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Spiced with Love

9 Jan

Everyday home cooking is usually a job for one.  I am that one.  She who chops and cooks and makes a mess and then cleans up.  I don’t mind, because I love to cook.  Last night, Michael was in the mood for pizza and joined in the preparation.  Just a simple vegan pizza with a naan bread crust, but so much better for the wine shared and the joint effort to create it.  It reminded me of our dating years when we often made meals together, drinking wine and laughing.  I’m grateful for a hubby who is comfortable in the kitchen.

pizza

Food made with a loved one always tastes better.

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Vegan Forever?

25 Jan

So.  Four weeks into the vegan thang.  The word that comes to mind most often in reference to this change?  Happy. Happy with how I feel, happy with increased energy, happy that a few pounds have come off, happy with the food.  Here are a couple of examples of the yummy, satisfying meals we’ve been enjoying:

yum3

yum1

 

 

 

 

 

I really don’t have cravings for things I was so used to eating; surprising to me as I have been an omnivore for over 50 years.  I still have some non-fat Greek yogurt in the fridge.  Not sure what to do about that.  I feel like I should eat it rather than waste it, or freeze it for later. But when will later be?  Little bit by little bit, our fridge and pantry are becoming vegan along with us.

One of the biggest bonuses: not feeling punished.  Other diets I’ve tried (hello, South Beach) have made me feel that way.  This “diet” feels more like treating myself to something really nice.  It feels sustainable.  I’m loving trying new recipes and ingredients.  I love converting favorite recipes into favorite vegan recipes.  I think about food a lot, but not because I feel like I’m starving.  All my favorite comfort foods (potatoes, breads, cereals, ….) came with me for the ride this time around.  I’m not missing oils and fats at all–I added a bit of veggie broth and some tomatillo salsa to a baked sweet potato for lunch–NO need to add the butter I have traditionally had on any potato.

Yup.  Happy.  And still happily caffeinated.

Finding my voice

19 Jan

This week I started a second blog, Somethin’ Yummy.  I love to cook, I love food, I tend to post about food and cooking on Facebook, and friends suggested I share recipes…soooo, a food-themed blog seemed like a great plan!  WordPress made it super easy and so far, I’m really enjoying sharing recipes and food thoughts.  The librarian in me is enjoying a bit of research for hyperlinks, the writer in me is enjoying crafting sentences with my audience and clarity in mind, and the foodie in me is just in heaven! 

My head is swimming with ideas–I had to start a brainstorming document to help me keep track.  I’m becoming obsessed with taking pictures of everything I cook at every step in the process.  My poor Blackberry has been subjected to a bit of flour and doughy fingers, alas.  This morning, a friend who created Discover The Grand Valley posted my blog on their Facebook!  So fun!!!  I’m hearing from lots of friends in comments on the blog and comments on Facebook; some have even subscribed to Somethin’ Yummy! *Hugs and Kisses*  : )

I’m not abandoning this blog.  I have the need, it seems, to babble away on topics other than food.  This blog is the perfect venue for that; miscellaneous musings and all….   Meanwhile, my second blog is feeling like a particularly yummy second cup of coffee!

Looking Ahead….

4 Jan

The fresh new year is but 4 days old, and already my head is swimming with all the possibilities I can squish into the next 361 days!  Stuff I’m thinking about:

  • Travel.  DH and I are headed to San Francisco tomorrow to visit friends who said we MUST come for crab season.  Really?  50 degree weather+good friends+good food+reasonable airfare+ability to travel right now=YES!!!  We’ll be there!  Travel to the east coast to visit family is on the horizon for the spring.
  • Technology.  As a RETIRED librarian, I worry that technology will be leaving me behind in no time at all.  But, yesterday I bought a nook e-reader!!!  LOVE it!  I love the look and feel and smell of a new book, but for travel, this is so cool.  I’m finding the nook does have a book-ish feel to it somehow. Maybe it comes from the size of the display, maybe I’m just so easily sucked into the words that the format just doesn’t matter.  It is way easier to read from than a computer screen.  What a great little piece of technology, and I feel right at home with it already.
  • Food.  When am I NOT thinking about food?!  I’m thinking of starting a new blog based on cooking.  I love to cook and if I have a recipe, I feel like I can cook whatever.  I’ve had a lot of fun lately with recipes that are new to me and sharing the yumminess that results with friends.  I’ve thought about adding foodie entries to this often neglected blog, but now that I’m writing while I’m thinking…..thinking, yeah, new blog.  Be watching for it after we get back from the Bay Area!
  • Health.  After my recent adventures with kidney stones, my health has to take priority this year.  I’m drinking more water, and minding the foods high in oxalates.  While the weather is cold, I’m back being friends with my treadmill and Wii Fit.  I’m determined to NOT be in this situation again!
  • Motherhood.  Mr16 is a great kid and hasn’t shunned me, but is starting to *gasp!* be more independent….as he should.  He has but a year and a half left of high school, and then….   He is wisely considering the finite quality of his college fund and has realized his choice of schools will determine how far it goes.  He’s talking staying in town to attend the local state college, Mesa State, for the first two years.  This thrills me no end, I’ll have a couple more years with him around!  He hates cold and snow, so I’m not hopeful that he’ll make Colorado his final destination.  I’m thinking when he moves out, he won’t ever be back except for holidays, lalala.  This year, and the next few, I’ll be sucking up as much of the joy that IS being his mom as I can.
  • Gardening.  The seed catalogs have started to arrive and now that the holidays are over, I’m ready for warmer weather and gardening.  I want to grow fava beans this year.  I’m thinking I’m not gonna mess with as many of the spring veggies, like peas, lettuce, radishes this year; I’m really the only one who eats them. 
  • Dear Husband.  I’m gonna try really hard to revive date night.  A night without the constant drone of the TV.  A night with special food that I don’t cook all by myself, wine, candlelight, a walk in the desert after dinner….you get the idea.  I’m tired of the TV running the show around here.  HGTV, Food Network, Keith Olbermann and the many permutations of CSI can be DVRed for an evening.
  • Blogging and other record-keeping.  I keep a “Christmas Book.”  It has places to save the favorite card, record who got what, events, food, lalala.  I dug it out to record this year’s info, and discovered I had skipped some years.  Michael, Zach and I read through what WAS there, and laughed and remembered and then felt robbed by the missing years.  Memory is such a fragile and precious thing.  I need to save the happy times to look back on.

Enough stuff for now.  I need to look up the gate/concourse we arrive to in Denver and the one we leave from tomorrow morning to see if there’s a coffee shop near them…I’ll be wanting a cuppa!

Salsa Slave

9 Nov

Last week was a busy one, trying to get the frost-induced harvest processed before my house was overtaken with fruit flies.  Fruit flies seem to love ripening tomatoes and tomatillos as much as I do!  Anyway, with the basil and parsley turned into nice neat little bags of pesto, it was time to make tomatillo salsa.

We have had an abundance of tomatillos in recent years, and because we love-love-love the pasta sauce (future blog entry!) we make from tomatoes, green tomatillo salsa is the only salsa we make now.  Tomatillos have a citrusy sweetness to them that blends nicely with heat…at least I think so.  Dear Husband likes his salsa without the sweet–more on that in a minute!  Tomatillos form inside little lantern-like husks that must be removed before using them.  Then they are sticky, so they must be washed.  We like this salsa to be sort of smooth, so all ingredients are run through the food processor.  The usual “recipe” includes: tomatillos, green tomatoes, green peppers, chili peppers, cilantro, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and vinegar.  Everything gets combined into a large stockpot (or two) and then cooked down to concentrate flavors and create a nice thick consistancy.

Ingredient amounts get adjusted according to how you want the salsa to taste….so, to accommodate both my and DH’s tastes, this year we split the salsa into two batches.  Mine we left a bit sweet; his got extra vinegar, red pepper flakes and extra jalapenos, along with (according to our friend Kellie, the source of these–“evil”) Thai peppers called Lemon Drop.  Our friend Nello named our usual tomatillo salsa a couple of years ago: “Verily Verde.”  The hotter variety needed a name as well…what to call it?  I posted the question on Facebook and got the answer from Linda D: Vaya con Verde!  Perfect!

So….it took 2 DAYS to get the flavors right and the consistency we were looking for.  Thankfully since it’s cold,  the salsa could be “refrigerated” in the garage overnight!  THEN, it still needed to be canned–involving cleaning and sterilizing jars, rings and lids, filling jars and then water-bath processing them.  I ended up with 25 pints and 3 quarts–4 canner loads.  I used two canners to speed up the process. 

I  felt like the salsa ran my whole life for those two days, finishing the canning late into the night of the second day.  Being retired makes being a salsa slave not as bad as it would be if I had to get up and go to work the day after….like it always has been up til now.  So, I should stop whining and just have a second cuppa….or maybe some chips and salsa!

The Second Cup: Redefined…

4 Nov

Redefined due to a recommended “low oxalate” diet.  I’ve been having some great “adventures” with kidney stones for the last month.  Today’s visit to the urologist furthered the adventure with a list of evil foods I thought were good for me, and a strong recommendation to set up a “lithotripsy” (a blasting of the stone using high energy shock waves).  A friend has likened the procedure to the classic video game Asteroids, and wants to be the “shooter”.  I’m not sure my insurance provider will go along with that idea!

How did I get myself to kidney stone land?  The most likely situation is my habit of not drinking much water.  Teachers often don’t have the luxury of being able to get to a restroom as needed, so tend to control this by not drinking much water.  I’ve had 27 years of controlling my bladder.  Paybacks are, well…you know. 

So.  The newly evil foods include nuts, whole wheat, beans, blueberries, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes–all foods that most people consider healthy.  All foods that I enjoy, especially tomatoes!  Also included on the evil list: chocolate (waaaa!) and coffee (WAAAA!).  OMG!  I finally have time (usually…ok, sometimes) to enjoy a second cup of caffeinated nectar of the gods and now…sigh…that second cuppa needs to be green or herbal tea, or better yet, water to flush out the nasty oxalates provided by the coffee.

Freeze Warning?! Ack!

1 Nov

Double “Ack” for not blogging all summer and most of the fall!  Lots to look back on in the coming weeks…

For now, current events.  Western Colorado had a freeze warning a week ago; the same day as the 1A-2A-3A State Marching Band Competition.  What’s the connection?  As a band parent, I was organizing the catering for the judges, and was at Stocker Stadium all day.  I got home after 8pm–well after dark.  Dutifully, I grabbed a flashlight, a basket and my garden snippers and trudged out to the garden.  I snipped off all the basil by the light of the flashlight held in my mouth.  I couldn’t let my beautiful spicy little babies get frosted!   Basil safely deposited in the house, I set out to get the old bed sheets to cover the tomatoes, hoping for an extra day or two for them.

But no.  The freeze got everything.  Michael and I stripped the garden of all tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, squash, carrots and potatoes and deposited them next to the basil on the kitchen island.  Wow!  So much produce….so much work yet to be done…waaah!  Potatoes washed, dried and stored.  Carrots blanched and frozen.  Butternut squash stored.  Up next–basil pesto.

Basil Pesto is easy to make and freezes well.  Two things that make this easier still:  my Hamilton Beach “Big Mouth” food processor and one of these garlic peeling tube thingies:

    Seriously, these thingies work like magic, peeling lots of garlic easily in a flash!  The garlic clove goes in the tube, you roll it on the counter with a little pressure and shake out a perfectly peeled clove of garlic!  I’m tellin’ ya–if you don’t have one, run right out and get one!

So.  The pesto.  The recipe is easily doubled, and will still fit in the bowl of the food processor.

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil

4 cloves garlic–peeled (with the thingie!)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/3 cup pine (or other) nuts

Place garlic and basil in processor and rough chop.  Add cheese and nuts.  With machine running, drizzle in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy right then, or store in 1/2 cup amounts in snack-size ziplocs.  Place those in a gallon freezer bag and feeze for up to a year!

Yummy!  A single recipe makes one cup of pesto.  End of story?  Not quite.  Parsley is one of the few still-green things in the garden.  I picked what was there, and today I made parsley-walnut pesto!  Same recipe, parsley for the basil (snip off all the stems), walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

Up next?  I bought a half bushel of roasted green chilis today, so probably a morning of peeling, seeding and freezing them.  Then I’m thinking on to the tomatillos for the second batch of tomatillo salsa for this season…none of this will happen before my second cuppa, though.  : )