Asian Broccoli Slaw, Marinated Tofu, and Salad Dressing….and bats!

Last night’s dinner was rather generically Asian-themed. I had a random bag of broccoli slaw I needed to use up and the best-sounding recipe I found when googling was something very similar to what I present below, so from there I decided to take the whole meal in an Asian direction. I prepped everything in advance, and when mixing up the slaw dressing, tofu marinade, and green salad dressing, since they were all so similar, I didn’t even bother washing the mixing bowl between each of them, keeping prep quick and easy. Here are all three things I made:

Asian Broccoli Slaw

1 12 oz package broccoli slaw (or grate your own broccoli; cabbage would be good too)
3 Tbsp sesame oil (not toasted)
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced or pressed garlic
2 tsp brown sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together everything but the slaw. In a larger bowl, toss the dressing with the slaw and refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to blend.

Asian Marinated Tofu

1 lb extra firm tofu
1 cup vegan broth
1/4 low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp minced or pressed garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Whisk together everything but the tofu and set aside. Slice the tofu into 1/2″ slabs and arrange in a 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ baking pan. Pour the marinade over the tofu and let marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready to bake the tofu, pour off some of the marinade so that the tofu is about half-submerged. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden.

I served this over some mung bean noodles, which I soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes (don’t keep it on the heat, just boil and set aside), then tossed with leftover tofu marinade. I also lightly stir-fried some julienned orange bell pepper in some sesame + toasted sesame oil, then tossed with toasted sesame seeds and served both the peppers and the tofu over the noodles.

Asian-flavored Salad Dressing

4 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced or pressed garlic
1 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp brown sugar

Whisk or shake together all ingredients. Serve over a green salad.

Not that you can really see the dressing, but here’s the salad:

And here are all three components together:

In wildlife news, I have to take at least six hours of continuing education hours to renew my rehabbers permit every year. Last year I was so busy and there were so few classes held nearby at times I could go that I was cramming in readings at the last minute. This year I’ve scored all six hours within nine days of the permit year beginning. This I did by attending an all-day bat workshop yesterday. I was very excited about this because I’ve always had a particular love for bats and I intend to accept bats one day when I’m rehabbing out of my own home. It was a great, very informative class, although also kind of depressing because some of the species in our area (the Mid-Atlantic) are federally endangered, and many more are state-listed as threatened or endangered. Even the most optimistic bat enthusiasts are very worried that the species suffering from White Nose Syndrome will be extinct in just a few years. This is very bad. Although so far the fungus affects only those bats that hibernate, migratory bats are being killed by wind turbines, so there’s unprecedented death rates for all kinds of bats. Bats eat their weight in insects every night. You don’t want to live in a world without bats. I can even relate the wildlife portion of this post to food for once, because one of the consequences of extinct bats is going to be crop failures, greatly increased food prices, and/or higher instances of pesticide use.

I was able to take some pictures of the live bats. (Because I’m rabies vaccinated, I was also able to handle the live (and dead) bats, which even more exciting!) Unfortunately I think I’m going to have to retire the crappy “all-purpose” lens I tend to leave on my camera as a default because the pictures S.U.C.K. and I’m super disappointed by them. True, the lighting in the room was dim and terrible (though probably a lot more bat-friendly than camera-friendly), but I still think I could have gotten decent pictures with a better lens, including some I left at home. Live and learn, I guess. So I apologize for the horrible, horrible, horrible pictures, which don’t do any justice to these awesome little creatures, but bats are too cool for me not to share and I feel compelled to raise awareness of White Nose Syndrome. As of right now, it’s confined to the eastern and more northern parts of Northern America, but it WILL soon migrate to the south and west, and it’s devastating.

This is a Tricolor Bat, squawking because she’s dropped her mealworm. To reward them for good behavior while they were out being handled by those of us with rabies shots and admired by everyone else, these education bats were fed treats of mealworms. You can see this bat’s mealworm in front of her. (Education animals are non-releasable animals that rehabbers and wildlife organizations have received special permission to keep (as opposed to euthanizing) as teaching tools.)

This is a Big Brown Bat. Big Browns are a migratory species not affected by White Nose, unlike the similar-looking but smaller cave-dwelling Little Brown Bat. One kind of good thing is new Big Brown colonies have been found in areas where Little Brown colonies have been wiped out by White Nose, so nature is replacing one species for another. Note that despite the name – and he is in fact bigger than a Little Brown Bat – like all North American bats, he’s really quite small. I was actually surprised by how tiny all of our bats are. They’re not at all like the beautiful, wonderful flying foxes I saw in Australia.

Side view of a Big Brown:

Silver-haired Bat. I think he looks like a teeny-tiny, legless bull.

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Red Wine Vinegar

Do you remember boredom? I can recall a time, so long ago, usually mid-summer-vacation, whining to my mother, “I’m boooooooooored. There’s nothing to dooooo.” (This was probably followed up with, “Take me to the liiiiiibrary.”) I think the last time I was bored was when I was ten. Sometimes I miss being bored. I hardly even get time to read any more. Most of my reading lately is done on the treadmill, although my brother recently caught me reading a book while brushing my teeth and found that hilarious for some reason. (Is that not normal?)

Anyway, I am TOO BUSY. Ironically, though I haven’t posted in a while, I have been cooking a lot, and even doing some experimenting, which should be perfect for post ideas, except most of my experimentation has been so experimental that I don’t remember what I did once the food is done (a lot of it has been fermented, so there are usually several days or more between putting it together and the final product). I need to remedy this because I’ve actually made some pretty good stuff that I’ll never be able to recreate. Shame on me.

One thing that takes a lot of waiting time (but about zilch active time), but is so simple I can’t possibly forget what I’ve done, is making vinegar. I love vinegar and am becoming a bit of an aficionado. Types of vinegar I keep constantly in stock are: apple cider, rice, malt, tarragon, sherry, Chinese black, balsamic, and of course distilled white. But perhaps my favorite is red wine vinegar, which I often use in salad dressings and various other dishes. We’ve converted almost exclusively to boxed wine these days so I no longer have leftover bottles of wine as I did when I started my crock of vinegar (at the time, Mark wasn’t yet a wine drinker so I had to drink the bottles by myself), but I’ll still sometimes pour myself an overly ambitious second glass of wine that I can’t finish before going to bed, and my reluctance to waste it (or gulp it down without savoring it) was part of the impetus to start making my own vinegar. The other part was just the dearth of high quality wine vinegars in the shops.

I don’t really have a recipe for the vinegar. All you need are wine and a “mother”. A vinegar mother is a strange-looking, slimy substance comprised of cellulose and beneficial bacteria that converts the alcohol in the wine to acetic acid. Some commercial vinegars (frequently apple cider but sometimes wine) contain some of the mother, which you can save and use to make your own vinegar. (You would want to make the same type of vinegar as what you found the mother in, however, so if you want to make red wine vinegar, you’d look for a red wine vinegar that had some mother.) You can also order a mother online, which is what I did. (Unfortunately, I don’t recall from which site.) Or if you know someone who makes vinegar, they can share with you. In fact, part of the reason I’m making this post is to offer my mother to you. (My mother of vinegar, that is…although you can make offers on the mother of Renae. JUST KIDDING, MOM.)

Other than wine and a mother, the only other thing you need is a gallon crock or jar. Because light is damaging to the bacteria, I suggest the crock. I had one with a spigot, which allowed me to have vinegar on draught, but first the spigot got clogged (presumably with mother), and then it leaked, so now I’m using a regular pickling crock, purchased from an antique store and sanitized in the dishwasher. It’s covered with a porous fabric (cheesecloth works great).

To start off, pour a bottle of wine into your crock. Add the mother. Cover with cheesecloth or something similar, securing it with a rubber band. Stow somewhere out of direct sunlight for about 3 months, occasionally tossing in a cup or so of wine. Every few weeks, check the growth of new mothers, removing any large, thick, old mothers and keeping maybe a quarter cup or so of young mother.

This is what my crock looked like today, maybe a month or so since I’ve last checked the mother. I just washed my hands thoroughly, reached in and removed the old mothers. Don’t forget to do this periodically: I once neglected my crock for so long that ALL of the wine had converted to mothers – layer after layer of mother and no vinegar. I had to save the youngest mother and start from scratch. Fermentation occurs faster in warmer months, so check more frequently in the summer.

I usually scoop out all but the youngest mother and put it in a strainer over a measuring cup for a few minutes, which catches the dripping vinegar, which I return to the crock or bottle. This picture gives you a better idea what a mother looks like. These aren’t too old: older ones are thicker pads (usually about 1/4″ thick) the same diameter as the crock.

What to do with the discarded mother? Share it if you can – as I mentioned, I’m willing to send mine (any time I have it available) to anyone the United States (sorry, international friends; it doesn’t seem like a Customs-friendly item). Otherwise, it’s great for your compost pile.

The vinegar is ready when it tastes ready. I know, I’m so precise. This is usually about 3 months. Once you have a crock going, all you have to do is periodically feed it more wine and you’ll have a constant supply of vinegar. When fishing out old mothers, I’ll generally remove a small bottle’s worth of vinegar, in which I’ll also include a little of the mother, and then I use that for cooking and salad dressings.

And that’s my “recipe” for red wine vinegar.

A couple of you asked me to keep you updated on my mangy fox, whom I’m planning to treat. I got the medicine he needs from a local rehabber, but I’m having a bit of a problem building a feeding routine with him. The problem is you need to dose the fox during the day, because if you put food out at night, the chances of the fox eating it are at best unknowable, and probably pretty slim. Around here, if I put out food after dusk, it’ll be scarfed down by raccoons within 5 minutes. The fox doesn’t stand a chance. So I need to establish a daytime feeding pattern with the fox. To do that, I need to put food out during the day and then watch to make sure the mangy fox is the animal that eats it. The problem is that I am almost never here during the day, and since it’s practically winter (lovely 70-degree temps this week notwithstanding), I don’t make it home before dark even on the best of days.

What is a girl to do? Install a surveillance camera, of course. (That’s normal, right?) Now, I didn’t buy the camera JUST for the fox. We have a lot of wildlife in our yard and Mark and I have been talking about getting a camera for a long time. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with knowing who is in our yard at all times, but I can tell you that the wildlife and birds we have here (a surprising amount for our suburban home) bring me a ton of joy. So I should totally be spying on them…that’s my conclusion. And now that I need to monitor this fox, the time just seemed right to take that final step towards crazy animal person and buy a wildlife camera. I had to decide which kind to get; basically I had to decide between a wireless security cam I could monitor over the internet and on my phone, or a “trail cam” that I could leave outside and periodically cull pictures and videos from an SD card. I chose the latter because it just seemed a lot easier. Most wireless security cams aren’t meant to be set up outside and most require an external power source. And I can’t put an infrared camera inside to take pictures through glass for night photography. Unfortunately, the market for the type of camera I chose seems to be hunters and the instruction manual for the camera even assumes I’m planning to murder the animals I’m photographing. So between buying a hunter’s camera and actually purchasing chicken from Whole Foods (to feed the fox, not me! And yes, it was hard.), this week I’ve felt like someone is going to revoke my vegan card. But believe me, after this week I’m only more vegan than ever. (I am going to have to get more used to the whole dead – and living – animal as food thing though; our raccoons don’t usually eat anything too gross, but once I start working with raptors it’s going to be a whole other story…)

Anyway, the camera is all set up and I dealt with the whole chicken thing, and now I wait. This morning I managed to NOT TURN THE CAMERA ON when I left for work, like a big dummy. I guess it doesn’t matter since the chicken I put out was still there when I got home. So I’ll try again tomorrow. Once I see the fox eat the chicken for a couple of days in a row, I’ll inject his next serving with the first of three weekly doses of the medicine. And by then I should see his fur starting to fill out. So I don’t have much real news on the fox front, but I DID get some pictures last night I can show you.

There were really no surprises. THIS is definitely NOT a surprise!

We have tons of raccoons. If you live in North America, you probably do too!

Skunks make me super happy! They are shyer than the raccoons and opossums, so I don’t see them as often, but when I do I’m thrilled, although I know they are out there every night prowling around. I intend to rehab skunks in the future.

THIS is a fox, but not the right fox. This is my healthy fox. He’s very pretty. I’m always glad to see him, of course, although I don’t want him eventually eating my mangy fox’s medicine. It won’t hurt him (if anything it will kill any worms or parasites he might have), but I want the mangy one to get it.

And guess who showed up at 5:14 a.m.? Mr Mange. COME BACK DURING THE DAY AND EAT THE STUPID CHICKEN, MANGY FOX.

More updates as they happen…and perhaps even recipes that are actually recipes and not “pour a bottle of wine in a crock, add some bacteria, and voila!”.

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Greek Seitan and Potatoes, with Tsatziki

Aunt Lynn, see the end of this post.

Last night’s dinner was inspired partly by Artisan Vegan Cheese, because I’d made some yogurt cream, and partly by my current love affair with dill. These two forces combined to form tzatziki, and from there I decided to go Greek. I wouldn’t say this meal was authentically Greek by a long shot – I used sriracha, for god’s sake – but I figured serving it with tzatziki was enough to label it so. I didn’t follow any recipes, just mixed up some ingredients I decided were Greekish. I’m also relying on my terrible memory to remember what I did, but it was pretty tasty, so here we go:

Tsatziki

1 cup vegan yogurt cream, plain yogurt, sour cream, or a combination of these items
1 cucumber, de-seeded and shredded
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 sprig dill, chopped

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Greek-flavored Seitan

1 lb seitan, sliced about 1/4″ thick (I used the basic seitan from Real Food Daily, but you can use your favorite)
1 cup vegan “chicken” stock
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
3 springs fresh dill
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
sriracha or other hot sauce, optional

Whisk together all of the ingredients except the seitan and the optional hot sauce. My seitan was frozen, so to make the “chicken” stock, I used boiling water and bouillon, then whisked everything else together and poured it over the frozen seitan, then I heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes to bring it back to boiling again. After letting it marinate for an hour or so, the seitan was thawed. You can skip all the boiling if your seitan isn’t frozen and just pour the marinade over the seitan. If the seitan isn’t frozen, slice it before marinating for more flavor.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove seitan from marinade, reserving the marinade. If necessary, slice the seitan. Pan fry the slices in a bit of oil until golden brown on both sides. Place the seitan slices in a single layer in a baking pan and pour some (not enough to submerge them) of the marinade over them. If you’d like, squirt or spread some hot sauce over the seitan. I don’t know that sriracha is used very frequently in Greek cooking, but that’s what I used. My theory with this meal is tzatziki, so cool and refreshing, exists for the sole purpose of providing a contrast to spicy heat, so I wanted some kick to my seitan. Bake for about 45 minutes, adding a bit more marinade if it all disappears.

Greek-flavored Potatoes

1 lb young potatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
several springs fresh dill, chopped

Whisk together everything but the potatoes in a small bowl. Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked to your liking. Drain and toss with the vinaigrette.

I cut up some fresh veggies to dip in the tzatziki, which I also spread on the seitan as I ate it. I don’t know how Greek this really was, but it was very tasty (can you tell I’m really into lemon and dill right now?) and Mark enjoyed it. He asked what I was doing when I was sitting here composing this a few minutes ago, staring at the ceiling blankly, and when I responded, “trying to remember the ingredients I used in last night’s seitan,” he said, “awesome; you used awesome!”

In other news, my heart goes out to everyone affected by Sandy. NYC is one of my favorite cities and I can only imagine how hard it is to be there or in parts of New Jersey right now. I haven’t been to Ocean City, MD in years, having traded it for other beaches after high school and college, but I have many memories and the damage there and other coastal areas makes me sad. (So glad the ponies on Assateague are okay, though!) We were almost entirely unscathed. Our yard is still a bit swampy and there are tree limbs scattered about, but we suffered no real damage and never lost power. I took down all the bird feeders before the winds got bad, although the yard remained full of birds eating seed off the ground well into the hurricane. First thing Tuesday morning, while it was still raining but the winds were calm, I re-hung the feeders, and man, were the birds happy! They were so excited they didn’t fly away while I was out there. In fact, most of them let me get right up next to them and stick a camera in their face.

Mid-afternoon I happened to look out the window while working from home, and was surprised to see a fox. I see them in the yard occasionally, but they are always running away. This one was apparently eating bird seed mere feet from me and stayed long enough for me to grab my camera and snap a few pictures. See how scruffy he looks, though? His tail is hidden, but it was very thin, not full and beautiful like it should be. He has mange. He doesn’t appear to be too bad off – mange is often much worse – but I still need to treat him so he doesn’t get worse. Mange is easily treated with a drug called ivermectin. To treat a wild animal, such as a fox, you monitor the animal’s eating habits and/or create eating habits by leaving food out for him, then once you know when to expect him, you inject some food with the medicine and hope he eats it. So believe it or not, this 15-year-vegan/25-year-vegetarian has to go figure out where the meat department is at Wegmans (I seriously have no idea) and buy some raw chicken to give this fox. UGH! I’ll be having a crisis over that, believe me. But that’s what foxes eat and I want to cure him, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

And finally, I didn’t do a Halloween post, but Happy Halloween and Dia de los Muertos! In fact, I don’t think I usually do a Halloween post, because Halloween happens to be Mark’s and my wedding anniversary (8 years!) so we usually go out to dinner that night (Ethiopian this year, yay!!), but my aunt had requested that I share the following picture with you this Halloween and I forgot to do it that day and she has reminded me of my promise to do so. She came across this Halloween costume, which my grandmother made my grandfather many years ago, while cleaning out my grandmother’s house, and somehow while I was over there one day I ended up in it – I’m not even clear on how or why it happened – but please enjoy me looking thoroughly ridiculous. (To those of you afraid of clowns, I apologize. I hope I’m not too frightening.)

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