Thursday, October 01, 2009

Solar Monday, with a Recipe

Today is a wonderful day. Today I realize the beginning of a dream harbored since I was in fourth grade and learned about renewable energy.Today the first phase of Operation Go Solar or Go Home (I know, how original, right?) begins. By the end of this week, the hot water that flows into my sink will have been heated by the sun. The concept captivated me. Energy from the sun, the wind, the water. Even as a kid I understood that there was something wrong with fuel that hurt the planet as much as oil, coal and nuclear power do. I live near a nuclear power plant, and now that they are here I think we owe it to the planet and the future to use them and not walk away, leaving potential disaster and waste behind. But I certainly don't think we need more. I'm not a huge fan of water power either, although as a child it was drilled into us that hydroelectric was the way of the future. Of course the propaganda for a local hydro plant had, I am sure, nothing to do with that. The river which used to freeze over every year near my home town doesn't any more. To deny the relationship between these two plants and that fact is to bury your head in the sand. The environmental impact of the two plants is also documented.The fish have to have help to get from place to place in the form of fish ladders, and some species have disappeared from these waters altogether. I know that solar and wind come with their own bugaboos; making panels and wind turbines involves chemicals and processes that are less than earth-friendly. But once they're up they rely on nothing more than sun or wind to make power. That, to me, makes sense. I let the sun dry my clothes. Why not let it heat my water, or power my laptop? After years of debate and decision making we've finally started a process that I hope and pray will end in energy independence for this household. Our heat will come from the trees around us. Our lights will be powered by solar panels, and our water will be heated the same way. Eventually I hope my car will be electric, and powered by the panels that will one day power my dvd player and my washing machine.Yes, I cried when I took this. Yes, it's that important to me. Important enough that I will sacrifice to make this happen. I wish it was that important to the whole world.
Last week we got our 1/4 cow for the year. We eat vegetarian for most of the week, but no one here is ready to give up their meat. Trouble is, the disturbing nature of the meat industry has led me to believe strongly that our meat should be as non-conformist as possible. That usually also means expensive, and so we eat less - or more accurately, we now consume a more rational amount of protein from animals. This year's contribution/sacrifice comes from a cow known as Montana, whom I've known since calf-hood. I know where they live, what they eat, how they're cared for. I've talked about this here before, so I don't need to go all soap-boxy on you now. Suffice to say this is a cow I can feel good about. So good that we had beef twice this week; rather of a rarity. The first event was on Tuesday when the meat arrived. After picking it up I became obsessed with the idea of having a steak, large, sirloin and right now, and so we did. Later in the week I had an odd craving for burgers. By then everything was frozen, but my craving wasn't willing to wait for slow thawing. I turned to my microwave, that trusty pal of mine. Everything went well for the first bit; most of the burger was thawed and I began to make patties, popping the remainder back in to finish thawing. I was in a hurry to get to the grilling part, so just pushed any old number on the 'weight defrost' button. I think I selected 32 pounds or something close to it and went on with my making of patties, oblivious. Great choice for 3/4 of a pound of ground beef, right? So here's my solution for 3/4 of a pound of excessively defrosted (read cooked...) ground beef. I call it:
The Impatient Carnivore's Burger Soup

1 tsp kosher salt
6 cranks coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp Herbes de Provence (use our own or my super secret recipe follows)
1/2 tsp bay leaf
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopper
1 green pepper chopped
4-5 medium sized carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic minced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans vegetable broth
2-3 T high-temp tolerant oil of choice (I like peanut)
1/2-3/4 pound of crumbled accidentally-overcooked-while-defrosting-in-the-microwave ground beef, preferably from a cow you knew personally. Can substitute 1/2 -3/4 lb of plain old ground beef.

If you don't use accidentally cooked beef, start by cooking it up. In a large, high sided skillet add 1T oil. Heat until hot, then add hamburger, stirring often, until cooked through. Remove from heat and drain in colander to remove fat. Make sure beef is crumbled. Set aside.

If you screwed up and killed the stuff in the microwave, just drain it and crumble it and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed stock pot pour 2 T oil. Heat on high until almost smoking. Add salt, onion, carrot and peppers. Stir to prevent sticking, reduce heat just enough to keep it from burning. Cook, stirring often, 4-5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add minced garlic, pepper, Herbes de Provence, and bay leaf. Cook 2-3 minutes on medium high heat. Add vegetable broth, tomatoes with their juices, drained and crumbled ground beef. Reduce temperature until soup is simmering. Cook until carrots are almost tender (I like mine to have a bit of crunch). Serve in Malea's soup bowls with a handful of leftover tortilla chips from the weekend.

Yummy, really! If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you. I really love it and so does Girl. Mr. Wonderful doesn't get any until dinner. Girl and I just couldn't resist, it smelled so good we had to have it for lunch!

MMO's Herbes de Provence, which is sort of an amalgam of a variety of recipes:
2 T each: Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Savory, Fennel Seed
1 T Lavender
Place all in spice jar, shake well to combine.


Kathleen said...

The recipe sounds awesome! I'm craving somethiing like this, and fortunately, I have no microwave, so no killing it all on the THAW cycle. I will, however, have to let it thaw in the fridge.

Jenny said...

LOL, sounds like a defrost my sweet cook of a husband would do. Also, our last 3 meat meals have been deer, rabbit and ostrich. I know those have all led happy nonfactory lives and eaten well.

I am so excited for your roof though. Seriously, excited and massively jealous. I imagine it is much more potent than the day I was finally able to full time cloth diaper my daughter. I cried with glee that day.

smbelcas said...

Melissa, congratulations on your solar install. The photos choke me up a bit. I wish my household could do it, but my buddy who works for one of the local solar places used her solarimeter on my roof and declared that we didn't have enough south-facing roof to come even close to our electric usage. All we could do would be add on solar hot water... and go up to yet another utility (on top of wood, oil, and electric, all of which we would have to retain). And our area is not windy enough for a turbine... *sigh*

Yarnhog said...

Fantastic! We have looked into solar several times, and each time it has been more outrageously expensive than the last. The last time I looked, they said it would cost me $30,000 to cut my electric bill $100 a month. I won't live long enough for that to pay off. Someday I hope solar cells will be efficient and inexpensive enough to make it worthwhile for everyone.

By the way, I didn't know lavender was edible (silly me, I guess). My son and I planted some yesterday for it's lovely smell, and he asked if we could eat it. I told him no. Now I'm going to have to try it. Any caveats, like, "Don't eat the French stuff; it's poisonous"?

tina said...

Good ON ya girlie! Kudos!