these on her back as she was a popular hen with the roosters. Once we removed as many feathers as was really feasible, it was time to remove the organs.

The first step was the cut off the heads and feet. To cut off the head we cut the flesh around the neck and then twisted the neck at that point until the head popped off. Then I found the joint between the foot and the leg and cut there so I was only cutting cartilage rather than bone. The next step was to remove the oil glad at the top of the tail. Apparently if this is left intact, it will make a roast chicken taste quite funky. Next, we removed the crop from the neck region. It was then time to cut into the body cavity; I cut a slit into the abdomen very carefully and cut layer by layer to be sure not to cut into the any organs. Once the cut was open, I used my fingers to widen the incision and then reach inside and loosen the connections between the entrails and the side of the body cavity. I accidentally burst the gall bladder, but it wasn't a big deal because I was not planning on saving the organs, although the neon green color was a bit startling. Once all the insides were out, I cut out the rectum, peeled out the lungs, pulled out the trachea, and my chicken was ready to be rinsed and refrigerated. One of the coolest things in pulling out the organs was finding several eggs growing and being prepared for laying. I found one in the oviduct that was a full size egg, only soft. It was amazing to see this "conveyor belt" of eggs and have a first-hand understanding of how eggs are produced in the hen's body.

Once the chicken was rinsed, I double bagged it and put it on ice. We cleaned up the feathers and the insides and the blood. We put away the ladders, and the the buckets, and the petroleum burner. John told us that the chickens needed to be refrigerated for a couple days to allow rigor mortis to pass and to let the meat cure. I was a little disappointed not to eat it right away, but also relieved that I did not need to cook it immediately. because I was exhausted by an emotional day. 

I decided to roast the chicken on Sunday when I would have enough time to not feel rushed. I found a recipe: Roasted Chicken and bought some potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some fresh sage, thyme, and oregano. I already had the lemon, olive oil, onions, garlic, and carrots the recipe calls for. Roasting a chicken was surprisingly easy. It took about 20 minutes to prepare, 1 hour 10 minutes to roast, and then 10 minutes to carve and serve. It was probably the most delicious thing I have ever cooked and took so little effort (at least for the cooking part). I completely understand why people do not want to eat vegetarian. My husband and I are both looking forward to when we have an opportunity like this again. 

Also, Gnasher was a VERY happy pup, having consumed lots of chicken; that lucky pup!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Battle of the Broccoli

My CSA pick-up day is Monday, so when Sunday rolls around only the least preferred veggies are left in the crisper. The best things are consumed on Monday and yesterday was a perfect example: we ate all the goat cheese and bok choy as soon as we got it. The spinach and mushrooms will get used on a pizza tomorrow. I have a feeling the eggplants are going to get left in the fridge until the end of the week this week. Not because there is anything wrong with eggplant, but we have eaten a lot of eggplant in the last couple weeks. Last week, the broccoli was the rejected one. So, on Sunday night it was time to eat the broccoli; if it got left until Monday when all the fresh food arrived, it would probably end up forgotten, and I really hate wasting food. 

When I eat out, I love broccoli in dishes, but when I make it at home it is generally lack luster, boring, and usually under or over cooked. I especially love garlic broccoli and tofu at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Fan Tang. And so, I decided to make Chinese style garlic broccoli and tofu over white rice. I found a recipe from Vegetarian Food that claimed it would only take 20 minutes and looked incredibly simple, and we had all the ingredients already. The recipe certainly looked like a winner, so I decided to try it. I did change it up some, however. I used: 

1 onion
5 large cloves garlic
enough olive oil to saute the onions, garlic, and broccoli
the florets of three heads of broccoli
1/2 of a block of extra firm organic sprouted tofu (not pressed, sprouted tofu is much denser than regular tofu)
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh ginger
a lot of cayenne pepper (I like things spicy)
3 tbsp of corn starch
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water

Broccoli and Tofu in Garlic Sauce Recipe

The recipe took longer than 20 minutes, probably because I obsessively clean my rice and am not a super fast vegetable chopper, but it turned out delicious. I almost feel silly for ordering this dish at Chinese restaurants my entire life and never even trying to make it at home before. The sauce is literally the same sauce you receive when ordering this out! There were no left overs...

This recipe used all the florets of my broccoli, but I was left with the stems, which looked like way too much edible food to chuck in the countertop compost container. So, I stuck them in the fridge and looked for recipes that used the broccoli stems. I found one that had a very similar feel to the first but used the stems instead: "spicy stir fried broccoli stems recipe". I thought it would be fun to follow in the footsteps of my battle of the beets piece and again compare the performance of the bottom and the top of a plant in a similar recipe. But, I also realized that the beet experiment left me eating so many quinoa beet patties in a week that I am downright sick of them. 

Instead of cooking the broccoli stems in a spicy stir-fry, I cooked them with some other veggies and tempeh. First, I sauteed a white onion and 4 large garlic cloves in coconut oil with a dash of sesame oil. Next, I added sliced summer squash, sliced broccoli stems and cubed tempeh and cooked over medium heat. When the squash was soft I added chile powder and cayenne pepper and chopped green peppers and stirred well. Then I laid bok choy on top of the other veggies and waited until it wilted before stirring it in, cooking for several more minutes and then serving. This turned out well, but the bok choy was the star of the show.

These two recipes were so different that I am not sure I can declare a true winner. The florets did a great job holding a lot of the delicious garlic sauce and the sliced stem added some needed crunch to its own recipe. I think it may be a draw: brocolli stems and florets are both pretty awesome.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2nd is the best

This morning, Jamie, our friend Alex, and I drove down to Belen to visit Skydive NM again. There was a special event at the drop zone and the club had hired a C47 or a DC3 (same thing) so that a large group of licensed skydivers could all jump at the same time. Alex was interested in jumping civilian style from a large plane, Jamie has a broken foot, and I was planning on performing my second IAD jump and completing category A, stepping a little closer to becoming a licensed skydiver myself. Now that I have visited the DZ a couple times,I am beginning to get a better understanding of sky diving culture; there is a lot of waiting around, but it is totally worth it! Unfortunately for Jamie, his whole day was waiting around, but I think that he enjoys chatting with all the skydivers and being a part of the club-like atmosphere that definitely pervades the hangers and office at the DZ.

Last time I jumped, my FJC (first jump course) instructor, Shamus, told me to give him a heads up when I was ready to do my next jump. I sent him a text earlier this week, asking if Sunday would work. He replied by letting me know about the big plane coming in, and advised me to come at about 8 so that there would be instructors available. Jamie, Alex, and I should up a little after 8. Alex signed up for the first jump load on the C47, everyone teased Jamie about breaking his foot playing frisbee instead of skydiving, and no one knew I was planning on doing my second jump that morning. But, that was totally ok; JC, an instructor, paired me up with an instructor named Jimmy while he prepped students that would be completing their first jump. Jimmy reviewed some of the basics with me and quizzed me on the sequence of events in the jump and some emergency procedures. We practiced climbing out of a parked plane again and I got strung up in the hanging harness to practice checking my canopy. The first time that I practiced cutting away and pulling my reserve, I fumbled for my cutaway handle and I asked to repeat the skill, making sure that I would be able to respond in an emergency. I was also a little rusty remembering all the new facts I had learned 3 weeks before, but after about an hour and a half, I was ready to jump again.

The DZ was kind of a mess with all the excitement of the special large plane. There were way more people than I had seen there before and everyone was buzzing about formations and tricks they were planning for the big group drop. There was even a 16 person formation being planned. Because of this, it took a while to get student gear together for me and for the other student and I to get into the Cessna that would be taking us to our jump altitudes. The jump would have a slightly different plan this time. Alan (who would be on the radio helping me direct to the landing area) would jump first at 4000', then I would jump at 5500', and finally Kristen (a more advanced student) and JC would jump from about 10,000'. I was a little bummed that Rudi would not be on the radio for me again, but Alan was clear and safe, as well. After Alan left the aircraft, I knew I would be next and expected to feel nervousness deep in my belly, but it did not come. Instead of being nervous and scared, I was excited and as we got closer and closer to the time to open the door for me, I just got more and more excited. Apparently I wore my emotions on my face, because JC told Jamie afterwards that my smile got bigger and bigger as it got closer to jump time.

Finally, it was time to go. JC told me to put my feet out and stop, I heard him say "I have your pilot chute," I responded "you have my pilot chute!," and he told me to "climb out." It was much easier to climb out on my second jump and sliding my hands out towards the wing and stepping off the wheel to a hanging position did not scare me numb as it had previously. Then JC said "go." I hesitated a second and then let go, looking up at JC and the plane the whole time. I held eye contact and body position, and even remembered to count out 4 seconds before checking my canopy. I remember the entire exit, unlike last time which was an adrenaline fueled blur. I think being more present and aware made the experience more fun, even though the adrenaline rush of the first jump was incredible in its own way. My canopy opened fine, I did a controllability check, and located the landing zone. Again, I had trouble determining the winds and planning my own landing pattern, but Alan talked me down, and I landed softly on my feet. I remembered to stow my brakes and daisy chain my risers and stuff the slider through the last loop of the daisy chain. I wasn't shaking uncontrollably, and I was fully able to perform these tasks and then gather up my chute and walk to the van.

I was advanced to category B after debriefing my jump and again, I cannot wait for my next jump, although for a different reason this time. Last solo jump, the rush of doing something so surreal and terrifying was overwhelming and amazing and I was looking forward to that feeling again. Now that I have gained a little more confidence and control of my physiological response, I want to perform. I want to practice, and become really skilled at skydiving. I am really looking forward to free falling with Jamie, when his foot is healed, of course.

Here I am with Alan (my landing coach) and the small Cessna we jump from.

Gnasher perching on Jamie, bringing a smile despite the big black boot.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Battle of the Beets

Last Friday, a friend gave me a bunch of beets with the greens still attached. I had been planning to make homemade veggie patties for two potlucks I was attending over the weekend, and knowing that beets are a common ingredient in veggie burgers, I searched recipes making use of the gifted beets. I found a recipe from the blog foodydoody that used the beets and recipe from The New York Times Recipes for Health that utilized the beet greens. Two different recipes with two different parts of a beet plant: I decided it would be fun to make both and compare the two.

The NYtimes recipe included: Beet Greens, Rainbow Quinoa, Carrots, Onions, Fresh Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Lemon Juice, Chick Peas, an Egg, salt, pepper, and olive oil. 

The beet greens needed to be steamed, the onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger were sauteed, and the egg, chick peas, and lemon juice were pureed. These ingredients were mixed with the cooked quinoa, salt, pepper, and cumin, and then cooked. The mixture was rather crumbly, so rather than forming little patties, I scooped up a big spoonful and rounded the edges before dropping it into hot oil in a frying pan. When one side was fried, I flipped the patty onto a baking sheet and baked them for 12 minutes. The whole process took about 1.5 hours including cooking the quinoa. Also, the recipe sites that it yields 4-6 patties. I made 22 modest sized patties by following the recipe.

My patties did not look as good as the ones in the picture below. They were a little misshapen and crumbly even after baking, but they tasted amazing and were a huge hit at  both potlucks. We did not reheat them and ate them without bread or fixings. They were that good that they stood alone and were good at room temperature!

The foodydoody recipe included: Roasted Beets, Quinoa, Onion, Garlic, Smoked Paprika, Salt, Pepper, White, Northern Beans, an Egg, Lemon Juice. 

Roasting the beets took over an hour, but the rest of the prep was the same as the first recipe. The onions and garlic were sauteed and the white northern beans were pureed with the egg and lemon juice. The smoked paprika tasted and smelled amazing and gave the recipe a nice BBQ flavor, but the beets were very beety and really dominated the taste. The mashed roasted beets helped hold the patties together before cooking, but these patties were just as crumbly after cooking. I have been eating these patties over salad, and have been having trouble finishing all the leftovers. 

The winner of the battle of the beets: Beet Greens and Quinoa Veggie Patties!