Sunday, March 7, 2010

goodbye for now

Two years ago I started this blog with the intention of integrating my new life as a busy mom with my old life of compost, seeds, and produce. It has been fun writing here at soilmama with this intention in mind. Now, however, I feel the need to take things in different directions again. At the moment I am developing ideas for a possible new blog or website, or maybe something else entirely, or maybe nothing at all! As always, feel free to comment below with any suggestions. For the immediate future I won't be blogging, but will inform you here if and when I create something else. Thanks for reading along!  xo, sharon

Sunday, February 28, 2010

deep green pretty

the texture! the sparkles! the green! it's kale again, friends. soaking for hidden slugs (none surfaced, phew!) before joining tofu and garlic in the skillet. pretty, delicious, AND healthy. it's a late-winter treat!
Carrie--thanks so much for the Canon AV setting tip--it made a huge difference with this shot! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

sunshine and other good things

Warm sunshine this week has inspired us to eat our lunches outside, and set up the tent for play. I just cooked our last butternut squash to have with dinner tonight (storing them in the garage worked quite well). I will serve it mashed to add to soft tacos/quesadillas with corn tortillas, fresh salsa, guacamole, cheese, seasoned black beans, and chipotle cabbage salad. I just love sweet butternut squash combined with the spicy savory flavors of Mexican food. Looking forward to that. And finally, Sam earned his first "present" for completing part of his potty chart this week.

You can see on the top chart that the pee boxes are all stickered, earning Sam a present he picked out himself: a small spiral notebook with a flower power cover. Potty Chart 2.0 starts now, with hopefully less daunting expectations in the poop department.

After over 6 months of off-and-on potty training, I am really ready for success. He has been technically able to do it this whole time, but for whatever reason he has only shown sporadic interest and minimal willingness to work on it. It is not my first choice to offer rewards like this, but self-motivation has so far been impossible to inspire. This time we went totally diaper-free, using only pull-ups and underwear that he chooses and puts on himself. It's a delicate balance I tell you! To be motivating without engendering stubbornness; to give him independence while also guiding him; to let him go at his own pace without waiting and waiting. And to never, ever, tell him that he's a big boy, because as he repeatedly tells us, "I'm just a little guy." Hopefully he will soon be a little guy with dry pants.

Monday, February 15, 2010

more kale please!

This was the haul out of the garden today: a bunch of dino kale, a half bunch of red russian kale, a few side shoots of broccoli, one leek (lots left in the ground), and three oranges. Dinner tonight was brown rice, ginger-steamed carrots, and amazing sauteed tofu and kale with leeks. I just love having kale readily available. I don't remember when I discovered kale; most certainly I'd never heard of it at Sam's age, and I know it took time and cooking experience for me to realize what an amazing food kale can be. Honestly I could have eaten all this kale myself in one meal, that's just how good it is.

I remember hearing a story from a friend about her friend's twin toddler boys who were served kale, ate every bite, and then called out, "more kale please!" At that moment it became my goal as a parent to have my child ask for more kale. Silly, right? You can't make a kid eat anything, and I honestly believe that genetics plays the biggest role in the taste preferences of little ones. Still, I'm happy to report that Sam--not just tonight but regularly when I serve kale--eats it up and asks for more.

This recipe is so simple and is such a staple for us that it almost feels unnecessary to post it here. Then again, this--or versions of this--is what we eat and love, so it definitely belongs.

Tofu and Kale with Leeks
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
1 package tofu, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T canola or olive oil
balsamic vinegar
maple syrup
red pepper flakes
nutritional yeast
Saute kale and leeks in oil over medium heat until softened and bright green. Add several T water and cover, cooking until about half-wilted, about 10-15 minutes (add more water if it starts to stick). Stir in tofu, a dash of red pepper flakes (to taste), small splash each of balsamic and maple syrup, garlic, and a few T tamari. Continue to cook until kale is very soft and flavors combine, about 10 more minutes. Add about 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (plus water if no liquid remains) and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve over brown rice or whole grain of your choice.

Friday, February 12, 2010


If Sam is not role-playing music class, he is creating sculptures out of blocks and other wooden toys. I found this one particularly beautiful. Sometimes the awesomeness of responsibility in raising a tiny brand-new person really hits me. A little person with his own thoughts hungry for understanding, and his own feelings reaching for expression. Someone so very young, and so full of possibilities.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a new mommy-hobby

In my early 20s I learned to knit and made one item: a scratchy 100% shetland wool dark green scarf. I was living in my aunt and uncle's little cabin in the woods of New Hampshire at that time, listening to the birdsong of wood thrushes or cassette tapes of acoustic guitar, keeping warm by a wood stove in the spring chill, and imagining my future in a foreign country while working three jobs to save for my plane ticket. Although conditions seemed pretty perfect for becoming a serious knitter, I never touched knitting needles again after that disappointingly uncomfortable scarf, and instead put my creative energy towards crafting tiny dreamcatchers out of cedar branches and embroidery floss until I went abroad.

Many years later now, I am married to someone who once made a giant dreamcatcher sculpture at Burning Man, and I'm trying knitting once again. So far so good. Unlike sewing, knitting can be picked up for 10 minutes and put down again without fuss. Now that Sam is no longer in school and I have him with me full-time, getting a few minutes here and there throughout the day is much more realistic than getting a few hours to work on a sewing project. And now that I know the softness that is my baby's skin, I can skip the scratchy yarn completely.

Friday, February 5, 2010

broccoli and tempeh

Our winter garden is pretty meager this year, owing to a combination of lack of space, late planting, and voracious gastropods. Our kale, especially, either never really took off, or is getting seriously munched by slugs and snails. We've gotten a decent harvest from two broccoli plants (out of five planted), cutting the larger central heads a few weeks ago, and picking a family-size portion of side shoots during a break in the rain this week.

We have been in budget-lockdown since the new year, and part of my strategy has been to stick to weekly meal plans. Garden-broccoli night was also the night of organic tempeh (soybean-based, meaty-textured, high-quality protein), which I cooked the way I used to do it years ago, in a caramelized onion and mustard sauce, and served over brown rice (to make a complete protein). Since it was so delicious I decided to actually write down what I did to make it, something I almost never do. One of the hazards of never cooking from a recipe is that it can be hard to re-create something that tasted amazing. Next time I want to make this I'll be all set!

Tempeh with Caramelized Onion-Mustard Sauce
*2 medium yellow onions, caramelized in canola oil in a 10" cast iron skillet
*generous splash of tamari when almost fully caramelized (after about 15+ minutes)
*then add 1 package tempeh (cut in bite-size pieces) and the following:
*2-3 T dijon mustard
*1-2 T honey
*splash of vermouth
*water to almost cover
*cook for 10-15 minutes (uncovered, adding more water as needed to end up with a nice thick oniony sauce)
*just before serving, add tamari and lemon juice to taste
*serve over rice

My only complaint with this dish is that it is rather drab and brown looking. It is best served with something brightly colored like al dente steamed broccoli and carrots. Next time I might also try adding some chopped spinach towards the end of cooking to add some color. Let me know if you try it!

Friday, January 29, 2010

last tomato standing

You may remember when Sam and I picked the last of the green tomatoes before some hard frosts back in early December. Yesterday we ate the last four of those kitchen-ripened tomatoes. The one above was the only one of the four without rotten spots. Overall we probably ended up composting about 20% of what we picked, but otherwise that huge harvest has been slowly ripened and consumed. I never did figure out how to use green tomatoes because I was too busy making salads, sandwiches, stirfries, sauces, and snacks. The texture and flavor was not as good as summertime vine-ripened tomatoes, but fresh homegrown tomatoes in January? No complaints here. Last night I added them to homemade pesto from the freezer for a simple pasta meal. Delicious.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

scene: kitchen table, sam and me munching on chips and salsa

sam says: mmm, I like salsa.
me: I like salsa fact, I love salsa.
sam: in fact, I love salsa too.

to know me is to know why this post is blog-worthy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

hello 2010

When your 3-year-old asks to save a dandelion and "put it in water," and discovers soft moss in all the sidewalk cracks,

And when even your boring suburban neighborhood has a bit of pretty open space,

you can forget for a little while all the challenges 2010 has thrown at you, your family, and your fellow humans around the world already. 2010, I really hope this is just a bad start to a great year.