My "poetry" of the evening

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fireflies rise in the night
from verdant fields of green
like slowly rising embers.

Sparks from a dying fire...
The field is ablaze
with a June night's summer magic.

This is a very meaningful quote for me. Its lessons are ones that challenge me. It is my struggle. It is my downfall. I include it here in hope that I will one day release myself.

The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle:
Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses,
it swings from one desire to the next,
one conflict to the next,
one self-centered idea to the next.
If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life.

Let this monkey go.
Let the senses go.
Let desires go.
Let conflicts go.
Let ideas go.
Let the fiction of life and death go.
Just remain in the center, watching

And then forget that you are there.

--Lao Tzu

Meatless Monday - Super Easy Veggie Enchiladas

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tonight's Meatless Monday recipe is...

Super Easy Veggie Enchiladas

This is another one that you can keep virtually all of the ingredients in your pantry and freezer to have on hand for a quick meal.

1 can Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can large black olives
1 can black beans (or pinto, or probably most any bean, except maybe those weirdly large butter beans... those are just freakish)
2 cans enchilada sauce
1 cup Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) Crumbles*, or Frozen Meatless Crumbles
1 package taco seasoning
Shredded mexican style cheese
Corn tortillas**

Sour cream
Cholula hot sauce - chipotle or original

*Here in Blacksburg, TVP is available at Eats and also probably at Annie Kay's. It is a super inexpensive form of protein for vegetarians, and easy to use. Don't be intimidated! After thought: I sort of think you may also be able to find it at Kroger too, in the natural foods baking-esqe area, with the Bob's Red Mill stuff.
** NOT flour tortillas!!!! This is a critical point!!! They will *not* be enchiladas if you use flour tortillas. They'll be burritos. I'm just sayin.

If you start with the TVP, you'll have to rehydrate it prior to use. You don't need much, it rehydrates and becomes a much larger quantity. Typically for 1 cup of TVP you'll use about 3/4 cup of water. Just try it a bit at a time until the texture looks right and not too spongy. You can do this with boiling water for a quick effect, or tap water if you have about 15 minutes to wait around while the TVP rehydrates.

Once the TVP has rehydrated, put a splash of olive oil in a pan and saute the TVP until it firms up a bit and some of the water has cooked back off. This is mostly a judgment call... when they start to stick to the pan a bit, I know it's time. From that point, follow the instructions for your taco seasoning as if the TVP were the cooked ground beef; this usually involves adding some water and cooking a bit more. If you start with the frozen crumbles you'll just need to get them to a heated stage before doing the taco seasoning steps.

In between the "taco (not) meat" cooking down a bit, open, drain and rinse the beans and corn. Lightly drain the diced tomatoes to get some of the liquid out, but don't smash down on the lid while you're draining them too much; you just want to keep them from being overly watery and not make them sad smashed representations of former lusciousness. There's a fine line. Open the olives and slice them, either the hard way or a few at a time with one of these awesome multi-taskers. I didn't use the whole can for mine (probably 2/3 of the can?); use as much or as few as you like. If you hate olives you could substitute onions or mushrooms or zucchini or something (don't be shy), you'd just want to saute them up first before putting them in the mix.

Mix the sliced olives, tomatoes, corn, beans and "meat" up in a bowl.

Open one of the cans of enchilada sauce and pour some onto a large plate or bowl. You'll be using this to coat the outside of each corn tortilla as you work with it (yes, the outside. yes, it's a bit messy).

Coat the bottom of your baking pan with a bit of the enchilada sauce. I had so much filling that I filled up one standard rectangular cake pan (13x9? or so?) plus one 8x8 or so square casserole dish with the enchiladas. The good news is, you don't have to cook them all at once; you can freeze some of them for later! Score - multiple meals for the work of one!!

To assemble the enchiladas, get a stack of the corn tortillas laid out on your work surface. Take a good sized bunch; you'll use them. You have to sauce the tortillas before folding - this is important because otherwise the corn tortillas will just crumble and break at the folds.

Take your first corn tortilla from the stack and lay it down on the sauce you poured out into the plate or bowl. Get the one side good and saucy. While over the bowl or plate, flip it over in your hands so that the sauced side is up while you move it over to your stack of tortillas (only one side is sauced). This is so you don't drip all the way across, depending on how far apart your prep areas are. Then, lay the sauced side of the tortilla down on the top of the tortilla stack, thereby saucing the next tortilla in line. On the non-sauced side (which is now facing up), lay out some of the filling you just mixed up in the bowl. Wrap the tortilla up carefully and lay it up against the side of your pan or dish, so that it stays closed. When you go back to your stack for enchilada numero dos, you'll see a sauced tortilla from where you laid the other one on top. Flip it over and pass on some of the saucy love. You can keep flipping over like this until the sauce starts looking a bit thin, then start all over again.

Once your tray is tightly packed with the enchiladas, spread the rest of the sauce over the top. Be sure to get sauce on all the edges of the tortillas or you will get wretched chewy parts that you will not want to eat. Ever had microwaved enchiladas? Know the part I mean? Yeah, like that.

Top them with as much (or little) shredded cheese as you want, cover the tray with tinfoil, and you're done assembling! If you want to freeze one (or more) of the pans, or put it in the fridge for tomorrow, now is the time.

When you're ready to eat, heat the oven to 375 and cook for 45 minutes (if you're working with a frozen pan of them, defrost them first in the fridge). When they're done cooking, let them cool down a bit before serving or they will fall apart when you go to dish them out. They still taste just as good, but they'll look more like enchilada casserole than actual enchiladas. That's the voice of experience speaking.

I recommend serving them with some sour cream (spread evenly on top after dishing them out) and Cholula. You can do without, but they're a bit blander for sure. You could also try topping them with fresh chopped cilantro and salsa, for a lower fat alternative.

I know a recipe is a hit when John goes back for seconds, and even more so when he's willing to eat leftovers. I hit both marks with this one - WIN! It's delicious.

Signs of Summer... Garlic Scapes!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

John and I hit the Blacksburg Farmers' Market yesterday, as we are wont to do on a gorgeous Saturday morning. As summer is progressing, the selection just keeps getting better and better. We decided to pick up some of our standard appetizer fare, since one of John's college buddies + fiancee were coming into town.

Our selection included a fantastic pesto bread, our favorite olive tapanade, chevre-style cheese spread and some cherries.

Along the way I saw some of these:

I'd never seen them before and had no idea what they were or what to do with them, but they looked GORGEOUS, so of course I asked about them. They are garlic scapes (a.k.a. garlic whistles), the flowering stalk from garlic. You're supposed to cut them off as they start to curl, so that your garlic plants can put more energy into producing the bulb and not spend it on flowering. My interest was piqued, so I picked up a small bunch for $1.50. As I was walking through the market several of the vendors commented and were so excited about my find that I promptly went back and got 2 more bunches! At $1.50 a bunch, how could I go wrong? Various people suggested making pesto, sauteing them just on their own like green beans, and serving them fresh chopped over salad. So many ideas... What to do, what to do? Since it's important to preserve them at the peak of perfection, I decided to go the pesto route with most of them, so that I could freeze some for future use. I started out with a recipe from Eggs On Sunday and made some adjustments from there. Note - this is a double recipe, I wound up with about 1 and 2/3 pint jars full.

Garlic Scape Pesto

2 cups chopped garlic scapes
2/3 cup walnuts
juice of 1 lemon*
1 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated**
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil***
coarse salt and pepper, to taste
--Added (not in the original recipe), about 1/4 cup of Pecorino-Romano cheese

* Strictly speaking, to double the original recipe I should have used 2 lemons, but I didn't. This was also where the last of the left over gorgeous Meyer Lemons went, which I basically just used because that's what I had on hand.
** I fresh grated the cheese, which winds up a bit fluffier than the store packaged pre-grated (and tastier, IMHO), hence the addition of the Pecorino-Romano.
*** I wound up adding what seemed like a good bit more olive oil. The recipe was very thick... I like my pesto a bit more fluid. Note that the pictures below were taken *before* I added the extra oil, which I stirred in after I realized how thick the stuff was as I was scraping it out of the food processor!!

Blend everything but the olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Slowly drizzle in the oil with the motor running, and blend until emulsified and smooth. Taste and add coarse salt and pepper as needed.

Good stuff!

It's delicious.

Wild Foods Weekend, the final episode!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meatless Monday... A bit of a cheat?

Monday, June 8, 2009

OK, so I have to admit that I don't have a recipe prepared for my Meatless Monday post today. I have an AWESOME recipe that involves portobello mushroom caps, goat cheese, a bit of balsamic vinegar and either pine nuts or walnuts, but I don't have pictures for that yet! So I'm doing a bit of a cheat to tide me over... Two posts in one, if you will. The portobello recipe is soon to follow.

But first, to whet your appetite... My favorite type of dinner. It *is* a meatless dinner (albeit still involving dairy). The PICNIC! Sunday night John and I had my favorite kind of dinner, a spontaneous picnic on the porch. The meal included fresh bits of blue cheese and smoked Gouda, some gorgeous french bread, smoked almonds and some olive tapanade from the farmer's market. Perfect. The only thing that might have been better would be the addition of some D'Anjou pears (sliced, of course), maybe some Pink Lady or Jonagold apples (sliced...), and some lovely dark chocolate and French Beaujolais wine. I'm also a sucker for the olives from the olive bar... Seasoned, plain, jalapeno, Kalamata, whatever. But then, this was ad hoc at home in Blacksburg and not in Lyon, France (my favorite place on the planet). I think maybe Gracie likes picnics too (you think?).

That was a fab dinner.

This weekend I also made some lemon curd, courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers, The Bakerina! A couple of years ago she wrote a post about her Meyer Lemon Curd. I found Meyer Lemons in the Dekalb Farmer's Market last year and made my first batch, and I'm pretty sure I discovered a secret path to phenomenal sunny yellow heaven. So, of course, when John and I stopped in the Fresh Market in Roanoke on Saturday and they had some of these lovely things I HAD to scoop them up!!!!

The lemons (unbelievably gorgeous, aren't they?):

The recipe for the Meyer Lemon Curd can be found on The Bakerina's site, via this post.
Note: whoops, corrected that link, folks, sorry to have misdirected you initially.

Actually, I'll just paste the recipe here:

Bakerina's Meyer Lemon Curd

2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest (obtained by zesting or grating the peel on your lemons, taking care not to lift off any pith)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 tbsp* chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks

Run the zest and sugar together in a food processor for about one minute until the sugar smells intensely lemony. You can also grind them together in a mortar and pestle, or rub the peel into the sugar with your fingertips.

In the top of a double boiler (or in a bowl that you can fit over a pan of simmering water), beat the eggs and egg yolks, add the sugar and beat until everything is combined. Put the bowl over simmering water and stir with a whisk. Feel some of the eggs and sugar with your fingers; if you can still feel sugar granules, keep stirring. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the lemon juice and cook to 160 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, just watch for the following signs: The curd will become very foamy; then the foam will subside and the whole mix will start to thicken and tighten. When the curd starts to approximate the texture of loose sour cream, that's when it's time to pull it from the stove.

Strain the mix into a clean bowl, or into the washed-and-dried bowl of your food processor, and beat in the butter, piece by piece. Chill the bowl in an ice bath; when the curd is cool, decant it into a container and refrigerate -- after you perform a quality-control test, of course.

* You can use up to 8 tablespoons for a richer curd.

One of the first steps (combining the lemon zest & sugar):

You have to stir the mix CONSTANTLY to keep it from sticking or burning:

The straining gets out the solids as well as the larger lemon zests (don't skip this step!):

As you chill the mixture in the icewater bath, it thickens up nicely (as reflected in this shot, where I scraped down the sides of the bowl):

Last time I made the mistake of just putting the curd in jars and eating (some of) it straight. A lot of it wound up going to waste, mostly because I just wasn't sure what to do with it. This time, I remembered reading on the 10 Signs Like This blog (sadly, not updated in quite some time) that Jamie mixed the lemon curd with whipping cream and made a sponge cake roll. I decided to do the same thing (mix it with real whipped cream) and make a lemon pie. I proceeded to whip the cream (1 c. heavy whipping cream + 1/3 c. sugar + 1 tsp homemade vanilla*). If you've never actually made whipped cream from the liquid and are intimidated, don't be. Use the ratios above, and beat with whisk (or, preferably, electric beater), until it looks like this, and holds a peak:

I mixed half curd, half whipped cream, and put it in the pie crust I'd already baked (um, yeah, I bought the crusts; they are Pillsbury. I'm not entirely nuts, ya'll!!). I frosted it with whipped cream and stuck it in the fridge.

For some reason it didn't gel as well as I might have liked (maybe too much beating when trying to mix in the butter? not enough butter? who knows?)... So I covered it and put it in the freezer to firm up. Sure enough, 20 minutes of chilling on the counter today and it was perfect for eating. Awesome summer fare, just a touch icy and cold, but soft enough to be completely edible. What can I say?! It's delicious.

* post on the homemade vanilla to follow =) But here's a sneak preview pic!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

June 5th was one month.

Still missing my little man.

I always will.

Slowly growing garden

Saturday, June 6, 2009

So here are a few updated pics of the garden, including one showing all six beds that we finally got finished up with about a month ago, thanks to John's dad who was in town visiting and helped wrap up the last two. The first pic below shows the bed with various leaf lettuces, including Forellenschluss, Merveille des Quatre Saisons, Val D'Orges, Rocky Top Lettuce Salad Mix, and European Mesclun Salad Mix. All are from seeds from my favorite seed company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The 2nd pic is some of the organic zucchini plants in bloom. Pic 3 is some of the tomato plants that are finally starting to get a bit stockier, and the next to last pic is of the sugar snap peas, this one plant is growing quickly and all the rest seem to be floundering.

We've had a lot of problems with pests eating the plants, in some cases completely destroying them by eating them down to the stem. After all this hard work I wasn't going to sit back and watch as everything I'd planted was eaten alive by what I think is a significant flea beetle problem... I broke down and bought some 5% Sevin dust. This goes against the grain since I'm here buying heirloom seeds, starting them from scratch, trying to grow my own food and get a bit back to nature... But when it is me versus the pests, and the pests are winning...

Well I just said "Hell, no!" And got out the big guns. I'm open to suggestions on alternate treatments, if you can guarantee their efficacy and universal use for all plants & bugs. The Sevin dust is doing it's work so far, and the plants are recuperating, albeit slowly.

Pics of my 2 new rose bushes and blueberry bushes to follow.

Wild Foods Weekend, Episode 6

And, since I didn't do such a great job of showing the wild garlic in that last video, here's a picture of some I pulled up locally here in Blacksburg a few weeks ago.

It's delicious.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You may wonder why I close out or mention somewhere within all of my food recipes "It's delicious." Interesting thing, that. You see, once I had a phone conversation with Martha Stewart. Yes, THE Martha Stewart. Of course, due to my paranoid office mate Melissa, I was masquerading as "Melissa" at the time. Be that as it may, I did, in fact, speak with Martha.

I had a two minute conversation with Martha Stewart about homemade yogurt. Yes, I've made yogurt. In fact, homemade yogurt is... well... not to be trite... but it is DELICIOUS! I'll post about it here on the blog one day. If you're my Facebook friend you can check some pix there. Yum. That's all I'm sayin. Anyway, back to my story.

So, during my casual convo with Martha I think I must've said "delicious" at least 4 times. You can check the records here, if you're interested. Melissa is the one narrating, I'm the one talking to Martha. "Homemade honey"? Really, Martha? Exactly how do you make that honey? Anyway... This is the origin of "It's Delicious." Be aware, in your head when you read it, you need to be imagining this:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Success is not final,
failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.
~Winston Churchill

Comments are now working!

OK, so I'm using this template and couldn't figure out how to get comments to work... But I finally figured it out and now they're working. Comment away!

What it's like to have ADD

1. In the bathroom, getting ready for work. Realize you need your prescription, which you picked up from the pharmacy yesterday. It's in your bag on the kitchen counter.

2. Head to the kitchen and see the huge stack of dishes from the meal you cooked last night. Decide to unload the dishwasher, and reload and run it with all the new dishes.

3. (10 minutes later) Return to the bathroom to resume getting ready for work and realize that you still don't have your prescription. Return to kitchen, beeline back to the vanity to complete getting ready before you get distracted.

4. Finish getting ready, head back to the kitchen to let the dog out.

5. Open the door, notice new squash blooms in the garden and think "I have to get the camera and get a couple of shots so I can post an update about the garden."

6. Head to your desk to get the camera. Decide you just want to do a quick check of email.

7. (5 minutes later) Get up from desk and head to kitchen to get coffee, prep lunch. See the back door is still open and go to close it. Look out the door and see the squash blooms. Head back to desk to get the camera. Sit down and write blog post about being ADD.

Meatless Monday - Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya

Monday, June 1, 2009

And now for something completely different...

This one is straight out of one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks of all time, Veganomicon. I had to make a few adaptations based on what I had on hand, so we'll see what happens! Full disclosure, part 1: I'm making this at 10:30 at night and don't plan to eat it until tomorrow. Part 2? I've never made this recipe before! I'll post a follow up to let you know how it is.

Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya


  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 16 oz. Seitan (I used store bought) Note 1
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into small dice Note 2
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced Note 3
  • 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup cooking sherry or vegetable broth Note 4
  • 2 cups long-grain rice, brown or white (I used brown)
  • 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz) can white kidney (cannelini) beans Note 5
  • 1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme (optional but really great here... but I didn't have any)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram (yeah, um, I didn't have this either. I threw in a dash of Tarragon instead)
  • 1 tsp. dried paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed (err... I didn't have this either, so I substituted celery salt for the regular salt listed below)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (that's probably not going to happen)
Note 1: I only had 8 oz. of seitan
Note 2: I was flat too lazy to go for "small dice" so I made do with slicing down the center of the stalk and chopping. Deal with it.
Note 3: I cheat and use the jar of diced garlic every time. So much easier! Purists, ignore this note. In fact, better yet, you probably ought to stop reading now.
Note 4: I used vegetable broth, but threw in a splash of apple cider vinegar to try to go for that sharp edge you get with the sherry. We'll see.
Note 5: I didn't have the white kidney beans, so I used butter beans. Come to find out, butter beans are really BIG! Who knew?!

Oh, and un-noted Note 6: The book didn't say whether to drain and rinse the beans. I assumed yes.

Instructions below somewhat paraphrased and adapted from the original, but the key information remains the same:

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Preheat a large oven-to-table dutch oven (if you have one) over medium heat, or just get out your biggest pot and figure the rest out later. Saute the seitan in 2 tbsp olive oil for 4-6 minutes until lightly browned (don't you think it looks like chicken?! And now, somehow, I'm afraid that may not be politically correct). Remove the seitan from the pot and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil and the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Saute for 12-14 minutes, until the veggies are sorta mushy.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for another 4 minutes.

Stir in the cooking sherry to deglaze the vegetables, cook for 30 seconds, then add the rice. Stir the rice for about 4 minutes.

Then stir in the diced tomatoes, seitan, beans, bay leaf, all of the herbs, and the salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer, pour in the vegetable broth and return to a simmer. Taste the broth and adjust the salt & pepper to taste.

If you are using a dutch oven, cover and put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes (for brown rice, 40-45 minutes). If using a pot, transfer to a deep casserole dish (or two*), cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake. Remove from the oven, stir the jambalaya, then cover and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

* If you wind up with two, be sure to check that the rice is done before turning off the oven. I cooked mine 45 minutes and when I checked the rice was still a bit "toothy" so I added some broth and put it back in.

Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

So there you go! This one was pretty laborious to prep, but straightforward. We'll see what the results taste like tomorrow - check back then!!

12:37 add-on note: I added some McCormick chipotle pepper seasoning to the finished product, and it is soooo tasty! Y.U.M.! It's delicious.

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep."
- Djalal ad-Din Rumi

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