Friday, June 29, 2012

Tomatoes and Education

It's fascinating how education changes our opinions.

This is true of everything from the Affordable Care Act to vegetables. As a supporter of health care equality for all, I'm frustrated when I read that the majority of Americans support the individual provisions of the ACA, but because of the propaganda they hear on t.v. or in other media, do not support the law as a whole. I strongly believe that if educated about the ACA, only the most cruel among us would chose to deny care to 45 million people, to deny care to people with pre-existing conditions, to take away coverage from people when they fall ill, or to systematically discriminate against women by forcing them to pay higher rates for no reason other than gender, which are all things that the ACA protects us from, and are all things that exist in our current system and will remain if ACA is repealed. I have yet to hear an argument for why the Affordable Care Act is not a good thing, unless the argument involves lies such as the always hilarious Sarah Pailn's claim that there are "death panels" involved. And I'm fascinated to hear the conservative rhetoric today about repeal. This was a conservative bill, the ideas of which were originally introduced by the conservative Heritage Fountadion, was the same style as Romney's health care in Massachusetts, and was approved by a conservative Supreme Court which in their written opinion discussed limitations on the Commerce Clause- a huge conservative victory. Why are they complaining?

In the parallel world of food (also related to health), I read a fascinating NPR story on mass produced tomatoes, and why they taste so poor. I read this while eating lunch on the patio and eating leftover pizza that we made with farmers market heirloom tomatoes and arugula. We did cheat and bought the Trader Joe's pre-made refrigerated pizza dough, but topped it with tomatoes of all colors and sizes. The purple ones were particularly delicious, which got me thinking about why people think they want a uniformly red store-bought tomato when heirloom local varieties are so much better. My best guess is education- that people are not aware of what they are missing. That combined with marketing and habit. I'm still waiting for my three varieties of heirloom tomatoes to ripen in my garden, but tomorrow is market day, and I can't wait to pick up more tasty orange, yellow, and purple varieties for the week, and now, thanks to the story linked above, I know to look for green shoulders. Education.

Super Simple Weeknight Pizza:
Roll out refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough (either your own, or store bought) on a pizza stone. Top lightly with pizza sauce, this could be tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes from a can or jar, or store bought pizza sauce. Toss on a liberal amount of chopped tomatoes (about two cups), top with chopped arugula (we bought one bunch from our farmer, so about two cups), add about a cup of shredded mozzarella and sprinkle with dried oregano and basil. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Yum!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Voice of Reason from the Supreme Court

Indeed, it was a great day.

I came home from the gym this morning, checked my e-mail and was so pleased (overjoyed, perhaps) to find out that I passed the French translation exam that I took last week. And then, as I open the New York Times to do a five minute review of the news before getting to work- bam- my day got even better- the Affordable Care Act was judged constitutional by the Supreme Court! Finally, the U.S. is getting closer to the basic standards of health care enjoyed by every other industrialized nation on Earth. Finally, children won't be denied care because of a pre-existing condition. Finally, those who work for themselves or for small companies won't be punished by being denied affordable coverage due to their desire to work outside of the large corporate system. Finally, the working poor will have access to preventative care. Now if only we could create a system of health care not based on profits, we'd be closer to the care other nations have, but I'll take this small victory as a first step.

Thank you, Supreme Court. America just became a better place to live.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

India Mustard and the Added Benefits of Veggies

As the temperatures creep up here in the Midwest, the early season vegetables are disappearing from my garden and the farmers market, and the summer produce is starting to be harvested. This year I did quite well with early crops- the snow peas in particular were bountiful, but bok choi, radishes, daikon, spring onions, and India mustard all gave great yields. As it was warm quite early we struggled with cabbage moths, but I still think I'll get some cabbages in the coming weeks. The broccoli may not head this year due to the heat, and my lettuce, usually one of the easier crops, was decimated by the moth larvae, though I still got a few salads.

Aside from the peas, from which I took the fifth and final harvest two weeks ago, India mustard might be my favorite early crop for this year. It's the first time I've grown it and it grows fast, thrives in the cool spring weather, and is pretty much bug resistant. We used it for Indian greens (similar to these), garlic greens, and with a dijon-dill sauce. I harvested the leaves individually, allowing the plants to continue growing, which as the weather warmed resulted in getting the flowers of the plant, pictured above. It was such a pleasant side benefit to have the willowy stems and little yellow flowers gracing the mantle in the past few weeks. These are starting to lose their flowers, and will probably make their way to the compost pile in the coming days, but even the grassy light stems are a great way to bring a breezy garden feel to the interior.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Air Conditioning and Afternoon Coffee

It's hot.
Really hot.
Like, 95 degrees hot with a forecast of 100 for the next two days.
I do not like heat.

I am, however, completely terrified of climate change, so I refuse to jack up the air conditioning. That, and my distaste for heat is over-ridden by a distaste for a high electric bill. The use of air conditioning is a huge global environmental crisis (see here for more on why a/c gasses are even worse than co2) and one that we should all be considering in our daily lives. One step we took last year was to participate in a program offered by our utility company, wherein we received a free programmable thermostat (with free installation) for the trade off that during the peak energy consumption hours of summer our a/c would cycle off in 15 minute increments, still allowing the fan to run. We haven't noticed the difference, but it is making an impact on our over-extended power grid.

My main struggle is not "to use or not to use" the a/c. I generally keep the thermostat at 84 during the day, but since I'm working from home this summer I've been guilty of turning it down to 82. This isn't an issue of comfort, in fact I prefer to keep the interior temperature warm in summer and cool in winter, so as to prevent illness and allow myself to acclimate to the outdoor weather, but rather the issue is one of afternoon drowsiness. So, my solution is to make iced coffee.

I make a full pot of coffee on the weekend, allowing it to cool, and then store it in a re-used glass bottle that I keep in the fridge. When that 3 p.m. feeling hits me, I pour up some coffee, mix in a bit of soy milk and some sugar, toss in a few ice cubes, and I'm good to go. Yum.

I'm back.

Hey internet!

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since I've blogged regularly. Something that was an outlet for my thoughts just became something that had to give. The last year of PhD coursework combined with working multiple jobs became all consuming and gave me so little free time. We did do some fun things along the way though, like skiing in Utah and hiking in Colorado, and spending the holidays with family and friends in Chicago. There were also some great professional and personal milestones, my favorite of which was running our first half-marathon back in April.

So, what am I doing now?
First off, I'm so happy to be working like a normal person for the summer. Meaning not all day plus evenings, late nights, and weekends. Instead, just the regular old forty hour workweek with a few extra evening or weekend hours thrown in from time to time. Truly liberating. If you are fortunate enough to work a forty hour week you know how much free time is involved. I'm loving having time to garden and cook, entertain, exercise, and generally enjoy life. It is this joie de vivre that I'll be blogging about in the coming weeks.

Glad to be back!

PS- If you are looking at the photo above and thinking, "why is she reading about yoga for work?" the text shown is not about yoga the philosophy and exercise, but yoga the term that refers to Western-style Japanese painting.