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Friday, July 19, 2013

CSA 2013, Weeks Two and Three

My parents were visiting last week and then my computer crashed, so I was unable to report on weeks two and three of the CSA until now.

Week Two
For week two's box we got: Lovelock Head Lettuce, Spinach, Pea Vines, Radishes, Garlic Scapes, and Rainbow Swiss Chard. The lettuce, pea shoots, and radishes were used in salads with MB's* Asian salad dressing. This dressing is so good, I actually crave it! It made a nice complement to the sweet potato soup I made, also from MB* that also had some Asian food undertones (coconut milk, ginger, mint, cilantro). The potatoes came from the farmer's market, not the CSA.

The spinach went in a Spinach, feta and walnut lasagna, again, from MB*. I made this lasagna together with a more traditional pork/red sauce lasagna, thinking that I'd be the only one eating the veggie one. However, everyone had a little of both and really liked how they complemented each other.

The garlic scapes went together with last week's portion to make a pesto. MB* once again provided the recipe, where you combine scapes with almonds, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It is amazing. We've been spreading it on bread and also put it on some grilled chicken.

The chard I sauteed with garlic, cranberries, and sunflower seeds (yes, from MB*) like the week before, and my mom, who'd never had chard before, said she liked the combination of bitter, sweet, and crunchy.

Week Three
In week three's box we got: Garlic Scapes, Green Towers Romaine Lettuce, Lovelock Lettuce, Red Russian Kale, Pea Shoots

I immediately made another batch of the scape pesto to freeze. This stuff is soooooo good!

The lettuces and shoots went into salads. Honestly, the kale is still waiting to be used, but will be consumed tonight in the same Smitten Kitchen recipe as Week 1.

I kind of went crazy at the farmer's market last Saturday. There was finally tons of produce to be had (the season is so late this year). I bought tomatoes and basil to mix with mozzarella for Caprese salads; two baskets of snap peas, because Belalu and I ate one basket before even leaving the market; green beans; mint and cilantro; and 2 pounds of shelling peas. From the two kinds of peas and the mint I made a yummy cold mint pea soup. The basic inspiration was from MB* but I made some substitutions with ingredients I already had on hand. I had no lemons, but did have limes, so used lime juice instead and I had some coconut milk in the fridge from the other soup and used that instead of cream. It came out great, and is super refreshing for these scorching days we're in.

*Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmer's Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Story: The First NIne Months

After ten days in the NICU, Belalu had stabilized enough for us to finally go home. She had been put on Phenobarbital when they first realized she was having seizures, but still had two more after that, so they changed her to Keppra. That seemed to work. The Dr. wanted her to be seizure-free for three or four days before we could be released, so those additional seizures were devastating for more than one reason. Of course it was horrifying to see her turning blue and nerve wracking to hear the machines she was hooked up to suddenly go off in their shrill, heart-stopping tone; but it also meant that our countdown clock was re-started, and our family had to face more days apart while our day-to-day normality was put on hold for what seemed like an indefinite period of time.

It did indeed end, however, and we gladly left the hospital and the NICU to head home and start our "new normal." The medication made Belalu sleepy, so I was grateful that at least all that juggling of newborn and toddler was easier at first than I had anticipated. I should clarify that it was the first drug that really knocked her out- in the NICU she slept almost all the time, and even when awake, was pretty limp. I know newborns sleep a lot, but this was extreme. The nurses would try to wake her up for a feeding, and had a hard time of it. She would eat and immediately fall back asleep. Nevertheless, thankfully, we had no problems nursing and she never had to take supplements. It took some time to get the Pheno out of her system, and while the Keppra was better, she still was a pretty sleepy baby for the first three months. I was very concerned about how this medicine was affecting her brain development, but got little info from the Dr.'s, who assured me that it wouldn't. I have to admit I was not convinced. While in the NICU, we'd have these team meetings with all the Dr's studying our case, and when I had asked about the effects of the medicine on her development, the neurologist told me that it wouldn't have a negative impact. "Pheno is an imperfect drug, but it's the one we're most familiar with, so that's why we're using it." I asked him why it was imperfect- what were the side effects, and he didn't really give me an answer. Once we switched to Keppra, he told me that it was the Pheno that was making her so sleepy and limp. I still don't know why he didn't tell me that when I asked, and it made me distrust his explanations a bit. So, I continued to worry about her brain development in the subsequent months, especially since we had been told that there was a chance that the seizure-induced apnea that had caused her to turn blue could have affected her brain, too.

With E I was fairly laid-back about his development. I read up on the month-to-month milestones, and loved watching him reach them, but didn't worry if he was ever behind in some, because I knew he had his individual growth pattern and trusted that he would reach them eventually, which he did. With Belalu, though, we were constantly vigilant about her development, still not sure if the seizures were behind us or if they were indicative of something more serious that was still to be revealed. At two months, the neurologist determined that she could be weaned off Keppra. More anxiety as we waited to see if the seizures would return and relief when it appeared they wouldn't. At four months, we joyously kicked the infernal monitor out of our house for good. Its constant false alarms made us so indifferent to them that if any real emergency happened, I wondered if we'd even notice right away. I was convinced that Belalu was a normal, healthy little girl and the neonatal seizures were just some bizarre occurrence that would be left to marvel at when she graduated college and went on to do whatever amazing thing she was destined to do in the world.

Then, we watched a video of Essie at her age sitting in the bouncy chair, effortlessly reaching for the little velcro toy hanging down in front of him. And we realized that Belalu was unable to do it. At first I thought it was cognitive, but then J understood that it was physical. She couldn't reach out her arms at all. They were almost always bent at the elbows and tucked into her body. I immediately called the birth-to-three program to set up an evaluation. Since she was in the NICU she automatically qualified, but I hadn't believed it necessary at first. They confirmed that this was not normal and were concerned that she held her hands in fists all the time, too. We began to work on encouraging her to stretch out her arms to reach for things and to open her hands more.

By six months, she had made great progress, although her arms could not straighten out all the way. The PT thought that she was holding her arms in like that to help stabilize her balance to compensate for the low tone in her abdomen. At Belalu's well visit the pediatrician noted some concern that her growth seemed to have slowed down. She said that if it didn't pick up by the next appointment, we'd be referred to a specialist. I asked what it could indicate, and she said it could be a problem with her endocrine system. I didn't give it a lot of consideration, however, because I was convinced that everything was fine and in my ignorance, this didn't sound like it was related to the seizures or her arms.

Three more months went by, and all was well as far as I was concerned. And then we had the nine-month well check. I'll leave that one for it's own post.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Riding Bikes

A week after he turned four, E started riding his bike. We then lowered the balance bike for Belalu, and while I thought that it was too tall for her, we actually could lower it a little more. However, she still needs help because her tippie toes just reach the ground, so when she really wants to move, she goes back to the Tiny Trike. All of our bikes have been getting a lot of use this summer.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Year of the House

I haven't been talking about it here lately, but The Year of the House is still in full swing. With the gorgeous weather, I've mostly focused on the outside, but there has been more clearing away of things to charity and overall organization happening inside, too.
We spiffed up the "clubhouse" for the kids. It's a place to store E's gardening tools and a favorite afternoon reading spot.

 The stove was just a temporary additional - no worries, we don't actually use it in there!
I call this the "Secret Garden bench". Did you ever read that book? It was one of my favorites growing up.

I've also planted a ton of plants, shrubs, and flowers as well as some seeds for the garden.
Rhubarb, chives, and radishes braving the cool, wet spring!

Friday, July 5, 2013

CSA 2013, Week One

We go to the local Farmer's Market most Saturdays, and while occasionally I try to branch out and try something new, usually I stick with the foods I'm familiar with. I love vegetables and eat/prepare a good lot of them, but there are still some that I've never known what to do with. Having two little ones has made it hard to experiment in the kitchen, but now that Belalu is at the point of being able to play with her brother and/or entertain herself when I'm in the kitchen, I've gotten adventurous again.

We joined a CSA this year and receive a half share of produce every week. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The members pay for their share up front and then pick up a box of goodies once a week throughout the growing season. In our area, that's about 18-20 weeks long. Lousy, wet weather has postponed the start of the summer harvest this year, so our CSA started just last week. I'm excited about it because I will receive veggies I've never tried; we are supporting a local farm; it's all organic and locally produced; and I will have a better sense of the natural growing cycle of veggies. I've been trying to eat seasonally, but to my embarrassment, I don't even know when many fruits and veggies are in season! We are so used to buying whatever we want when we want it, that I've lost all sense of nature's true cycles. Getting fruits and veggies in season means that they are more flavorful, more nutritious (they don't have to travel around the world to get to me), and more sustainable. I also love knowing who is growing my veggies- I see them every week at the farmer's market and can ask for suggestions about what to do with the produce they grow for us. They also have a blog where they share what's going on at the farm that week, and provide recipes and suggestions for preparation for the veggies they harvest.

I've been relying on a couple of cookbooks to help me with recipe ideas, too. In May I attended a dinner at the local bookstore that featured the book Minnesota's Bounty (MB). The author, Beth Dooley, and photographer, Mette Nielsen, were in attendance, and I got to sit across from them at the dinner table. I love this book, because Beth wrote it as a field guide to the farmer's market. It is arranged by item, so if I want to know what to do with pea shoots, I go to the veggie section, "Peas," and there I can see what they look like, when they are in season, how to store them, and several ideas on how to prepare them. She has at least a couple of super-easy ideas, not even recipes really, for each item and then a couple of recipes that involve more ingredients. For example, for peas, there's a simple pea and mint saute suggestion, and then a snap pea and radish salad recipe, among other things. As you can see, the other ingredients are seasonally in tune with the featured veggie, so they are likely to be found at the market at the same time. I also consult Vegetable Harvest (VH) quite a bit, though it's based on French markets, so doesn't always coincide with what we have here.

This spring/summer in my culinary adventures I have discovered green garlic, garlic scapes, ramps, and pea shoots. I also finally found a way to eat kale (this is huge). All super delicious. I can't believe I've never had all these spring treats in my life before! (The ramps and the green garlic I found at the local Co-op, the others are from the CSA). I'm going to keep track of what we get each week and which recipes I really like so I have a record for next year. So, after that long introduction, here's what veggies are happening in my kitchen these days.

For Week One, we received Red Russian kale, arugula, spinach, garlic scapes, oregano, mint, chives, radishes. I used everything within the week except the scapes and the oregano. MB has a recipe for sauted scapes and I was hoping I would get more this week to have plenty to saute. I did, so I'll be trying that out and will post the results in Week Two's round-up. The oregano I'm not sure yet what I'll do with it. It's holding up so far in the fridge, but I need to figure out what to do with it soon. I've only used it as a dry herb before.

Arugula is my favorite green and can only be found once in a while in the stores here. I've been growing it in my garden this year, and it's been doing well. The batch from the CSA got mixed with the kale. Honestly, I've tried a few times to like kale and I just couldn't unless it was in a stew or soup. Smoothies, kale chips, saute... I just didn't care for it. So, when I decided to try it raw in a salad, I threw my favorite green in with my least favorite and magic happened. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for kale salad with honey mustard dressing, goat cheese, craisins, and pecans, and we loved it.  Score!

For the spinach, chives, and radishes I used a recipe from VH. It called for couscous, but I was out, so I subbed bulgar wheat instead. The chives went in a creamy chive dressing that mixed in with the bulgar and spinach that had been shredded and then I threw in some chopped radishes- I forget if that was part of the recipe or I just added them for interest.

The mint was used for mojitos, my favorite drink, and perfect for summer.