I just came back from the Florida Gulf, visiting my partner Morgan.  It was an exotic tropical vacation for me, since I'm used to the dry climate of the Rocky Mountain foothills.  The Gulf is a very different world! 

In a lot of ways, the Florida landscape felt very alien to me - lizards clinging to the curtains, Spanish moss hanging from telephone lines, and the scent of saltwater forever on the air. 

The feel and flavor of the Gulf is so very different from my landlocked Rockies home, and the local food was a deliciously exotic treat. 

One word:  Seafood.  Oh my... peel n' eat shrimp, mango tuna tartare, oyster shooters, fried shrimp with hot sauce, raw oysters on the half shell, triggerfish tacos, spicy ginger shrimp ka-bobs, seared tuna with cilantro...

It's making me drool a little just thinking about all the seafood. 

A month or so ago, my mom gifted me a giant bag of rolled oats.  I've been waiting for a reason to use them, since oatmeal really isn't my thing.  Well, yesterday it happened - I finally ran out of granola

I adapted this granola recipe from one by the ladies at the Hell's Backbone Grill (a women-owned, Buddhist, local and organic restaurant in Boulder, UT).  'Brown Betty' granola is hearty and subtly maple-flavored, with lots of almonds. 

And yes, I have had Ram Jam's "Oh Black Betty (bam-a-lam)" running through my head for the last few days.

Lately, it's been kind of hard for me to fall asleep.  Since I need 8 hours of sleep to be a happy, sane human, actually falling asleep is kind of important...

Time to open the herbal medicine cabinet!  I based this tea recipe on a blend by a wonderful herbal apothecary in my area, and used what I had around the house.  It makes a warm, relaxing sleep aid tea you can drink before bedtime.

~ 2 parts lemon balm leaf
~ 2 parts catnip flower/leaf
~ 2 parts skullcap leaf
~ 1 part lavender flowers
~ 1 part passionflower flower/leaf

+ 2 parts oatstraw (I didn't have any, but if you do use it!)

Those are some sexy loaves...
I live approximately 5,760 feet above sea level.  Now, baking bread from scratch is tricky enough, but add all sorts of wacky pressure changes from high altitude?  Yep, we're in trouble.

But never fear!  High altitude baking can be done.  I've been using this homemade bread recipe for months now, and it just keeps getting better.

The recipe yields two loaves of whole-wheat bread that rest between sandwich-grade fluffy and moistly dense.  For those of you at sea-level, I'll include some alternate ingredient measurements.  

Alright.  I don't usually do this.  But I stumbled across this recipe, magically happened to have all the ingredients on hand (how often does that happen?!), so I gave this exotic recipe a shot.

Korean-style steamed eggs.  As in, salty custard-smooth eggs with some garnish on top... also known as 'gyeran jjim'... let's see how it goes!

Squash is a winter staple around these parts, but I never quite know what to do with it.  Spaghetti squash, on the other hand, never fails to deliver! 

Introducing spaghetti squash as... what else?  Spaghetti!

Vegan, gluten-free, seasonal spaghetti, that is.  I used all local and gifted ingredients for this squash-ilicious spaghetti.

~ spaghetti squash, local and organic
~ garlic, local and organic
~ yellow onion, local and organic
~ green onion, dehydrated, gifted
~ green onion, fresh, gifted*
~ garlic-infused olive oil, gifted
~ RealSalt, sourced near my home state
~ black pepper, from bulk into a reusable shaker

* You can keep green onions growing for a long time in a jar.  Keep them in sunlight and replace the water frequently.  Trim off the tops and they'll grow back!

My roommates are comedians.
Yogurt is incredibly easy to make.  There's really no reason to buy yogurt in those plastic cartons - especially when you have a source of free milk! 

I know most folks aren't as lucky as I am in the free-milk arena, but free milk happens

First, Morgan worked at a local community organization which had a surplus of free food - much of this food came to me, including gallons of milk! 

Lately, my roommates have been in and out of town, leaving me with soon-to-expire milk. 

My thoughts on this?  1.  Excellent.  2.  Yogurt!  3.  Most excellent.

And the best part is, you can make yogurt too!

I confess, I'm not very good at making up new recipes.  I like eggs, nachos, and leftovers - and if there are no leftovers, I'm likely to fry a single ingredient and simply salt it to edibility.

Pretty lame cooking tactics, I know.

I called Morgan (my personal chef) for a little help, starting with one ingredient:  beets.

After asking what other ingredients I had on hand, she made the call:  Casserole

There's something so wonderful about arugula.  It tastes like spring and fall at the same time, and pairs perfectly with parmesan cheese...

Though my cold frame experiment went downhill, I salvaged the arugula.  Excellent! 

Fast-forward through a successful container transplant, and I've had windowsill arugula for the last 3 months.  I harvest here and there, and stage periodic ladybug (actually, West Asian Beetle) coups to stave off the aphid infestation.

Lately, my arugula has begun to flower!

Before each meal, Morgan and I look at each other and say, "Okay, let's talk about this."  We go through each ingredient, and think about its source - local, organic, gifted food is ideal!  Sometimes we're lucky enough to have an all-local meal, which feels amazing.

Today, my refrigerator was sparse.  It's been a week and a half since my last CSA delivery, and I'm running out of ingredients and ideas!

Enter IngredientPairings.com.  I often need a little help imagining how things will taste together.  So, I entered in an ingredient:  'leeks'.  From there, I found that leeks go well with pasta - I just happen to have pasta!  I added 'pasta' to the search, found that tempeh goes well with leeks & pasta, and the recipe snowballed into a local, organic, gifted, (vegan!) confection.

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