Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Grandmothers Cookies

I think yesterday was my grandmothers birthday. November 11th was the day she celebrated her birth …when she was alive. She never knew her exact birth date, so she chose November 11th.

My grandmother loved to cook and feed others….

These almond biscotti-like cookies were always available at her house. She called the ends and any broken pieces, “damages” which she happily fed to any takers.

This version of her cookies has been vegan-ized and adapted with the addition of some whole grain flour, a vanilla bean instead of extract, chopped almonds instead of sliced, tofu in place of eggs ….

Grandmothers Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

Prep time- 10 minutes
Total time-1 hour 10 minutes

3/4 pureed silken tofu
3/4 cup sugar (if possible vegan, fair-trade and from an environmentally sustainable source)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons cinnamon

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pureed tofu in a mixer and add sugar, beat well. Add oil and vanilla, beat until well blended.

2.Combine flours, baking powder. Mix into tofu mixture until smooth. Stir in almonds.

3.Divide dough in half and shape each portion into a 10- x 3-inch log. Place the two tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon on a large plate. Roll each log in the cinnamon sugar coating it on all sides. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

4.Bake cookies for 30 minutes.

5.Remove cookies from oven and let cool for five minutes. Cut each log crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Place slices on baking sheets.

6.Reduce the heat in the oven to 225°. Return cut cookies to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Monday, November 10, 2008

traveling without electronics

We ended up without a charged battery or plug for my daughters DVD player last night and four hours of travel time ahead of us.

I am somewhat television-phobic.….Regardless several years ago we started to always travel with a DVD player. The DVD player is handy especially on long trips. Sometimes I watch a movie with Martin-Lane but more often I work, read, think or nap. Martin-Lane loves movies and for her the opportunity to watch them is always a treat.Link
When we discovered that we were without electronic entertainment there was a moment of despair…

Turned out to be a gift….we leisurely watched clouds and gave them identities and played multiple games of hangman. I had the latest copies of two favorite magazines, Bloom and The Ecologist which we slowly poured over discussing articles, photos and idea after idea. We drew pictures together and separately, laughed, talked and silently observed the world whizzing by through the window.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eating NYC

We regularly make quick trips up to New York. Sometimes there are plans for cultural events, social events, work…always there is eating!!
Just back from the quintessential street food eating visit:
Just off the Bolt Bus, our preferred method of DC-NYC transportation
we headed to Vanessas dumplings on Eldridge close to Broome for steamed vegetable dumplings, sesame pancake with vegetables, pickled cabbage, cucumbers and seaweed. Then around the corner to Babycakes the amazing vegan bakery. The night was beautiful so we walked and ended up near Pure Food and Wines, One Lucky Duck, where we decided to get a pint of raw “oreo” ice cream to bring home for a late night snack….
Sunday morning started with a trip to the Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene which included a bean tamale and a pizza made in an ingenious traveling brick oven (they made us a special cheese-less one). Also found some amazing chocolate made a few blocks away from the market called fine and raw. There were many potential flea markets finds most of which we enjoyed without purchasing. Most intriguing was a stand selling old pieces of Japanese fabric…each one unique, worn and inspiring…many patch-worked together.
Then back to Manhattan where we got some new pickles from the Pickle Guy, a sesame stick at Kossars and a chestnut organic doughnut a few doors down at Doughnut Planet.
After all that needed a walk… went to check out Tadashi Kawamata’s treehouses that are in Madison Square Park until December 31st.
Jumped back on the bus with a bag full of fuji persimmons that we had picked up from a vendor in Chinatown.

Monday, November 3, 2008

feel good

About a week after we all found out who Sarah Palin was I got severe fatigue of talking to people who agree with me. There were endless emails from fellow Obama supporters, I had an uncountable number of conversations with people just like me who were appalled by the possibility of a McCain Palin presidency.

At that point I decided that I would attempt to replace at least some emailing and talking time with volunteering. The result has been very satisfying. and many friends led me and Martin-Lane to door to door canvassing in Virginia, post card writing to undecided voters in Pennsylvania, a random fund raising event with performance art, a phone bank and yesterday a small event at home.

We invited friends and their friends to our home to make get out the vote phone calls and to bake cookies for voters waiting in long lines to vote in southern Virginia. About half of the volunteers that showed up were under 9 years all felt good!

Tomorrow morning I plan to make a few more get out the vote phone calls and then... anxiously await the results-

Monday, October 13, 2008

puff ball

On a run in Rock Creek Park (DC) yesterday morning before heading out of town for the night I found this pristine puff ball mushroom!
While we had Rupperts Restaurant we were fortunate to work with several wild mushroom hunters who were incredibly knowledgeable. I learned a bit about varieties of local wild mushrooms. I often see mushrooms that I cannot identify and therefore cannot eat....since eating the wrong type of mushroom can be deadly...
There are a few types that I am confident identifying, one of these is a puff ball. It is quite amazing seeing this huge white non organic looking ball growing in the middle of the forest.
The discovery made me giddy but even more exciting was sharing some of the freshly found mushroom with several enthusiastic friends. I hope that my next big mushroom find will fall on a day when I have a free evening to invite a bunch of friends to dinner.
Before leaving town we only had time for a quick salad with greens from our garden and roasted puff ball.
Tomorrows menu will probably be something like this...
breakfast- roasted puff ball with scrambled tofu
lunch- puff ball, lettuce and tomato sandwich
dinner- puff ball ravioli
We have invited a few people to stop by and enjoy mushroom with us.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Examination

Last weekend we had the amazing opportunity to participate in a small chocolate tasting/discussion/lecture with the chocolate expert Chloe Doutre-Roussel who is known as “the goddess of chocolate”. She spoke to a small group at Biagio, a chocolate store in DC that has expanded my enjoyment, knowledge and exposure to fine chocolate.

Chloe’s passion about the chocolate is contagious and her insights memorable….
She presented a method of tasting that will change the way that I taste chocolate, and everything else. We were educated about deciphering acidity, bitterness and astringency, how percentage of cocoa butter plays a role in taste and why not to pay attention to the percentage of cocoa marked on many fine chocolate bars. At the same time Chloe was clear that the purpose of chocolate in our lives is to add pleasure and gaining knowledge about chocolate can enhance that pleasure. She spoke of individual tastes and the way those can change from moment to moment (something that makes lots of sense to me personally). We learned how even within the category of fine chocolate there is great variety in the source of beans, method of processing and in the packaging and shipping which all impact on the final product.
In addition to consulting for some of the best chocolate makers in the world Chloe travels to cocoa growing countries who want to make chocolate in addition to growing beans. That experience has led her to examination of organic farming practices, fair trade, truth in labeling and purity in cocoa bean variety. All complex subjects, many of which she had interesting and provocative views on.
It is always exciting to meet an individual who has such passion and knowledge about a subject…if that subject is chocolate it is even a little more exciting! But in addition Chloe presented her information with thoughtful insights that resonated with me. For example, she spoke of the connection of taste and smell to our unconscious mind and how favorite tastes tie into memory. Chloe talked about the journey of life and additions of pleasure into that journey. And she discussed how her passion and obsession with chocolate paralleled her passion and obsession with music.
I left the event with her book, “The Chocolate Connoisseur”, I look forward to reading it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sustainable Hedonism

Because we need to get more pleasure and gardening in our politics....check out Johns recent article.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Recently we were gifted this large chicken of the woods mushroom that was found in suburban Washington, DC. Last fall I found lots of wild mushrooms in Rock Creek Park within the city. Varieties included chicken of the woods, oyster and puff ball.

Over the last few days we ate roasted mushroom for breakfast, lunch, dinner and shared some with friends. Some of what we ate-
mushroom and scrambled tofu
roasted potato, French bean and mushroom salad
mushroom lettuce and tomato sandwich
mushroom curry

Check out mycologist Paul Stamets lecture on TED about how mushrooms can save the world.

Early summer I heard Li Edelkoort give a autumn and winter 2009-2010 trend presentation based on mushrooms as an influence on all aspects of design from architecture to fashion.

For more wild mushroom information check out The Journal of Wild Mushrooming.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Austin Texas

First visit to Austin- a few of my favorite things

-there is someone in the city who does guerrilla crochet
-pickle snowcone with hot chili
-small buisnesses everywhere that appear to be supported by the community and seem to be dedicated to supporting the community, articulated in part by the note on the menu of Blue Dahlia
-sustainable living seems to be deeply incorporated into daily life regardless of neighborhood and income level, this is supported by all sorts of things like the city in giving away free rain barrels, excellent cheap to free public transportation, organizations like The Rhizome Collective...
-seemingly endless sources for excellent affordable food with vegan options, a couple favorites tacos quick cheap and excellent for breakfast lunch or dinner, vegan diner with traditional herbalist on site, cupcakes
-inspired garden stores with excellent selections of plants and containers including Big Red Sun
and Gardens

I look forward to returning and exploring more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Exhibits

Eero Saarinin and Buckminster Fuller
Interdisciplinary Approaches

In the last couple weeks I visited two museum exhibitions: Eero Saarinen, at the National Building Museum in DC, and Buckminster Fuller, at theWhitney Museum in New York, (both these link to lots of information about both individuals works).

Both shows linger with me and seem relevant to everyday life. The products of their work are quite different: Saarinen known for his design of the St. Louis arch, innovative advances in both corporate building as well as airports and chairs made in collaboration with Eames, juxtaposed Fuller known for geodesic domes, dymaxion car (only developed to prototype stage) and the dymaxion map (shows the earths continents with minimum distortion when on a flat surface).

Eero Saarinen, "Each object should be designed in its next largest context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan."… “Nothing exists in isolation. Everything is connected.”

Buckminster Fuller, defined synergy as "the behavior of whole systems not implicit in any of the behavioral characteristics of any of the parts of the system when those parts are considered only separately," and synergetics as the "exploratory strategy of starting with the whole." He adopted "synergetics" as the name for the experiential mathematics he developed and demonstrated using numerous models.

My draw to their work lies in the similarity of an interdisciplinary approach which results in a practice of utilizing innovative materials and methods. For one project Saarinen developed a neoprene gasket for the windows in another he experimented with Cor-Ten steel which previously had been used only for railroads. Fuller advocated the necessity of recycling materials and looking to renewable sources for energy. My interest lies in that they approached individual projects as opportunities to try something new. This practice naturally incorporates ecology not as an end goal but as an essential component….something I strive for in my everyday practices.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Visiting Path Valley

In the early days of Rupperts there were only a few purveyors delivering local produce to restaurants…there was no Dupont Farmers Market….

Shortly after opening we got connected with a small company called Organics that delivered organic produce from a variety of Amish farms in Pennsylvania. Immediately it was obvious that the produce coming from Organics was exceptional…. the perfect baby greens, uniform fennel, young leeks, tiny turnips and beets…..

After Rupperts at other restaurants where I have consulted the first purveyor that I suggest is Organics which somewhere along the way changed its name to Path Valley. During our recent visit we learned that the founder got out of the business and created a farmers cooperative which is the way it is now operated.

Anyway, a few weeks ago it suddenly seemed pressing to go visit the farms that this produce we had been enjoying for years was coming from. I called the person who coordinates the orders for restaurants and asked if it would be possible to come up for a visit. She said that she would ask around when she went to visit the member farmers that day.

She arranged for us to visit three different farms. Martin-Lane and I drove about two and a half hours from DC and arrived in a picturesque valley between small mountains. There were horse drawn buggies sharing the road with cars.

The farms looked like very well maintained large kitchen gardens. Row after row of picture perfect varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs......This is possible since all members of the large families work cooperatively on the land. As anyone who has planted even the smallest garden knows it takes lots of consistent work to keep it in good condition. Especially some crops like baby lettuces need daily weeding and attention.

The land is used very intensively. I have read that organic farming practices are symbiotic with the Amish way of life which believes in nurturing and supporting the community as a whole. The Amish concept of community includes people, land and other living things. Excellent soil is maintained through hand tilling, composting and crop rotation. All the work is done by hand and with the occasional help of horses.

At each of the traditional Amish farms we met friendly families and saw impeccable fields and greenhouses. We shared ideas about growing things, insects and food. We saw the hand picking and sorting of lettuce that is the secret behind the truly spectacular greens that we have eaten over the years. The compete focus and immersion in the practice of farming was astounding, beautiful and inspirational.

The experience was other worldly and I am anxious to go back. Upon leaving one of the farms I asked if we could come up for a day and weed with them. They laughed at us and said we were welcome.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rainbow over DC...

photo Martin-Lane Cochran

Epicurus (341–270 B.C.) writes in his letter to Pythocles:
The rainbow arises when the sun shines upon humid air; or again by a certain peculiar blending of light with air, which will cause either all the distinctive qualities of these colors or else some of them belonging to a single kind, and from the reflection of this light the air all around will be colored as we see it to be, as the sun shines upon its parts. The circular shape which it assumes is due to the fact that the distance of every point is perceived by our sight to be equal; or it may be because, the atoms in the air or in the clouds and deriving from the sun having been thus united, the aggregate of them presents a sort of roundness

Friday, June 13, 2008

Conscious Party

Aimee Dominic, an event planner, Jay Premack, a photographer and I have had many conversations about events, waste and our individual commitments to conducting our lives and businesses in the most sustainable manner possible. We have discussed how conscious decisions in entertaining usually result in a more luxurious event- think just picked local peonies and a menu designed around produce in season from small local farms. For me the pleasure of the party is enhanced by incorporating the best elements available combined with the knowledge that you are working in concert with our earth.

Aimee, Jay and I work individually in this manner every day. In my case with flower arrangements I use local flowers, many grown in my own city garden, whenever possible. When I cannot use local flowers I find sources that grow exceptional flowers sustainably and have outstanding labor practices. With food I focus on both origin and taste of ingredients.

Recently Aimee, Jay and I had the opportunity to work with a couple on their wedding who felt as strongly as we do about having a celebration that was as environmentally conscious as possible.

Care was taken to reduce consumption and waste that is usually synonymous with traditional entertaining- some of the details included……

-electronic save the dates to reduce paper use
-invites printed on recycled paper with soy based ink saving --trees saved and reduction of ink toxins used
-no escort cards or favors were used and the couple used the saved money to donate to organizations supporting reforestation and conservation
-flowers were local many were home grown and native reducing transportation miles and supporting biodiversity
-all flower vases were returned to be reused
-buses were used to transport guests which cut down on emissions
-the bride and groom traveled in via Eco-Limo, a company that uses both hybrid and bio diesel vehicles
-local products such as beeswax candles, locally brewed beer, local cheese, Sticky Fingers vegan wedding cake were used which cuts down on transportation costs and supports local businesses
-3Citron, catered using locally grown and organic produce with a menu that was primarily vegetarian, care was taken to recycle after the event
-music was provided by MyDeejay a locally based DJ service with environmentally conscious practices
-lighting by Frost Lighting, a company that operates in an environmentally conscious manner
-carbon credits were purchased through the Carbon Fund to offset guests transportation and hotel stays

Similar small conscious steps can be taken daily in different aspects of our lives.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Planting with my friend Allison and her family-

I plant container gardens and small city gardens. In most of these gardens we incorporate herbs into the plantings. Often there are some vegetable plants, fruit trees and this year we did a decent sized plot of corn close to a beautiful swimming pool.

I use a huge variety of plants in gardens all over the city but I get really excited when I plant something that is both beautiful and useful. Nothing satisfies like harvesting something from your own garden to eat.
(In a recent article Michael Pollan articulates the intense benefits of planting a productive garden.)

My own city garden is a densely planted space and everything in it is usable. I harvest thousands of stems for my flower business and grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for both business and personal consumption. Since I do live in the city my productive garden is central to our home, we work, dine, play, relax and reap the fruits of the garden. This practice of gardening brings us pleasure. Recently we started worm composting which takes up very little space, produces a large amount of fertilizer and is tended to by my 9 year old daughter.

All of the gardens I plant are in spaces that are limited in size and need to be used for many purposes. They also need to be aesthetically pleasing. It seems that every year in each of the gardens I plant we use more space for producing plants and less for plants that are purely ornamental. I guess others besides me are finding pleasure and beauty in the practice of productive city gardening.

In my friend Allison’s garden we have taken it to a new level. Allison lives in a beautiful row house with her husband, two year old and teenager. They have a brick patio that is very much part of their home. The family uses the space to eat, read, relax and play. Since there is no place to plant in the ground last year we set up lots of pots and plants. Immediately the space became warmer, more welcoming. This winter Allison started asking me about how they could farm in their charming urban garden…. We located and ordered planters that fit in available sunny spots making sure to leave enough room to enjoy the patio. We talked about what the family would actually like to eat and out of those desires what was actually possible to grow in the space. We got a worm farm started so they could compost and use the fertilizer for their new crops. We coordinated schedules so everyone would be there on a day that the moon was in a beneficial place to plant….then we planted.

They have all taken a part in planting, caring, watering and composting. Already herbs have been harvested, lettuces are nearly ready to be eaten, tiny figs and tomatoes are ripening. Sustaining this garden is now part of the families play, practice and pleasure.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A month without Whole Foods...

As we left the farmers market today my daughter said- lets see if we can not go to Whole Foods for a month. Our nearly daily trips to Whole Foods do slow down somewhat during the summer months when we are producing more in our own garden, getting food from our CSA share and we have farmers market that we can get food from almost everyday of the week. However, even during the summer months we do go to Whole Foods at least a few times a week to buy nuts, cleaning products, spelt flour, west coast cherries, brown rice sushi as an after school snack, sea salt, flax seeds……

Without hesitation I answered yes. Now I am considering why I immediately embraced the idea. I am attracted to the idea that food purchases will be thought about. Most items will require a visit to an individual store. Therefore just for the sake of convenience anything that can be gotten at the farmers market will be. For example I adore cherries but they will be in season locally quite soon, In the meantime I can eat local strawberries and apples that are plentiful and flavorful at this moment. Although I do eat primarily local when possible I will cut out all fruits and vegetables that are not immediately available at local markets.

Another motivation is variety. We eat a large variety of beans, grains, nuts and seeds. Generally we purchase them at Whole Foods. I always mean to stop at the many Ethiopian markets in my neighborhood to pick up yellow lentils, teff flour and other ingredients but I usually grab them at Whole Foods for the sake of one stop shopping. Going to small markets we will try something new.

I like supporting my small neighborhood stores. I know that at a new store within easy walking distance carries the same ecologically friendly cleaning products that I usually purchase at Whole Foods. When I buy detergent at the small store I will ask the people working there about the products. We will have the opportunity to learn why the product we choose is different from a similar main stream product. I am interested in this information and would like to know instead of just buying something and assuming that it is good just because Whole Foods decided to carry it.

Inevitably frequent visits to small shops in my neighborhood will strengthen bonds with the people in my community. We will share information an inevitably learn more about the products that we use, the food that we ingest and the individuals that live and work near our home.

We have not made “rules” about where we will shop. We are busy and need to eat the best food we can. The gathering of food and other products we use needs to work for us in our lives. Instead this pause will hopefully just bring another layer of consciousness to decisions about what we are eating and buying.

I will make note of where we find various items and what unfolds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CSA, First Share of the Season

CSA-Community Sustainable Agriculture…not a sexy name but provides pleasure--

You buy a share on a farm and regularly receive a portion of what is grown each week during the growing season. You help a small farm by insuring financial support for a season and you enjoy the benefits of what is produced. A connection is made between the growers and members. You become invested in how things grow…the story of deer eating all the kohlrabi hits close to home since you go home with no kohlrabi and the person who planted the kohlrabi is the one telling you the story…

This first week the share was small- a little bit of a few different types of greens, some green garlic, a pint of the most delicious strawberries, a basil plant and two tomato plants. Certain times during the season there are unlimited amounts of specific vegetables available. In both instances my excitement is immense.

I like the uncertainty of the share. Last summer was dry and the eggplant did very well at both the CSA and in my own garden. Luckily we love eggplant and we ate it for most meals, shared it with friends and got creative so as not to get bored by eating the same dishes day after day. I recently finished off the hot sauce that I made last September from an abundance of hot peppers.

I look forward to both the bounty and surprises that "my" farm will offer up this season.

To find out more information about CSA's and where to find one near you go to CSA .

My CSA is Clagett Farm.