DIY Alfalfa Sprouts

During winter I feel wrong buying nice fresh lettuces. They can't be in season, can they? So I tried a DIY lettuce substitute straight from my childhood--homegrown alfalfa sprouts.

Through the mists of time I remembered my mom always used a tablespoon of alfalfa seeds. She had a fancy Biosta Sprouter, and before that some Sprouting Strainer Lids (basically plastic mesh tops that fit mason jars). Having none of these, I used a mason jar, cheesecloth and a rubber band. I found the alfalfa seeds in the bulk section of the local food co-op.

Alfalfa seeds in jar, covered with cheesecloth secured with elastic

I put the jar on the sink like the bean sprouts I made in the past, and watered them daily by filling the jar and then pouring the water out again. The cheesecloth got a little funky-looking in the process, but the resulting sprouts were fine.

My alfalfa sprouts were ready in about 5 days. I removed them from the jar and put them in the fridge to stop the growing and keep them fresh. Before refrigerating, I like to hold them loosely under running water to rinse away some of those little brown seed hulls.

Then I store them on a paper towel (the rinse water makes it wet, which is good) in a plastic takeout container.

An egg salad sandwich with sprouts--no lettuce!

P. S. When I was in grade school the other kids picked on me for the alfalfa sprouts my mom put in my sandwiches. "Ew, WORMS!" I just rolled my eyes.

P.P.S. On second thought, I guess lettuce is OK if it's locally grown, like the stuff at the Winter Farmer's Market.

Favorite Songs of 2010

I divided this list into two sections, as seemed natural: "regular new" and "smacks of the 80s." Also I'm trying Soundcloud this year so you can just listen right off the page. (Give it a few secs.)

Regular New 2010 Songs

Subliminal Message: Happy Birthday
This band is from the town where I live. That is remarkable because Brattleboro, Vermont only has about 12,000 people. Yet I did not discover Happy Birthday through word of mouth, or at the bar, or at a show. I found them the way I find everything--on the Internet. It was only after I picked this song for my radio show that I learned they're from like, down the street. Anyway, I love the glides (glissando)--that thing where, like the beginning of "Rhapsody in Blue," the notes swoop from low to high, sounding a bit like a classy siren going off. Nice.

Happy Birthday - Subliminal Message by subpop

Let's Get Out of Here: Les Savy Fav
A song about going home together. "I just want you to want me right now." It's like a grunge ballad--sweet but still rockin.

Les Savy Fav - Let's Get Out of Here by Wichita Recordings

Boy: Ra Ra Riot
This band from Syracuse was also on my 2009 list (remixed). I just love their sound I guess--joyful, propulsive, perfect pop. Very crisp guitar lines, nice strings, beautiful pogo-sticking from the bass & drums. This song always makes me smile. No idea what it's about.

Ra Ra Riot - Boy by Arts & Crafts

Real Life: Tanlines
This is like club music gone psychedelic, plus tabla. I love it. The lyrics play to my drippy nostalgic side: "You might think I'm still that way. It's only natural. It was a past life thing, it was a past life thing. It wasn't anything at all." I also love the apparent shout-out to Missing Person's "Destination Unknown." You guys are awesome.

Tanlines - Real Life by musicmule

Bang Bang Bang (f. MNDR & Q-Tip): Mark Ronson
MNDR & Q-Tip are a great pair on this track. It is super catchy, with a very pleasing stutter-synth that is a real earworm. I don't know what MNDR is saying but her attitude is so cool that I sing along with her anyway. "Shake it to morella!" Or whatever.

Bang Bang Bang (Feat. MNDR & Q-Tip)- Mark Ronson by kmdskier

Landscapes: Gregory and the Hawk
Sweet, quiet vocals from Meredith Godreau and some instrument I can't quite identify. Hammered dulcimer? Some gamelan thing? Wait, is it a KOTO? No matter, it's lovely. Her voice makes me want to hang out with her, maybe get some tea.

Gregory and the Hawk - Landscapes by FatCat Records

Shutterbugg: Big Boi
This song got me running again after baby. I'd cue it up on the iPod and go. It is not even close to electro-pop. Big Boi's rapid rapping, the goofy "buh-buh-buh-buh" bass, the foul language--all great to get you up and moving and singing. Sasha Frere Jones calls it "sparkly and irresistible" and he is correct.

Big Boi- Shutterbugg by darkbloom

Loxtep: Annuals
They're from North Carolina, but this song has a fabulous Latin vibe (besides being quite beepy, which is how I like it). "Your line around my neck keeps pullin' pullin'"... and then the pretty children's chorus!

Annuals - Loxtep by IndieHearts

Songs that Smack of the 80s

Your Woman: Cats on Fire
They're Finnish! This cover is amazing, yet with kind of a classic sock-hop sound and lyrics. "I could never be your woman," explains the lead singer. "Why did you play me that way?" Except I'm pretty sure the lead singer is a guy. Apparently this is also true of the original version by White Town (1997). The guitar on this really slays me, it sounds like if Johnny Marr is playing the balalaika. Too delicious.

Cats on Fire - Your Woman by joolsjoyce

Not In Love: Crystal Castles
What better way to make your song sound authentically 80s than to get the guy from The Cure to sing for you? Robert Smith's voice immediately transports me to cold teen Novembers of mild misbehavior and pining to be grown up. This is one of several songs here with lyrics that make me sentimental like a 3-hanky movie: "And we were lovers, now we can't be friends." (The Internet tells me this was a Platinum Blonde song from 1983. BACK IN THE DAY.)

Crystal Castles - Not In Love (Feat. Robert Smith) by Posh Magazine

The Mall & Misery: Broken Bells
The team of Danger Mouse and the guy from the Shins (OK, I know his name, it's James Mercer) formed Broken Bells and released a like-named album in March 2010. It's as good as you might expect. (That is, very.) This particular song starts out a little bit twangy country, then a sweeping string section comes in after 30 seconds, and only after almost a minute does the beat and all the rest kick in. My favorite parts--the little soap bubble pop sound in the background during the verse. Best of all, the raw and twangy Joy Division guitar thing that shows up. Egad!

Boo, the Soundcloud track got taken down, so here's Youtube.

I Can Change: LCD Soundsystem
Do you like Yaz? Gary Numan? How about Flock of Seagulls? If so, then you will love "I Can Change." This song is almost too 80s even for me. But not quite! I can take it!

LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change by IndieRockReviews

I also really liked:

Living Days: Let's Kiss (Youtube)
I Feel Bonnie: Hot Chip f. Bonnie Prince Billy (rcrdlbl)
O.N.E. (XXXChange remix): Yeasayer (The Fader)
A Million Miles: Don Diablo (SoundCloud)
Summer: Atypicals (Bandcamp)
Julius: Starf••ker (Myspace)
Tom Cruz: Plants & Animals (KEXP)
Dissembler: Woodhands (Spinner ***extra stars for video that makes me homesick for Toronto)

Brattleboro Winter Farmer's Market abuzz

In Brattleboro, Vermont, we are lucky because the indoor Winter Farmer's Market starts up downtown right after the outdoor Farmer's Market ends in October. The Winter Market is organized by Post Oil Solutions and runs from November to March on Saturdays, 10am to 2pm. There you'll find agricultural products, artisanal crafts and baked goods, plus hot ready-to-eat food and live music. The market is in the River Garden space at 153 Main Street.

I stopped by the busy market today and took a few snaps. It's so hopping there around lunch-time that it helps to move with the "traffic" of people shuffling counterclockwise looking at the stalls and products and chatting with the vendors. There are many other vendors and products there besides those pictured of course--this is just a sampling.

Crates of vegetables greet you at the front door of the River Garden

Dwight Miller Orchards syrups, vinegar, and jams (left), apples (right)

Amazing Planet Farm squashes and pickles (left) and eggs (right)

There are tons of crafts and gorgeous handmade items at the market, like this jewelry

Handmade creations (above and below) by Dandelion Design--such cute stuff!

Fairy house (background), acorn people and gnomes

Susan Dunning's gorgeous hand thrown pottery

Want food NOW? There's plenty of delicious prepared food, like this
African spinach dish with rice and fried plantains

African Chicken Stew with Peanut Sauce


As far as I can tell, this stew is "African" because it contains peanuts and exotic spices... like cumin. Perhaps it's as African as calling something "American" because it contains cheese and ground beef. Nonetheless, this slow cooker stew is very delicious. (And it also uses up chickpeas!)

The stew originated because I made the "African Peanut Sauce" on page 299 of Terry Blonder Golson's cookbook 1,000 Lowfat Recipes. To make the sauce, start with onions & garlic sautéed in oil, then throw in a bit of curry powder and ground coriander, then stir in a large can of crushed tomatoes, some peanut butter and some chopped roasted peanuts. Cook together and you're done.

But I made a mistake. Instead of crushed tomatoes, I added a can of puréed tomatoes. Horrors! The result was VERRY tomato-y. I could tell the tomato taste would overpower and wreck whatever slow cooked stew I wanted to make. I did not freak out! Instead I divided the sauce into 3 portions and froze two of them. Then I made my stew--here's the recipe.

  • 3-4 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 can (15 oz. can) of chickpeas
  • small onion, chopped
  • oil for frying (such as canola or olive)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6-8 chicken thighs cut into chunks (or 2-3 breasts in a pinch)
  • dashes of ground cumin, ground ginger, and cinnamon
  • 1/3 recipe of peanut sauce described above
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or water is fine)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt
  1. Put carrots and chickpeas in the slow cooker.
  2. Fry onion in oil until aromatic, then add garlic.
  3. Add chicken thighs and stir them around until they are cooked on the outside. Add spices and stir together.
  4. Add sauce, peanut butter, and broth. Cook together briefly, stirring until peanut butter has been incorporated. Pour into slow cooker.
  5. Cook on High all day (about 8 hours). I like to stir it halfway through if I'm home.
  6. About 1/2 hour before serving, add the lemon juice. Salt to taste.

We have this with whole wheat couscous and greens. Serves 4.

Chickpea & orzo salad

I have a lot of chickpeas and have been trying to use them up. Hummus of course. Also Molly Wizenberg's Curried Lentil Soup is an unexpected and delicious vehicle for chickpeas. Handfuls thrown on a salad are nice. But I still have more chickpeas. Here's a recent invention.


cooked orzo (1 cup dry)
crumbled feta to taste
cooked kale (maybe 1/2 cup)
15 oz. can chickpeas
dressing made of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dried basil
salt & pepper
chopped red onion (save for garnish)

If possible, let chill for at least 4 hours. We passed this with the chopped red onion so folks could add as much onion as they wanted (or reject it, as in the case of our smallest diner).

Any favorite uses for chickpeas? Also, do you prefer to call them garbanzos?