June 2013


I eat a lot of vegetables. I live in a land of perpetual summer (okay, not really, but the weather is such here that it’s the growing season for something all year round), which means that I’m very lucky in that I can pretty much always get fresh produce. Our farmer’s market goes year round.

A few years ago, I was part of a CSA, but I stopped because the pickup was unfortunately too far from my house. So now I just hit the farmer’s market. But the cool part of being in the CSA is that I got a lot of different vegetables that I hadn’t really been exposed to. Or that I thought I didn’t like.

One thing you get a lot of in CSA boxes are greens. Kale, chard, spinach, beets with greens attached. I never really thought I liked greens, except for spinach. But I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I learned how to cook greens and make them tasty. (And healthy. This is not the southern method of cooking greens that uses bacon fat!)

This is less a recipe and more some guidelines. I often use this to whip up a side dish to whatever else we are having, and to use up vegetables that I need to eat before they go bad. It’s very versatile

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Some chopped rainbow chard. Don’t be intimidated.

Ingredients

1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced (you can substitute or add onion if you want)
Any other vegetables you want to cook, chopped into smallish pieces, as if you’re going to saute or stir-fry them. (I find carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, and summer squashes work really well, but you can use pretty much whatever you want).
1/8 cup of water or broth
Your greens, washed and chopped into ribbons (I’ve done this with kale, chard, and, collards, and beet greens, it works with them all. Here is good tutorial on how to cut kale, and it works for any green with a stem you don’t want to eat.)
Salt and pepper
Herbs and spices (Go wild here. I’m biased toward Italian flavors because that’s what I grew up cooking, so I usually use thyme, basil, and oregano. But really, you can use whatever you want that will complement your main dish).

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If the oil is too hot, this will burn.

Heat the oil on low/medium heat. Add the garlic and/or onion and a little salt. Cook until they are translucent. You don’t really want to brown them.

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All I had today were some orange and yellow carrots. I sort of need to go grocery shopping.

Add your other vegetables. Add what needs to cook longest first, let it cook for a bit, then add the next ingredient after a minute or two. I usually add carrots first, then mushrooms, then bell peppers. Summer squash goes in last, because I happen to like it close to raw and really don’t like it overcooked. Add more salt, some pepper, and whatever other herbs and spices you are using.

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This looks like a lot, but it will shrink.

After these have cooked a bit, but aren’t totally done, pour your water or broth into the pan and add the greens. Put a little more salt and some herbs.

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Your tasty, healthy side dish for the night.

Cover and let steam until the greens are wilted and tender. This takes about five to ten minutes, depending on which greens you are cooking, how tough they happen to be, and how much you have. I just take a peek every few minutes and try a bit until they are not too bitter or crunchy. Serve with the rest of your meal.

Congratulations, you’re eating your greens! I know this isn’t super gourmet, but it’s honestly one of my favorite ways to add some veggies to my diet, no matter what else I’m eating. It’s great as a side to chicken, steak, or fish; I’ve also tossed it with pasta or served it over polenta. And it’s super easy.

What are your favorite things to do with greens? Let me know in the comments and give me some ideas!

Young Playwrights Festival Banner

The Blank Theater’s Young Playwright’s Festival Banner

Yesterday Ron and I went up to Hollywood to see a play at the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Festival. My incredibly talented friend Nicole had directed one of the plays.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say that I was utterly floored by the caliber of the work I saw. The three plays I saw were written by young adults who were all under the age of 19, but they were written with such mature viewpoints that I found myself truly inspired.

Usually, when I’ve seen plays written by young adults who are in high school or their early years of college, I can see their potential. They are rough around the edges or maybe they haven’t quite found their voice or point-of-view. Often, they are trying too hard to emulate a writer they admire (I definitely am guilty of this as a writer). I can tell in a few years, with practice, with care, with work, they could be really good.

But these kids…I wasn’t seeing their potential to be really good; they were already really, really good. And they already had strong points of view and really knew what they wanted to say.

It’s so inspiring. Seeing really good art is always inspiring to me. The ways that art tells truths about humanity–sometimes deeply painful and uncomfortable truths–has always been my favorite thing. And I was really impressed with the way all of the plays I saw let me live in the discomfort and didn’t necessarily offer an ending that made me feel okay.

As a matter of fact, I relished that. In a time when so much art (I’m looking in particular at film and television) is market-tested to within in an inch of its life and is designed to be comfortable, challenging pieces are refreshing. And I applaud the Blank Theatre for not telling these kids that theatre has to be easy and for letting their plays stand as they were. It gives me hope that there will continue to be art that isn’t the same old escapist boring stuff that I see every day.

(As an aside, there is nothing wrong with escapist art/entertainment per se. I love my light and fluffy silly science fiction and cartoons as much as anyone. I just find it disheartening that there is so little challenging work being promoted and funded. I’m trying to go out of my way to seek it more and support it more.)

So kudos to the Blank Theatre, my awesome friend Nicole, these kids who are writing these plays, and everyone who tries to make art. Keep doing what you do. It makes things better.

Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

When I was at Stitches West, I bought a mystery knit-a-long kit for a Romi Hill Shawl, with yarn by A Verb for Keeping Warm. Last month I needed something to cast on that I could knit in my guild meeting, so I started it that morning. I believe it was the first of my stitches yarn I actually cast on. (It’s okay, the yarn needed to age. Yeah, that’s it.)

I have to say, this shawl was like those potato chips with the slogan about not eating just one. I found myself saying “Just one more row” all the time. Part of it was the yarn–which was very soft and wonderful to work with, because it’s a blend of alpaca, silk, and cashmere. The only issue I had was that the yarn got a little tangled in the center-pull ball. I don’t know if it’s my ball-winder or the yarns I’m using (alpaca and silk can both be kind of sticky), but I’m just making an executive decision to start using my cakes as outside pull balls. I think I’ll be happier.

Romi Hill Shawl Closeup

A close up the shawl. I loved this part of the pattern.

The pattern itself also lent to the potato chip aspect, because it was so interesting, with a nice rhythm. I seriously knit this shawl in about two weeks (we won’t talk about the two more weeks it sat waiting for blocking and end weaving in). The only part that felt even remotely long was the knitted-on bottom border, but that may have been an unfair comparison because the section before it (with the colored diamonds) was just so much fun. (I won’t give away the secret, since it’s a for-pay pattern, but the method for making them diamonds is pretty ingenious and not how you would normally think colorwork would be done).

Romi Hill Shawl

The shawl in the wild.

The design is supposed to be reminiscent of a cactus flower, and even though I used different colors, I still totally see it. And as an added bonus, each pattern clue had a haiku on it that gave hints about the final pattern, until the last clue, which revealed it. I really love small, thoughtful touches like that from designers. It just makes me smile.

I’m back. I’ve been not writing, because I’ve been in such a funk.

There are times in my life when I exist in a very bleak place. I get very hard on myself. I struggle. And I become convinced that I have nothing of value to give anyone. I make myself get up and go to work, convinced that I will be fired at any minute because I can’t possibly have anything of value to give as an employee. I find myself wanting to skip social engagements because I’m convinced no one wants me there anyway.

And I don’t write, because I’m certain that I have nothing of value to say to anyone. On top of that, getting up to do the bare minimum (that is, work and the minimum of grownup stuff necessary to keep oneself fed, clothed, and moderately clean) is so very much energy that at the end of the day, I don’t have any left to say anything. Even if anyone wanted to hear it, which (in that mood at any rate), I’m convinced that no one does.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive partner I have, who helps me get by in these hard times.

It hasn’t all been lounging around being sad. I have knit. I performed in two concerts. I took an acting class. I started a podcast. I just only did a lot of that stuff at the time because I had committed to other people to do it. I had committed to the singing gigs. I had committed to the class with Ron. I have a podcast partner I didn’t want to let down.

And none of that is a bad thing, because I ultimately want to do these things. It’s just that knowing that someone else is counting on me is what helps me find the energy to keep going. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that there are people in my life who help me remember what I want and hang in there until I feel like I can do things again.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I’ve been working on so much and I have so much I want to share with you all. I’ll do my best.