Now that MSP is on a sort of forced vacation due to her heart attack we have been poking about town, riding our bikes, seeing the new Harry Potter movie (yes, we both cried like little girls) and scoping out new vegan cafes and as a result I haven’t posted many of the new recipes we’ve tried. I’ve been feeling like I have no imagination when it comes to the house dinner menu, not like I keep making the same meals over and over but more like I keep getting stuck in the same genre. Like if you were reading and never picked anything except romance novels and totally skipped the sections with sci-fi or natural history. Plus, my grocery shopping budget has gone completely out of control again. I need to get back on board with a meal plan, a menu and a shopping list. It is so terribly easy to get totally off-balance with your spending when you fail to pay close attention to what you’re doing. Also, I’ve asked MSP (Miss Skinny Pants for those who have forgotten) to help me with meal suggestions and ideas.
1. PCC collard slaw. We tried this at one of our local coops, PCC, here in Seattle. They were having a deli sale and handing out samples to get people interested or hooked depending on your point of view. I tried this on the recommendation of a clerk who knows I have a weak spot for PCC’s celery root slaw and who urged me try it. While not up there with the celery root slaw it is still much better than I had anticipated. The thought of raw collard greens was not exactly appealing to me but the mix of collards, onions, raisins and sweet/tangy dressing really popped. And even better, PCC provides recipes for any and all foods prepared on site. If you are willing to try a non-traditional coleslaw or you are looking for a different way to prepare those same old greens, then this Collard Slaw is the way to go. The link will take you directly to the recipe as provided by PCC. It should be noted that I used Nayonaise and not Veganaise in order to drastically reduce the fat.
2. Vegan Jambalaya. We haven’t actually made this one yet. It’s on tap for this evening and will go nicely with the leftover collard slaw. Depending on where you are in the country right now this warm and spicy dish might not sound very appealing what with everyone elses record-breaking temperatures but here in Seattle it is overcast and cool making this the perfect “the summer that never was” kind of meal. Again the link will take you directly to the recipe we used. We are going to use Trader Joe’s vegetarian Italian sausage and not the combination of sausage and tempeh called for in the recipe. Additionally I plan on leaving out the sort of ridiculous amounts of oil called for. I recalculated the nutritional information shown on the recipe page using just the sausage and cutting out the oil and was able to cut the calories to 378 a serving instead of 721 and the fat to 13% and not 41%. Recipes like this are a perfect example of a vegan whole food turned unhealthy. Thankfully it isn’t hard to bring them back into the healthy camp again.
3. Vegan Savory Muffins. I made these this morning with, as usual, a few changes. Instead of 1/2 cup polenta and 1 cup flour I used 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup of cornmeal. I also substituted green bell pepper and a couple of tablespoons of minced sun-dried tomatoes for the plain red bell pepper since I didn’t have a red bell pepper and I assumed the red jalapenos I do have would probably be a bit much. I also resorted to dried thyme instead of fresh. I used half a teaspoon but I think when I make them again a quarter teaspoon might be better as the thyme can become a bit overwhelming. The texture of the muffins is wonderful but will not stand up to dragging around in your lunch box. They are rich and velvety but fall apart if you so much as look at them sternly.
4. Tex-Mex Summer Squash Casserole. Instead of using the vegan cheese and salsa called for in this recipe I used (well actually MSP used) Nacho Mama’s Vegan Fire-Roasted Queso Sauce (see previous post about this miraculous substance) thereby reducing the added fat to ZERO (this sentence works better if you can do it in Oprah’s voice in your head). I also added a jar of drained pinto beans. Everything else remained as it was in the recipe. I had 2 servings and one for a snack later, it was that good. Creamy, savory and with a hint of spicy this would be an excellent topping for masa cakes or as tamale filling perhaps. MSP thought she would like to mix it with some cooked elbow macaroni for a Cheesy-Mexi-Pasta kind of thing and I can definitely see where that would totally work. The great thing about this dish is that it’s simple enough to be easy to whip up and yet still do all manner of creative tweaks so that it is never the same dish twice. Great for kids and unmotivated other halfs to make.
4. Peach-Apricot Sauce. We had a few organic peaches and apricots around the house that had reached that level of ripeness that is too good to throw away but not appealing for eating out of hand, soft and with some bruising. Rather than waste them I decided to chop them up, skins and all and simmer them gently for an hour or so in a bit of water. Once they had cooled a bit I ran them through a food mill to remove the skins and any hard bits. The result is a thick warm sauce that resembles peach butter, though not quite as thick as what one would spread on bread. The taste is wonderful and fresh. It can be eaten straight the way it is although I have an idea for using it on oatmeal.
Oh, and lastly I had to include this photo. One of my biggest pet peeves with living here in the Pacific Northwest is berries. Not that we have them growing all over the place, I love that, but that they highlight the mind-boggling laziness that so many American consumers have embraced. Here we have raspberries, blackberries, salmon berries, blueberries, huckleberries, salal berries, thimble berries, ollala berries, and probably a dozen other kinds I can’t remember at the moment. If I walk into a grocery store in Los Angeles or New York City I expect to see a pint of blackberries or raspberries for $6.00 and people buying them at that cost. It isn’t as though you can realistically get them easily or cheaply in the city. But what really frosts my pumpkins as my Nana would have said, is that you can find the same thing in every grocery store HERE. Here, where Himalayan blackberries are ALL OVER everything that stands still for more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time. Here, where they are considered invasive and we have businesses devoted to removing them. And yet with a million pounds of fresh, sweet, warm berries free for the picking, many consumers continue to pay $6.00 a pint for farmed berries from out-of-state. That isn’t just lazy, it should be considered criminal from a waste of gas and resources viewpoint alone. Oh, I can hear the excuses now… I don’t have the time… it’s too much work… my schedule is so full… I don’t want to get stung or scratched. Whatever. If a picture is worth a thousand words then here is the thousand words that it took me 5 minutes in the warm sun to collect across the alley from my backyard. For free.
Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now so I can go eat my raspberries.
I’ve noticed something sort of disturbing in the last couple of months since we’ve started eating vegan as a family. It didn’t used to bother me before. In fact sometimes it made me nod my head in sympathy and commiserate. Sometimes with a qualifier, but often not. Sometimes I ignored it, but not often, and sometimes I got angry. It’s the non-vegan responses to my lifestyle choice that include these comments: “Oh, I can’t give up _____!”, “How can you not eat ____?”, “Why does eating healthy mean giving up everything good?”, “Oh that’s nice but it takes too much time and is too expensive for most people.”. Sometime in the last couple of weeks these seemingly innocuous comments have begun to grate mightily on my nerves. No longer do I nod my head in sympathy and understanding at the idea that I no longer eat a 4 egg breakfast with bacon or a gooey mound of mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s beginning to feel as though the people most inclined to accuse vegans of pushing their lifestyle choice onto others are often the very first to comment on mine, usually with a combination of disbelief, a stunned “why?!?!?” and dismissive negation. Now I find myself biting my tongue to stop the comments from pouring out of my mouth…
1. YES, you CAN give up _____. Be honest with yourself. You simply don’t want to. You have made a choice, the same as I have, and yours includes _____ in your diet.
2. How can I not eat ____? It’s simple, I just don’t eat it. Yes, sometimes I miss it and sometimes I even eat some at a time when my committment wavers but I’ve decided that I would miss my family a great deal more if I were to die from heart disease or diabetes. That tends to put ______ into some rather harsh perspective.
3. Eating a healthy plant-based diet DOESN’T mean giving up everything good. And if it does then I can’t begin to imagine what you must be eating. Eating a healthy plant-based diet means that everything you eat is good and if YOU can’t find a way to make it tasty and exciting then you might want to consider some basic cooking classes and simple cookbooks. In a day and age when you can order pretty much any spice, condiment, utensil, how-to guide or gadget over the internet and have it dropped on your front door like a Jehovah’s Witness with a fresh copy of the Watchtower, resorting to raw broccoli, lentil cakes and nutritional yeast in hot water is just plain lazy and maybe even a bit passive aggressive. I mean, it IS the perfect excuse for not eating healthy if is looks awful and tastes worse, right?
4. According to a recent Nielsen study, the average American spends almost 160 hours a month, over 5 hours a day, watching television. Now tell me that those very same people don’t have time to prepare and cook a meal. The more correct assesment is that many Americans don’t TAKE the time to cook healthy meals. If someone can’t manage to boil pasta, heat up sauce and throw together a salad while watching Dancing With American Idols or whatever it is that passes for entertainment these days then they have bigger problems that we can address here and none of them involve efficient time use. Just because commercials for processed foods bombard you day in and day out with the idea that cooking and family meals are quaint but unrealistic goals in your busy busy life doesn’t mean that we have to buy into this thinly disguised manipulation. As for expensive, well yes it is, if you choose shop at high-end yuppie stores. But, if you take the time to locate mom and pop produce stands and watch your grocery store flyers for sales on fruits, veggies, and bulk beans and grains you can eat veggie or vegan quite cheaply. I know. We did it on food stamps, feeding a family of 4 for $246 a month.
The thing is, deprivation is a state of mind. If you view eating healthy, feeling better, being more active, having fewer stomach upsets or nights of gorged incapacitation and extending your life as being deprived, then yes, you ARE deprived. If you want to view the glass as half empty then that is exactly how it will appear. And that is your choice. But this is MY choice. I don’t view deprivation the same way anymore. I see losing my life early to preventable disease as being deprived. I see missing out on Christmas eve’s, cheap movie matinees, Saturday morning coffee, summer days at the beach and family dinners as being deprived. I see an inability to enjoy outdoor activities because I’m too ill or incapacitated as being deprived. I see having to tell people “No, no… don’t tell me about it, it’s too upsetting” when it concerns the abuse and torture that food animals endure as being deprived. It might have taken me 45 years to get here but I enjoy my life, my family, my hobbies, my dreams and my goals too much to willing sacrifice them for a cheeseburger or sausage gravy.
And really, if you think about and if you are truly honest with yourself, who among us on our death bed will say, “I wish I had eaten more fast food.” or “I wish I had spent more time with a grilled cheese sandwich.” I think it far more likely that most of us will say, “I wish I had been a more compassionate person. I wish I had left the world a better place than I found it. I wish I had more time. I would give anything for just another day, another minute, with the people I love.” Isn’t it better to recognize that now when you still have a choice?
Vegan substitutions, condiments and spices. Oh my. (the draft I was working on when MSP had her heart attack)
Ever since we started eating vegan and low-fat (when I can stop sabotaging myself) we have utilized spices and condiments in more creative and exciting ways than we ever did before. It isn’t about covering up the taste of anything, on the contrary, it’s about enhancing the tastes we’ve covered up all these years with our layers of fat, salt and sugar. I’ve noticed that those who do not share our eating habits seem to require almost an overdose of “flavor” on their food to the extent that the flavors of the real food are buried and no longer recognizable. I think of it as the “Ranch Dressing Syndrome”, when you can recognize the texture of the vegetables in your salad but can no longer see them or taste them owing to the ocean of dressing you just buried them in. It’s a syndrome I am intimately familiar with having had a rather unnaturally close relationship with Ranch dressing for years. One might say Hidden valley was my adopted home town even.
But now what? Let’s face it, vegan ranch dressing is, well… vegan ranch dressing. You can make it vegan but it just doesn’t taste the same no matter what you do. I’ve discovered that there are some things you can substitute with vegan versions and others that you just can’t. Pot roast for instance. Others you can barely tell the difference or they taste so good on their own that it doesn’t matter. So I’ve decided to show some of the products/recipes we use in the event that it might help someone else avoid the vegan ranch dressing trap.
1. Malt Salt/Bacon Salt. These are exactly what they say they are. And oh so very tasty as well. The malt salt is essentially a vinegar powder like you find sprinkled on salt and vinegar chips but with a stronger and yet more delicate vinegar flavor and less salt. I love it sprinkled on salads and especially thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes. The bacon salt is still vegan and comes in a variety of bacon flavors. It tastes more like bacon bits than real slices of bacon but I find that’s ok in a vegan universe. I sprinkle it on my tofu scrambles for a tasty bacon ‘n’ eggs kind of thing as well as on lettuce, tomato and veganaise sandwiches. *I should mention we had a late night snack of Cheddar Bacon microwave popcorn made by the same company last night. Not low fat or low salt but it is vegan.
2. Parma: Vegan Parmesan cheese. Does this taste like the aged parmesan cheese they so freely sprinkle on your salad at the Olive Garden? No, not really. But it does taste good on things like spaghetti and sauce and in pesto. It adds that salty, gritty texture that is really what makes parmesan work so well on Italian food. It’s main ingredient is nutritional yeast. Not a flavor I’m enamored with but as I said, sprinkled on other foods as a counterpoint it is excellent. I have even discovered that it works not just well, but exceptionally well, on my hot cereal in the morning. I can hear the confused “eh?” now. Who puts cheese on their hot cereal? Well, I do. I don’t do sweet things very well anymore. Too much sugar, especially processed sugar, makes me sick though you would never know it some days the way I sneak cookies. So instead of putting brown sugar, honey or maple syrup and butter on my hot cereal in the morning I make it savory. I add diced tomatoes and scallions, a bit of vegan parmesan and a touch of Hawaiian chile water for tang. It’s hot, creamy, savory and usually lasts me for hours without the need to snack.
3. Bragg Liquid Aminos and nori furikake. For liquid aminos think soy sauce with a high protein content. It’s a non-GMO liquid protein concentrate that replaces tamari and soy sauce. Although I have heard it has less salt than soy sauce I can’t seem to verify that from what I find in terms of sodium content but the protein content information seems to be right on. Nori furikake is basically shredded, dried seaweed seasoning that is sometimes mixed with sugar, salt, fish flakes or sesame seeds. I usually pick mine up at Uwajimaya in the International District. I go for the one with just plain nori and sesame seeds and nothing else added. It’s great sprinkled on tomato slices, steamed rice, stir fry, congee and anything else that goes well with a light Asian flavoring. *If you click on the Bragg Liquid Aminos link I’ve provided you can sign up to be sent some free samples of their products. they also have a seaweed based seasoning mix but I do not recommend it.
4. Lastly, because I saved the best for last, Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso. We have decided to return to our whole foods ways, in other words,no more oil-riffic fake cheeses and meats. If I can’t make it myself or reasonably reproduce it in my own kitchen then it’s too processed, and likely to full of fat, for us. So to find this vegan queso sauce was a real treat. To begin with it tastes FABULOUS. If you miss nacho cheese sauce then you MUST run out and buy this stuff. And if you miss nacho cheese sauce but haven’t been able to even enjoy the store bought stuff or make your own with vegan “cheeze” then you will be ecstatic to note that this queso sauce in NO fat. Yes, that’s right Virginia, Santa came early this year and he left a big heaping jar of vegan no fat cheese sauce that tastes really really good! As mom never said, well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!
Sorry for going missing like I have but I do have a good excuse. The other CV, the one now called Miss Skinny Pants, hereafter MSP, was recently laid low with heart failure. You can imagine my dismay and surprise after we have worked so hard to improve our eating and exercise only to have this happen. She had been feeling poorly for a few days, something we chalked up to weaning herself off of some long-term medications. The withdrawal symptoms were similar and who expects a 44-yr old vegan to have a heart attack? So we didn’t address it immediately. We should have. Goodness knows we hear often enough that women in particular tend to have silent heart attacks or display symptoms that do not match the classic “pain in the chest radiating down the left arm”. And so we missed the initial cardiac event. By the time it was obvious that something serious was happening she was at work. Up in the ceiling of an empty public school where she couldn’t easily be reached during the heat of the day. Because timing is everything apparently. And since we have only one car and she had it, I couldn’t go get her. STILL not realizing the seriousness of the situation she drove herself home once she felt “somewhat” recovered while I made her a doctor’s appointment. And here’s the kicker, and the only reason I don’t feel like the biggest heel in the world, the doctor missed it too. He agreed with us about the theory that it was withdrawal from her meds. But thankfully he did tell us that if we wanted to be EXTRA sure we should go to the ER. And against her objections, in a moment of clarity, I did. And then the ER doc missed it too. She looked great and her EKG showed some abnormalities but nothing they seemed overly concerned with. They gave her a GI cocktail (lidocaine and maalox), took some blood and took her down for a chest x-ray and I headed off to the cafeteria to get us a sandwich figuring it would be awhile before she came back. It was a very different picture when I returned. The doctor stopped me at the door, told me that her blood results showed elevated cardiac enzymes indicating an “event” and damage to the heart muscle and it looked like a convention in her room with nurses, technicians and doctors running about and poking her with sharp things. I was devastated. She is my best friend and the love of my life and to see her like that was nearly more than I could take.
So what happened and how is she? To shorten this up I will say now that she is much better and on her way to a full recovery. As it turns out her heart attack was NOT the result of heart disease. They took her to the angio lab fully expecting blocked or narrowing of the arteries but instead discovered that her arteries are clean enough to eat dinner off of. Instead she had suffered what is known as “Broken Heart Syndrome” or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, essentially, stress-induced heart failure that resembles a heart attack on initial presentation. Her cardiologist has assured us that despite the initial grim diagnosis her recovery is imminent and she will likely heal completely in a couple of months. As of now she is home and her only restriction regarding diet is caffeine, which oddly enough I have a restriction on as well due to supraventricular tachycardia, and her only physical limitations is “don’t do what doesn’t feel good”. She now takes aspirin and some other meds I cannot spell to control the symptoms of heart failure but even that should taper off as she continues to recover!
The good news in all this is that a woman who has a family history of coronary artery disease and whose mom has had a quadruple bypass appears, despite this oddly unrelated problem, to have dodged the heart disease bullet largely in part due to her vegan diet and improved physical activity. I call that pretty damned awesome!
I was reading the news the other day about Costco dropping pork produced by Iowa Select Farms due to a video made by Mercy For Animals documenting some of the most heartbreaking animal abuse I’ve ever seen and I was feeling proud that I no longer contribute to the continued torture, abject misery and sadness of these animals and then I realized that I was actually feeling a bit, well, superior as well. As I think I’ve mentioned before this is somewhat unusual for me. I have long believed that the rest of the world is thinner, prettier, more successful and generally better at whatever it is they do than I am. This is a belief compounded by the internet, a place where I can’t see the pot-bellies, double-wides and mullets of the world. Not even People of Walmart seems to disabuse me of this nagging suspicion. So it’s a bit of a surprise to me that being vegan has helped me to claim a bit of the “I’m better than” for myself and not always handing it out so freely to others. Hard as it is to give up so many things that I love ( and I DO stumble), finding reasons to be proud of myself and proud of my choices is turning out to be better than what I’m giving up. On another sort of related side note, giving up television has turned out to be much easier than I had hoped. I not only find I don’t miss it at all but I find myself actively excited about our evenings now… reading together in front of the fireplace, having friends over for dinner and coffee more often, time to work in my art studio. I never realized how much even limited TV had sort of insidiously hypnotized me into not noticing the things I was missing. And at last count I have read 56 books since January.
So what did you do for the fourth? I cleaned and cooked mostly and worked out household/teenager issues with the other CV. Not exactly a 10 on the excitement-o-meter but good nonetheless. We did stick to a vegan diet for the day except for some non-vegan peanut butter cookies that I justified under the excuse that they were made by a very good, and expensive local bakery and normally unaffordable but since these were on the day old rack… and now you see another way I justify sabotaging myself? Our “official” holiday dinner menu consisted of a vegan sausage and potato salad, a sour cucumber onion and dill salad, watermelon and homemade french bread. The potato salad was so darned good that I didn’t even miss having barbecue!
- 1 pound red potatoes
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces vegan kielbasa or Italian “sausage”, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/4 cup walla walla or vidalia onions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 clove garlic, large, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add whole potatoes; boil about 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large bowl.
In a large skillet, heat the 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Brown the vegan sausage (I used Tofurkey kielbasa). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add sausage to the bowl with the potatoes along with celery and onions.
For the dressing, in a small container use a hand blender to whip together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper until thick and creamy. If you do not have a hand or wand blender you can use a whisk. However using a hand blender produces a thick creamy product like a flavored mayo while whisking will not. Add the dressing, celery and green onions to the potato mixture and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Today I’m canning… and doing laundry… and cleaning… and pulling sod off the back walkway… and trimming branches in the backyard… and folding clothes… and hanging up clothes… and doing dishes… and cooking, oh and let’s not forget weeding/trimming the rockery out front. And I have a blister. Now tell me again how this staying home thing is supposed to be relaxing? There isn’t a bon-bon or a soap opera in sight.
On the upside, I have 12 gorgeous quarts of chopped tomatoes canned in their own juice (you would think 28 lbs would go farther but no) and another 14 quarts of chunky homemade minestrone, which Sara calls my “seat pants” Minestrone since I’m known to make it by the seat of my pants with whatever I happen to have on hand. This batch has purple kale, navy beans, tomatoes, barley, carrots, onions, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms seasoned with garlic, onion, peppers, black pepper, and Italian herbs, all in a vegetarian chicken/vegetable stock base. In this case the ingredients were a product of the greens I had from our garden, what was in the “quick sale/clearance” produce section of our nearest neighborhood market and the seasonings I happened to have on hand. Not a traditional minestrone I know, but it is awfully good if I do say so myownself. Only one of jars of minestrone didn’t vacuum seal correctly (I’m betting it’s the one where I forgot to wipe the rim with vinegar before setting the lid on) and the other CV took it for lunch today. And it has been pronounced a superb success which tickles me no end. One of my shameful secrets has been a lifelong love of canned soup eaten right out of the can. I should hasten to add… not the condensed kind because really, that’s just a stroke in a can right there what with all the salt. Tomorrow, or this afternoon if I feel really motivated, I will start a batch of split pea soup for canning. I’m going to try using the recipe in the BBB (that’s the Ball Blue Book for those of you who like me spent several confused hours on the internet trying to figure out why everyone on the canning forums thought the Better Business Bureau was THE EXPERT in canning and preserving) but I will have to substitute field peas for split peas as I have over a gallon of them at last count. They are brown instead of green so I’m a little worried about how it will look when it’s finished but I imagine the taste will be wonderful regardless. The recipe calls for ham so I’m going to put in diced potatoes and liquid smoke to replicate the taste and correct volume of ingredients and still keep it vegan.
This will mark off the chopped tomatoes, minestrone and split pea soup from my canning list for now. One item I didn’t have on the list but have decided to make, and can if it’s as good as I hope, is a vegan Hungarian Goulash. The BBB has a recipe that used A LOT of beef but I think I will try substituting large velvety red runner beans and cubed potatoes into the recipe in place of the beef. Adding a bit of Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base to give the flavor of beef to the sauce should make this top-notch. The BBB also states to discard the carrots, celery and onions before canning the beef and I can tell you that that will just not do. Beside the fact that I LOVE slow cooked vegetables simmered with spices it’s simply so wasteful. I read online that the average American family throws out about 12%-14% of it’s food, 27% if you include restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores and an astounding 40-50% when you include farms, wholesalers and processors. Here is a graphic that illustrates just how much edible food is thrown away by a family of four in this country in one month (one study estimated that it amounts to about $600 a year but that was some time ago and I’m sure it’s significantly higher now). I have to admit that since we have been eating vegan, the amount of food waste in this house has dropped dramatically. We don’t throw away any food anymore. Even vegetable scraps and peelings gets saved for making broth and what cannot be used at all is composted much to the delight of the crow family (Steve, Edie and recently fledged Stuart) that live in the tree behind our house. They seem particularly fond of watermelon rinds. Who knew? And yes, it suddenly occurs to me I should be pickling those, no? Except I’ve never had pickled watermelon rind and I’m not entirely sure what one does with it exactly. It’s a mystery. Not unlike what the Queen carries in her purse. And what exactly does she carry in there? Spare keys to the castle? A hanky? Important phone numbers? Anyway, although my love of all things pickle related is well documented, I think I want to taste a pickled watermelon rind before I spend and afternoon canning it. But we’ll see…
Well, I finally sat down and made out my yearly canning wish list so that I know what to keep an eye out for at local farmer’s markets and produce stands:
- Tomatoes (chopped)
- Butter Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Refrigerator Pickles
- My Secret Recipe Green Beans
- Dilled Carrots
- Boston Bakes Beans
- Tomato Baked Beans
- Fruit (various)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Blackberry/Strawberry/Raspberry Lemonade Concentrate
- Okra Stew
- Tomato Gravy
- Soup (Beans and Greens)
- Soup (Minestrone)
- Soup (Split Pea)
- Salmon Chowder Base
- Tropical Sauce
- Various Herb Pestos
Saturday we picked up 28 lbs of Roma tomatoes from a produce stand in Edmonds. Although they are not organic, which would have been my preference, I couldn’t pass up tomatoes at ~$0.61/lb. At least they aren’t on the Dirty Dozen list so I feel marginally better about that at least. We also got our hands on our first pickling cucumbers of the season and using 3 extra-large jars were able to can our first batch of about 7 quarts of my world-famous “SpongeBob’s Crispylicious and Oh-So-Garlicky Refrigerator Pickles”. A recipe that started as a lazy way to get rid of the last of some pickling cukes and leftover pickling brine and turned into the best pickle chips this side of Canter’s delicatessen. I had originally tried canning pickles (the kind you can store in the cupboard) but I realized that the reason I wasn’t impressed with them is the same reason I have NEVER liked any pickles that have been canned for long-term shelf-stability… they are cooked and no longer have that crispy texture that makes me go into a deep pickle swoon. There is a good reason that I have single-handedly kept Claussen in business all these years. Of course the downside the refrigerator pickles is that they must by definition be kept in the fridge and finding room for enough pickles to see me through the year when pickling cukes have limited availability is a challenge. I should state that I do plan on water bath canning a few quarts of pickles as I like to have that type around for my Polish Dill Pickle Soup. And if you have never tried a creamy and warm potato and dill pickle soup with crusty bread on a cold night you have never really experienced life as it should be lived… with pickles.
On Sunday I was able to harvest about 5lbs of purple kale, rainbow chard, and sorrel. I’ve sautéed the chard with some smoked salt and veggie seasoning from the Farmer’s market to serve over pasta, storing it in the fridge for impromptu eating. The sorrel and some miner’s lettuce has been turned into vegan sorrel pesto which I froze into ice-cube trays for storage in the freezer since you really cannot home can anything with a high oil content for safety reasons and the purple kale will go into home canned minestrone soup.
Interruption: ACK! ACK! ACK! I set the bags of fresh greens on the table and after dinner we went to reach for the bottle of mineral water and sitting right on top of the bottle cap with his antlers fully extended and a very excited look on his face was a SNAIL! I have to go faint now. I made Miss Skinny Pants release him back into the wild… hopefully in the neighbor’s yard and then bleach the bottle cap. Have I mentioned that snails and slugs and really anything from the one-foot-and-a-slime-trail genre gives me a seizure? Except Lowly Worm. He wore a shoe and a hat and was considerate about not leaving slime. Okay, and now we’re back…
After putting it out there that I needed a counter top composting bin I was able to find a nice ceramic one for $3.00 at Deseret Industries. AND, just as good, after reluctantly leaving Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road at Barnes & Noble the other night because it was $17.00 before taxes and the other CV has been sent home from work for an indefinite time while they sort out some kind of legal nonsense among the contractors and suits, I stumbled across it used today for only $4.00 when we stopped in at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park for some pickle sushi after working at the P-Patch all afternoon (yes, it’s really real and yes I had two orders of it). I discovered Third Place Books was having a 40% off sale on used books today. TPC is also a most excellent place for free and low-cost entertainment. Aside from the people watching, which is excellent, today there was a showing of Lilo & Stitch with popcorn and bean bags provided. Later in July we will be heading back over for a night of live Scandinavian Polka and vegan brownies. I mean really people, you can’t make this stuff up. Another night will be a 17 piece swing band and on Saturday mornings, Tai Chi… to help me with my chubby balance.
Okay, I’m off to make a crustless apricot pie and some dill pickle rye bread.
I’ve wanted to find our scale, that little bringer of woe and misery, since we moved. We finally found it today, several days ago by the time you read this actually (depression makes me slow and lethargic), and now I sort of wish we hadn’t. The other chubby vegan is doing swimmingly and is on her way to becoming the skinny vegan. I, on the other hand, am apparently determined to stand up for the chubby contingent come hell or high water. Which is frustrating. To say the least. So I asked the other chubby vegan why I’m not losing weight and she is. Now mind you, she works as an electrician on a naval base right now and it is a VERY physical job but I’m also doing more physical work since the move. See the walkway in the garlic whistle post for instance. BUT, as the other chubby vegan noted, lately I am also horking down:
1. Trader Joe’s vegan cookies… bistro cookies, druid circles, trail mix cookies, etc.
2. Honey-Roasted peanuts
4. Homemade bread, with vegan butter
Now I realize that none of those things are necessarily bad on their own, but the problem is that I’m not having one of them a day. I’m having several, sometimes all of them. So here I am to prove that yes, it is possible to maintain or even gain weight while eating vegan and still staying away from a lot of processed food. I have also begun the troubling habit of snacking late at night when I get up. I usually don’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time and often wake up between midnight and 1:00 am and am up for an hour or two before going back to bed. This is a newish development for me. I never used to do this and I’m pretty angry at myself for succumbing to one of the few bad eating habits I never had before. I really feel like it’s always going to be 2 steps forward and 1 or 2 steps back every time. So I’ve asked the now skinny vegan to help me to get back to my former behaviors. No more snacking at night. Fruit for dessert, not cookies. The very occasional cookie to be doled out by Miss Skinny Pants and otherwise hidden by her. Nothing with more than a 10% fat content. No oil. No butter. No nuts except walnuts in recipes. No more avocados unless it’s burrito night. No more than one beer.
What does this mean? Well I guess I can feel all pissed off at myself and deprived or I can get out my Veganize This book and get back to what made this fun to begin with… good health, feeling good physically and the challenge of figuring out ways and recipes to make this fun and exciting. My first challenge is to make a really good, crustless, vegan, low fat fruit pie/dessert for those times when I want fruit for dessert but crave the comfort of something warm and handmade by my Nana like. Well, made by my Nana before she totally lost her sense of taste due to smoking Pall Mall’s and drinking 1000 degree cups of instant coffee. I swear it was like she could only drink her Taster’s Choice when it was at a temperature approaching the core of the sun. And by the that time she thought that water was just as good as butter and milk when making Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I liked to think of it as “Kraft Macaroni and Orange”. My goodness but I sure miss her! Nobody could laugh at themselves quite like she could. In fact I’ve been missing her even more since the move to this house. Nana would have liked it. And she would have been proud of me even with all my mistakes. I miss you Nana!
I spent 3 or 4 hours in the back yard today pulling the grass off of the brick walkway that runs from our back door to the garage door, trimming some branches off the laurel tree that the “arborists” hacked up like a wanna-be Billy Idol hairdo and trying to do some major revamping on a rhodie bush in the backyard that was being overgrown with roses and bittersweet. Now admittedly, pulling grass from a walkway sounds tedious but not all that difficult. I’m including this picture so everyone can see how difficult this one is. The walkway doesn’t just end there, it actually goes another 20-25 feet to the garage, it’s just buried under what is essentially sod with an attitude. Only sod would be easier to remove as the roots wouldn’t be growing down between each and every brick. But I’m not complaining. It’s actually good exercise that is accomplishing something and not just walking endlessly to nowhere on a treadmill or stairmaster.
Aside from the yard work however, and no, I haven’t made anymore progress on either the rockery out front or the front yard, I did do a bit of cooking yesterday that turned out really well. I started with a batch of what I’m calling tamale bread. The original recipe called for the use of cornmeal but I substituted masa harina instead to give it more of a mexican food flavor. It turned out really well and half the loaf is already gone! I also made a batch of Hawaiian chili pepper water. If you are wondering what that is, well, I had never had it before a trip to Hawaii myself last August. I cooked for myself the entire trip and stuck to rice, veggies, fish and grilled chicken. With such a simple menu I was game to try as many new condiments as I could and this was one of them. To quote another website, it is, “Like a distant island cousin of Crystal or Tabasco sauce, chili pepper water is a fiery brine used in Hawaii to add a spicy kick to rice, eggs, spaghetti, fried foods, Bloody Marys—just about anything.” Now I wouldn’t call mine fiery it’s more sort of “zesty” but then again spiciness is all relative. As a matter of fact I have one relative with an asbestos tongue who would happily suck on a scotch bonnet Tootsie pop and another that nearly cries at the merest drop of mild taco sauce (and they know who they are). Lastly, since the other chubby vegan is working another Saturday to help us pay off moving expenses, I tried to make her a dinner that would blow her socks off. Or at least make them flap in the wind a little. I started with a salad plate of avocado slices and garlic whistles (her two favorites), added a slice of “buttered” homemade bread (I know, it looks like frosting, right? I’m working on it… ) and finished with a big bowl of Greens and Beans soup. The greens being golden beet greens from our garden and the beans being my home-canned Butter Beans. Not only was it filling in the extreme but every part was even tastier than the last.
Tamale Bread (for a bread machine)
1 cup water, 80 degrees
3 tbsp oil
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup jalapenos, chopped (I used pickled jalapenos for nachos)
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 cup masa harina
3 2/3 cup bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Follow your bread machine instructions for white bread, adding the ingredients in the order they appear on the list which should keep the yeast separate from the liquid until you turn on the machine and start making the bread.
Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water
1 clean, used bottle with a good tight cap. (I used a clean olive oil bottle from Trader Joe’s as the cap includes a plastic strainer)
12 dried red chili peppers (I used dried red chili flakes instead)
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Optional: I also added a few tbsp of dried garlic
4 fresh Thai chilis, thinly sliced
2 red jalapenos, thinly sliced (these are just for color and variety)
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups hot water
1. Push the peppers and garlic into clean bottle.
2. Mix the vinegar, salt and hot water.
3. Pour the liquid into the bottle to cover the chilies. Let cool.
4. Cap the bottle and store it in the refrigerator. It should keep for about a month. (I used mine for much much longer. Remember, vinegar is a preservative)
5. Sprinkle this spicy, garlicky water over your food as the Hawaiians do. Enjoy!
Garlic Whistles (Garlic Spears, Garlic Scapes) and “Beans ‘n’ Greens Soup
Trim the spear ends, not the blossom end. The blossoms are edible and oh so very tasty. Par boil in salted water, drain, toss in Garlic Expressions or the vinaigrette of your choice and chill. These can be served hot but are really fun to nibble on as a salad or snack. The soup is even easier:
2 large bunches of your favorite greens, rinsed and chopped. I often use beet greens or rainbow chard but any green will do. Plop them in a dutch oven or stock pot.
Add 2 15 oz cans of beans with bean juice. I use butter beans or navy beans, but again whatever makes you happy.
Add 1 onion, chopped
Put in sufficient vegetable broth to cover the beans and greens in the pot.
1/8 to 1/4 cup sweet smoked paprika, depending on your taste.
1/4 to 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, again add according to your taste preference.
Simmer until greens are soft and flavors have melded nicely. Do not add salt until you taste the finished product. We didn’t need to add any.
Let me know if you try any of these recipes.
Yes, it’s true. I do miss liverwurst, that most mocked of German sausages. Because nothing says home-cooking like pink pureed meat things in a plastic casing. , And actually, I miss braunshweiger too now that I think about it, the smoked version of liverwurst. Which, if you know me is odd, as I would generally rather undergo some sort of painful dental procedure in the nude than eat liver. Whoever first looked at some unfortunate prey’s jiggly insides and thought, “Mmmm, I’ll eat the part that looks like a big purple tongue” should have been kicked off the island. Nasty nasty stuff. But, thanks to mom and the mayo-riffic white bread and liverwurst sandwiches of my youth, I do have a weakness for liver processed beyond any resemblance to anything occurring in nature. It is also likely the basis for my love of deviled ham spread and vienna sausages in a can. And Spam. Let’s not forget spam, which I have been informed was popular in the south pacific in part because it tastes the most like people. Because if you weren’t vegan before…
So while I was poking around the internet looking for a tasty lentil spread to add to my vegan sandwich making repertoire I stumbled upon a recipe for mock chopped liver and immediately figured I could easily convert that to a mock liverwurst. About 18 months ago I purchased a book called Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing. I know it seems a bit weird to be using a meat book on a vegan diet but this has some of the best sausage recipes and I see no reason not to convert as many as possible to vegan/vegetarian options. I’ve used it to make breakfast sausage, including maple chicken sausage patties as well as homemade bratwurst. That one was more of a challenge since I don’t have casings or a stuffer. I ended up making meatballs out of the “filling” and serving them on egg noodles and it was superb. I think it’s all just a matter of changing your mindset and not letting yourself get locked into doing things the traditional or accepted way. If you can’t do it the way tradition or a recipe dictates then find another way around. Do something totally unexpected. You never know what you might discover.
or, as I like to call it… Liverbest! or Lentilwurst!…
1 cup lentils (I used brown lentils)
2 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp sage, marjoram, nutmeg and smoked black pepper
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoon nayonaise
1 tsp onion powder
salt to taste, or smoked sea salt if you cannot find smoked pepper.
In a pot, boil the lentils in 2 1/2 cups water. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lentils soften. Drain the lentils and let cool. In a food processor, blend together the drained lentils and remaining ingredients except nayonaise. Do NOT liquefy-leave somewhat chunky, chunky being relative as liverwurst is pretty homogenized and fine grain. Stir in the nayonaise, and salt to taste. Cover and chill. The spread I mean. Although you may chill as well. With a beer if you like. Whatever blows smoke up your skirt.
* UPDATE: This stuff looks like chopped liver if my memory of what chopped liver at Canter’s Deli looks like is correct. I couldn’t get it as pureed as I wanted and still keep it thick enough to work as liverwurst. As far as taste goes this is a real winner. It does taste like what it’s supposed to taste like actually. I may try it with a bit of that turkish black salt to give it that hint of iron and sulphur that gives liver it’s liveriness if I can ever find some. I may be forced to buy it on the internet.
One more recipe for the day. I, being a lover of all things Thanksgiving with the possible exception of overly tight bonnets and large-buckled shoes, feel that any time is the right time for stuffing. And in that vein I am making snack stuffing. Yes, I said snack. Because who doesn’t like to snack on stuffing?
SpongeBob’s Summertime Apricot Snack Stuffing
2 large onion, chopped
4 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried peaches, chopped (or you can use prunes or sour cherries)
1 or 2 cups of your favorite broth, depending on how moist you like your stuffing. I used “chicken”.
1 cube of vegan butter, melted
1 box (2 bags) Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing Mix
5 or 6 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute the onions, celery and dried fruit together until onions are soft. Mix in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss until liquids are well distributed. Lightly oil an 8×8 inch baking pan and scoop stuffing into pan. Do not pack down too tightly. Bake uncovered until hot and a nice crust forms on top. Grab the first bowl of this because other people eat it and then you don’t get any. But I’m not bitter about that!