Saturday, 28 February 2009

Of Sprouting Seeds and Beet Leaves....

I've been having so much tasty fun growing alfalfa and buckwheat sprouts that I decided to take the plunge and order some certified organic sprouting seeds from a Canadian company, Mumm's. Buying seeds in bulk like this is a lot cheaper - these seeds should last me for a year or more, making buckets of sprouts!

I'm going to try the broccoli sprouts first, since they apparently have 20-50 times the cancer fighting effects than broccoli itself, which is already a good anti-cancer food. These little guys are also effective in decreasing some kinds of ulcers, and that is also a very good thing.

I'm going to have to invest in some cheesecloth or some other kind of mesh, since one sprouting jar just isn't enough these days! Maybe I could use some old nylons and an elastic band or two.....?

In other news, one of the three beets I had planted in a margarine container of moist sand last Fall has finally started growing beet leaves. I'm sure it wasn't supposed to take this long, so I'll have to check into what I should be doing differently....

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Woodstove-baked buns

It remains chilly, and we are still using the woodstove for supplementary heating these days. So today I decided to give my little camp stove oven another try. A few months ago I roasted vegetables in it, and that went fairy well, but today I wanted to see if it would bake bread. I still had one frozen portion of my no-knead bread left from a few weeks ago, and after thawing and double-rising it, I formed the little buns you see in the first picture.

I was able to get the woodstove oven up to about 375 F, but 325 was where the temperature would mostly hover once I had the buns in there. The normal oven temperature for baking these buns is 425 F, so I wasn't sure just how it would work out. But after a half hour, things seemed to be coming along reasonably well, and it smelled heavenly in the basement, where the woostove is.

I gave the buns another 15 minutes, which was probably 5-7 minutes too long. The tops were a lovely golden brown, but the bottoms were quite dark. Nonetheless, the inside of the buns was moist and delicious, and along with a sprout salad, made a delicious lunch!

(I figured out later that I could adjust the rack height in the little oven, and if I were to use non-dark bakeware, I could probably reduce the bottom browning problem significantly - that will be my next test!)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Theory into Practice

In Tai Chi we do a bunch of warm-up exercises before we do the actual 108-move set itself. Some of these moves have names, and some do not. There are several purposes for these foundation exercises, one of which is to practice certain moves that are embedded in each one of the 108 forms. We do the foundation exercises repeatedly, and our instructor gives us corrections to ensure that we are getting the moves right so that we can do them properly during the set itself. The goal is to incorporate the teachings about the foundation exercises into the set to get the most health benefits out of the exercise. In short, to put theory into practice.

This turns out to be more difficult than one might think. It is one thing to do the same thing over and over again in the same place, and quite another to incorporate the motion into a dynamic set of 108 moves, while trying to maintain one's balance, remember what comes next and move at the same speed as everyone else.

I am finding the same thing happening as I learn and read more about Taoist and Buddhist ideas. I love to sit and read books by Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, or lose myself in the latest issue of Shambala Sun magazine. My most recent discovery is the work of Noah Levine, a buddhist who spent some time in jail as a youth. I sit, comfy with some tea, reading the works of these authors. I might nod and smile, agreeing with what's being said, thinking what a good and noble idea it is, and how the world would be a better place if we all put these ideas into action.

After that is where I fall a bit short. It is one thing to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, imagining a world of compassion and caring. It's another to actually behave in a compassionate way when, for example, something very annoying happens at work, or (hypothetically speaking of course!) a politician enacts a policy that you find completely wrong-headed, or a driver cuts you off in traffic. I want to rant and rave, and I often do -- sometimes here, sometimes in the moment itself. And I think unkind thoughts and say unkind words. I am getting a little better at refraining from that, and actually feeling compassion and acting kindly towards others in trying situations, but it is mostly hit-and-miss at this point, depending on what kind of day I'm having.

So it comes back to practice and more practice, decreasing the separation between what I think and say when I'm reading or meditating, and what I actually do when I'm out there, in the world, with its dynamic changes and challenges.

Picture courtesy Western Region Taoist Tai Chi Society

Monday, 16 February 2009

Growing Alfalfa Sprouts

I had a request to describe how I go about growing alfalfa sprouts using my neat-o mesh lid and canning jar. It is extremely easy!

I bought this plastic mesh screw-top lid from my local health food store - it fits any wide mouth mason jar, although I have found that it fits some better than others. I am just using a small (250 ml) canning jar, since there are only two of us and we don't need a whole mess o' sprouts at any given time.

I bought the alfalfa seeds at the health food store as well, at the same time as I bought the lid. I have been itching to grow something while I wait for Spring to arrive, and these sprouts are just the ticket.

So, here are the steps:

1) Put about a teaspoon of seeds into the small canning jar
2) Screw on the mesh lid firmly.
3) Add water - enough to cover the seeds well. I put about an inch of water in, just for good measure.
4) Let the seeds soak in the water 8 -24 hours.
5) Pour off the soaking water through the mesh lid, and then swirl and rinse the seeds with some new water.
6) Rinse the seeds in this manner twice a day, morning and evening.
7) By Day 3 you will have tiny sprouts; by Day 6 the sprouts will be just the way I like them: with two little green leaves on each sprout. (The maturation rate will probably depend on how much sunlight they get.)
8) Not all the seeds will sprout - this seems to be normal.
9) Enjoy the sprouts on sandwiches, in pitas, stirfrys, or just by themselves.
10) Ah...Spring in a jar!

Note: check comments section for some links about sprouting and where one might order sprouting seeds in Canada.

Comment Moderation "On"

Due to an marked increase in spam over the past few days, I've turned comment moderation on for the time being. It always surprises me that a blog with modest readership like this one gets spam, but I guess if everything made sense the world would be a different place already.....

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Containers Big and Small

It's nice to find just the right container for the job, especially if it's cheap or free!

This week I had the good luck to find out about some free food-safe plastic buckets. Apparently the institutional kitchen at my workplace just throws them away unless someone asks to have them.

I found out about this by chance, when I saw a co-worker walking down the hall with two 5 gallon buckets, with lids! I was so enthusiastic about the buckets that he kindly gave me one of them, and told me how to get more -- as many as I wanted really, because the kitchen apparently throws these out "by the hundreds." I hope to get my hands on 50 or so. I'll use several of them for storing larger quantities of sugar, flour, wheat berries, all sorts of stuff! And then I'll save some to give away or trade - the buckets are nicely stack-able and won't take up much space. I may even invest in some of those fancy gamma lids, if I can find them for a good price.

Another handy low-cost item has been my canning-jar-turned-sprout-starter. I bought a mesh lid that fits on any wide-mouth mason jar, and it works really well to grow little batches of alfalfa sprouts. I have to try sprouting some other kinds of seeds too, since we are really enjoying the nice fresh taste of sprouts as we cope with the last couple months of Winter.

The fresh green sprouts are a nice reminder that Spring is coming, eventually.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Jail: A crash course in nonattachment

The ideas of attachment and non-attachment are things I ponder regularly. On a regular basis something comes along to show me that I am more attached to something than I should be. I'm getting a bit better at being less attached to having things or buying things, but I am only just becoming aware of how attached I am to having things turn out the way I want them to, and to having people act or think the way I want them to. I am also quite attached to having things progress along a certain time frame, in a certain order. I like some things to be 'just so' - that way, I feel comfortable and at ease.

And I like that.

Just ask Gord how out of sorts I get if something I've planned has to be changed, or if I take a wrong turn on a road somewhere and suddenly don't know where to go next. I can really come undone when stuff like that happens, particularly if I'm under more stress than usual, or I'm over-tired.

As I've mentioned before, I work in a jail. Jail is a place where people learn to get over their attachments, and fast. Personal belongings are confiscated and stored. Even things like wedding rings and personal pictures of family can be taken away and put in to storage. Putting on standard issue coveralls makes everyone look like everyone else, right down to your socks and underwear - your 'outside' identity is traded in for an 'inside' number. Your 'outside' timetable and priorities are unimportant - you are told what to do and when to do it. You are dependent on 'the system' and those who work in it for your food and water, clothes and lodging. You can be transferred from cell to cell, unit to unit, or jail to jail without notice. And you won't necessarily be able to let your family or your lawyer know before you leave.

Those who have the hardest time with all this are those who had the most 'normal' lives before coming to jail. Those who adapt the most quickly are those who, by societal standards, had nothing before they arrived: the homeless, the mentally ill. There are exceptions to this of course, but I am usually struck the most by the grace with which the latter adapt to these circumstances. They appreciate the sparse cot, the chance for a hot shower, and three meals a day. They take each thing as it comes.

I don't want to romanticize the idea of jail: it is a harsh and dangerous environment in many ways, and I would advise staying out of it! But I consider myself lucky to be able to learn from those 'inside' who have mastered the art of non-attachment.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Cozy Saturday Cooking

I've been really looking forward to this weekend. I arranged things so I didn't have to leave the house at all, and these are often my most favorite times of the week. This weekend I planned to cook, clean and organize, things I've begun to appreciate doing more and more. Yes, even the cleaning!

Today was a day of cooking, baking and laundry. I made vegetable barley soup, baked bread/buns, and turned the last of the potatoes from our garden into a nice batch of whipped potatoes with nutmeg.

In the soup I used the last of the potatoes from the CSA farm, along with some dried chard from the CSA farm as well. Come to think of it, the onion I used was still from the CSA too. I added some celery, carrots and sauted it all in some olive oil before adding veggie broth, a couple handfuls of pearl barley, spices, and a generous splash of red wine, and mmmm....mmmm. Soup!

I also started another batch of alfalfa seeds to sprouting. I made a batch last week (Gord and I took turns rinsing the seeds/sprouts twice a day) and they were extremely tasty just out of the jar, or in sandwiches. It's nice to have something fresh in the middle of winter.

I'm also a fan of an easy, no-knead bread recipe from Mother Earth News (can't find a link!) - it is a very forgiving recipe and the dough can be stored in the fridge (for a more sourdough flavor over time) or frozen to be used later. The buns turned out really well - nice and crisp on the outside and really moist in the middle.

This evening we're hunkering down to watch a romantic comedy, after a nice day of pleasant Saturday chores. Tomorrow is cookie and cleaning day, and I expect I will enjoy that just as much.

Wishing everyone a pleasant and relaxing weekend!

Monday, 2 February 2009

What I Want vs. What Is

I so want to write a nice, possibly inspirational post about the Chinese New Year dinner I went to over the weekend at our Tai Chi club. About how it dawned on me (at about the 5th course of 11) that they serve one course at a time so each course can be truly savored and appreciated. About how there are certain ways to serve the dishes and pour the tea, which engender respect and courtesy. And how a 3 1/2 hour dinner with interesting and pleasant companions makes the dinner even more enjoyable. Not to mention a very cool Lion Dance.

But for some reason I just feel all blogged out lately. I'll have an idea for a post and then it will fizzle. I'll see some new connnection I haven't seen before, and then it will disappear and I can't get it back. Or I just don't feel like doing the typing and editing. The days are getting longer and lighter, little by little, but I still feel mostly in the depths of Winter.

On the other hand, the last thing I want to do is write a post full of faux-enthusiasm, so maybe it's better just to let it be, and accept What Is.

Photo of Lion Dancers courtesy this website.