Friday, April 22, 2011

God, Galileo, and Grumpy Teddy Bears: Part 2

Galileo was in church one day, gazing absently at the tall ceilings and ornate stain glass windows. He was twenty, failing medical school at the University of Pisa, and not sure what he wanted from life. At fifteen, he had decided to become a monk, but his father sent him to medical school at the tender age of seventeen instead. Now he was failing.

A large lamp caught his eye as it swung a ponderous arc through the air, back and forth, back and forth. Suddenly, Galileo saw more than just a swinging lamp, and what he saw got him thinking. Within in a short time, he had developed a principle which revolutionized time-keeping and kick started the modern science of mechanics: the law of the pendulum.

To be honest, that story is probably a myth. What it teaches about Galileo, however, is almost certainly true. Galileo had a curious, questioning mind. He found profound new insights in the most commonplace, ho-hum things of life--like swinging lamps. For him, the ordinary held potential for endless discovery.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sustainable eating and Fresh Strawberry Tarts!

Last week I bought a flat of fresh strawberries from the farmer's market, along with some beautiful rainbow chard, broccoli, and sugar snap peas! We enjoyed having such quality and delicious produce to experiment with, and it got me thinking about some ethical food issues that I've been mulling over lately: eating local and eating food that is in season.

There are a host of benefits to eating locally and seasonally. It's fresh, healthy, and sustainable. But there are a few downfalls too, mainly having to do with cost. There is just no getting around the fact that it costs more to shop at a Farmer's Market and other local sources then to go to Superior's, Winco, or Food4Less (my main sources for cheap food). For Barry and I, operating on a very tight budget, it's hard to make the leap.

We haven't decided to convert 100% to eating local and in season - we're just not to that point yet. But we are much more conscious about where our food comes from. It feels (and tastes!) so much better to pay extra in support of local farmers than to have our produce shipped all the way up from Mexico, where they sprayed it with who knows what. And when it does arrive, it is covered in wax and far from fresh.

So for now, we've made a few changes to our food budget. We haven't increased it, but we have allocated more funds to a Farmer's Market trip once a month. We'll continue to reassess as time passes and make changes as needed. It's a step in the right direction, and I'm excited to see how it goes!

Now, back to the point: Fresh Strawberry Tarts! There's nothing quite like the simple joy of biting into a freshly made strawberry tart! It's strawberry season right now, and I'm planning to make the most of it!

Fresh Strawberry Tarts
Makes 4-5 small tarts
9 graham crackers, crushed
4 Tbsp margarine, melted

Hint: Usually I use a mixture of blended nuts for my crust. It's delicious and requires no added fat. If you run out of graham crackers or don't have any, blend 1-2 cups of nuts and skip the butter. You can also use a combination of nuts and graham crackers. That tastes splendid also!

Creamy Filling
2 blocks tofu
4 oz Cream Cheese (that happened to be the amount I had left. Use whatever you've got or not at all. If you skip the cream cheese, add extra vanilla flavoring.)
Scant 1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 a meyer lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring

Strawberry Sauce
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled
Sugar, to taste
Juice from 1/2 a meyer lemon

Sliced strawberries
Mint leaves

  • Mix crushed graham crackers and butter in a bowl and press into small tart pans to create a firm crust.
  • Blend tofu, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla in blender until smooth. Pour into prepared tart crusts. Smooth with spatula or spoon.
  • Blend strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender until smooth. Pour over top of the creamy filling in the tarts.
  • Garnish with sliced strawberries and mint leaves.
  • Chill & enjoy!