Monday, May 30, 2011

Lettuce Not Waste Food - Again

This is a re-post of an article I published on May 11.  It was lost somewhere in the blogosphere, as were any comments you made.  Feel free to comment again.  

"We apologise for the inconvenience"  Douglas Adams

I have a confession to make.  I know this will come as a shock to those of you who saw my most recent recipe.  In spite of my attempts to maintain a healthy diet, I have a difficult time finishing a head of lettuce before it turns into a mushy, unidentifiable blob in my fridge. I hate wasting food, so this really irritates me. 
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of lettuce, though romaine tends to stand the best chance of being consumed by its best-before date.  Any other variety requires a great deal of effort to polish off before it goes off.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother with lettuce at all. 

It's not that I dislike lettuce.  There isn't really anything to dislike about lettuce.  Problem is that there really isn't anything to like either.  Even in salads I find that it's just kinda there providing the background for all the tangy, crunchy, savoury, sweet, salty ingredients that make a salad interesting. I often don't include lettuce in my salads, and I have to say I don't miss it.  

I guess I feel that I don't get enough reward for the work involved in prepping lettuce.  I wash, I dry, I tear and what do I get for it?  A healthful ingredient for sure, but not really a flavour all-star.  

I try to sneak lettuce into other things in order to use it up before it goes off, but even my recipe for lettuce soup doesn't have any lettuce.  Later versions of this recipe included lettuce, and I liked it just fine.  Unfortunately, it's not something I make often enough to satisfy my need to avoid food waste.   

Often I'll toss lettuce leaves into a smoothie.  I like using lettuce this way, as I can skip two of the three prep stages.  Just wash and blend.  It's also a good way to use up lettuce that's at the stage just before unidentifiable blob.  You know, that stage where it's wildly wilted but not yet slimy.  

At Christmas my friend G gave me a jar of homemade Thai sweet chili sauce. (Yum!  I have such talented, awesome friends!) She included this recipe in the package, and I've been making a variety of salad-filled wraps ever since.  This is also a good way to use up lettuce, but certainly not the 20 leaves the recipe calls for.  I'm lucky to squeeze a half dozen leaves into my wraps.  

Recently, as I was making a lettuce-based Greek salad, I was inspired to try something different.  Even though it was a large salad there was a lot of lettuce left when I was finished.  I knew it wouldn't last much longer in the fridge, as it was rapidly approaching the age where crispness would be a thing of the past.  I looked at those sad, remaining, soon-to-be-wilted leaves and the light bulb went on.  What if I put some of those remaining leaves in the salad dressing?

I hauled out my favourite Greek salad dressing recipe and my blender.  In went the dressing ingredients.  In went one, two, three, four lettuce leaves.  Taste.  Mmmmm!  Gooooood!

I was so confident I had a winner that I wrote down the recipe for my amazing Green Greek dressing.  I was sure I'd make it again and again, and I was sure you'd all want to make it too.  

Sadly, I've misplaced the recipe since then. (I really need to tidy up around here.) It's just as well. As much as I enjoyed the flavour of the dressing it wouldn't stick to the salad.  Seriously,  it reminded me of magnet experiments in grade school.  You remember - likes repel.  

The dressing almost magically slid off the salad and pooled in a soupy puddle on the plate.  From there it slid into everything else and made a sloppy, green mess.  Frustrating and disappointing!

Sadly, in my initial over-confidence I made a lot of this dressing.  We ate it for the rest of the week. (Did I mention how much I hate wasting food?) The dressing even slid through lettuce-free salads.  So much for my likes repel theory!  

Some day I may try to sneak lettuce into my salad dressing again.  I think it could work.  I just have to figure out how.  Maybe an avocado would help...

In the mean time, dear reader, I'd love to hear your creative lettuce recipes.  Please let me know what you come up with.  I have a head-and-a-half rapidly growing old in my fridge.

Blogger Ate My Homework

It doesn't take much to discourage me from writing.  Words don't flow freely;  ideas don't come; I don't remember how to spell acomodate, accommodate, accomodate... 

My most recent setback was technical.  I posted an article about lettuce on May 11.  On the same day I worked on new articles.  I updated my "About Me" blurb. I commented on other blogs.  I also had a migraine that day, so anything I did was completed in a post-headache, drug-induced fog. 

By the following day kind people had commented on my article.  I responded.  On May 18 I came back here to write. I was dismayed to find that everything from May 11 was gone.  No article, no new blurb, no notes for new articles. The comments and my responses were gone. Even my comments on other blogs had vanished.  It was like I imagined it all, which was very possible considering the migraine and the drugs.  

Fortunately, when Hubby came home from work he was able to confirm the existence of the article from the previous week.  I was doubly fortunate to have friends who receive emails of my articles every time I publish.  I was triply fortunate that two of those friends still had copies of the lost article in their inbox and were able to send it back to me.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you to Hubby, C and S!)

From there most people would appreciate their good fortune and move on.  Not me.  I froze.  I was the Blogger version of a deer in the headlights.  (By the way, why doesn't the spell-checker in Blogger recognize the words Blogger, blog or blogs?)  I couldn't even bring myself re-post the article from May 11.  So not only did I lose my work from that day, I developed writer's block as well.  Just marvy. 

I know the reasonable thing to do would be to set up a backup system for such emergencies.  Apparently I am not a reasonable person, as I have not yet done so.  When I have the time and the inclination to write I want to write.  I don't want spend my time setting up fail-safe systems in case something goes wrong.  Actually, I'm not completely unreasonable.  I have tried writing elsewhere and transferring the results here, but I found that to be ponderous, time consuming, and the results often didn't look right in Blogger.  

Anyway, I guess my point is that I'm back now.  I'll be re-publishing the lettuce article shortly.  Apologies to those who have already read it, and to those who commented the last time.  Your last comments are gone, but feel free to comment again, and again, and again... 

Obviously some writers need more encouragement than others. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nutty Rant

What the hell is wrong with the manufacturers of natural nut butter?  Today I bought a 250g jar of hazelnut butter.  It was $7. The entire jar is small enough to fit in my tea mug with room to spare for tea.  That isn't my issue. I was willing to pay the price.  I was also aware that the the nut oil would have separated from the rest of the product.  I expect that with a natural nut butter.  

What pissed me off about this product, and what angers me about natural nut butters in general, is the amount of product you lose, and the amount of time you waste cleaning up, when you attempt to stir the separated oil back into the rest of the butter.

Why on earth don't they leave enough headspace in the jar to actually stir the stuff?  I've had the same problem with every natural nut butter I've tried. As soon as I put a utensil in the jar the oil oozes over the edge and down the sides of the jar.  I pay too much for the stuff to waste it!  Not to mention how much I detest cleaning up the oily mess. They've figured out how to make an awesome product, why can't they figure out that they have to leave room in the jar to stir it?

I think it's an evil scheme to get us to buy more nut butter.  Because you can't effectively mix the oil back in, by the time you get to the bottom of the jar you're left with a dry, unspreadable and generally unappetizing pasteThen you have to go out and buy more nut butter.  Gargh!

Today I was so frustrated by the whole friggin issue that I was on the verge of running screaming into the street.  Fortunately I was saved from this particular embarassment by the recipe that called for the hazelnut butter in the first place. 

Last week I borrowed Victoria Laine's recipe book "Health by Chocolate"  from the library.  They may not get it back.  Honestly, given the amount of drooling I've been doing while browsing through the book they may not want it back!

I've been on a bit of a chocolate-making kick lately, so when I saw this book I knew it would follow me home.  It's full of recipes for beverages, bars and bon-bons all featuring quality, dark chocolate and other healthful ingredients. 

Today I made the "Nutty-ella Chocolate Spread" - hence the need for hazelnut butter.  Good stuff.  In fact, it's so good that a bit of spread on crispbread and a cup of tea and I no longer feel the need to hunt down the nearest maker of natural nut butter and stick their jar where the sun don't shine.  Thank goodness for chocolate!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lovely Lovage

I am rich in friends, and as I result I am rich in herbs too.  The post about my new bay tree prompted my friend C to contact me.  As C has a gorgeous lovage plant growing in front of her house, and as I had herbs on my mind, I strongly hinted that my new garden could use some lovage.  Fortunately C is an incredibly intuitive woman who is good at picking up on such hints.  I had lovage and oregano for my garden and some lovage leaves for my kitchen the next day.  

My new lovage plant!

So, what the heck is lovage you ask?  That's a good question. I had to ask too the first time C offered to cut some for me to take home.   

Lovage is an old herb.  It's not that common anymore, and until I saw C's plant I had only ever read about it.  The leaves taste and smell like celery on steroids.  Not surprising, as lovage leaves look like large celery leaves.  What is surprising is the slightly salty flavour the leaves impart to a dish.  I've read that the dried leaves can be used as a salt substitute, but I haven't tried that yet.  I might though.  If my wee plant takes off it could grow up to 7 feet tall.  I'll have more leaves than I know what to do with, as a little bit goes a long way.

Recipes that call for lovage are as uncommon as the plant.  My internet searches resulted in lots of recipes for potato-lovage soup, which is very nice by the way, and several suggestions to add it to recipes I already use, like egg salad.  Since C first introduced me to lovage I've pretty much exhausted all the recipes I'm likely to make.  There are others, but they are the ones that tend to be too exotic (sanathu) or too much work (cheese-stuffed cabbage) for this cook. 

This time I decided to be brave and create my own dish using lovage.  I basically went with what I had in the house and made a salad, and I was rather pleased with how it turned out.  It's tangy, sweet, salty, crisp and crunchy all at the same time.  It's also something that could be switched up quite easily.  No raisins? Use dried cranberries.  The mixed bean sprouts only went in because I had them in the house.  I bet walnuts or pecans would work just as well.  Prep and clean-up were also easy.  (You'll notice that I make the dressing first in the same bowl the salad will be served in.  I know that's not the traditional way to make a salad, but it means one less item to wash come clean-up time. Always a good thing in a house with manual dishwashers.) 

Salad with Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing

Makes 2 generous servings. 

Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (approx measurement)
1 tsp honey (also approx measurement)
2-4 minced lovage leaves
pinch of sea salt

Mix the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

4-5 romaine leaves
1 crisp apple
1 small handful mixed bean sprouts (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
1/3 of an English cucumber
1 small handful raisins

Tear romaine into bite-sized pieces, chop apple and cucumber and toss into bowl with dressing.  Top with sprouts and raisins. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


One veggie bed built!  Muahahaha!

Thanks to Hubby we have our first veggie bed.  I assisted somewhat.  Mostly by staying out of the way.  As my eighth grade shop teacher could tell you, I'm not the handiest person in the woodshop.  (Sorry about your thumb Mr. Lee!)  Sadly, my skills haven't improved much over the years.  This was quite apparent when I helped L at Sleeping Cougar Acres construct her veggie beds a few years ago.  I'm pretty sure this not how the finished product should look. 

Fortunately there were no injuries, so I guess there's been some improvement since my middle-school disasters.  Still, I'm lucky L lets me come back to play in the vineyard.  I will admit, though she was an excellent sport about my ineptitude that day,  she's never asked me to help with another construction project.  That's alright.  I'd rather drive the tractor anyway.