Category Archives: Autumn

Cloth diaper love!

Having only been at this for a couple months, I am far from the definitive voice on cloth diapering advice :). There are plenty of other blogs for that! Really, I just love my cloth diapers so much I feel the need to rave about them.

We used disposables for the first few weeks, and after one very unfortunate public poopsplosion incident, we finally switched over and have never looked back. We like them so much that we lugged our entire stash with us to the beach last week instead of just a few small compact packages of disposables. Here is why:

1. They don’t leak. Maybe it was just the brand of disposable diapers we were using, but I never met one that didn’t leak. Haven’t had a single problem with our cloth diapers!

2. For some reason, in our house, running errands — especially to big box stores– is the bane of our existence. I just KNOW that if we used disposables, we’d find ourselves having to do emergency Target runs at 9pm on a Sunday. I like that with cloth diapers, I am always just a laundry load away from a replenished stash. Plus, I figure I have to wash his clothes less anyway since we don’t have to deal with leaks.

3. They don’t smell (yet) and when I am tired of having a nasty pail of dirty diapers sitting around, I don’t have to wait for trash day…they can just be dumped in the wash.

4. The environmental benefits may be debatable, but it is nice to know they’re not ending up in a landfill any time soon.

5. Cost! This is a huge one for me. I have spent about $200 on our entire stash. I have a few more of the expensive kind that I received at my shower or that I bought for fun but don’t really need to have in my regular rotation. As he grows out of our current stash I will need to buy larger sizes again, but there is also a large market to buy and sell used diapers, so you can recoup some of your cost. I love not having to spend money on diapers every week.

6. No gross chemicals or plasticky feeling against baby’s skin. I really didn’t like how the disposables would adhere to his skin, and also just get all bloated and fall apart when full.

An extra load or two of laundry a week is much preferable to us over buying diapers, but of course others may feel differently. It just depends on your chore preference, I guess!  Also, breast milk diapers are super easy because they can go directly in the wash. Once he starts eating food, I will have to dispose of the solids in the toilet some how, which of course adds an extra layer of complication. But for now I really feel that cloth diapers are much easier and cleaner than disposables!

Here is what we have in our stash:

Prefolds

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These are the old-fashioned kind of diapers your parents or grandparents probably used. They are just a rectangular piece of absorbent cotton, with a waterproof cover you snap on top. With a cover, you technically don’t need to fasten them together first but I find it much easier to secure the diaper with a snappi (no pins needed!). We have 30 in our stash plus 4 covers and that is about enough to get us through 3 days without washing (though I usually do a load every other day as the pail gets full!).
Pros: Very affordable — each diaper is maybe $1-$3. Low maintenance — the prefolds are not as finicky about detergents, rash creams, or line drying — just wash and go. They also don’t get an ammonia smell the way the microfiber does on my other diapers.
Cons: A few extra steps to getting these diapers on — easy, but not as easy as a disposable or pocket/AIO. You have to buy multiple sizes. You have to actually touch the wet diaper during changes.

Pocket diapers

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These diapers have a “pocket” that holds an absorbent insert.
Pros: Adjustable, one-size diaper that can theoretically work from newborn through potty training. Snaps or velcroes on, mimicking the ease of a disposal. You can adjust the absorbency for daytime or overnight. Fleecy lining stays dry to the touch, also like a disposable.
Cons: Some find stuffing the pocket to be an annoying extra step. You can’t use conventional rash creams or detergent with microfiber. “One size” may not work out that way in reality.  More expensive.

All-in-one diapers

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Often abbreviated AIO. Like pocket diapers, the cover and absorbent part are integrated, making these most similar to disposables. Unlike pockets, the absorbent layer is sewn in so you don’t have to remove or stuff any inserts.

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Pros: it doesn’t get any easier! Truly just snap and go.
Cons: Many are not one size, though the BumGenius Freetimes I have are. Again, you have to be careful with washing and rash creams. The absorbency is not really adjustable, so they may not work overnight for everyone.  Expensive, especially if you have to buy more than one size.

There are SO many different kinds of cloth diapers, and so many brands on top of that — all the choices can get overwhelming!  I like the simplicity and low cost of prefolds, but it can be hard to resist adding more “modern” cloth diapers to my stash here and there!  Do you use cloth diapers?  What is your favorite system?

-R

Southern extravaganza: the best macaroni and cheese, greens, fried tofu and okra

 

Fall is here.  Winter is coming.  It’s the time of year I start moving toward heartier, heavier foods, but it’s also the time of year I gaze longingly at the lingering summer produce at the farmers markets.  It is the time of year for fried green tomatoes.

Alas, fried green tomatoes were not a part of this meal (it was several weeks ago…probably still summer!).  But they’d be the perfect accompaniment.  I dare even the most rigid omnivore to not enjoy!

The tofu recipe below is adapted from Veganomicon.  The others are from…?  Old and adapted beyond recognition.

Chile-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

Canola oil for frying
1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed to remove as much liquid as possible
1 cup buttermilk (obv. use a vegan milk if you want to keep it vegan, but add some vinegar (i think, haven’t checked) to make it more buttermilk-y).
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon lime zest
1.5 teaspoons salt

Slice the tofu into eight slices and then slice each of those diagonally so you have 16 tofu triangles.

Sift cornstarch* into milk and stir until combined.

In another bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients — cornmeal, spices, lime zest and salt.

In a cast iron skillet, heat oil, about a 1/4 inch or enough to mostly cover tofu slices.

Designate one hand your “wet” hand and the other “dry.”  Do not violate these designations.

With your wet hand, dip the tofu into the milk-cornstarch mixture.  With your other hand, drop into the cornmeal and coat on all sides.  Remove and place in the skillet, frying on each side for 3 minutes or so, until browned.  Don’t crowd the tofu if it can’t all fit in the skillet.

When finished, place on paper towels.

*As a warning, do not let two ingredients prefixed by the word “corn” confuse you, as it did for my friend and me, who, unfortunately yet hilariously, mixed them up, multiple times, in a row.

Classic braised greens

Traditionally cooked for hours in a pot with a ham hock and/or other non-vegetarian ingredients, they can be just as delicious without the meat.

You can use any combination of greens you would like.  I had some mustard greens, kale, and collards all together in one pot this time.  Remove the stems, shred into small-ish pieces, and simmer in a pot of just enough water to cover (add more periodically as necessary) for about an hour.  For flavor, I add some crushed red pepper, dried mushrooms, salt and pepper, butter, sliced onions, maybe a smoky dried chipotle pepper.

Fried Okra

Okay, to be honest, I had never tried okra before, and I was planning on trying to roast them as was recommended on a few blogs and websites.  But Mr. R wanted to fry them.  Which wasn’t a bad idea.  I don’t know what recipe he used, but it was just a basic one, like this.

Macaroni and cheese

This is a simple recipe that cuts out unnecessary steps with results that are just as creamy and delicious.

Half pound macaroni (or other small pasta)
4 tablespoons butter
12 ounces cheese (cheddar, smoked gouda, parmesan, gruyere, be creative!)
12 ounces evaporated milk
Salt & pepper
Optional:  garlic, onion, other seasonings.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions and strain, return to pot.  While still hot, coat with butter, then add the milk and cheese.  Stir until melted and gooey.

A delicious shoulder season combination of hearty yet fresh fare!

-R

 

 

 

 

 

Moroccan-spiced chickpea and squash stew

The temperature has dropped, fall produce is showing up at markets, and I am starting to crave warm and spicy autumnal foods.  But there are still so many tomatoes to be eaten!  This recipe perfectly blends the summer and the fall, making it a delicious shoulder-season meal.  Grilling the squash lends a beautiful, smoky flavor to please carnivores and herbivores alike — but you could roast it as well.

I actually had some delicata squash pop up out of the compost in my garden in my old house.  I bought one more from the farmer’s market.  You could use any kind of orange winter squash.

This recipe is very flavorful but I think even those who prefer more mild dishes could handle it.  As strong and fragrant as the cinnamon will smell, it actually lends just a very subtle touch in the end and works perfectly with the cumin.

Moroccan-spiced stew with chickpeas and grilled squash
Adapted loosely from here, and probably some other recipes for inspiration; there are a lot of google results for “Moroccan squash stew.”

1 lb squash — butternut, acorn, delicata, or even pumpkin
4-6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 cups chickpeas (or one can)
4-5 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, slivered
1 bunch greens (I used Tuscan kale, but spinach would be find)
A few hot peppers (I had some cayenne but you could use jalapeno, serrano, etc)
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
bunch of coarsely chopped celery, carrot, onion for stock
salt and pepper to taste
For garnish:  bunch cilantro, plain yogurt, hot sauce
Quinoa (healthy) or couscous (authentic) for serving

Make the stock:  toss a few handfuls of coarsely chopped celery, carrots and onion (I actually freeze celery/carrots in bags for this  purpose), plus the cinnamon stick, some dried mushrooms, a few peppercorns, thyme, etc — whatever sounds good in a stock — and cover with water.  Simmer until reduced in half, about an hour or so.  You will need two cups of stock.  Strain and set aside.  (NOTE:  you can obviously buy pre-made stock, but if you’ve got time, may as well do it yourself).

Peel and seed the tomatoes.  I’ve always just blanched them, but recently came across this easier method.  Chop them coarsely.

To prepare the squash, peel them, cut in half, scoop out seeds, and grill.  They do not need to be fully cooked at this point, just charred.  When they are done and cool to the touch, dice them.

Saute the onion in a large pot over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes with the cumin (and cinnamon stick, if you are using premade stock).  Add the tomatoes, garlic, chickpeas, potatoes, peppers, and grilled squash.  Raise heat to medium-high and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so, until the squash and potatoes are somewhat cooked and the tomatoes are getting saucy.  Add the stock.  Add the greens.  Simmer everything together until it is flavorful and stew-y, about 30-60 minutes (the longer the better!).  Check periodically if you need to add more stock.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

When it is done, garnish with cilantro leaves, hot sauce, plain Greek yogurt, etc.  Serve over quinoa or couscous.

Mmmmmm.

 

 

Why everyone should be planting leafy greens now

If you have ever once thought about giving edible gardening a try, greens — lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli, etc — are what you should plant.  And you should plant them now.  Here is why:

1.  Greens are some of, if not THE, healthiest thing you could ever eat.  They are chock full of anti-cancer phytonutrients and fiber.  And they’re versatile and easy to work into recipes.  Tossed in a salad, sauteed with a tasty sauce, cooked into soups and stews, scrambled with eggs, chopped up and mixed into a casserole — I’m hard pressed thinking of a recipe in which greens would NOT work!

2.  They don’t need a whole lot of sun.  Fruiting vegetables need a full day of sun, but when you’re just eating the foliage, you can get by with less.  If your only spot for a container garden is in complete shade, such as behind a wall or building, you might be SOL.  But if you get even dappled shade (like, through trees), or 3-4 hours of sun, you can probably grow greens.  They won’t be so prolific and bushy as they would with full sun.  However, they will probably not bolt as quickly, lasting longer into the season.

3.  Greens are very frost-resistant.  I kid you not, I had kale and broccoli growing over the winter that was snowmageddon.  It was covered in snow for like two months straight.  And it did not die.  I think the snow might actually insulate plants and protect them.  You can plant most greens in the late summer, keep them going over the winter, and harvest them in the spring.  I know that chard will also keep through the winter, and friends have had the same experience with spinach.  As long as you don’t pick the leaves when temps are below freezing, you should be good to go.
Disclaimer:  I have apparently moved from zone 7b to 7a.  I don’t know if that half a zone will make a difference.  And I can’t speak for north of zone 7.  But south of zone 7 — y’all definitely have no excuse not to garden year-round 🙂

4.  Greens are a gift that keeps on giving.  The chard and arugula I planted this year kept coming back even after I cut it.  Arugula does not last through hot weather, but the chard is still going!  After I chop off the broccoli heads, I can usually get at least one more small cluster of broccoli to come back.  Kale will keep going, but it’s hard to get a second harvest in before it bolts from the heat.  Anyone have any experience with spinach or other greens?

5.  You can even plant greens in the middle of winter.  I’ve never tried this myself.  But this winter I am excited to attempt starting seeds outdoors with a mini greenhouse as seen here.  If it works in Canada, it should work in Maryland, right?

6.  In the middle of winter, you don’t have to worry about pests.  You can neglect them pretty well during the winter.  But just before frost sets in, and after the last frost date, do keep a watchful eye on your greens because as some of the few plants remaining, the bugs will be all over that shit. I’ve had luck with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth, as well as some of these organic pest remedies from Fine Gardening.  Sometimes all it takes is a blast of water from the hose.

There are many reasons to grow your own food.  First of all, it is fun.  Secondly, while its unlikely you will grow and preserve enough to feed your entire family year-round without several acres at your disposal and full-time work, food no doubt tastes better when it is imbued with the satisfaction derived from producing it yourself.  Some vegetables, tomatoes and corn, for instance, actually DO taste 100% better when freshly picked from your back yard.  And finally, we can go a long way to protecting our earth, promoting sustainability, independence and self-sufficiency by using all available space for something PRODUCTIVE.  Grass serves no purpose.  Why not grow something nourishing?  Even if you just have space for one pot of herbs — give it a try. Grow something.

-R

August garden update

I was about to declare my container gardening experiment a failure when I impulsively picked up some red reflective mulch on clearance at a garden center nearby in a last-ditch effort to save it.  Perhaps it’s just coincidence — it is possible my plants just needed until August to store up the energy to produce fruit– but whatever it was, it seems to have done the trick.


(makes it kind of hard to mow the grass around it though…)

I actually have a few tomatoes!  Most are still green but I’ve picked one so far which unfortunately had blossom end rot.  Another is pink and about to be ready to pick.

I have SIX eggplants!

 

My cayenne plant is going crazy!  I pick a bunch of peppers every week.

My poblano plant has not been quite as prolific as the cayenne.  Even in years past with lots of sun my experience has been that they love to grow tall and bushy but not produce a whole lot of peppers.  Is there a secret to poblano pepper plants?  I’d love to have enough for chile relleno!

I even got some fall veggie plants into the ground.

Three weeks ago I started searching for fall seedlings because I had plans the following two weekends and didn’t want to wait too long. But everyone at every nursery I went to looked at me as though I was crazy for wanting to start so early, and implied that they would not have any in stock for MONTHS.  However, when I returned just 2 weekends later, not only had they already restocked but had SOLD OUT of the most popular plants like kale.  WTF.  So much for trying to get a head start.

I have seriously been to 5 separate nurseries multiple times and have not been able to find kale seedlings.  I suppose it is just as well because I don’t really have the space to grow enough kale for my voracious appetite and can stick to things that I use less frequently and cost more at the market.

Or that grow vertically — like Brussels sprouts!

I am super excited to give growing my very favorite vegetable a try.  I got these grow bags on end of summer clearance for just a few bucks.

I also picked up some broccoli and radicchio.

I’ve never grown Brussels sprouts or radicchio before.    No idea how difficult they may be.  It would be SO AWESOME though to get six stalks of Brussels sprouts this year — they are so expensive at the grocery store compared to the $1.99 I paid for a pack of seedlings!  Not sure what I will do with 6 heads of radicchio, however…

It’s hard to believe the summer is coming to a close and September will be here on Saturday.  Summer is usually my favorite season and I’m usually sad to see it go, but I think I’m looking forward to fall this year.  I mean, it’s been pretty hot in my house.  And now that, for the first time in four years, fall does not mean back to school for Mr R and me, I am looking forward to all the fun weekends we can have.

And of course…Brussels sprouts!

-R

Water is worth it

World Water Day was March 22, and I meant to write a post that, you know, actually coincided with the event — but better late than never, right?

Water is important to me, not just because of its essential life-giving properties, but without getting into too much detail, it also happens to be my bread and butter.  So a lot of thoughts were rolling around in my head last Thursday, but here is what seemed to hit me the most:

It wasn’t too long ago that this was reality:

Our waterways were seen as a free-for-all dumping ground for industrial waste, sewage, and untreated stormwater.  Swimmable? Fishable?  Ha.   Coming into contact with the Potomac could have been grounds for a prescription for antibiotics!

Today, most of our rivers — at least the ones I’m familiar with — look a little more like this:

Bald eagles now soar at an astonishingly common rate, fisheries are rebounding, and we no longer have to worry about things like rivers catching on fire.  But underneath this pristine facade is a new (old) reality:

The reality that we’ve captured all the low-hanging fruit and it’s time to tackle the hard stuff.

To the Boomer generation, the state of the environment probably seems like a vast improvement to the one they once knew.  To their children and grandchildren, there’s not much else to compare it to.  My grandparents possibly remember a time where you could actually see to the bottom of the Chesapeake, where expansive beds of submerged seagrasses grew, where oysters were a significant source of protein to residents of the Bay watershed, rather than an expensive hors d’oeuvre.

But there are not many left alive who may remember this.  We’re shifting to a new definition of “normal,” a diminished, weakened goal.  It becomes a downward sliding scale as our point of reference is gradually slipping.

When the Clean Water Act was first written, the goal was to eliminate all water pollution by 1985.  This obviously hasn’t happened, and I worry that we as a country will begin to accept things, such as raw sewage pumping into our rivers after heavy rainfalls, as a fact of life.  But everyone deserves clean water for drinking, fishing, swimming, recreation, beauty, life…

It will take some major investments in aging, outdated infrastructure.  It may take a willingness on the part of industries to commit to controlling pollution and transparency.  And we consumers and taxpayers will need to demand that clean water is a right we deserve.

It won’t be easy, but it’s only going to get harder.  Will you stand up for clean water?

January update

Happy New Year!  And apologies for another extended absence.  Since I last posted, my life has gotten a little more hectic:  I am now officially a homeowner!  Yay!  But moving (into a fixer-upper) also means my cookbooks are still packed away…somewhere, my kitchen is under construction, and dinner for us lately means carry out. :(.  So my inspiration for posting has been pretty sparse…believe me, you have no idea how much I crave cooking a delicious, homemade, HEALTHY meal!  Hopefully, before the end of the month, I’ll be back on track and able to create some exciting new dishes in my brand new kitchen.  I really CANNOT WAIT!

We have, however, finally gotten the internet in my new place, and the holidays are well behind us, so I have no real excuse to be totally MIA anymore.  So my new year’s resolution is to be more active on twitter.  I have an account that automatically spits out my posts, but I have pretty much ignored it up until now.  But it is 2012, and I must get with the times.  So follow me @BounteousBlog!

And with that, I’ll leave you all not with a picture of food, but of my puppy.  Until next time…