July 18, 2014

A midsummer strawberry and kale salad

We’ve been very busy in the macnamania household with family visiting, project working, and just general adjustment to life with a first year resident. At the end of the past few days I think all three of us have been exhausted. But we’re getting by pretty well, and doing our best to enjoy the summer.

We’ve been eating a lot of kale salad. Seriously. All the kale salad. I’m kind of obsessed. And so I thought I’d share our most recent fave. And it’s an easy peasy way to enjoy all that summer produce out there.

strawberry and kale salad

Strawberry and Kale Salad

Serves two people who are serious about their kale salads

1 bunch kale (any kind will do, choose your current fave)
10 -12 strawberries
1-2 oz extra-sharp white cheddar (we do live in WI now, afterall)
a handful (1/4 cup maybe)l of slivered almonds (whole or sliced would work fine too)
strawberry and kale salad

De-stem and chop the kale. I like to chop my kale in thin strips. Chewing raw kale works your jaw muscles, so smaller pieces is a bit easier to manage. Drizzle chopped kale with balsamic vinaigrette (see below) and massage dressing into the kale leaves with your fingers. Yes it’s messy, yes it’s worth it.

Dice the strawberries and add to kale. Grate the cheese, or I like to cut it into 1/4″ cubes and toss it into the bowl. Toast the almonds until they are starting to brown. Let the almonds cool for a couple minutes before adding to the salad. Mix well. Add more balsamic vinaigrette if needed. Eat.

The Only Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe You’ll Ever Need 

makes 1.5 cups of dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of your favorite brown mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed or very very finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
balsamic vinaigrette

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake well to mix. Taste, if it’s at all “meh” add more salt, mix and taste again. The salt is the key to making all the flavors meld together. It will go from tasting like balsamic vinegar to tasting like salad dressing with the addition of a bit more salt.

Fun fact: the mustard acts as an emulsifier, so it holds the oil and vinegar mixture together.

I keep a jar of this stuff in my fridge pretty much all the time. It keeps well and it’s good on pretty much every salad ever.

Note that olive oil has a pretty high solidification temperature, so it will start to get thick in the refrigerator. Take it out a little bit before you are going to dress a salad so that it can melt back into the dressing. Or swirl the jar under a warm running faucet to melt quicker.

You’re welcome. ;)

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July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Now get outside and enjoy a beautiful day with your loved ones. And I’ll do the same.

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June 13, 2014

Dear Detroit, I’m sorry we’re leaving

This past weekend Husby, Cheeks, and I made the move from Midtown Detroit to Madison. Add Husby and I to the list of young, educated, financially stable folk who came into Detroit with bright eyes and dreams only to leave too early. There are many things that factored into our choice to move away from Detroit. There are still so many ways in which the city management needs to get its act together to convince the young people that are flocking there to stay. And while I could wax poetically on all these things, I’ll save that for another day. I want my farewell to be remembering the good things.

So here, in images and a few words, are some of the wonderful things about our time in Detroit:

First and foremost, all of the fantastic friends that we made through Wayne State School of Medicine, the SEMI Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group, CrossFitBMW, and various community gardens. You guys are beyond rad, and we hope to see you again either in Michigan or across the country.

The walk-ability of Midtown. Comerica Park, Whole Foods, so many great restaurants, Avalon Bakery, Run Detroit, CrossFitBMW, and a growing number of shops. Midtown continues to grow and spread, and we love it.

Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

Memorial Day Murph at CrossFiyBMW

The growth of urban farming in Detroit, and the take a risk, try something new attitude that those farms are part of.

And Eastern Market. We went nearly every week and loved buying our food from local farms. Heck yes, year round farmers market.

North Cass Community Garden

Detroit Eastern Market

Broadway in Detroit, Riverdays, the Jazz Festival, and the other music and arts around town.

Fischer Theater Broadway in Detroit

Recycle Detroit. As much work as it was to sort and take in our own recycling, I think we’ll miss our local recycling center. It was always a fun trip to go drop it off and see all the other folks from the neighborhood there as well. (Although, now we have single source recycling, and *spoiler alert* it’s pretty awesome!)

Detroit Recycling Center


We’ll miss you Detroit, but we’ll be back soon, we still have family in the area. Please keep growing, and don’t let the non-believers hold you back.

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May 27, 2014

Trying to green our move

Let’s face it, packing up an apartment’s worth of furniture, furnishings, and stuff and hauling it across the country is not really easy on the earth by any stretch of the imagination. But between all the packing materials and that big truck there are a few ways we’re trying to make our move a little less resource consuming.

1. Reduce!

We have a couple weeks to pack up, so we have plenty of time to go through our stuff and donate, sell, recycle, or toss anything that we don’t need anymore. It means less boxes to move and more space for us at our next place, which happens to be a little bit smaller than our current apartment.

2. Packing in storage bins, luggage, drawers, etc

We’ve had four of those big plastic storage bins hiding in our apartment for the past 3 years. They each held a few things, but none of them were full. In fact, one of them was where we kept our empty duffle bags. So those came out, got filled with clothing, and the bin got filled with dishes. We’re also using the drawers of our armoir to pack books in. The drawers are sturdy, and just the right size so that they won’t be too heavy when packed with books.

packing container

3. Reusing boxes

As far as I can tell there is no reason for anyone to purchase boxes specifically for their move. Between the car seat and stroller boxes, a couple recent amazon purchases, friends, and grocery stores or liquor stores, we have been able to collect enough boxes for all our remaining packing.


4. Using cloth to pack our fragile items

We have plenty of light blankets, tablecloths, cloth napkins, towels, and socks that make the perfect packing materials for surrounding our dishes and other breakables. This saves us from having to use paper or plastic packaging materials that we would end up needing to dispose of after we unpacked.

5. Reserving a truck that’s just the right size

For this move we’ll happen to be caravan-ing with a couple cars as well, so we took that into account when picking out the truck we will be renting for the move. Uhaul gives recommendations based on the size of the place you are moving out of. We used that as a base, and then considered the extra trunk space we would also have to pack in and evaluated if we could safely downsize.

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May 16, 2014

Growing Fruit Trees From Seed

Husby and I have this dream where someday we have an orchard full of fruit trees. In our wildest orchard dreams we also have a greenhouse orchard with tropical fruit trees as well.

I mean really, delicious fruit and natural carbon sequestration? What could be better?

Because we try to live life in the now, (and because we’re a little bit crazy) we’ve already sprouted a number of our hopeful future orchard trees, which means we’re going to be moving with a car full of potted plants.

We’re currently working on sprouting pawpaw, mango, and avocado trees.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of a pawpaw? Well let me tell you about this delicious fruit. Pawpaws are native to the eastern United States. They thrive in USDA zone 6, although we’re hoping to grow some cold hearty pawpaws in zone 5. The fruit is about the size of a small mango, with a similar thick green skin. The fruit is described as an “American banana”. Inside the skin is a white fruit with a soft, custard-like consistency, with a number of dark brown seeds about the size of a grape inside. The flavor is similar to a ripe mango. Actually, the best comparison fruit is a cherimoya or custard apple, which you may have seen among the tropical fruits in your grocery store.

So why have you never heard of a pawpaw? Unfortunately, the fruits are delicate and don’t travel well, so by the time they would get to the grocery store many of them would have bruised or broken. They also have a short season (late September to early October depending on how far south they are growing).

Husby has been on the hunt for a pawpaw tree and the fruit for the past 4 years. We finally tracked down some trees last fall at one of the local state parks, and managed to find one small unripe fruit. Then, much to our surprise, the Detroit Whole Foods got a small shipment. We snatched up a couple of them, enjoyed the delicious fruit, and saved the seeds.

Our favorite food scrap growing resource, Don’t Throw It, Grow It!, recommended using Long Fibered Sphagnum Moss to start sprouting avocado seeds, and we’ve found it to be useful for a number of different fruits. In the case of the pawpaws, the seeds needed to rest for the winter before they would sprout, so we mixed them into a gallon sized zip-lock bag of damp sphagnum moss, and tossed the bag in the back of the refrigerator (to simulate winter inside our apartment). For avocados and mangoes, which like a more tropical climate, we buried the seeds in damp moss and placed the bag in a sunny, warm window.

growing fruit trees from seed - sprouting avocado seeds

In mid March, about the time that a pawpaw seed would naturally start to sprout, we planted our seeds in these root trainers, which are basically deep seedling starters, using Coconut Coir Brick for soil.  The pawpaw seeds developed roots first and now, two months later, are starting to push up sprouts.

growing fruit trees from seeds - pawpawsgrowing fruit trees from seed - pawpaw sproutThe mango seeds and the avocado seeds we just saved from fruits that we ate. We placed them in the bags of sphagnum moss about 4 weeks ago, and every week or so have been checking on their progress. Earlier this week we saw two of our mangoes had sprouted leaves already, so we took them out of the moss and planed them in pots.  sprouting fruit trees from seed - mango trees

growing fruit trees from seed - mango sprouts

We put plastic bags over the pots to try to keep the environment humid for them, like they would experience in their natural habitat.

The avocado seeds have started sprouting roots in their sphagnum moss bag, but we’re supposed to wait until the roots are about 4 inches long before planting them in a pot, so they are continuing to sit on a warm window sill.

If you’re interested in other good edible gardening books, my favorites are Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces, and The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd edition. I come back to these books year after year for instructions, tips, and tricks on organic edible gardening. Much like a well loved cookbook, my copy of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is soil stained and water marked from it’s time by my side in the garden.

Next we’re excited to try lemons and other citrus fruits!

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