Why Garden Organically?

The reasons for being an organic gardener are many: concern for the environment, desire for self-sufficiency, and the joy of eating fresh food, to name a few. For me, gardening organically over the last twenty years has been both a cost issue and a nutritional choice. Organic, versus conventional, fruits and vegetables are less expensive to produce in the home garden, and they provide better nutrition.

1. First, let’s take a quick look at the price of using chemicals in a garden. With price, there are the obvious, monetary costs: $10 per gallon for all-purpose fertilizer, $156 per gallon for broad spectrum herbicide, $40 per half gallon of fungicide, $20 to $100 for a hand-held sprayer (prices are approximate and were obtained from a national retailer of garden and home products). Chemical costs can definitely add up over the years. Is the cost worth paying? I think not.

Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West (Fulcrum, $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-55591-725-8) by Jane Shellenberger (publisher and editor of Colorado Gardener) makes this interesting point: “Two world wars, plus the Korean and Vietnam wars, provided not only many of the chemicals adapted and marketed for postwar agricultural use, but also the mindset necessary to convince farmers and the public that we needed to do battle to overcome nature and her ‘pests,’ at every turn employing a chemical arsenal.” I definitely do not want chemicals in my garden that were originally designed to kill people, no matter what the agricultural adaptation has been.

In addition to the monetary costs, chemicals exact a very high price from the soil and its myriad organisms. Each teaspoon of soil holds hundreds if not thousands of living creatures, including microscopic worms, protozoa, nematodes, and fungi, such as the water bear (below): “Water bears are named for their slow-faited walk. Also known as tardigrades, these microbial extremophiles can survive a range of temperatures from near absolute zero to 304 degrees, plus 1,000 times more radiation than other animals.” (Organic Gardener’s Companion, p. 30).

When a gardener uses chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or synthetic fertilizers, they may solve a garden problem, but the short-term solution destroys the biodiversity of plants and animals that make a self-sustaining garden possible. Soil and its creatures, weeds, and desirable plants create a biodynamic system in every garden. While occasionally the system can become unbalanced, resulting in a garden problem, an overabundance of dandelions is far better than a chemically burned yard full of “dead” soil.

2. Another reason to grow vegetables and fruits organically is that they’ll provide you with more nutrition than conventionally grown food. For years I didn’t have the scientific verification to prove the better nutritional value in organically grown versus conventionally grown vegetables. Then, on February 13, 2009, Science News published an article by Janet Raloff titled “AAAS: Stress Can Make Plants More Nutritious.” In the article, Alyson Mitchell of UC–Davis “compared identical cultivators grown on certified organic plots versus those where standard fertilizers and pesticides were being applied. And as a rule, organics far surpassed their conventionally grown kin for vitamins and beneficial micronutrients, such as antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol.” Mitchell found that the extra stress that organically grown plants experience causes their “defensive secondary metabolites” to kick into action in order to fight off pests. These secondary metabolites are also the mechanism that plants use to produce “phenolic acids, flavonoids, alkaloids, and terpenoids”—these natural plant pesticides and sunscreens function as important micronutrients and vitamins for humans. “And one potential bonus: Better taste. Some of the secondary plant metabolites break down into flavor compounds.”

So, next time you’re gardening and see a moth nibbling on your cabbage, forgo spraying pesticide and remember, those little holes indicate a higher vitamin content! For additional information on organic gardening, I suggest you visit your local library and look for a copy of Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West by Jane Shellenberger. Copies are also available from the bookseller of your choice or at www.fulcrumbooks.com.

Posted by Ingrid Estell, veteran gardener and Special Sales Manager at Fulcrum

New Year, New Roles as Citizens

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Carwil Bjork-James

For those of you who make New Year’s resolutions, here’s one to consider (albeit a few weeks late): resolve to become a part of the solution this year. It might be easier than you think, thanks to Colorado state senator Morgan Carroll. A major advocate for citizen involvement, Morgan, with her new book out this month, Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change, shows how any ordinary citizen can make and change law and policy in their state, through practical tips, checklists, and sample documents. Morgan aims to give readers an inside look at how state legislatures really work through this accessible how-to manual.

Morgan conducts hundreds of town hall meetings and community seminars, teaching ordinary citizens how to influence the legislative process, and it was her own civic activism that launched her ultimate decision to run for office. In Take Back Your Government, she shares practical information and easy-to-follow steps for beginner advocates, including:

  • How to find out who your elected officials are
  • How to make contact– sample letters, e-mails, and telephone scripts are all included
  • How to write petitions and fact sheets
  • How to  testify at a legislative hearing
  • How to be an advocate in ten minutes or less
  • And more!
Morgan (above) will be at the Tattered Cover Colfax on Friday, February 10, at 7:30 pm, and at other venues around Denver this spring and summer. For her upcoming schedule, please check here. For more tips, follow Morgan on Twitter: @TakeBackYrGovt, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/takebackyourgovt, and on her blog: www.takebackyourgovt.com.
(Top photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Carwil Bjork-James)

Book Recommendations for Citizens and Supernaturals of Bon Temps, LA.

Have you ever wondered what books your favorite characters might read? Did Bruce Wayne read Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra before he went all bat-crazy, and isn’t it a pity that Elizabeth Bennet died before she could read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex?


Well, I wonder this very thing all the time. Today I’m turning my attention to one of my favorite summer shows, HBO’s True Blood (based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris), and providing a back-to-school reading list for the characters, who, IMHO, are in sore need of some book-learning.

Yes, Sookie. You need to read a book.

Sookie Stackhouse

Before Sookie flips her blond ponytail and goes running after the next handsome, brooding, undead guy, she might want to check out her local library. In the daytime, I’d recommend she pick up a copy of Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself and memorize it before she gets involved in any more vampire/werewolf/witch drama.

Also, since she does have that fairy bloodline thing, she could pick up In Search of the Lost Feminine: Decoding the Myths That Radically Reshaped Civilization and maybe start hanging with the goth fairies who work at Bon Temps’ local Hot Topic, listening to Mandragora Scream and deconstructing the patriarchy. I think it would be an improvement.

Tara Thornton

Tara, in the words of a not-so brave knight: "Run away! Run away!"

Poor Tara. She’s the only one with a lick of sense, but she can’t catch any breaks in Bon Temps, and her best friend, in addition to being vampire bait, is sort of a vapid, narcissistic ditz. She needs to read the classic The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker and put her good sense and healthy fear of undead creatures to use.

Also, while she’s resting up from the latest vampire attack or cage fight, she might want to flip through Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels. Roller derby might be a healthier way to act out her aggression than those cage fights.

Bill Compton

His hair is bad. His personality is worse.

Good ol’ Vampire Bill. Pasty and manipulative, with weird hair and those awkward bangs. When he’s not busy with his duties as Vampire King of Louisiana, he should take a load off and read our upcoming A Civil War Scrapbook: I Was There Too! Bill was actually there, so looking through the scrapbook might drudge up some fine memories of being a decent human being.

Also, because he is pretty much a deadbeat vampire dad, letting his progeny Jessica run around slurping blood from truckers and popped-collar frat boys, he might find it useful to crack open Kathleen Wall’s Parenting Tricks of the Trade.

Luna Garza

A Native American character on a hit show who has her own motivations and personality, and doesn't just exist to better the white characters? I think some applause is in order.

Bon Temp’s resident Navajo skinwalker is one tough cookie. Still, she’s a single mother to a werewolf/shapeshifter daughter, and she lost her own mother as an infant. She might seek wisdom from her women elders in Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women. And for her kiddo, a copy of Trickster: Native American Trickster Tales, A Graphic Collection might go a long way in saying, “You come from a beautiful and rich culture with a sad history. Also, sorry, your dad is a psycho werewolf.”

Eric Northman

Tall, blond, viking. Eric is the Beowulf to Bill's Diary of a Wimpy Kid

What’s there to say about Eric Northman, but that he was once a viking vampire baddie who was feared by men (and some women) and adored by women (and some men), until he lost his memories and became docile arm candy for a fairy. His current favorite activities include picking flowers for his lady-love, so he might be able to make use of Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks, for when he remembers that Sookie is a human and needs to eat. Also, I think he (and any other supernatural looking for a change of scenery) might want to peruse After Dark: Nightlife in Denver. Perhaps he could franchise Fangtasia and relocate to Denver. There are considerably less vampire-protesters here, and our pagans are more the buy-granola-in-bulk type than the control-the-dead sort.

All True Blood photos are property of HBO.

Blood, Sweat, and Derby

Derby season is on!

I fell head over heels in love with roller derby when I saw a Gotham Girls bout back in my college days. I loved the DIY aesthetic, the riot grrrl spirit, and, as a college cross-country runner (the most passive and boring-to-watch of college sports—consisting of running into the woods, and then later running out of the woods), I was immediately attracted to the aggression and showmanship of the sport. I instantly became a lifelong fan, but it wasn’t until recently that I started on the road to achieving my dream of becoming an actual derby dame. I bought a pair of used skates from a flea market and signed up for beginner skate lessons from Skate City.

I spend my evenings skating around my neighborhood, pinwheeling my arms and falling a lot. Fear of skating into a busy intersection is a great motivator for learning those hockey stops. And on Saturdays, I hop into the Skate City rink with the rest of my beginner class (all children) and learn skating techniques under a disco ball, to the dulcet croons of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. Making a dream come true is hard and humbling work. It’s like what Miley says in her song “Party in the USA”:

“I hopped off the plane at LAX
with a dream and my cardigan.
Welcome to the land of fame excess.
Am I gonna fit in?
My tummy’s turnin’ and I’m feelin’ kinda homesick
Too much pressure and I’m nervous,

That’s when the taxi man turned on the radio
and a Jay Z song was on.
So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin’ my head like yeah
Moving my hips like yeah,
And I got my hands up,
They’re playin my song
I know I’m gonna be ok.”
See? My path to becoming a roller girl is exactly like Miley’s path to becoming a famous chanteuse! My ten-year-old skating partner tells me that I’m a lot like Miley. Not to brag, but I can totally see it.

For more information on the amazing sport of roller derby, Catherine Mabe’s Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels is a great start. Not only does Mabe explain the rules and lingo of the sport, she also details derby’s history, from its beginnings in the the Great Depression to campy Roller Jam bouts, to the more recent riot grrrl revival. And there are interviews and lots of gorgeous photos of skaters past and present.

I would also recommend the documentary Hell on Wheels, about the roller derby revival in Austin, Texas. The recent derby movie and Ellen Page vehicle, Whipped, took a lot of its source material from Hell on Wheels, and the documentary is grittier, bloodier, and funnier than its fictional counterpart (and I say this as a person who has a special place in her heart reserved for Ellen Page should the day arise when Ellen wakes up and realizes that she should be bffs with me immediately).
For now, I’ll leave you with some sweet derby action:

Fulcrum’s Favorite Kids’ Books

It’s finally summer in Colorado. School’s out, library summer reading programs are in full swing, and with temperatures climbing into the 90s it’s the perfect time to consider finding a new page-turner to keep your kid content and in the shade. Our staff members have taken a look at the bookshelves in order to recommend the Fulcrum children’s book they love most.

In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin by Gloria Evangelista

Recommended by Carolyn Sobczak

I love this book! It combines a story, pumpkin fun facts, and a recipe for the perfect pumpkin pie. It’s a great book for fall without being too Halloweeny.

Alphabet Kingdom by Lauren A. Parent

Recommended by Katie O’Neill

I’m a big fan of kids’ books in general, but I’ve given Alphabet Kingdom to several of my young relatives because I think this is one of the exceptional ones. It’s a beautiful introduction to the world of words (alphabetically) and is so much fun to peruse, looking at all the nooks and crannies of Mo  McGee’s illustrations. How can you not love “Emily the elegant elephant eagerly elopes” with a wedding chapel and tiara-clad feminine elephant? Wonderful.

Sand to Stone: and Back Again by Nancy Bo Flood

Recommended by Ingrid Estell

Hoodoos. Goblins. Frozen ribbons of colored sand. Magical and very real, Sand to Stone is a great introduction to the sandstone beauty of the American Southwest. The wonderful photographs and engaging text are sure to entice children and their families to explore the amazing geology around them.

Grow Your Own Pizza: Gardening Plans and Recipes for Kids by Candace Hardesty

Recommended by Haley Berry

This is a clever, fun little book that teaches kids about gardening—and that food doesn’t just magically come from the grocery store. I’m a sucker for the neat little illustrations and diagrams. I wonder if I could grow my own cupcakes…

Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Thomas Locker

Recommended by Sam Scinta

This combination of Bruchac’s poetic text and Locker’s beautiful artwork is a great way for kids to learn about an American hero. Both a pleasure to read and a wonderful learning experience.

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki

Recommended by Dani Perea

My favorite children’s book is Trickster. It’s an anthology of twenty-one Native American trickster tales told by Native American storytellers and illustrated in comic book format. The short chapters make for great read-aloud story time, and I love the slapstick humor and mischief in each tale.

Fulcrum’s Picks for Father’s Day

This Sunday, June 19th, is Father’s Day. For the dad who has everything or the father who is hard to shop for, books are always a great gift idea. A few Fulcrum staffers shared books they recommend giving to the special dad in your life this year.

Growing Up True: Lessons from a Western Boyhood by Craig Barnes
Recommended by Carolyn Sobczak

A classic story of boyhood in the rural West. Barnes says, “I can stop a running horse in a round corral at thirty feet, without a bridle, and get him to walk up to me. I can tell a champion rooster from a second–rate bird with a speckled neck. I can dig ditch and fix fence. I can tell a real blizzard from a Texas whimper, and I can make a reasonable argument why Shakespeare was a woman.”

Campfires and Loon Calls: Travels in the Boundary Waters by Jerry Apps
Recommended by Sam Scinta

A wonderful recollection of travels to the Boundary Waters. Jerry recounts trips he made to the area with his son Steve as well as other family members over twenty-five years. Not only does the reader learn the importance of these sorts of journeys in building a strong family bond, but Jerry also does a beautiful job of paying homage to the power and magnificence of nature in our lives.

The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Mitsitam Cafe by Richard Hetzler
Recommended by Dani Perea

I’d like to get my dad a copy of The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook for Father’s Day. Since he retired, he’s been (adorably) trying to get into cooking family meals. This book would be perfect for him—it’s full of great food made with fresh ingredients that could be harvested from my mom’s garden or during my parents’ weekly trek to the farmers’ market.

Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink by Mitch Tobin
Recommended by Katie O’Neill

My pick for Father’s Day this year is Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink. When my father was a budding TV journalist in the late seventies, he and his videographer friend traveled all over the state of Arizona covering stories on the wild places, wildlife, and wild people 🙂 in Arizona for a segment on a local news station. They both became concerned and active conservationists based upon the stories they uncovered about the various endangered species in Arizona; many of those same stories are covered in Endangered. I think he would appreciate the excellent reporting work done by award–winning author Mitch Tobin in this book, and he’d be grateful for Tobin’s work on behalf of our endangered wildlife.

Great Road Rides Denver by Jay P.K. Kenney
Recommended by Jack Lenzo

It’s official: mornings are now warm enough to ride a bike comfortably, even for wimpy people like myself. If your dad wishes he rode more, and you want to celebrate Father’s Day with him again next year, check out Great Road Rides Denver. Jay gives you the scoop on the best streets to ride on and practical advice for sharing the road while keeping your cool.

Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary by Steve Friesen
Recommended by Brynn Flaherty

I plan to get my dad a copy of Buffalo Bill for this year’s Father’s Day. My dad is someone who can’t get enough of the old Western movies on TV, and he loves riding horses, shooting guns, and wearing all things Western. I’m pretty sure he’d like to think he was a cowboy in his past life 🙂 I know he’ll appreciate the incredible memorabilia and rare photographs from the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave that make this book so special. And Steve was nice enough to write a message to my dad in the copy I bought, which I’m sure will make my dad smile.

Spotlight on Native American Reads

Since I gushed about Every Day Is a Good Day (just reissued! You can get it here, or here!) on my last book blog, I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t also share some of oldies-but-goodies from our backlist:

This anthology is an exploration of how Christianity has touched, grabbed, and assaulted Native lifeways. This collection encompasses a wide range of stories from best-selling authors and from new voices. My favorite short story in Writing the Cross Culture is Sherman Alexie’s “Jesus Christ’s Half-Brother Is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation,” in which he issues these wise words: “books and beer are the best and worse defense.” That is some fine truth-telling.

Pagans in the Promised Land is a post-colonial analysis of US federal Indian law and policy. Author Steve Newcomb makes the case that US reliance on ancient religious distinctions between “Christians” and “heathens” violates the bedrock doctrine of separation of church and state. It’s a fine cocktail of hegemony-busting and constitutional fundamentalism, two things which usually don’t go so well together, but in this case Newcomb marries them well.

Sometimes indigenous folks crack a smile; you know, in between fighting for basic civil liberties and crying over litter. Just a little gallows humor there, dear readers. Visions for the Future is a seriously good collection of Native artists and their work. All too often, Native art is reduced to chicken-feather dreamcatchers made in China and those terrible Lee Bogle paintings (not even going to give the courtesy of a link, they’re that bad), and the truly great art being produced by actual Natives is pushed to the margins. There’s some great protest art  in this book from young native artists like Bunky Echo-Hawk and Thomas Ryan Red Corn.

Next week, I’m going to spotlight some great Native bloggers (because I know you can never get enough). Happy reading, everyone!

“Every Day Is a Good Day” excerpt

Every Day is a Good Day is one of my favorite books, and it was also part of the reason why I was so interested in working for a press like Fulcrum. Although my father is Native, My mother is not, so the first time I was aware of being part of a community of Native women was when I was taking dreaded Zuni language classes after middle school, on the days when I didn’t also have Hebrew school.

With every fiber of my 13-year-old being, I despised having to go to even more school after what was already a torturous middle school experience, and it wasn’t until I was a couple years older that I appreciated and understood what the women teachers and older students shared with me on those afternoons in the spaces between the lesson activities—a shared experience of what is to be a Native and a woman in America today. It was the lessons I learned in the whispers, passed notes, and preclass chatter that helped me remain proud and connected to my people through activism, once I set out into the world on my own and faced marginalization, tokenism, and erasure.

Upon hearing that I work for Fulcrum, most of the Native women that I have met tell me that they own a copy of the original edition of this book, dog-eared with favorite passages underlined and commented on in the margins. I think we all feel that this book belongs to us and that we’re a part of it, because although we’re not part of the list of contributors, our common experiences are printed on the pages. My favorite passage, by Angela Gonzales, in the “Context Is Everything” chapter, touches on pretendians, moving between cultures, and the issues of affirming an identity that outsiders see as performative or part of a romantic past.

          Some people want to emulate what they perceive to be Native American culture because they believe they have no culture of their own. [. . . ]

            In Western culture, a college degree, especially from Harvard, confers social status on people. It is very hierarchical. It doesn’t really matter where you get your degree from, what matters is what you do with it. I realize that my being able to get into a place like Harvard was a bit of sentimental tokenism. But once I got in, I had to really work hard. What I found at Hopi is that the degrees may close doors instead of open doors. Western education teaches you to argue, to evaluate, and to insist upon the rightness of your perspective. I don’t think I have to unlearn all these things; I just need to learn to adapt them to situations at home. It is a tough balancing act.

            There are a lot of questions about Indian identity in urban areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area where I used to live. As a consequence, I don’t display my college degree on my office wall. Instead I display my certificate of tribal enrollment, because I have been challenged about my tribal identity. That was really a new experience for me. In an urban context, “Indian-ness” is defined by whether you are part of the Indian community. I have this sense of who I am as Hopi, and yet that identity was being denied because I didn’t meet this other person’s criteria for what an Indian is.

            I am really opposed to this idea of being either a.) Indian or b.) non-Indian. I think that it can always be a blending of the two cultures. You take what is good from both cultures and it makes you a better person.

The memorial edition of Every Day is a Good Day is available for purchase right now. A foundation has been set up in Wilma Mankiller’s name, and the book is also available on the foundation’s webpage.

Weekend Reads

Happy Friday and happy Memorial Day weekend! Fulcrum is closing early today so that everyone can take off for weekend trips, BBQs, and Rockies baseball games. As for me, I am heading up to Snowmass for the weekend to go skiing. Yes, that’s right. Skiing. Because of the incredibly wet and snowy Spring that Colorado’s had, Aspen Mountain actually has a larger snow base now than back in January (71 inches compared to 38 inches!), and they’ve decided to open up for some Memorial weekend skiing fun. It may be more like waterskiing than actual skiing, but it should be fun regardless!

But aside from skiing and hiking this weekend, I will surely be relaxing as well. I’ve decided to bring two of Fulcrum’s titles with me, to get pumped for summer:

The third edition of Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs (Fulcrum Publishing, 978-1-55591-746-3, $22.95). I’ve hiked a handful of fourteeners over the years, but my husband and I are feeling especially motivated to this year after our recent move to Denver from the Aspen/Snowmass area. We feel like we will need to compensate for the lack of daily hiking we were used to doing (when we lived in the mountains) with some fun weekend trips to hike some big mountains. Plus it will be a great way to explore new parts of Colorado and mountain ranges we are not as familiar with. We have our eye on Uncompahgre Peak, over in the San Juan mountain range near the mining town of Ouray. Uncompahgre is the sixth highest peak in Colorado, and has a very dramatic shape to it—almost cathedral-like. It is a striking peak and not known to be a very difficult hike as far as fourteeners go. This hike, and all of the 58 fourteeners in Colorado, can of course be found in Colorado’s Fourteeners.

For those looking for wonderful Colorado hikes with less hype, check out Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Thirteeners: From 13,800 to 13,999 feet (Fulcrum Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-55591-419-6, $19.95). These are all fantastic hikes, and thirteeners often have fewer people on the trails, which can be a nice bonus when you are out in the wilderness. For more information on Gerry Roach and his classic hiking guidebooks, check out an interview he did with Outside Magazine online recently.

This weekend, I am also going to be flipping through Renee Wilkinson’s Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (Fulcrum Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-55591-748-7, $26.95). This highly anticipated first book from the hip Portland local and founder of hipchickdigs.com, apopular blog dedicated to urban homesteading, is going to hopefully help me start planting my first herbs and veggies ever. We are thrilled to finally have a small (more like tiny) backyard with sun and a little room to grow some goodies. Being the excited novices that we are, my husband and I are looking to Modern Homestead to guide us towards getting the soil ready, picking the right veggies for our space, and making some wonderful, fresh food (and possibly canning) with our crops this summer.

Have a wonderful long weekend, and don’t forget to tune in to our blog on Tuesday, May 31, for an update from Dani and Katie on BEA 2011!

Cooking at home with The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

This week, the Marketing Department decided to take our work home with us and try our hand at cooking a few recipes from the beautiful Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN-13: 978-1-55591-747-0). You may have read marketing manager Katie O’Neill’s post yesterday describing her attempt at the Cranberry Crumble(d), found on page 149. I have no doubt that if cranberries were in season right now (really, where do cranberries go after Thanksgiving?), Katie’s crumble would have been fantastic. I’m going to file that recipe away for next Thanksgiving.

I chose a couple of recipes with ingredients that are in season year-round but especially good during the summer months, when fresh local produce is available. The first recipe I made was the Quinoa Salad, found on page 53. I love quinoa and am always looking for new recipes and new ways to eat it. It’s a great light meal, perfect for lunch or summer dinner, plus it’s packed with protein. The Quinoa Salad from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook is incredibly easy to make and very flavorful.

Quinoa in the pot from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

I served it with chicken breasts that I had in the fridge, and my husband and I devoured the meal. The honey and lemon vinaigrette that you pour over the quinoa was light and zesty and paired wonderfully with the cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions. I loved it and would make this simple yet flavorful salad again any day.

Quinoa Salad from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

The next night, I ramped up the technical difficulty a bit and went for the Chicken Mole Verde Tacos, found on page 78 (the mole verde is on page page 134). Wow. These were a far cry from the Martha Stewart, anyone-can-cook-them recipes I typically make, but the extra effort really paid off. I was so pleased with how this mole dish came out, and again, so was my husband (who went back for seconds AND thirds).

The whole meal took about 2.5 hours to cook, but with a little prep beforehand, most of that time is spent with chicken in the oven and mole simmering on the stove. This dish is loaded with flavor from tomatillos, a poblano pepper, an anaheim pepper, and tons of fresh squeezed orange, lemon, and lime juice. We put the chicken mole on corn tortillas and topped it with queso fresco, salsa, and cilantro, and we ended up with tacos that were spicy, tangy, tender, and colorful. Yum.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook next time you are looking for a fresh, new recipe. After the success of this week’s meals, there are 87 more wonderful-looking dishes in the cookbook that I can’t wait to try. Especially the Cranberry Crumble (in about seven months)!