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12/27/11

This Will Be Our Year, Took A Long Time To Come.

The Prefab House At Higher Ground.
Off grid, energy efficient prefab house filled with love, love, love.


This will be our year, took a long time to come.
Black-eyed peas, stewed tomatoes, collards. We Richmond-ers are a superstitious bunch!
So thrilled to ring in 2012, The Very Interesting Year.
Perfectly on time, we ended 2011 in camaraderie of old, dear friends, and newly cherished acquaintances.
Our friends, M&E, offer always a beautiful, happy Fan home, usually full o' wimmen, childrenz running wild, assorted (very) happy, handsome men in the midst, a potluck feast always spread in celebration, allowing all to catch up with old friends, while also making new. Honeychile, we cook. Men and women and childrenz cooking and eating and passing the drink, with lots of loud laughing and deep hugging.

No better tonic for our wearied souls.

We ended (and began) the year with loved ones.
Ahhhhh. Stop: This poignant moment needs a recipe, honeychiles!
For M's, a favorite I hadn't served in awhile, a perfect spicy, hearty dish to serve in this cold: As usual, I did not follow directions. Here is the proper recipe, my notes in italic. It's from (another) of my Time Life books... if you ever find them in thrift stores and love stories and culture to go along with a recipe before the world was McDonald-ized, grab 'em.


Aji De Gallina ( Chicken In Spicy Nut Sauce )
4 Servings

4 Lb Chicken, cut in quarters (Who weighs a chicken? I suspect they are larger these days, even when organic. But who knows. I just buy a whole chicken. Anything not used in this recipe gets turned into chicken salad. And then I adjust the spices / ingredients into whatever the heck looks right to me. So there!)
5 Cup Cold water
8 fresh homemade bread, Sliced, white bread type
2 Cup Milk
1 Cup Onions, finely chopped (I put more.)
1 Tsp Garlic, finely chopped (Really? Seriously? A *teaspoon?!? Yeah, right, mince up some bulbs, childrenz.)
1/4 Cup Red chili paste (Aji molido Con aceite), or 1/4 c dried, hontaka chilies, seeded and ground in a blender or pulverized with a mortar and pestle [or you could say, "Screw that! I don't even speak Spanish or know what Aji molido is! Yo: Here's a bunch (dollop, dollop, dollop... okay... another dollop) o' Mrs. E's Amish Hot Pepper Relish!) Note: NOT the sweet pepper relish, the more cayenne / mustard seed one.]
1 Cup Walnuts, shelled, ground in blender or pulverized with a mortar and pestle (I used almonds because I forgot to buy walnuts and realized it would actually be better because less people are allergic to almonds and this was for a dinner party. Mistaken win!ANOTHER NOTE: I always label ingredients when contributing to a potluck. American guests would never suspect there would be nuts in meat, I made clear the dish was 1. spicy and 2. contained nuts with a pretty note beside it.)
2 Tsp Salt (Shake that kosher after you've melded everything together, to taste. Don't forget this will all go over potatoes, and has nuts & bread to 'bland' it down... keep tasting as you finish the sauce!)
1/4 Tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
2 Tbl Annatto (achiote) oil
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (oh yeah right. Again: shake that baby.)
2 Lb Boiling potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/4 inch thick, freshly boiled and hot (Think: How many are you cooking for? How many casserole dishes? Ok, you need that many potatoes & chicken & ingredients to line the dish with potatoes then cover it with a thick sauce.) 
3 Hard cooked eggs, each cut, in 6 to 8 lengthwise wedges
12 Ripe black olives (do NOT let me catch you doing any of those canned bland olives!)
2 Fresh hot red chilies (Which you don't need if you just dumped a bunch o' Mrs. E's Amish relish in, obviously!)

In a heavy 4 to 5 quart saucepan, bring the chicken and 5 cups of cold water to a boil over high heat, and remove all scum from the surface. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the chicken for 30 minutes, or until it is tender but not falling apart. transfer the chicken to a plate, and set the stock aside for another use. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin with a small knife or your fingers. Cut or pull the meat away from the bones.

Discard the bones, and cut the chicken meat into strips 1/8 inch wide and 1 to 1 1/2 inches long.

**TIMESAVER!** Get a cooked chicken, tear it up, then put the bones in the fridge to make stock this weekend after you're done with this! Why work until midnight on a Thursday for a Friday dinner party? And yet still no waste!

Cut the crusts from the bread and tear the slices into small pieces.
Place them in a bowl, add 1 cup of the milk and let them soak for 5 minutes. Then, with a fork or your hands, mash the bread and milk to a thick paste.

In a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and transparent but not brown.
Add the chili paste or ground chilies, walnuts, salt and pepper, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the annatto oil and bread paste, then gradually add the remaining cup of milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. add the chicken and cheese, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts and the chicken is heated through.

TO ASSEMBLE:
Spread the boiled potato slices side by side in a large casserole
or deep platter and spoon the chicken and sauce over them. Garnish
the top with hard cooked eggs, olives and chili strips.

NOTE: Peruvian cooks blanch and skin the walnuts–and you may,
too, if you have the patience. (Screw that! Yer losin' fiber!) Drop shelled walnuts into boiling
water and let them soak for an hour. Drain and peel them, one at a time. (Oh, yeah, *totally* how I want to spend a Thursday night. Use almonds if the walnuts are too bitter.)

From Time/Life ‘Foods of the World’, Recipes: Latin American Cooking, p.106

Did I mention Santa brought us a Mushroom Kit?


I have been thinking about mushroom logs for years now. When we toured Richmond's 2nd Annual Coop Tour this fall and I spied a mushroom log at one coop's location, I became positively jealous.
As usual, this coop is part of a home with avid gardeners
and I had *MUSHROOM LOG ENVY* when I spied these...!

I mean, the prefab house kit's north side is *perfect* for a large mushroom log!!! *And* because of the rise of the field ahead of the off grid prefab, a log could be tucked, safely elevated yet in good conditions to grow mushrooms, without marring the clean modern look of the passive solar home.

But I suspect Santa wants us to take Baby Steps on Mushroom Growin'... and we acquiesce.
So, to keep the childrenz busy with friends visiting, we started our Mushroom Bucket.
Musing on mushroom logs and all also made me think about other ways to grow mushrooms and suddenly I wondered,
From Workshop SF who has some super cool classes
on staghorn ferns, screen printing, sewing and more from
local designers and craftspeople in San Francisco.


"You know? You know how interior designers all put staghorn ferns in bathrooms because they're cool looking (I love them) and the bathroom, with its indirect light and humidity during the shower are a good environment for it... I wonder if you could do something cool and modern yet organic with mushrooms... IN THE SHOWER!" Or, at least look cool, and not be so Look I'm Growing 'Shrooms, Dudes... I consider sleek, effective options. That will probably be Part 2 as we are busy packing up the mid-century house and looking towards spring.

BUT: Before you get all grossed out, remember:
- Oh puhleez. It will be in an area that's raised, away from any contact, and sanitary.
- Now you all know that there's microbes flyin' about but do YOU keep yer toothbrush out of the bathroom? You don't? Well, then you should. Don't knock my 'shrooms.
- Of course I'm going to wash everything before cooking, and cook it well, I already do!

We're also thinking root cellars.
Here's some informative links on root cellars I found:
The key ingredients are temperature, moisture, ventilation, knowing what to store next to what, and, if possible, multiple chambers for different needs / humidity / temperatures. We want our root cellar to double as a storm shelter, so start with storm shelter plans to then compare to root cellar plans.

We happily end 2011. 
2012 will be exciting, there are even things I can't write (yet) that lead me to believe our Five Year Plan towards Higher Ground which then turned into the One Year Plan might turn into the Now Plan.

So, we're freed. 
All I can say is that routinely we are reminded why we named the land "Higher Ground."

But that doesn't mean we leave unfinished business.


“Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. And above all, thou shalt never be a bystander.” -Yehuda Bauer

We stand for what is right. Those that don't?
Dudes. You don't hit Charlottesville at your strata, unless you've already been kicked out of the Hamptons for bad behavior. And last I checked, the Hamptons has no morals... I don't want to hear about your f*d up version of what a cocktail party of bad people should civilized-ly be. You are messed up. We gravitate elsewhere.

I would like to dedicate this song to my aunt (and anyone who knew) who knowingly, willingly, encouraged and allowed this to happen to my family, to my children, on Christmas Day. Who actually did do that to us, on... Christmas.




We're [finally] starting to laugh.
But don't get me wrong. We're addressing it.
Having lifelong friends who abhor the crazy too, helps.

When you cross those lines, into our sphere, instead of just shunning us (like you so often, dramatically, love to declare), I now reserve the right to take you down. You declared war years ago, we moved on (and found ourselves so happier, without your dragging on us,  constantly) and concentrated on surrounding ourselves with good people. We were clearly too nice about it.

I embrace the Fu.
Master Ox: [in despair] It's time to surrender, panda. Kung Fu is dead.
Po: I...ooh...you...you...! Kung Fu is de...ad!?! Fine! You stay in your prison of fear, with bars made of hopelessness. And all you get are three square meals a day of shame!
Master Croc: With despair for dessert.
Po: We'll take on Shen. And prove to all those who are hungry for justice and honor, that Kung Fu still lives!

After this Christmas, I can turn confidently to my mom when she tries to guilt us and say, 
"Whenever you wonder why we're *so* *close* with so many people and you complain we don't have time for 'real' family? 
Well, remember that moment. You don't have the right to ask that again."

Everyone understands when you choose to feed your kids organic instead of bad food that would hurt their bodies. It's ok to choose to turn off a tv full of junk. You cut out cancer when it invades. So why the flack when we choose to surround our children with only healthy people? It's our job to make sure their spirit and minds are healthy, along with their bodies.

So many vibrant, "community," successful friends- people who are entrepreneurs, active volunteers, people who DO things in & for their cities... totally got this scenario when I vented, and came forth with their own stories. Which is why they, like we, choose to focus on those that thrive, not take, and are truly happy, giving, and make us all better for knowing, and being inspired by, each other.


Again, the irony of arriving home after that Christmas, to find a pomegranate seedling lovingly, thoughtfully, and gone-out-of-her-way-to-leave, left by Nancy R. H. on our front porch, a gift she took the time to leave while visiting her children on Christmas Day... spoke volumes.

Her note:
"Copeland--Hi. Dropped pomegranate seedling off at your house this afternoon. Attached are two photos of its mother--one shows the mature fruit, the other the over-mature (yellowish) fruit. Your baby came from under this mother shrub growing at Libbey Oliver's home in Williamsburg. Good luck with it!
May we both live long enough to eat its fruit! NP"

We focus on fruiting, and removing pests.
[Deep breath. New Year. Higher Ground.]

Handsome Husband: "I'm calling 2012 The Year Of Liberation."

New Years was great, not diminished by the recent events. But clarity, certainly. Never have we been closer or more clear as a family, because we? We've always been fine.
But you? You other, extraneous people...



So, for New Years, we had a major dance party in the living room. Which is rather an awesome living room for a dance party...

We toasted with sparking cider and real sparking and traditional food for well-being.
And then, we began dinner. Here, we believe the New Year starts with a mix of stewed tomatoes, black eyed peas, and collards.


Copeland's Stew *You* Toe-Mah-Toes
  • Dice tomatoes (I used some from the stash of  the 150lbs we canned and put away from the summer- this is a great recipe to use the whole frozen tomatoes you squirrel away- just bring up out of the freezer, blanch in hot water to remove skin, and easily dice - our daughter loves "tomato ice cream" when I start taking knives to frozen tomatoes...)
  • In a pot, melt some butter, add tomatoes.  
  • Cube 4ish pieces of white bread, add to the mix. 
  • Sprinkle with good salt. Dump in more sugar than you think is necessary (just keep tasting until it tastes right). My Stew *You* Toe-Mah-Toes should have a thick, sweet consistency where you can still taste the tomato. If it's watery at all after cooking 30-40 minutes, add more bread & stir in until melded.
This year I did something a little nontraditional and fun. First I served, in a bowl, Stew *You* Toe-Mah-Toes. 
THEN, without washing the bowls, I ladled in, after they were drained:

Copeland's Save You Soup
If you're beloved, this soup will envelop you in its nurturing warmth, strengthen your bones, and give you luck, health, and wealth in the New Year. If you're not, down this quick so it *might* help you sprint as far away from us as fast as you can go. If you remind us you exist, we will focus on you, and you don't want that, so down this healthy brew quick and start running. I have not bagged my limit this season. Give me a reason to hunt. I now have the right to do so. Feel free to print this and whine to your psychiatrist about how you fear we're about to hurt you after ruining our family Christmas because you have no boyfriend or family that wants to be around you. Your psychiatrist will read the entire years of this blog and see we're funny, strong, healthy people full of life and friends. They will instead advise you to get a life. You should.
  • Sautee sliced bacon (1/2 pkg and you *know* better than to buy anything with nitrates, right? If you're on the *other* side of our warmth I smile and softly say, "Nitrates... are... your...friend...")
  • Add 3ish bulbs minced garlic, 1, 1 1/2 onions, 4-6 carrots thinly sliced
  • Throw in 1"ish strips of collards, 4ish handfuls.
  • Remember the Aji De Gallina? You made stock from the bones and leftover flesh, right? Oh, I was too lazy to add anything but water, but let it simmer, simmer, simmer, this afternoon along with a beautiful beef bone with marrow, then threw a colander into it so eventually I could, super lazily, just ladle bones and whatnot into the colander, catching the debris, so then had just the broth remaining in the roaster to ladle into my new soup.
  • Add black-eyed peas and start your simmer, simmer, simmer.
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • At the end? Just to remind us all? A glug o' vinegar. That slightly sour taste makes the soup beautifully robust, hearty, and reminds us to focus. If you're a friend, that's a good thing. If not, run. Our senses are sharper.
Once everything is bubbly and ready, first: have a dance party.
Handsome Husband just *literally* said, "Take that, punk lady, I'm going to funk!" And turned up Johnny Guitar Watson. Oh yeah?!? Ok fine.
Dance-A-Thon, Commence.


**Yay, 2012!!!!**
2012 Has already been fortuitous: We began it with loved ones.

So excited about The Very Interesting Year!
The Year Of Liberation.

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