My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Wild Halloween Rumpus!


Willow and Tess, excited as children can be on Halloween, burst into a spontaneous wild rumpus this afternoon. Poor "Foxy Loxy" took a lot of drool-intensive pummeling!


Willow's just showing off. She thinks making Foxy squeak while upside down gets her extra style points.


Willow bares her fearsome fangs at Tessa (don't be fooled, those fangs are about as dangerous as the plastic glow-in-the-dark ones! But it looks impressive!)


Despite Willow's fearsome fangs tactic, Tess ended up with Foxy in the end (haha... literally, as you can see one of Foxy's legs sticking out from under Tessa's butt!) But then she suspended play to pose prettily for this picture so you could admire her festive Halloween finery. :-)

Josie is in the final two weeks of her recovery from heartworms (a subject for a future post) and couldn't partake in the rumpus. So she was a bit pouty and didn't want to wear her own Halloween bandana or pose for pictures. I had pneumonia during the Halloween I was six and couldn't go trick-or-treating or even hand out candy at the door, so I can empathize with poor Josie! But just so she isn't entirely left out, here's a recent photo of her. Her fur is kind of Halloween-colored, so that's festive enough!


We are all

And a very safe and


Friday, October 30, 2009

Frankenbread!


With all my experimenting in the mmmwwwahahaha... laBORatory (uh, kitchen) lately, it was bound to happen sooner or later. But what better time than Halloween week to have a kitchen disaster that resulted in a monsterous bread loaf?



Gads, is that ugly, or what?! Reminds me of something from the movie Alien!

Actually, I wasn't even experimenting. I followed the recipe in our bread machine booklet to the letter. But for some supernatural reason (anti-carb creatures? Angry gluten-free ghosts?), the bread machine was unable to knead the dough, despite my additions of water and repeated poking at it with a spatula! When the first rise cycle began, I still had a mess of floury dough lumps in the bottom of the pan. So I took it out and kneaded it manually till it had the right consistency, and put it back in the bread machine. After the second knead cycle, there was a respectably round ball of dough in the bottom of the pan, so I thought the danger had passed. But when the timer went off and I lifted the lid...

EEEEEEEEK! It's ALIVE!!!

And it's not just ugly, it's incredibly dense... there isn't one single air pocket anywhere in this loaf. If you bonked someone on the head with this bread, you'd fracture their skull! But because I hate to waste ingredients, and it tastes good despite the serious texture problem, we've been gamely eating it with the wonderful split pea soup I also made yesterday. But I have a feeling the deer and birds will be having their turn at this thing before the day's out, unless anyone has any other ideas!


And speaking of Frankenfood, I urge everyone to sign this Food Democracy Now petition...


In happier news, BW got an unscheduled day off today! The big blizzard in CO and UT meant no UPS trailers from Denver or Salt Lake City today, so they had to cut several routes and BW's was one of them! Yay! (Plus he's on vacation next week!) It's a gloomy, rainy, cold day and we just got two Netflix movies yesterday (Nightmare Before Christmas and The Bad Seed), so I think we'll just relax and watch scary flicks and drink Teeccino and gnaw on our Frankenbread!



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Boo!




I admit, Samhain/Halloween is my favorite holiday. Probably because since childhood I've loved cemeteries and ghost stories and costumes and Autumn, and prowling around in the dark, begging for loot. :-)

And in more recent years, I've prowled the internet, looking for fun Halloween sites. Here are a few favorites I've gathered, because goose bumps and creepy-crawlies are best when shared! Click the images to visit the sites...



Halloween Hangman



Countess Blood's Halloween Horror

(Our dog Willow is featured on this web site... see if you can spot her!)

Halloween Ghost Stories


Carve Your Pumpkin Online


Caverns of Blood Halloween & Horror Games

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Smoky-Freaky Mac-n-Cheesy!


Okay, I know my title for this recipe doesn't exactly rhyme, but smoky and freaky and cheesy all belong in the name for this awesome vegan mac-n-cheese!



I found the original recipe years ago at Vegan Freak, and I'd link to it now but can no longer find it there, despite multiple searches all over their web site. Maybe it was on a forum thread that's since been closed, dunno; it's just been too long. But to someone at Vegan Freak goes all the glory for this dish, to which I've made a few changes. Here is my version...

Smoky-Freaky Mac-n-Cheesy

1 1/2 pounds organic macaroni or shell pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 1/2 cups organic unsweetened soy milk
1 cup water
1/4 - 1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
3 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp (or more, to taste) smoked paprika
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 block of firm (not silken) tofu
1 cup vegan organic creamy butternut squash soup OR 1 cup puréed butternut squash
Dried breadcrumbs for topping (optional)
Additional paprika for topping (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF

Cook the pasta.

Put the remaining ingredients into a 7 or 8-cup capacity food processor and blend until smooth.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and put in a 3-qt (2.8 liter) baking dish. Pour the "cheese" sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with additional paprika and cover with dried bread crumbs, if desired.

Bake uncovered until the top looks slightly browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.



The original recipe called for a cup of oil (eeeek!), so I've always substituted it with either Pacific or Imagine brand organic Creamy Butternut Squash soup. You can also use 1 cup pureéd butternut squash. Both work great and impart a nice cheddary color (along with all those good nutrients!)

The original recipe also called for a tablespoon of salt. You'll have to play with the tamari and salt amounts to suit your taste, but use caution as it can easily get too salty. I find the tamari imparts an important flavor (gives it a tangy, extra-sharp cheddar taste), so I use more of it (closer to 1/3 cup) and cut back on the salt (to 1 tsp). You can always salt your portion after it's cooked and adjust the salt next time you make it. (If you use low-sodium tamari, that may affect the amount of salt you will want to add as well).

And finally, the original called for 1 TBSP regular paprika. I reduced that by 1/2 tsp and made up the difference with smoked paprika for a smoky cheddar flavor. I thought it could use more smoked paprika, but BW, who LOVES smoked paprika, thought it was perfect as is. So, let your own tastes guide you!

I often sprinkle paprika over the top of the pasta before baking it. And I do add the dried bread crumbs.

The pasta I love for this is Bionaturae Organic Chiocciole (shell) Pasta. It's stone ground, whole durum wheat pasta with a great texture, just perfect for mac-n-cheese. I've also tried whole grain spelt elbow macaroni in this, but much prefer the Bionaturae shell pasta. I use an entire package for this recipe.

This is really good hot, but it's awesome cold! It makes a big batch, but it's great as a leftover.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Am Not An Ingredient


I found this illustration on a blog two or three years ago and absolutely fell in love with it...
There was no attribution given, and I can't quite make out the artist's name (Hill? Hall?), and all my internet searches have thus far yielded nothing.

I've always thought it would be adorable on an apron, but had no more luck finding that than I did finding the artist's identity! Until this morning, when I happened (for no particular reason) to click on the PCRM's shop tab, and there, at the very bottom of the page, I struck gold!


(Click on the image to view and/or purchase)

Not only is this illustration on an apron, it's on a whole bunch of other stuff. And there are other cute goodies for sale, including merchandise with other illustrations by this same (still unidentified) artist. And 15%-30% of the sale proceeds go to PCRM and their work.

So half of my wish came true, I've found my wished-for apron! (I wear my beloved Compassionate Cooks apron every time I cook, and find it not only adorable and useful, but I swear it makes my cooking and baking more inspired. I feel like a chef!) :-)

(Chef Laloofah making McDougall McVeggie Burgers, Nov 2007)

But when it's in the laundry, I'm bereft. And splattered. :-) So, time for a backup!

Alas, the other half of my wish remains unfulfilled, as I'm still wanting to know who this wonderful artist is. I emailed PCRM this morning and asked them. I'll post the answer if/when they reply, as this talented person deserves credit!

Update: The artist's name is Doug Hall.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bran Graham Thank You, Ma'am! Muffins


This recipe was inspired by the need to figure out what to do with some organic whole wheat graham flour I'd bought on a whim. BW came up with a basic recipe he called "Golden Graham Muffins." I went to make his recipe the other day, but having a tart apple I needed to use, blackstrap instead of light molasses, and no allspice on hand, I modified it accordingly. The muffins came out more flavorful and darker in color, so a name change was called for. They have bran, they have graham, and if you make them for someone they'll surely say, "Thank you, Ma'am!" Unless, of course, you're a guy, in which case feel free to change the name to "Graham Bran Thank You, Man! Muffins." ;-)



I recommend that all the ingredients ~ but particularly the apple products, soy milk, raisins, molasses, and flours ~ be organic.

Bran Graham Thank You, Ma'am! Muffins
(an original recipe by Laloofah & BW)

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Ingredients:

1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup whole wheat graham flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sucanat (or rapadura or other brown sugar)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
--------------
1 small tart baking apple (Granny Smith, McIntosh, etc), peeled and diced
1/4 cup raisins (golden or regular)
--------------
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup vanilla soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/3 cup unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice
3 TBSP blackstrap molasses
2 TBSP unsweetened applesauce
--------------
2 tsp (approx) demerara sugar

Instructions:

Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients (oat bran - cardamom). Stir in the diced apple and raisins.

In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the wet ingredients (bananas - applesauce).

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring till just mixed. Spoon into silicon muffin cups or a muffin tin lined with paper muffin cups.

Sprinkle tops with a little demerara sugar.

Bake at 350º for 25 minutes, or till toothpick comes out clean.

If using silicone muffin cups, allow to cool thoroughly before removing.
Store in air tight container.

Makes about 20 muffins. Freezes well!



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saved a lot, won a little!


Our favorite local greenhouse, which normally stays open till New Year's and then reopens in early February, instead closed on Sunday for the rest of the season. For a couple of weeks they'd been running a progressive sale, marking things down more and more as the days went by. I popped in last Thursday and got several goodies for 60-75% off, including the Norfolk Pine in the upper left of this picture and the little cactus garden in the center (though the Buddha and the stones, visible if you click for the gigantic mutant version of the photo, were my additions)...



BW and I decided to go see what they had left in the final half hour on Sunday, and though they'd been picked pretty clean by then, we managed to find some tea lights and a wee wooden goldfinch tree ornament (75% off) and the oregano plant on the left (60% off). They were having a Grand Prize "must be present to win" drawing just before closing, so BW and I each threw our name into the hopper. There were only about 10 of us there, and pretty much everyone ended up winning a "grand prize," but BW's name was drawn first and mine was drawn third, which was fun! For our "grand prizes" we were each told to go choose a scented geranium or another 4" herb (sale price: 97 cents each! LOL - not exactly my idea of "grand," but it was still fun to win something!) Being herb lovers and having an overwhelming fondness for the aroma of fresh rosemary, we each chose a rosemary plant for our prizes. So for less than $5 we waltzed out of there with two rosemary plants, an oregano plant, a bird ornament, three packages of tea lights and the warm glow of a grand prize victory! Whoo-hoo!



It takes so frighteningly little to please us. :-)

It's another cold, snowy day, so I'm happy to be surrounded by all the fresh indoor greenery (not to mention rosemary aroma!)



Monday, October 19, 2009

Simple meal, complicated squash!


BW made us such a delicious meal Saturday night, I decided to post a picture of it. No recipes required, it was just steamed broccoli, wild rice blend, and an acorn squash cooked in the pressure cooker. This is the kind of meal Helen Nearing would have loved: simple, whole, delicious and nutritious!


We kept the toppings simple too... tamari on the wild rice blend gave it a wonderful savory flavor. BW likes his squash sweet, so he put agave nectar and a little cinnamon on his, while I just put garlic salt and herb blend on mine, and just garlic salt on the broccoli.


Speaking of squash, one of BW's customers thrust this big ol' honkin' thing from her garden into his arms on Friday and insisted he bring it home!


Neither of us had a clue what kind of squash it was, so I looked it up online and I'm pretty sure it's a Kabocha, which neither of us had heard of before! (It amazes me that after more than nine years of vegan shopping, cooking and eating I'm still constantly discovering new plant foods ~ it's one of the many things I love about this way of life!) I read some tips on the various ways to cook it, but I have to say, I'm a bit intimidated! I mean, this squash is 27 inches around with a thick rind, and we don't own a chain saw or a machete! :-) I could bake it whole, but even if I had a baking dish large enough (which I don't!), I can't imagine how long that would take... oh well, we'll see what we come up with; it may be a culinary adventure worth blogging about. :-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

From Icicles to Ice Cream!


What a difference a week makes... from a post titled "From flipflops to mukluks" to this one. Last weekend was so cold and snowy, we did indeed have icicles - big ones - hanging from our eaves.



But today was so warm and sunny, we took the dogs on a nice hike, then spent an hour picking "porcupine eggs" (those relentlessly clingy little cockleburs) out of our socks, shoelaces and Tessa's entire fuzzy bod. (That girl is a cocklebur magnet!) Then we sat on the deck in the sunshine and read till we got hot enough we decided to make Banana Ice Cream! Yes, yet another of Susan V's amazing recipes, and another banana bonanza. We made this a lot this summer (banana-walnut, banana-strawberrry, chocolate and chocolate-mint). It's so simple, healthy and delicious, and all you need is a food processor, some frozen ripe bananas, non-dairy milk (we use vanilla hemp milk for the banana flavored versions, chocolate soy milk for the chocolate ones), and a little sweetener (agave nectar) ~ and voilá!



I really thought I'd enjoyed my last bowl of this creamy goodness for the year on that 90º day at the beginning of the month, so it was an especially fun treat today. As was the warm sunshine and a day not filled with chores and projects, for once! Yay!






Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Match Made in Heaven!


+

I had several really ripe bananas I needed to use up, and decided to make banana bread. I hadn't made banana bread since I started cooking and baking without added fats two years ago, so I didn't have a good recipe at hand. So I do what I always do in that case; I turned to Susan V's wonderful FatFree Vegan Kitchen site. And as usual, I found a great recipe; this time for Cherry-Walnut Banana Bread. Hmmm... well, that wasn't a combination that ever would have occurred to me, and I didn't have any dried cherries in the house but I DID have fresh cranberries. Susan's recipes have always been huge successes, so I decided to give it a whirl. I made a few (very few) other variations on her recipe, so here's Susan's recipe with my notes and variations provided in cranberry red. :-)

This flavor combination is absolutely divine! I intend to get some dried cherries when I go gather my weekly provisions tomorrow and as soon as I have more perfect-for-baking ripe bananas on hand, I'm going to make it with those. I love that this recipe can be varied according to the seasons... I imagine cherry-banana bread in the summer, cranberry-banana bread in the autumn and winter. (She also has a recipe for blueberry-banana bread, which I haven't tried yet). I also love cranberry pumpkin bread and make it a lot this time of year, but it's nice to have another delicious cranberry-laden alternative! Thank you - yet again - Susan V!


3 over-ripe bananas
2 tbsp. lemon juice
4 ounces unsweetened apple sauce
(1/2 cup)
1/2 cup dark sugar
(sucanat)
2 cups whole wheat flour
(1 cup whole wheat flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
(fresh cranberries, halved)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Demerara sugar (2 tsp or so, for sprinkling on top)
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas and add the lemon juice, apple sauce, and sugar. Stir well to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, and stir just until the mixture is well-combined.
Spray or wipe a loaf pan with oil (I used non-stick spray on a silicon loaf pan) (I used a silicon loaf pan too, but didn't use any oil on mine. Just let it cool and the loaf will come right out). Spread the mixture evenly in the pan, sprinkle top with demerara sugar and bake until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.
Note: Fat-free quickbreads like this really benefit from being allowed to cool completely, which is why they often taste better the next day. The crust, which is chewier than breads with oil, will gather moisture and softness over time. Ignore the tempting aroma; pleasure delayed will be pleasure multiplied. (She's absolutely right, so don't be ignoring this advice!) ;-)
(The chickens on my plate look like they're calculating whether they could sneak a nibble and get away with it!)
Update: This week I made a loaf of this bread using dried cherries, and then another loaf using the fresh cranberries again, and I've gotta say ~ we like the cranberry version better. So I have renamed this bread "Cranana Bread!" :-)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"