Archive for the ‘kitchen and food’ Category

It’s July-hot here in central Illinois on this Memorial Day weekend with a hot breeze. Hot. As in it’s-90-degrees-at-noon hot, with at least 6 more degrees to go. I did the garden tasks early (watering & weeding, plus replanting of sunflowers and cucumbers because we have a slug/squirrel problem) while I had my (hot) coffee and now I’m holed up in our air-conditioned indoors, watching a replay of Lilly’s soccer game from yesterday. The grocery store is my next victim. I feel wholly unproductive, but will soldier on and buy groceries and make pesto for dinner, even though it’s May.

Fun: My friend and former co-worker Millicent Souris, with whom I recently reconnected, is coming from Brooklyn to visit. She’s hitting the road in a couple of weeks to promote her new book, which is about pie, and will be all over the place. Here’s the book:

Hopefully we’ll be setting something up locally for her, but she is also coming to help me learn how to poach eggs perfectly every time and maybe we’ll make biscuits like the ones she demonstrates in this video. And probably a pie crust. I’m really excited about this because, well, I had no idea that Millicent was working in food – was kicking ass in food, actually – and could be that person who could tell me, in a most no-nonsense way, what to do with a leg of lamb. This is actually a real question I have: What do I do with this leg of lamb that Cathe from Seven Sisters Farm made me take that one time I was there for IMBY? She’ll be here in mid-June.

Here are some recent photos that are sort of descriptive of life around here for the last few days, taken with my phone and with a DSLR.

Calendula about to bloom, taken with a new (to me) lens.

Drawn by a young woman at the farmers market who was frustrated at having to wait in the heat to perform on her ukulele. All the market’s performer slots were taken.

Lettuce in my garden.

Last year’s pea/greens bed is fallow this season, but a volunteer persists. I think zinnias are going in here after the pea vine is done.

Local artists Deathtram slaying the audience at the first-ever CU Flea yesterday. Our pals Millie and Cole are the founders of CU Flea and it was slamming.


94 degrees now. Welcome, summer 2012.


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I don’t know how I did it, but one of the eggs of the three I poached this morning is perfect. Unfortunately, I just ate the last, most photogenic bite, wrapped up in sauteed spinach from the garden and green garlic from the farmers market. This is what I did:

Brought water to a boil. Cracked three eggs into little bowl. Turned heat way, way down.

Swirled water rapidly to create a vortex and slid eggs in. Covered eggs.

Let them sit for about 3-4 minutes. Harvested spinach & chopped green garlic during this time and sauteed it in a little butter.

Turned off heat.

Put spinach and garlic into a bowl and slid the eggs on top. Ate breakfast. (The other two eggs, by the way, were good, but they were not perfect.)


Radio is still being made. Since the beginning of 2012, I’ve done segments about making mustard and food swaps, homemade mozzarella cheese, sheep shearing, Slow Money, backyard foraging, and the relationship between food and weather and insects. Forthcoming segments will include stories about the origin and history of the Horseshoe Sandwich in Central Illinois, gardening with found objects, a produce pedaler (I spelled it right), thinking about winter holidays during the summer, and probably a bunch more stuff I haven’t dreamed up yet. You can listen to each segment on your own time from the website, you can listen as a podcast, and you can listen on the air if you’re local. Speaking of local airings, it seems that in addition to my usual air time of the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month at around 2:20 PM, IMBY is also airing the following morning during Morning Edition while people are getting ready for work or school or are getting their days going. Kind of cool. Oh, yeah. I suppose I should mention that I found out a couple of months ago that I won an Illinois Associated Press Award along with the gent who produces my work at WILL, Dave Dickey, which was totally unexpected and quite motivating in terms of continuing to create interesting segments. I still feel like I’m having trouble finding my voice because of the schedule I’m on, but I’m getting there. After (almost) two years I think I’m getting there.

Oh, and the other funny thing that happened recently with regards to media and me was Smile Politely choosing my Instagram feed as the best in C-U, for some reason. Again, completely unexpected and very cool.

I don’t know, all this stuff is kind of embarrassing, but I figured I’d let readers, if there are any left, know.

Speaking of photos, here are a few personal faves from the last month or so:

This poster has been slowly deteriorating in downtown Urbana.

I saw this swarm of honeybees getting organized a couple weeks ago and checked on them a couple hours later where I thought they might be. And there they were, in perfect shape. They now have a new, safer (for all) home.

Driveway cherries. Thanks, Jill!

Cody surprised me for Mother’s Day. I freaked out when he walked in.

We had a few people over to send off some friends moving to VT. Then all these excellent people showed up and it turned into a full-on party. Then everyone went home at about 12:30 AM and this is what was left.

I’m back on my market-season schedule of having Mondays off if I worked Saturday, which I did, and it was great. So here’s my list for today – it’s not everything, but it’s a start:

Must get cracking.

Off I go.

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God, I was doing so well with the photo challenge and the blogging, but then it all came to a crashing halt, I guess. I’ve enjoyed the hiatus. HI.

Photos continued, even though they weren’t being posted. This is a photo from February, not January, and is not part of a challenge. It’s just a photo of some books I thrifted last weekend, after years of not thrifting books. If only I could thrift a nice fondue set from the 1970s.


So, work happened (and continues to happen), and then there was this frenzy of somewhat upset (on my part) activity around trying to figure out if we were going to be able to go on vacation this winter. It’s a long and very boring story, but the upshot is we’ll be on Anna Maria Island for 5 days followed by two days on the Canaveral National Seashore sometime in March. We don’t go on many vacations, and this will be the first time ever, in the 10 years we’ve been going, that we’ll be in FL on our own, without staying with Jim’s mom & dad, who hang down there in January and February. We’re all quite sad about it. Truly.

I love the beach so much.

Taken by Cody on AMI, 2009

Oh, hey – there’s some new excitement around In My Backyard (IMBY for short)!

1. My January hiatus is over, so segments are airing again. You can listen to “Ahead of the 2012 Growing Curve”, which WILL – AM just aired this afternoon on the old-timey radio device, by clicking here on your newfangled electronic device.

2. I was just informed today that my tightened-up writing will pay off in the form of  IMBY segments possibly maybe airing locally during Morning Edition some weeks. Wider audience!

3. I ALSO just found out today that the IMBY segments are now available to public radio stations statewide – these stations can pick up one or all of the segments and air them, if they’re so inclined. If you’re in Chicago, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale, Rock Island, Peoria, St. Louis, Macomb, or DeKalb, your Illinois Public Radio/National Public Radio station should have access to it. THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME.

4. The next segment covers food swaps and will air February 23. I can’t wait to write that one – I have way more audio that I know what to do with, and homemade mustard was the swapped food. Um, hello, ten different kinds of mustard. I love you.

Spicy Stout Mustard, made for swapping

That’s about it from U-town on this chilly February evening. Illinois is losing to Indiana. Lilly’s reading in bed. Jim and Ed are planning to make beer this weekend. And it’s time for a cup of tea.

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Photo a day #16: Morning


Poached eggs are THE BEST, especially when done right (which is, chez B-K, like capturing lightning in a bottle). Three things matter: the egg, the temperature of the water, and the cooking time. I always have great eggs on hand, but the other two criteria are not always met. I do, however, always follow Joy of Cooking‘s recommendation to create a “swirling vortex” (that’s probably not the term they used, but it’s the one I like saying in my head in the morning when I make the eggs) in the just-below-the-boil water. Then I close the lid and, usually, lose track of time.

I love eggs, so screwing up the poaching isn’t a big deal. They’re still so good. This morning’s slightly messed-up eggs were eaten with spinach from one of the farms I’m visiting today and a tiny bit of grated Parmesan and some fresh-ground pepper. It’s January and the spinach is sublime.


I need to spend some time dumping audio onto my laptop, taking some test shots with the DSLR (woefully underused due to my fascination with Instagram, plus I only have one lens and could really use another), and prepare some questions for later today, but my mind is wandering to the garden, and what I’d like to plant this year, and the fact that this year is the year I can finally eat the asparagus I planted, and all the things I’d like to preserve this year, and all the things that went to waste last year. From there I wonder what home season extension in our part of the Midwest would look like, real season extension for home gardeners. From there my mind wanders to the pruning and espaliering of the apple trees against our garage that has to happen, the mess in our garage, this project, which would allow me to successfully start onions inside (I don’t think it’ll get made in time for this season), the condition of my garden tools (not critical, but getting there), what the garden/yard will look like when we have our Annual Dessert Potluck in July, host a dinner in August, and have the 2nd Annual Cornhole Tournament in September. Will it look good? Will I have kept up with things? Will Jim & I have made any new trellises? Will there be pollinators? How about rain? Too much? Too little?

Best for now to dump audio/take test shots/prepare. Chop wood, carry water.

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Winter weather has finally arrived. It’s just a few inches of snow, but the wind is vicious and it’s cold and our blood has grown thin here in Central IL with our above-average temperatures this winter thus far. The timing of this blizzardette was also bad for me, personally, given that I was out of town driving a car that wasn’t mine, but I performed some complicated calculations and left at the right time and white-knuckled it home. There weren’t many other cars on the road, which was oddly comforting. I felt safest of all when the car or truck in front of me disappeared into the whiteout and I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I always cursed when a truck would suddenly appear in the rear-view mirror.

I was just past Decatur when I heard this In My Backyard segment. Even though it aired 3 months ago, I hadn’t heard it in its entirety, and even then I had only heard it through computer speakers. I kind of liked it, but Dave’s right – the writing needs to be tightened up. I have two stories in the hopper for February already – one about making cheese and another about what your farmers are doing now. Hint: Their feet are not up. In farming, there is no off-season.

Jar of "Artella" by Daniel Schreiber

My friend Dan made chocolate – superior bean-to-bar chocolate – in Urbana, IL under the moniker Flatlander Chocolate. (I didn’t realize the website was still live, and… well, damn.)

Anyway, he was a young guy and a super-idealist and felt really strong feelings about community and food that basically led to him to put his brilliant future in computer science on hold (he was a rising star as a grad student at the U of I) in favor of refining his chocolate and bringing it to a wider audience. In July 2010, he introduced his hazelnut chocolate spread to the world via Urbana’s Market at the Square, where it was received with wild enthusiasm. I bought a jar the first day it was offered – feeling lucky to do so – and it was gone within the week. Dan brought some more to the 5th Annual B-K Dessert potluck, but that was gone immediately. It was obvious he was onto something.

Dan died suddenly in late July 2010. We found out on a Tuesday, and when Saturday rolled around but he didn’t roll in to the Market, it was rough. I had cried a lot during the week, but held it together at the Market until a mutual friend brought me one of the last jars of Dan’s hazelnut chocolate heaven-in-a-jar. It still sits in my fridge. I can’t bring myself to open it, because then it would be gone and then what?

I know. He’d probably hate that.

Anyway. An organization exists to bring people in our community together around food, which is something Dan talked about all the time, to all of his many friends. After several months of  regrouping and working out the basics of what we want to do, we’re finally moving forward. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you could follow the Flatlander Food Foundry on Facebook. Or – if you have an organization where you live whose aims are similar, could you let me know in comments? It can be a community kitchen or just a bunch of people getting together to eat and talk and try new things or an underground dinner club or.. whatever.


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Today I got up quite early for a winter Saturday, put on some clothes, gathered my things, and drove about 200 miles south of here to deliver Farmers Market 101. I put together a presentation for fledgling farmers about best practices that can help ensure success at farmers markets… from the market manager’s point of view. My big talky theme right now is about creating a culture of commitment within the local food system, and especially within the framework of preserving markets as public spaces and community resources, so I test-talked about this concept as well as giving quite a bit of nutsy-boltsy advice to these farmers (Nutsy-Boltsy Piece of Advice #1: Be cool to the market’s manager. Seriously. Even if that wasn’t my job it would be my #1 piece of advice.). It was a little weird and definitely awesome to see people writing things down as I spoke. I wanted to look at people’s notes – are you actually getting something out of all this babbling? I wanted to ask. Rather than give handouts with bullet points when I do presentations, I give them copies of my slides with room for notes because I want listeners to write down what they’re taking away, what’s important to them, rather than me tell them what’s important. It’s going to be different for everyone.  I gauged people’s reactions as I spoke, and will be tweaking the presentation for delivery to a similar group later this month. I am so not proficient at this, so the practice is good. But talking about farmers markets is one of my favorite things to do.

Over lunch, I talked with a woman who used the term “smart farm” regarding her operation and I’ve been turning the words over in my head since we chatted. The context was diversification within the operation – stop growing what doesn’t sell, start listening to what customers want, embrace technology, try new ways of reaching customers, be flexible. She totally rocked. I hope to run into her again.

I don’t love getting up in front of people and presenting, so when I have to do it, I tend to wear clothes I love and feel the most myself in.

My new favorite sweater by Sherpa, plus brown Levi's cords

Jim & Lilly found this lovely brown Sherpa sweater for me and surprised me with it for Xmess this year. I am not exaggerating when I say I wear it all the time and would wear it every day if I could; I’m currently trying to lay my hands on at least one more in another color so I can mix it up. It’s lightweight but warm, flattering, and generally very cool. I wore the sweater and my best-fitting brown corduroys today and felt pretty together.

Then I drove, and drove, and drove. Central and southern Illinois are not that much fun to drive through in the winter, even when it’s sunny and 50 degrees. When I returned, Jim texted and asked if I wanted to go to Black Dog for a beer, and I said YES. It’s one of my favorite places, period, in C-U.

Just another Saturday at Black Dog

So we went, and ordered some wings to go, and while we waited, had a pint of Shark Attack and talked with the owner, Mike. His baby daughter is almost 5 months old, and he offered me some baby-holding time.

I’m going to take him up on it.

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The new cruelest month is January. Its cruelty comes from the fact that the weather has not been cruel at all this winter. But today was the cruelest so far – today, January 6, 2012, we saw 60 lovely and sunny degrees. And I know we will Get Ours. It’s the midwest. Of course we will.

You know that scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Edmund greedily eats all that Turkish Delight, knowing the whole time that it’s bad for him and he shouldn’t be doing it but he does it anyway?

At first Edmund tried to remember that it was rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat…

Yeah. That was me, today, in the sun. Greedy, so greedy. And at the height of the blizzard that will eventually come, there I’ll be, all… but can’t I have just one more hour of sun and 60 degrees?


I had a great meeting with my producer at the station today. I brought him lunch, and we made a deal. If I can tighten up my writing, I might be able to get IMBY pieces on the air during other time slots on the weeks they don’t air on the ag program. My pieces currently air on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. If this writing-tightening happens, the piece that airs one week on the ag show would air the next week during Morning Edition. WHICH WOULD BE SO AWESOME. I’m on hiatus until February 9, but I’m pretty stoked about what 2012 holds.


Something that made me smile today:

Discovering that the minneolas from California are in at the co-op.

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