Black-eyed Pea and Barley Soup

I’m not going to be all conventional and apologize for not posting. LIFE IS BUSY. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. Anyway, here is a soup I’ve been making all year that I never get tired of. I’ve been making huge pots of it even when Mark is out of town (I’ve seen very little of him this year, sadly) because like most soups, it just gets better and better sitting in the fridge all week, and it’s pretty versatile, it’s hearty enough to be an entire meal, and I’m perfectly happy having it for lunch every day of the week. Which is especially good when Mark’s not around because I don’t always get around to making myself some fancy dinner, which means I don’t always have leftovers, and leftovers are what I have for lunch 95% of the time, so it’s been important to have a backup plan for lunch.

Another great thing about this soup is you can make it as my recipe states and it’s delicious as is, but then you can spice it up at the table, so if you have some diners that don’t like spice, they don’t need to add anything, while heat-lovers can add as much Tabasco and/or fresh-sliced jalapenos – both of which are great additions – as they like. Like almost every food I eat, I prefer it with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it, but again, you can control how much by doing that at the table. It’s also good with tomatoes in it: one thing you can do is make it as is and eat it like that a day or two, then add a can of diced tomatoes to it and serve a more tomatoey version of it the next day to change things up. You can also add greens, or maybe okra to make it gumbo-y – as I said, it’s very simple and therefore versatile.

And ANOTHER great thing about it is you don’t need to pre-soak black-eyed peas, so no need to plan ahead with this soup like you do most dried beans. It’s ready to eat in just over an hour, very little of which is hands-on time. It would also freeze well, although I’ve never done so.

Black-eyed Pea and Barley Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3/4 cup pearled barley
1/3 cup bulgur
10 cups vegan “chicken” broth
2 packets Goya ham flavor concentrate (it’s vegan, but it bothers you, sub some liquid smoke)
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme

Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then saute the onions, carrots, and celery until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. If necessary, deglaze the pot using white wine or some of the broth. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then turn the heat back and simmer for an hour or until the beans and barley are soft. Remove the bay leaves.

In other news, sigh. I don’t even know where to start. Life is great, but there is a LOT of it! I’ve been taking pictures, of course, but instead of bombarding you yet again with a ton of photos, how about I direct you to my new portfolio site! Yes, after being hassled for years by Mark to create a portfolio, I finally did it. You can see it at renae.org. (Yes, between ieatfood.net and renae.org, I am very proud of my domain-buying skills 🙂 ). I also set up a photo blog that’s linked to from the portfolio; feel free to follow it if you miss me because I tend to do much shorter posts and therefore am there a little more frequently, though obviously I’ll be posting pictures and not recipes. Not that I seem to post many recipes here lately…

In addition to raccoons …

… and raptors …

… I’m going through the Virginia Master Naturalist program, which is great, but it’s yet another thing taking up my time. AND IT’S FINALLY SPRING!!! Which means I HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE ALL THE TIME. Especially right now because the bluebells are blooming!! I’ve got a few pics of them on the photo blog, but here I am reveling in their beauty Sunday morning:

I’m STILL keeping up with my Photo365 “one year of portraits” project – almost six months in! – hence the photo above. And others like this one in Shenandoah National Park last weekend:

And to hell with it, I’m just going to be ridiculously vain and share this picture I took of myself because I HATE pictures of myself, or rather I used to, so I have a hard time believing I can look so non-terrible in a photo. I must be an awesome photographer – I wish I actually looked like this picture, haha. But my self-indulgent Photo365 project has at least made me far more comfortable in front of the camera than I used to be!

That’s it for today. Farmers’ market season is rapidly approaching so hopefully I will be inspired to make a few more food posts in the upcoming weeks, although: LIFE. Baby raccoons, raptor chicks, naturalist projects and field trips, MOVING, UGH UGH UGH! I do intend to do my “vegan on safari” post here soonish, in tandem with a “gear to take on safari” post on the photo blog, so I’ll hopefully be back in this space soon!

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Summer update

Hello neglected blog; hello neglected blog readers who think I’ve forgotten about you. I have not. I’m even planning to photograph some food tonight in hopes of making a post But alas, no food right now.

Summer on the US East Coast has been SO AWESOME. The weather has just been ridiculously nice, almost ALL THE TIME. Frankly, it’s a bit exhausting. I have a compulsion to not be in the house when the weather is nice, but excessive heat and humidity keep me indoors for some portion of most summers, giving me time for cooking, canning, crafts, etc. Not this summer. The humidity has ranged from non-existent to pleasantly tolerable, and we’ve had I think a whopping 5 days all summer that were over 90 degrees. It does not rain on weekends. It just doesn’t. It’s raining right now (which is why you are getting an update!), but I’ve been able to go for after-work hikes 4 or 5 days out of almost every workweek. When they forecast a small uptick in the humidity and chances of afternoon storms for most of this week, I was actually relieved: all this hiking has left me with no time for canning and no time to make the raccoon hammocks I promised Jenna weeks ago. (Although frankly, though we got a lovely thunderstorm yesterday afternoon and this afternoon, I’d hardly call the weather this week terrible.) Tuesday I canned a half-bushel of peaches (I made jam, chutney, and sliced peaches in light syrup) and yesterday I finally made and repaired those raccoon hammocks. And today I’m making a blog post. Whew!

I do plan to post a seitan recipe very soon (I’m making and will photograph it tonight), but I wanted to share a few wildlife pics in the meantime since that might be a photo-heavy post and I didn’t want to tack a thousand unrelated pictures onto it. So with no further ado:

An osprey flying:

Remember all my rapturous ravings about nesting bald eagles earlier this year? Well one evening a few weeks ago, knowing the babies had fledged but also knowing their their parents would continue to supplement feed them for a few more months, I trudged off to the wildlife refuge in hopes of finding a fledgling flying around looking for a handout. AND I DID!! I got lucky. 🙂 This is what a juvenile bald eagle looks like. You’ll notice he looks pretty different than an adult. He (or she; it’s hard to guess their gender without weighing them) won’t get his characteristic white, or “bald”, head until he’s about 5 years old. The small bird in this photo is just some songbird that was flying nearby.

There are always tons of bunnies around the refuge near sundown.

This is a funny story; I was walking through the refuge one evening thinking to myself that I’ve never seen a raccoon there. And I’ve been there many, many times. Five minutes later? BAM:

This is just an HDR of a favorite bench overlooking a creek at the refuge:

And a few HDRs from lovely Huntley Meadows Park.

Okay, back to the refuge. One night a couple of weeks ago when the weather was just absolutely outstanding, I went to the refuge and was somewhat surprised to find not another soul there. It’s not that unusual for me to be the only person there, but the weather was so incredible I thought surely there’d be others there that night. Not that I’m complaining because I’ve noticed recently that SOME of the people that have recently discovered this place don’t obey the rules and jog or bike on the hiking trails, neither of which is permitted and both of which really annoy me because it scares animals away. (I think perhaps people have trouble distinguishing PARK from WILDLIFE REFUGE; it’s NOT a park.) ANYWAY, I happily had the entire refuge to myself and it was like walking through a magical fairyland because there were tons of butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies fluttering around. So I was traipsing around taking a million pictures of butterflies and practicing HDR shots, thinking the night was a total success because I got some really nice pictures. I was really happy. Finally I started to head back to my car as it was well past closing time, when I came upon a small meadow ringed by small trees that shielded me from view, and through two trees I saw movement. Fortunately I hadn’t packed up my camera or tripod, so I looked through my lens and witnessed the following:

Three foxes cavorting! It was sooooo cute! I felt so privileged to see it. It wasn’t until July of this year that I had even managed to get ANY pictures of a fox that wasn’t just a blurry streak running away from me, so to sneak up on this scene was really exciting. I went home positively elated.

Alright, that’s it for now. I’m off to make some seitan, photograph it, do some treadmillin’, and I don’t know, maybe try to get some stupid sleep since my weekend is totally booked and I won’t be making up sleep time then? I don’t know what kind of crazy life I lead where I have to get up even EARLIER on the weekends than I do weekdays, but apparently that’s what I’ve gotten myself into. I can’t believe how quickly this summer has flown by. I want this summer to go on for three times longer than it has! If I weren’t so anxious to go on our Africa trip in October, I’d want this summer to NEVER end! Although I could use a little bit of weather that’s more conducive to productivity…or at least sleep.

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More pictures, no food

So today’s excuse for not posting recipes (which I REALLY intended to do) is this: I NEED TO PRACTICE PHOTOGRAPHY. And photo processing! This trip to Africa is coming up FAST and I’m SUCH an amateur. The exact reason I haven’t been posting, or even really doing that much creative cooking, is I needed a new laptop to take to Africa to use for processing my pictures while we are there, and after MUCH research (I struggled mightily against the inevitable), I ended up allowing Mark to buy me a MacBook Air (I know, I let him do it; aren’t I generous?) even though I’m not into and don’t know how to use Macs. But in the end the desire to use Adobe Lightroom got to me and I decided that OS X was a lesser evil than Windows (I’m a Linux user by default, and Lightroom is not available for Linux), plus I’ll need the longest battery life I can get on safari and the Air seems to have the best battery life of any ultrabook by a long shot. So what I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks is learning how to use Lightroom, which is kind of surprising because honestly I get really antsy when sitting under a computer for hours on end (I do enough of that at work) and I have never enjoyed post-processing photos very much. It’s just kind of been something I have to do. But for some reason I’ve been having fun with Lightroom! (But boy do I dread having to learn Photoshop!) So, no, I don’t yet have the seitan and yogurt tutorials I’d planned, or the gooseberry recipe. or all the other grandiose blog posts I thought I’d spend July putting together. THIS is what I have done instead:


One of the first images I processed in Lightroom; this is Painted Turtle Pond in Occoquan Bay NWR.

A bunny at the refuge.

Scott’s Run in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve. This is my first real attempt at HDR! I hadn’t even intended it to be HDR, but I took several different long exposures and when going through the pictures thought, heyyyyy, why not HDR them? (Yes, I just used HDR as a verb.)

This is where Scott’s Run spills into the Potomac in a nice little waterfall. This is also HDR.

This is the Potomac River from a lovely overlook rock in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve. Another HDR/long exposure.

The Burling House ruins – pretty much just a fireplace – in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.

Long exposure of Scotts Run maybe a quarter mile north of the waterfall.

Another take:

It’s kind of hard to resist taking self portraits when doing long exposures, what with the tripod already set up and the shutter remote in my pocket…this is me at Scott’s Run.

Scott’s Run was Friday night after work. Today, Sunday, Mark and I went kayaking on the Occoquan River. This is the historic town of Occoquan.

Mark kayaking. Here is a fact about me: I taught myself how to use a film SLR in high school, eventually becoming a photographer for our school newspaper, and I strongly preferred B&W to color film – probably 75% of my pics from high school and college are B&W. So I’m loving the B&W “film” options in Silver Efex Pro.

Me kayaking in B&W.

My dilemma: how to express my love of the look of vintage photography without having my photographs look like Instragram filters…I think this is the first time I have ever ADDED grain to a photo. Yikes.

There is an old water treatment facility that is no longer used on the Occoquan River in the town of Occoquan. Fairfax Water is supposed to be removing it to allow for the creation of a park. It’s kind of an eyesore, but then I also kind of like industrial shots.

There are some really cool rocks in the river near the water treatment facility, although you can’t go too far amongst them and they prevent you from going any further upriver which is kind of annoying. I called this photo Houses of the Holy. 🙂

I DON’T OBEY SIGNS.

Waterfront property in Occoquan, again (although I tend to despise new construction, I really like these houses):

Finally, this is not a great picture because I was using my cheap waterproof camera instead of a dSLR but I include it for Jes – a bunch of black vultures let me kayak right up to them as they bathed.

Okay, enough photo bombardment. I will hopefully be back soon with some more tutorials. Hell, maybe my food pictures will actually improve now that I’m “developing” Lightroom skills! (Pun intended because I am a dork.)

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