Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans and Potato Radish Salad for the Fourth

While many of my fellow Americans were traveling, watching parades, attending or hosting cookouts, and watching fireworks or setting off their own fireworks on Friday, the Fourth of July, I for one was just happy to have a DAY OFF. No work, no raccoons, no raptors, no obligations. I didn’t set an alarm and I slept until 10:30! It was so great! And the weather was sensational: clear skies and about 80 degrees with none of that thick humidity that so characterizes summer in the DC metro area. Ordinarily weather that spectacular would have pulled me to a park, but I figured they’d all be crowded and anyway, I kind of felt like I needed a day of rest. So instead I spent what would have at one time been a normal amount of time in the kitchen but for me lately was a LOT of time. I decided to make a fairly traditional Fourth of July dinner for Mark and myself, and I’m going to share some of the recipes! That’s right, I remembered this is a food blog!

The first thing I did was quick soak some beans to make cowboy beans. I took about a pound of Steuben Yellow Eye Beans, put them in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup, poured boiling water over them, covered, and set aside for an hour. I used the yellow eye beans because I have a lot of them (because I LOVE them!), but you can use whatever bean you think would be good. I’d have used pinto beans if I hadn’t used the yellow eyes. And then I did this:

Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans

1 lb dried beans, your choice (something like pinto, kidney, or Steuben Yellow Eye), soaked overnight or quick soaked (by pouring boiling water over them) for 1 hour
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup seitan, ground (preferably a “pork” flavor…I’ll probably do a post on this soon) (grind in a food processor, blender, or meat grinder)

For the sauce
1 pint canned diced tomatoes
3 chilis en adobo + some of the sauce
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeled
5 drops stevia (or a couple tablespoons white or brown sugar)

Put the sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Drain the beans and place them with the rest of the ingredients, including the sauce, into a slow cooker and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, or until beans are soft.

Here they are plated. Mark put his on his veggie dog, which is an excellent vehicle for them.

I also whipped up some potato salad, which helped to go through some of the pounds of young potatoes I’ve been collecting at the farmers market because I can’t resist them. (I can’t resist anything at the farmers market.) Because I also had a ton of radishes and was planning to buy even more radishes at the market the next day, I decided to throw some radishes into the potato salad as well, which added some crunch and interest. Mark hates mayo and I’m not keen on it in salad-sized doses, so often I’ll do vinaigrette-based potato salads, but since I grew up with mayo-based potato salads (and according to the number of people at my brother’s party the other weekend who informed me my mother’s potato salad was delicious, apparently I grew up with a good recipe!), I decided to go a little more traditionally (for me) creamy, so I did a yogurt-based dressing this time. Of course, putting radishes in potato salad is certainly NOT traditional in my family. (Although radishes always remind me of making green salads from my mom’s garden as a kid because radishes were my favorite part.)

Potato Radish Salad

2-3 lbs young potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 large or 6 medium radishes, sliced thinly then cut into 2-centimeter-wide sticks
2-3 spring onions, sliced

For the dressing
1/3 cup plain, unsweetened soy yogurt (Homemade is much, much better than store-bought. And I really, really need to do an updated post on it; that old one is embarrassing.)
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon, depending on the tanginess of your yogurt (mine is quite tangy so I used 1/4 lemon)

Chop the potatoes – I never peel them – and put them into a medium to large pot. Cover with cold water, then bring the pot to a boil. Salt the water, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft. You don’t want them falling-apart soft, but I like mine soft enough that they just start to break apart when I stir the dressing in. When they are done, drain them into a colander.

Meanwhile, whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. While the potatoes are warm, mix them together with the radishes, spring onions, and the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

And this was my whole plate Friday night; also featured are some dilly beans, pickled onions, and a Field Roast veggie frankfurter in a homemade bun. I ALMOST made homemade hot dogs just so I could say everything I served was made from scratch, but then I made some sauerkraut and went on a 7-mile jog/walk instead (couldn’t avoid going outside in that spectacular weather after all). But Field Roast is good and I had three lonely frankfurters in the freezer to use up anyway.

So that was my Fourth of July dinner. And here is an osprey dinner! (You can’t see it, but the parent osprey just put a bite of fish into the beak of her baby.)

I got that picture while kayaking last weekend. There is a nest right by our launch site, and as we were returning just before sunset, the mother (or father; they both tend to the young – but that one looks kind of big so let’s say it’s the mother) nabbed a fish and swooped back into the nest and started feeding the one baby. I was REALLY close. It was awesome! I take my mirrorless camera on the kayak with me because it’s weather sealed (and if I drop it in the Potomac I won’t have AS BIG of a breakdown that I’d have if I dropped my dSLR and a telephoto lens into a river just a few months before we go to Africa), so I whipped it out and took a ton of pictures, all excited. It took me a few minutes to even realize there was another kayaker just behind me, who was doing the same thing, although with a dSLR and the Canon 100-400mm. So we ended up talking (I don’t know what’s up with me chatting up wildlife photographers all the time because I’m normally very shy, but it happens) and I told him he was much braver than me taking that setup on a kayak. He said you just have to be very careful. (I’m pretty careful with my camera equipment, but I don’t know if I’m a careful kayaker. I’m a new kayaker.) And of course, when I went to process my pictures I was kicking myself for not being as brave as that guy because they sucked. I’d have gotten some spectacular shots if I’d had my dSLR and 400mm lens. I deleted all but three, including all of the ones where you could see the mother actually putting the fish into the baby’s mouth. I love my mirrorless camera for some things, but not for wildlife. 🙁 Of course, it’s really hard to take telephoto pictures on a kayak anyway. Even if I weren’t scared of losing my camera, it’s practically impossible to sit still in a kayak.

Anyway, although I was disappointed with my osprey pictures from last week, let me tell you a happier osprey story from last week. Some good citizens saw an osprey chick fall from its nest platform, tangled in fishing line, so they cut it free, got it out of the water, and brought it to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (where I volunteer). Kent at RCV warmed it up, dried it out, and kept it fed. As he told me today, there’s about a 48-hour window for returning chicks to their nest before the parents abandon it. So less than 48 hours later, one of our volunteers took the healthy chick back, waded out to the platform, and somehow returned the chick to the nest (about 8-feet off the water), and cleared the nest of the rest of the fishing line. Before he departed, he made sure the parents were still in the area, AND the parents were later confirmed to be seen feeding the chick! Success! Had the operation not been successful, I’D have been feeding a baby osprey today when I went into RCV! Which would have been a new experience for me, but it’s sooooooooo much better for them to be raised by their parents. (Besides, I had my fill of feeding chicks today: several red shouldered hawks chicks, a couple of barred owl chicks, several great horned owl chicks (oh my gosh, how they hate my guts!), a bunch of screech owl chicks (so, so, so tiny and cute!), and five barn owl chicks (OH MY GOD, THEY ARE SO AWESOME! AND HISSY!!!!))

Parent feeding chick > Renae feeding chick.

I hope the Americans out there had a lovely Fourth of July, and that the rest of you had a nice fourth of July. 🙂

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Soyrizo-stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Here’s a tasty dish I whipped up last night partially to use up several different leftovers: a single link of soyrizo, a couple of poblano peppers that had seen better days, and a little less than a cup of cooked black-eyed peas. I also had a box of super-cute baby sweet potatoes from the farmers market that I wanted to base my meal around. I just combined all of that stuff et viola!

Soyrizo-stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 large baby sweet potatoes or 2 medium regular sweet potatoes
1 link vegan chorizo (“soyrizo”)
2 poblano peppers
1/2 – 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas
shredded vegan cheese (I used jack flavor) (optional)

I used the largest 4 in a box of baby sweet potatoes, but you can also use regular sized ones. Poke them a few times with a fork, rub lightly with olive oil, and bake them (the toaster oven is perfect for this) at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until a fork pierces them easily. How long this will take will depend on the size of the potatoes; my baby potatoes were probably done in 30-40 minutes. Remove them from the oven, make a slit lengthwise down the top of them by poking with a fork, then put one palm on either end of each potato and press your hands together until the split opens up to a perfect pocket for stuffing.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Roast the poblano peppers. If you have a gas stove, you can do this right over the flame. I have an electric stove (bleh), but this pepper roaster works great on an electric stove. You could also put them under the broiler for several minutes, though if you do that, I’d stem and seed them first instead of after roasting so you don’t have to turn them. In any case, roast them until the skins are black and charred, then pop them into a paper bag, close it up, and set aside to cool. After 10 or 15 minutes, the charred skins will slide right off the peppers. Remove the seed and stems and chop the peppers.

Heat some oil in a small skillet, then add the soyrizo, chopped roasted peppers, and cooked black-eyed peas and saute for a few minutes.

When this mixture seems thoroughly cooked, spoon it into each of the sweet potatoes. If you’d like, top with shredded vegan cheese.

Pop back into the oven until the potatoes are warm and the cheese, if using, is melted.

I served this with kale chips seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika, and a garden salad tossed with a homemade lime vinaigrette. (I believe the vinaigrette was olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and cilantro.) The leftover potatoes and kale chips made a nice lunch today.

I haven’t posted any raccoon pictures lately! This was was taken from within a cage that I was cleaning. One of our wild mother raccoons was bringing her babies by for a visit.

We released 19 raccoons a few weeks ago. We’re lucky in that we can do what is called a soft release, which means we can release the animals right on the property, leaving their cages open and providing food for a few days until the more cautious are ready to totally make on their own and go find their own territory. A few take off as soon as we open their little escape door and we never see them again, but many hang around for varying lengths of time. This is a raccoon that we released this summer who was lurking around the deck hoping for a food handout.

Speaking of raccoons, if you have three minutes, this is an awesome video by the Humane Society that explains how we receive many of our orphaned babies – in fact it features Dogue Hollow! So if you want a tiny glimpse into where I spend a chunk of every weekend, watch through to the end.

In other nature news, about the only thing I don’t like about Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (other than the fact that their website looks screwed up right now) is they aren’t open from sunrise to sunset like many parks. Instead they are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the spring and summer and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall and winter. This is frustrating because the majority of wildlife comes out at dusk and goes back in at dawn. As the closing time changes to 5 p.m. next month and the days are getting shorter, this is a good time to go down there after work to take pictures because it’s one of the few times of the year you can really be there near sunset. So that’s what I did last week. Unfortunately I didn’t encounter much wildlife other than these turkeys …

… but the sunset was pretty.


(Yes, I was naughty and stayed past 7!)

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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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