Thinking about lunch.

Thinking about lunch

She’s not short on personality, that little person. I’m pretty positive she also had a good one liner after she nailed my brother in the face with that snowball. John and I spent post-Christmas thru New Year’s in Colorado with friends, including my brother and his family. Strong arm (above) is my niece Sophie, her brother Jesse’s in the background.

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Is Rachael Ray Wrong?

Rachael Ray inspired me to attend culinary school.  She joined The Food Network at the same time I discovered cooking shows.  Man, I loved her, still do!  Through her eyes, cooking became possible.  She used fresh ingredients, mostly from scratch.  And, I thought, “I can do that…” In my opinion, Rachael Ray and many other TV chefs are really important for America.  They remind us that cooking is within each of us.  They teach us how to nourish ourselves and our families.  It is a very important job.

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Only you.

Often my relationships start with a powerful case of infatuation, as was the case with my cast iron skillet.  For months, I fantasized about having one.  Finally, I found and purchased a heavy-bottomed beauty at a second-hand shop.  (To be safe, I’d suggest purchasing a skillet that says “Made in the USA” on the bottom.  There are rumors that skillets made in China have been found to contain toxic metals.)  Problem was, I didn’t one single clue how to use it.

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Basket after basket.

And one more basket, after another basket.  Attempting to keep up with a tomato plant’s generosity can back one into a corner, forcing either creativity or wailing sobs.  Thankfully, after one too many batches of tomato puree and while feeling the leaves of my tomato plant tightening around my neck, I recalled a special sun-dried tomato bought from a favorite farmer at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.  Sweet, full-flavored, chewy without being soft or hard, it was the perfect, time-friendly solution.  And lucky for you, I’ve had about 14 baskets of tomatoes on which to practice.  

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Navigating the seasons.

I learned something recently.

One hot Chicago day after a string of frigid weather landed me with a bad seasonal cold, one that just wouldn’t go away.  After John came down with a variation of it, we decided to go to the doctor to make sure we weren’t passing something back and forth.  Much to the surprise of my stuffed-up nose, I wasn’t actually sick, at least not in the traditional sense.  Here, I had a mean case of seasonal allergies!  What?!  I have never had allergies that involve wheezing, coughing, a brick of a nose and exhaustion, but I think the doc was right because I feel just awful after a nice long springtime walk with Todd these days.  And maybe it’s not a surprise; thinking back over the years, my legs have gotten very itchy at times for seemingly no reason, and the past few days, I have woken up in the middle of the night itching like a mad woman.  Looks like I just might have found the culprit.  Focusing on the connections learned is the only way to restore gratitude, otherwise… I just want to pout.

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Inching towards a dream.

I remember watching the Grammy’s a few years back, when John Mayer won for something that escapes me.  In his speech, he mentioned (to roughly paraphrase) that he’s usually able to observe what is happening to him without getting overly consumed, however the current moment of receiving the Grammy was kicking his arse.  I related this week.

I’ve learned about myself that I am really good at getting big things moving.  I can motivate action towards a common goal, and once everything is moving along, I enjoy switching gears to the day-to-day tasks involved with keeping the gears oiled.  But, there is this moment in between those two places, where I am leaning over the edge of my creation, staring down at the abyss of what’s to come, where I get a little scared.

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A wonder I have since often loved.

Our rented Uhaul truck pulled into the alley behind our new California home in the welcome embrace of late November, over 3 years ago. No words can describe the crisp beauty that is Southern California in early winter. Nature goes to the eye doctor that time of year, and she wears her newly prescribed spectacles for all of us to see. It was soon after our arrival, on one of those crystal clear mornings, that John and I were first introduced to The Sourdough Bread Man.

A sharp contrast to the playful energy of periwinkle skies, The Bread Man stands stern under a very faded & worn red canopy in front of an off-white van with a vintage navy racing stripe and behind his industrial carts of bagged bread, which provide a wall for him to rest his rather threatening and abundant signage. Mr. Jack Bezian of Bezian Bakery occupies a stall at the legendary Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, and he uses his plot to inform the world about the dangers of ill-prepared bread. His signs discuss dead food and how gluten will kill. Rather somber for a early morning stroll, he’s not subtle.

John wouldn’t eat it or even go near the Bezian stand this day. The whole thing screamed offensive propaganda to him, and if anything, my John is consistently leery of a scam. I on the other hand, with a touch of optimistic naivete and a consistent interest in a little lively food banter, walked up, read the signs, asked a few questions and duly appeased… bought a loaf. I didn’t understand my Bread Man, yet, but to be frank, once within range, I smelled the bread and pretty much caved.

Obviously oblivious, I waited to take my first bite until after the bike ride home, which honestly, hasn’t happened since. Back in my not-yet-worn-in, sunny little kitchen, I casually toasted and buttered a slice. I then experienced the first pleasing and dense crunch of a wonder I have since loved often. I’m sure it was one my favorite flavors like, Zucchini Onion, Eleven Grain, or Kalamata Olive, but it wasn’t just the intense flavor, there was a slow & sour tang that simply can’t be described as anything less than deeply addictive. Your mouth sings after a slice of this authentic sourdough bread, and you are left with a feeling of deep satisfaction, like eating one of Mom’s best meals. (John, by the way, caved quickly.)

After a few years of education, I now understand that the root of the Bezian Bakery signage is a deeply personal passion and commitment to the traditional ways of bread-making. Mr. Bezian is not kidding around that ill-prepared bread can do serious harm to a body; there are an increasing number of Celiac challenged people in our world who have a story to tell. I’m not saying that all Celiac patients could eat properly prepared bread. It’s an extremely complicated disease, and much like dairy, many cannot tolerate even the purest form.

But, some can. Like this personal testimony from the Weston A. Price Foundation website of a Celiac sufferer, who learned he could eat his son-in-law’s authentic sourdough: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/496-our-daily-bread.html To find a source for your own authentically prepared bread, I suggest purchasing the $1.00 Shopping Guide from the Weston Price Foundation – here. And, if you still can’t find a source, try here for an authentic sourdough recipe.

One of my favorite qualities of true sourdough bread is the incredible shelf-life. This bread can sit on the counter for 2 weeks before molding. The resiliency enables this bread to become a household fixture, purchased with an abundance that fears no waste. Because upon closing in on the two week mark, the leftover bread transforms easily into delicious & versatile Sourdough Breadcrumbs, far superior to the store-bought variety and can be kept in the freezer for an additional two months of enjoyment.

Click HERE for the Homemade Sourdough Breadcrumb recipe…

xo – Organic Spark

Liquid gold.

Homemade Chicken Stock is prized goods in the Chester house. We sip on it with a little sea salt for breakfast with our eggs, cook veggies in it, make soups with it and more. Heck, I’ve convinced our landlord to let us switch our garage spot to a roomy slot next to an outlet, unknowingly enabling a future discussion about a stand alone freezer, all building towards the perfect solution for stock-piling chicken stock. Hooray! (He’s also unaware that John and I are dropping subtle and strategic hints for a roof garden, but one step at a time.)

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