Books and Reading

The Botany of Desire

Each time I sit down to reflect upon what I have read, I think I have not read much, but I am always surprised to have read more than I thought. Today I am sharing one book I read recently and absolutely loved.

I have been meaning to read a book by Michael Pollan for a while. I have seen him speak and heard of him for years. The first time I heard his name was from my college roommate who was reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then from my father who went to see him speak, then my husband read The Botany of Desire and I even watched a documentary with him speaking. I really appreciate his messages in regards to food. I knew that I wanted to read his books, but never picked them up. While I was reading Sapiens, I considered watching the series Cooked on Netflix based on Michael Pollan’s book. I felt though I wanted to read him first, so I found the oldest book he wrote that my library had and that happened to be The Botany of Desire.

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I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first picked up this book. This book is a personal exploration of four plants and how their history was a result of human influence. He discusses the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. If you had asked me when I started reading it if I would want to read about marijuana, I would have told you no, absolutely not. I realize though this is a prejudice I have, also after watching Michael Moore’s film Where to Invade Next, I realize the dramatic and unjust role of criminalizing has had on our population as a whole, especially targeting black people in a way that is now legal. Every other chapter though made me want to plant all the things, I am not a gardener, I can barely keep my basil alive. I do not yet have a yard, but I have plans and I am excited for their possibility and where they may lead. Pollan writes in an approachable way, he is clearly biased and it comes through, but I appreciate his sheer joy and how well researched his book is. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of his works.

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Food, Spud Sunday

Spud Sunday

I love potatoes, in fact I am a firm believer that mashed potatoes are some of the best Thanksgiving food. What I am about to share with you is a variety of ways to eat a baked potato. As a potato lover, here are some that are remarkable and simple. You could bake a potato in the oven, and on occasion I do, but to be honest, most of the time I am too lazy so I throw it in the microwave for about 5 minutes, maybe more depending on the size and take it out and top it deliciously. For although a baked potato with butter, salt and pepper is yummy, there are many more options. Also if you are trying to eat on a budget, potatoes are fairly inexpensive and can stretch a meal.

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One way we used to eat potatoes growing up was as pictured above. We would eat baked potatoes with steamed broccoli and cauliflower topped with a cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was a basic bechamel with cheese melted into the sauce, in this case I used cheddar. If you would like me to share some tips and tricks for how to fix a bechamel sauce, let me know it is something I am considering sharing. Making a bechamel is fairly easy, in fact growing up my dad would make it and although he has become quite the chef in recent years, back then it was this, chili, tacos, and his chili con queso dip.

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On the contrary, growing up my mom would make potatoes like this. Yes there is indeed a potato underneath the mountain of toppings. On top of this baked potato is cottage cheese, then  sautéed onions and garlic with summer squash and zucchini, topped with parmesan cheese and Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt, which I have previously written about here.

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My final potato topping is fairly standard, a loaded potato. I love the contrast of crispy bacon, with creamy yet sharp cheddar cheese and lots of scallions.

I am hoping to in the future add to Spud Sunday, where I can share recipes, tips and other meal ideas involving one of my favorite ingredients the simple potato. Are you looking for any potato recipes that I can help with? What are some of your favorites?

Food, Recipe

Caesar Salad Dressing

Salad season has arrived. In Iowa, the temperatures are high 80s and 90s and we are surrounded with an abundance of fresh produce. The perfect conditions for salads. I eat salads, not to be healthy, but because they are refreshing and delicious. I am telling you right now, the following salad dressing recipe is the epitome of delicious, NOT the epitome of health.

My husband and I ate this particular dressing in a chicken Caesar salad. If you want an idea of how to serve it here is what I did. I butterflied a chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder. I cooked the chicken in a sauté pan over medium heat with nonstick spray. The chicken breast cooked through in a few minutes, but I needed to cover it to get the inside to cook through without burning the edges. I then proceeded to make some homemade croutons. I had previously chopped and washed some romaine lettuce. I added some sliced cherry tomatoes and a shaved parmesan mix. This salad was yummy and delicious, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The dressing makes more than enough for a few salads. This recipe was adapted from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings cookbook.

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Caesar Salad Dressing

  • Servings: about 2 cups of dressing
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

-1 cup of mayonnaise

-4 cloves of garlic

-1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan

-1 lemon, juiced

-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Roughly chop the garlic cloves.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth, adjust seasoning to taste. Refrigerate until using.

This recipe may be quite salty depending on your cheese, you might want to add the salt after tasting to see if it is salty enough without.

If you do not have a food processor, finely chop the garlic and mix the ingredients together.

Musings on Life

Patriotism

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Those who know me well know that I am not a particularly patriotic person. I have not always been proud to be an American nor have I agreed with all the decisions we have made. I have been a reluctant American. I have come to realize what a luxury this is. I can speak my mind at no consequence. Also as I have started to travel I have come to appreciate America more. I appreciate what I have here. My level of comfort and familiarity  my ease in going about the world. I know as a country we have some work to do. I know even as a person I have some (quite a bit of) work to do. I am realizing though how lucky I am. I am sure if I moved overseas I would find a way. I would cultivate familiarity and learn customs learn the language, but as it stands right now I really love America. I could write a litany of all the work to be done or try to clearly enumerate the changes that I wish would be made. Part of me also just wants to slow down and take the time to see the good where it is. So rather than  a list of complaints I’m going to share with you a list of gratitude, particularly gratitude regarding America.

I am grateful for

  • our freedom of speech, so all people can share their thoughts no matter how unpopular or contrary they are
  • a cohesive language across the country that enables us to communicate clearly
  • the ability to start businesses or ventures as we desire
  • national parks that preserve pristine parts of nature
  • public education and public libraries to enable our continued learning
  • well maintained roads and pathways to travel
  • distinct parts of the nation that allow for different microcosms to develop enabling us to explore different ideas and ways of living without having to leave the country
  • clean drinking water (in most places), clean air, laws regulating our food to help protect us
  • national disaster relief organizations that help out during crises
  • local police, firemen and other state workers who help our lives run better, who deliver our mail and help us when things go awry
  • kindness of people, who are willing to see others who are new or different and help them grow roots to a new place
  • local trails and bike paths, local lakes and oceans and swimming pools

I am in love with America all over again and I am thankful to be here and to feel like I belong.

Musings on Life, Travel

Lessons from the Road

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Lately, I have been considering labels. We are more than the sum of our labels. We are complex people with diverse interests, ideas and areas of expertise. As my husband and I have been on our road trip, I have been forced to confront areas of discomfort. Although I have some grasp of French, I do not understand it when it is spoken quickly. I find the more I do things that make me uncomfortable the less challenging they are. I again find myself searching for labels wanting to call myself adventurous but realizing there are limits to that adventurous spirit. I’m starting to see that as much as we know each other there are always areas of surprise and intrigue. My husband and I have been together for over ten years and still when we get in the car we have things to say. We do not stay static, but are ever changing and our different experiences and perspectives make discussions interesting. One of the reasons I like to travel is that I like to see the world anew. For this same reason I love information and reading. I find learning about new topics helps me broaden or shift my perspective even if for a moment.

 

My Happiness Project

July Happiness Project

00CAE958-19AA-45C6-B6C4-DD46533B9C9F.jpegHappy Fourth of July! Funnily enough I am writing this from Canada. As I sit here reflecting upon my happiness project, I think of what I have learned. I have started to take steps to change and accept myself all at the same time. The month of July my goal is to be more of an activist. I care about the world, but I often do not act. I leave it to others. Here are my current ideas for activism.

  • Watch The Daily Show-to be casually informed
  • Get involved with TeamRWB
  • Get involved-more generally speaking
  • Volunteer
  • Write letters/make phone calls
  • Attend rallies and marches
  • Be more informed-with accurate data
  • Feed the homeless/always have food packs ready to give our at stoplights

I am naturally too scared to act, but I’m hoping that taking action will help me gain momentum and find ways for me to help. What are the ways you stay involved?