Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reprise: Dorothy's Killer Meatloaf

Me and Mom because meatloaf doesn't photograph well.

This post first appeared here on February 20, 2009. We were still living in Michigan then in our sweet little house in the country surrounded by family, friends, chickens, and cats. I made this for my in-laws one evening. They expressed some scepticism when they first heard what was on the menu, but put a brave face on it. A few bits in, and they understood perfectly why we request it each time we go home to Wisconsin. My mother's recipe is one of the best. So, while we wing our way about the Midwest visiting friends and family galore, it seemed only right to repost this recipe again. We'll have it at least twice, I'm sure. 

My mother makes the best meatloaf ever. I've had a few others, and they don't compare. I loved it as a kid, and still find it irresistible. We request it (along with her blueberry pie) when we go home to Wisconsin, and if we don't get it there's so much pouting on my husband's part that she ends up making it anyway. It's spicy, saucy, and comforting. A bit like my mother now that I think about it. (I don't think she'll mind that I'm comparing her to her meatloaf. Maybe.)

Dorothy's Killer Meatloaf
1.5 pounds ground beef (I've used venison, and it worked like a charm.)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (She makes her own chunky-ish style, and so that's what I do, too.)
1 onion, finely chopped (I went for a medium-large onion.)
1 egg, beaten
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cans tomato sauce (I used my a pint of Kingsolver sauce and a pint of my plain tomato sauce.)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons vinegar (I make these a  bit generous.)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard - the horseradish kind. (Again, I was very generous with this.)
2 tablespoons Worcestshire sauce (Surprise! I was a wee bit generous with this, too.)

Mix together the meat, onions, crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, and a half can of the tomato sauce. Form it into a loaf and put it in a shallow baking pan, roughly 7 x 10. Smear the mustard on the loaf. (I kind of slathered it over the top in my generous way. I like it like that - saucy and spicy.) In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients, and pour them over the loaf. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally.

We serve it with our house salad - red cabbage with kale, carrots, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins, fresh pressed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and a good dollop of soy sauce - and a wild rice mix stirred up with a bit of olive oil or cooked with a bundle of frozen pesto cubes on the top that just get stirred in.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reprise: Guest post: Pop-up Cardboard Garden


Amber Dohrenwend is a teacher, mother, and author of the Tokyo-based blog, The Cardboard Collective. She designs modern cardboard toys, furniture, tools, and playthings that can be recycled at the end of their life/use. Recently she used a cardboard box outfitted with castor wheels  to transport her children through the Detroit Metro airport in lieu of a stroller.  Cardboard is a material we keep re-imagining she says, using cardboard for gardening just goes to show that cardboard has no limits.

This post went up first on Amber's most excellent blog, and she graciously allowed me to repost here while I was biking in Hokkaido this past summer. Now, I'm toodling about in America, and even though winter is still in the air spring is on the mind for many. It seemed only logical to run it again. Read on, check out her blog, and you'll never see your recycling in the same way again. Mottainai, indeed!

 


Electra has had her cardboard garden for a month and a half now, and seeing that the cardboard is still in great shape after 6 weeks of rain, watering and sunshine, I thought it was OK to officially let it be known that our pop-up cardboard garden is a keeper.




When I was on a cardboard finding expedition at my local grocery store, the produce manager asked me if I was interested in any of the watermelon boxes they had out behind the store. 
Watermelon boxes, I thought, why didn't I think of that before?

Watermelon boxes are made of triple-walled cardboard with a slight waxy finish, and they are super sturdy, even when exposed to rain. This garden isn't intended to last for more than a summer season, but the cardboard should easily last that long. After we finish picking our tomatoes the plan is to distribute the soil onto the other needy beds in our front yard,  and pack up our watermelon box for curbside recycling.

 

I used a serrated bread knife that I got from a nearby thrift shop to cut the box down to 12.5" high. Then I just positioned the box in a bright and sunny area of our front yard.

My husband kindly screened several wheelbarrow loads of compost from our backyard and added it to the garden. The last step was cutting off the little triangles of cardboard on the sides that center the watermelon box onto pallets for shipping.

 


We decided this would be the perfect first garden for Electra so I let her pick out all of her own plants at the local greenhouse. I encouraged her to choose a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs. She chose cucumbers, tomatoes, chives, basil, cilantro, rosemary, zinnias and her favorite, geraniums.

 

She LOVED handling and smelling her plants and breaking up their roots to get them ready for planting.


 
 

Here she is watering the new crop, and facing a few skeptic neighbors who were sure we were preparing for
 failure.

 

We watered the garden as needed trying to let it dry out as much as possible to encourage deep root growth and preserve the box. I notice after one month of watering the box is starting to break down a little where the bottom  seam is touching the soil. It looks like it's not to much of a problem at this point, so I'm leaving well enough alone. After a big rain the cardboard gets a little damp and softens. It will harden up as it dries out, so try not to disturb the cardboard too much when it's wet. I'm not promising invincibility here folks, but this IS a means of getting a few more cherry tomatoes into your little ones hands, and a great way to kindle a budding love of gardening.


Isn't this tiny cucumber the cutest thing you've ever seen? Seeing it all nestled up next to the side of the triple wall cardboard just about breaks my heart.

**Amber Dohrenwend is a mother and blogger who designs modern toys, furniture, tools and playthings for kids, made from 100% recycled cardboard that can be 100% recycled. Go check out her other great ideas at The Cardboard Collective!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: February 23rd and 24th

Ishida-san from Nagano-ken touring his wares at Yurakacho.
The month is winding down, but the farmers markets aren't! This final weekend of February is still full of great markets to visit, including the Earth Day Market in Yoyogi. Head on out to one of these excellent spots for some good fun and savor some of Tokyo's remarkably sunny winter weather. Seriously, just bundle up and go. It's good for you...probably as healthy for you as all those fantastic fruits and vegetables you'll find, too!!

Sunday, February 24th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing.
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
A first visit to this market was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Monday, February 18, 2013

WWOOFing Holiday - Reprise

This post originally appeared on January 22, 2010. We'd just finished our first ever WWOOFing holiday in Japan, and were ridiculously excited about it. A recent interview with Chrissie Reilly, a doctoral student doing an oral history project of WWOOF Japan, inspired me to repost this. It's early writing and early photography skills, but hopefully something of interest can still be gleaned. - JB



As a recent vacation approached we found ourselves at a loss for what to do. Too short for a meaningful trip home but too long for milling about Tokyo, we searched for ideas. Even though we've been here almost a year, there is still so much of Japan that we want to explore and experience. How to choose? Finally, we found an answer - WWOOF!
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an international organization that connects large and small organic farmers with volunteer workers. In exchange for helping on the farm, WWOOFers (as the volunteer workers are commonly called) get food, accommodation, and information about farming and organic lifestyles. This simple idea - connecting those who want to learn with those who need a little help and are willing to share what they know - quite literally opens the door of a home allowing the traveler to experience their country of choice in a more intimate way than is normally possible.

It is also incredibly affordable. The membership fee to WWOOF Japan and our travel expenses were pretty much it. (I did take along some of the yuzu marmalade I'd made as a gift, a practice I highly recommend. Gift-giving is by no means required, but it's a thoughtful gesture from a stranger entering a new house to live for a week or more.) The affordability of WWOOFing paired with the opportunity for a unique travel experience have led it to buck the trend of sliding interest and membership during this economic downturn. Some even theorize that the current economic crisis is helping fuel WWOOF's increasing numbers of both volunteer workers and farmers.

The Farm
We wanted to head south to be just a little bit warmer, and because we'd already seen some of the North on our way to Hokkaido this summer. We were pleasantly surprised to see a number of WWOOF hosts seeking WWOOFers in January, a month we initially thought would be challenging for finding a place. We spotted one on Shikouku, and made contact. Ikumi Tomato Farm is literally a five minute walk from Ikumi Surfing BeachYuzu and ponkan orchards line the roads and the steep hillsides behind the farm, and roadside stalls were full to overflowing with bags and crates of fruit. Green leaves and warmer temperatures greeted us when we got off the bus to meet Tomoya-san, the farmer and our host for the next six days.


A former advertising and marketing salaryman in Tokyo, he became dissatisfied with his work. A year's sabbatical biking in New Zealand took him by and to a number of farms.There he found a new face of farming - passionate craftsmen and women who found in their daily work a way of life requiring intellect, creativity, and tenacity - strikingly different from the stereotypical image of farmers he'd previously carried. And, despite the hard labor and long hours, they were happy. After a year of intensive agricultural study in Kochi, Tomoya-san rented the greenhouses and farmhouse with garden nearby. He's been courting the tomato ever since.

The Work

Beautiful, slightly chilly, blue sky days outside instantly became heat-saturated summer afternoons inside the four greenhouses full of strong, healthy, and blooming tomato plants. We worked about six hours each day removing spent blossoms from new fruit, sweeping and tidying the black plastic mulch, and trimming leaves. Sometimes we could even hear the ocean waves pounding the beach. The occasional buzz of the Japanese bees Tomoya-san keeps in the greenhouse for pollinating were the only other sounds.


We also did other chores - digging a new compost pit; trimming the hedge at the back of the greenhouses; and some household tidying - that seemed a little "off message" initially. Yet, these tasks - running a household, maintaining a property, and implementing organic practices for the home garden - are all part and parcel of farming, too. Tomoya-san readily shared his knowledge of farming with us (as well as his amazing cooking), so if a little vacuuming made it possible for him to focus on the plants then so be it.

Farm geek that I am, I thought it a more than fair exchange. I found it utterly fascinating to work in the greenhouses and talk with Tomoya-san about his farm. I learned so much, and despite peppering him with questions each night about everything from organic farming to why he chose the tomato (he wants to show people what a really good tomato can taste like) to Japanese agriculture (he's concerned about the aging population and lack of organic farmers) to music (he loves Latin music but also has almost the entire collection of Earth, Wind and Fire) to food (he often uses anise in his miso to liven up the flavor) he offered to have us back again.

We also plan to WWOOF again elsewhere. A chance to spend meaningful time in a new and beautiful place while helping produce food that's healthy for everyone in just about every way seems like a no-brainer to us. WWOOFing offers a world of possibilities for the traveler looking for a deeper and different kind of experience, and we're hooked.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: February 16th and 17th

Kamakura Leaf at the Yurakacho Farmers Market.
For a farmers market geek like me, this weekend is the dreamiest of all. There are tons of markets to choose from with events and fun galore, not to mention the usual array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nifty crafts. If I wasn't in America visiting family and friends, I'd be making the rounds here in Tokyo and filling up my backpack with all kinds of goodies. Folks will just have to do the work for me and report in on what they find. (I'm rather serious about that last one. Please feel free. It will ease my feeling of homesickness.) Off you go!

Sunday, February 17th
11am to 5pm
A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and tea seedpods.

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, February 16th and Sunday, February 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, February 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, February 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

UN University Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
A first visit to this market was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Growing New Life in Tohoku up at Ecotwaza

A community garden in Sendai.
Not set up by Peace Boat, but giving comfort, hope and produce, too.
One of the things I really love about the writing I do is being able to discover great stories. I've met some absolutely amazing people from all over the world doing terrific things, seen some extraordinary places, and eaten some of the best food ever.

One of the groups I've been lucky enough to find is Peace Boat. My husband and I volunteered with them in Ishinomaki after the earthquake for a week. It was many months later, but we knew help was still needed and that morale needed to be boosted. It seemed the least we could do for a country and people who have given us so much during our short time here.

My latest article at ecotwaza is part of a series about Tohoku, the region most directly affected by the triple disaster, and what's happening there now. Most stories focus on food and farming, and this one is no different. Peace Boat's project to build gardens for survivors was a wonderful tip from a friend, and a story that I am grateful to be able to tell. Read on for yourself and learn how a garden is more than just a vegetable or two.

Monday, February 11, 2013

WWOOF Japan Researcher Visits Tokyo

Chrissie Reilly taking a break from an early WWOOF experience in Fukuoka.
Photo courtesy of Chrissie Reilly.
Last month I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Chrissie Reilly, a doctoral student working on an oral history project of WWOOF (Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms) Japan. Chrissie, a WWOOFer herself, aims to see how WWOOF Japan impacts participants as well as the farms and communities where they volunteer.

The hubby and I spoke with Chrissie about our experience WWOOFing a few years ago, farming in Japan, food, and culture. It was good fun, and I'm excited to see what will come of it.

If you're reading this and you've WWOOFed in Japan, send along a message and I can put you in touch with Chrissie directly. She's still interviewing her little heart out, and I'm sure she'd love to chat with you about your experience!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: February 9th and 10th

Bustling at the Ebisu Farmers Market!
Ease right into the month with this nice selection of markets. Gyre, with some of the most beautifully displayed vegetables ever, is indoors and cozy. The other markets all rock their assorted edibles and other nifty items outdoors in the bright sunshine with a hint of cool wind. Grab your mittens, sunglasses, or umbrella and head on out to see the best the season has to offer. You might be surprised to find what pleasures winter can bring!
Saturday,  February 9th and Sunday, February 10th
A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y.
11am to 5pm
Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
A first visit to this market was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Market Feature in Metropolis

Read my Metropolis article and you'll know which market to choose!

I am ridiculously thrilled to have snagged the feature article for the most recent Metropolis Magazine! Check out Grow Ops: Find the story behind your produce at Tokyo Farmers Markets for the full scoop on how the markets started, what they're like, and why you should go. Then head on out to see for yourself how much fun there is to be had!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Home in America

Asters, showing off even in winter in Michigan.
As usual, we've ventured home to America for the month of February in search of family, old friends, and winter as we know and love it best: heaps of snow, bitter cold temperatures, and a good brisk wind. Heavenly. There's nothing so wonderful as a frosty morning walk or a burning orange sunset catching the blue black brown river bottom trees as they run up to the bluffs just beyond. Well, maybe my mother's meatloaf and a good cuddle with our cat after dinner, so let's call it a three-way tie.

The Tokyo Farmers Market calendar will keep coming, of course, and I'll be sending along relevant tales of food and fun from my beloved Midwest, too. See you on the snowy side of things!

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Scrumptious strawberries at the Roppongi Farmers Market!
February is my favorite month for a whole bundle of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the weather usually gets colder. (I know, I know. Who likes winter? Me, that's who!) I usually venture home to America in February, so exactly how it turns out in Tokyo I don't know, but I usually hear reports of snow, cold winds, and more. I also often hear reports of miso making, as this is the season. I hope to make my own this year when I return in March, but we'll see what the kitchen cards hold in store.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of good markets on in the city (read about a few here in my recent feature article in Metropolis Magazine) to find homemade miso fixings, seasonal fruits, greens, and other glorious vegetables. So head on out while I'm carousing about the Madison Farmer's Market and perhaps even visiting Detroit's famous Eastern Market. Oh, the fun to be had!


Sunday, February 3rd
Sunday, February 17th
11am to 5pm
A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and tea seedpods.
Saturday,  February 9th and Sunday, February 10th
A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y.
11am to 5pm

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, February 16th and Sunday, February 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, February 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, February 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

Sunday, February 24th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing.
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
A first visit to this market was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!