Stacking Functions Garden


Recipe: simple crock-pot borscht

Back to school at our house means I have to start contributing a bit more to meal planning and preparation than I did during the summer. Naturally this leads to panic, which leads to soup.

borscht with bread

(Doesn’t this picture remind you just a bit of an Inn at the Crossroads picture? They are hands-down my favorite new blog of 2011.)

6 lbs beets
2 med. onions, or 1 large
1 qt beef or chicken stock
juice from one lemon
1 tsp. dill weed (or several sprigs fresh)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and roughly chop the beets and onions and place in crock pot.

2. Add stock, then enough water so that beets and onions are just barely covered with liquid. To enhance flavor and nutritional value, you could use 100% stock.

3. Cook all day on low, or 4-6 hours on high. When the beets are soft it’s done, but you have quite a bit of wiggle room. It’s fine if they get a little overdone.

4. Add lemon juice and dill, then mix with an immersion blender until smooth.

5. Salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!

We served each bowl with a single boiled potato and a dollop of sour cream, both highly recommended. This is a very light soup, so the potato and bread made it into a meal. The best part: this makes a TON of soup. Our family of 4 ate heartily, then we had 5 pints of leftover soup to freeze:

These are so great for lunches. I have 4 different flavors of soup in the freezer right now!

Variation: this is adapted from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian recipe. He roasts the beets first, which alters the flavor of this a bit (and shortens the cooking time dramatically). I like it both ways.



Cargo bike!

Finally, my Christmas wish from 2009 has come true. We are the proud new owners of a Sun Atlas cargo bike! Here’s Adam and the kids riding it home from the farmers market last weekend:

Why a cargo bike? Well, the kids outgrew their baby carriage and I needed a way to get them to preschool in the mornings this fall.

Why the Sun Atlas? Price was the deciding factor — it’s among the most affordable complete cargo bikes we’ve seen, and we’ve been shopping around for a long time.  We looked at Xtracycle, Yuba Mundo, an Electra Townie with Xtracycle FreeRadical add-on (which was affordable but uncomfortable), and we also even fantasized about the Big Dummy or (be still my Dutch heart) a bak fiet.  But our tight budget won out in the end, and we went with this very comfortable, affordable, versatile solution.

The other thing was this: I’m four inches taller than Adam, and in order to justify spending this kind of dough on a bike we wanted to be able to share it.  That meant a frame that was made for sharing — the seat is easy to adjust and at an angle such that it moves farther away from the handlebars the higher you raise it, making on-the-fly adjustments easy.

So enter the Sun Atlas, which we were lucky enough to be able to test ride — both of us — and buy at Varsity Bikes in dinkytown.  This bike is no Big Dummy; many of the components are a bit on the cheap side: the center kick-stand, for example.  But Adam’s a pro at finding gently used bike parts on eBay so we should have no problem swapping out various components as that becomes necessary.  The frame and the wheelset are the most important things right now, and they rock!

Here’s how we customized it for four-year-old twin transport:

mountain bike bar ends - or foot pegs

First, Adam picked up two sets of mountain bike bar ends from the salvage bin at the Hub to attach for foot pegs, so the kids’ feet wouldn’t just be hanging there.  Here’s how the look on: (with princess shoes of course)

However, their heels were still dangerously close, at times, to those spinning spokes, so we also decided to go for it and get the Xtracycle bags. The Sun Atlas is made to be compatible with most Xtracycle accessories. They’re not necessary for hauling kids, obviously, but they’ll make the bike much more useful in the long run.

Here was our solution for something to hold on to:

Stem from the Hub salvage yard, and an inexpensive set of handlebars and grips, considerably cheaper than the Xtracycle “stoker bar.”

Finally, we did a bit of sewing — a bit of colorful canvas and some foam from the fabric store and we had a nice little pad for the kids to sit on.  ALL SET!

Sun Atlas Cargo bike

The first couple times we took this out the kids were a little nervous, but now… well now they barely even hang on and I have to warn them when we’re about to go over potholes.  Anneke sits in front and holds on to the handlebars and Rowan usually just holds on to the bar under the pad.

This thing is A BLAST to ride. Much easier than pulling the baby carriage, even with 75 lbs of kids on the back.  And the basket that Adam bought me for my birthday last year fits perfectly on the front! This bike is the bees’ knees.  It was worth the wait!