Green Salsa Tomato Burritos

I bought some green tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday, mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought green tomatoes before. I figured I’d fry them up somehow, but when I was surveying the kitchen for burrito filling ideas (at the suggestion of Smucky), I came across the green tomatoes and thought I could incorporate them somehow. Aided by a recipe I found online, I decided to make a salsa with them, and it was pretty tasty, so I shall share.

A green tomato.

Green Tomato Salsa
Lightly adapted from

2 medium green tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 small or 1/2 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar because my brown sugar is easier to get to than my white sugar)
pinch or two of cumin seeds
pinch of salt
splash of olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Place all of the ingredients except the lime juice and cilantro in a medium saucepan with a little bit of water (2-3 tablespoons). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Use a slotted spoon to move the mixture to a food processor.

Add the lime juice and cilantro and pulse until it’s as smooth or as chunky as you like. Let cool. Serve with tortilla chips or enjoy in a burrito as described below.

Green Tomato Salsa Burritos
Makes enough filling for 4-6 burritos depending on size

1 cup TVP
scant 1 cup vegan “beef” broth
1 packet Goya seasoning with corinader and annatto (optional)
1 cup cooked rice (I especially like rice cooked in broth for this recipe)
fresh cooked corn from 1 ear
1 recipe Green Tomato Salsa (see above)
flour tortillas

Heat the broth to a boil and whisk in the Goya seasoning if using. Pour the broth over the TVP, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes to rehydrate.

Assemble the burritos by putting down a line of rice, then topping it with the TVP mixture, corn, and plenty of salsa.

Roll them up. Burritos are not the easiest things to photograph, but trust me, this was tasty.

So, what else have I been up to? Raccoons, mostly. It’s the height of baby season and we are inundated. This little tyke arrived one day a few weeks ago and only had one ear! This was a birth defect.

Some of you may remember the the story of Emmy, who acted as a surrogate mother for some of our babies last year. We weren’t able to give any of our babies to her this year as she had a full litter of her own to take care of. A couple of weeks ago she moved the whole brood from her usual nest box to another one in a nearby tree. These pictures were taken two weeks ago when the babies were exactly eight weeks old. It was a very hot day and Emmy is trying to get some air by sleeping in outside. One of her babies woke up and got curious about the outside world. These are pictures of this brave little one venturing outside the nest box on his own for possibly the very first time.

“I’m going to do it!”

“Eh, that’s probably enough for today.”

“I’ll just hang here for a while.”

In other news, I’m SO GLAD it’s farmers market season. I don’t know how I survive without it. The only annoying part of the farmers market is bringing home my heavy basket of produce and being hassled by my cats, who LOVE chewing on anything green. Gomez’s face is NOT supposed to be in my food, but I was really charmed by the pattern of these garlic scapes sitting in my basket.

I’ve been continuing to go to parks whenever I’m able, though not as often as I’d like. The other day at Burke Lake Park I saw this luna moth. It was huge – at least 4″ wide.

An isolated picnic table at Burke Lake Park:
Occoquan Bay NWR and Veterans Memorial Park.

Mostly I saw a lot of different kinds of turtles. This is a painted turtle:

Eastern black snake.

This frog was my favorite.

An infrared shot of the creek.

I very narrowly missed getting drenched in a storm – the first fat raindrops fell from the sky when I was about 100 feet from my car and by the time my camera and I were safely inside, it was pouring. You could say I started hurrying back when the sky turned ominous, which is true, but the rather Renae form of hurrying that involves stopping and taking lots of pictures.

Finally, happy Bloomsday to all you literature lovers and Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers, especially my own, who is pictured here helping my mother brush his dog’s teeth. Good oral hygiene is important for everyone!

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Brookland Cafe, bluebells, babies (of the raccoon variety), and a trophy for Smark

Although we live nearby, Mark and I rarely venture to DC, which frankly, I do not like. If I need or want to do something in a city, I’ll usually drive up to Baltimore, where I am from, where I know people, where the streets make sense (They are a grid! They don’t look like someone threw a bowl of noodles on the floor and turned it into a map!), and where one is able to park their car. Mark and I lived in DC near Georgetown for a year, and more than once Mark drove home to our neighborhood, couldn’t find parking, and had to drive back to his office and sleep there because there wasn’t anywhere to put his car. Since we moved to Virginia, my forays into DC have been mostly limited to meetings for work, shows at the 9:30 Club (which I love), and occasional trips to the Smithsonian.

This is part of the reason you rarely see restaurant reviews on this blog; DC has plenty of options for vegans, but I’m barely familiar with them because I avoid the place (and I usually insist on Ethiopian when I am there!). But Mark was in a chess tournament near the Mall last Saturday, so after helping raccoons in the morning, I met him out there. After his tournament, we went out to dinner at a new vegan-friendly restaurant, so I thought I’d do a little review. And blab about my life, because you miss that, right?

I’ll go in chronological order, more or less. Mark, brave soul, drove downtown in the morning to register for the tournament, and I did my regular raccoon routine. We have 15 babies right now, but I think it was about 8 last weekend. This is Vinegar, and like Bender, he can’t roll off his back to right himself. (Most raccoons can – Vinegar is too fat!)

Once all the babies were fed and all the cages clean, I took the metro into the city and found Mark, who was doing well in the tournament. I didn’t hang around the chess place, though. I crossed Pennsylvania Ave…

…and headed towards the Mall.

I was hoping to see the rocket Antares during its takeoff, but the takeoff got scrubbed, for the second time, at the last minute. (It finally took off the next day.) I was disappointed, but I did think the Washington Monument looked a bit like a rocket prepared for liftoff with the scaffolding currently surrounding it. (It’s under repairs due to the earthquake we had in 2011.)

Did you know that the Smithsonian owns one of the original Paris metro signs that I loooooooooooove? (Oh, Paris; you pull off crazy streets and a lack of parking with so much more class than DC.)

I wandered around a couple of the Smithsonian’s gardens for a while…

… then headed back towards Mark. I witnessed a duck walking down the sidewalk outside the Natural History Museum. Why??? I guess she walked up from the Tidal Basin, but that seems rather dangerous. In retrospect, I wonder if I shouldn’t have tried to relocate her, although she seemed to know what she was doing.

Mark was outside waiting for me…with a trophy!!! He won every game of the tournament!

We went to Brookland Cafe for dinner because I had read online that they had a vegan menu and I wanted to check out their selection of vegan bar food. And I REALLY wanted a beer (it was hot!). It’s about 3 blocks from the Brookland CUA station. I had insisted we take the metro even though many stops were closed and we therefore had to take a shuttle for part of the way because I’d never been to Brookland and my base assumption for DC is there is no parking, but actually there was plenty of parking. That was around 6:30 on a Saturday; not sure if that makes a difference. The interior:

Mark was starved after his mental exertions, so we ordered an appetizer of jerk “chicken” tenders. These ended up being a veggie burger cut into strips and covered in a jerk sauce. I wasn’t expecting a veggie burger, but the sauce was tasty.

For his main, Mark ordered the mock fish sandwich. The “fish” looked and tasted like the fish filets I sometimes order from May Wah…which is good because we love those things.

I got the BBQ sandwich. This one was Gardein, I think even the sauce.

For our sides, we both ordered the “explosion” fries, which is a mixture of all four fries they have: regular, sweet potato, lemon pepper, and red pepper. Those were fun. Neither of us could finish our sandwiches, so we took the leftovers home. Because they were based on frozen products, it would have been fairly easy to make any of these dishes at home (except maybe the fries), and I prefer go to restaurants for things I can’t easily make at home, however, everything was also very delicious, the service was extremely attentive and friendly, and I like supporting places that have vegan menus, so I would definitely return. If we lived nearby, I could see Mark and I going there regularly for a beer on nights I didn’t feel like cooking. I would very much prefer it if they got rid of the television, though, and used real china and silverware instead of disposable plastic. I’m kind of hoping the latter is just a temporary measure for some reason.

Before I go, can we talk briefly about how much I love spring? One of the highlights around here is the Virginia bluebells. A couple of weekends ago I went to Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area to check them out.

That was extremely pleasant, although I think Bull Run Regional Park is still my favorite place to see them. I missed them there at their peak, but I did head down there one night after work this week.

Although the blanket of blue wasn’t as heavy as it would have been a couple of weeks ago, it was still beautiful.

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A rare request, and some winter wildlife

No food today, sorry. I do, however, have a request, and then some raptor tales and pictures. First, it’s been a while, so here is a raccoon! This is Sophie and she’s super sweet.

I don’t think I’ve put a name to the wildlife sanctuary where I volunteer and take all the pictures of raccoons I’m always treating you to or boring you with, depending on your perspective. It’s Dogue Hollow Wildlife Sanctuary and you can also find us on Facebook where we post a lot of pictures. I’ve been occasionally asked by readers how they can give me something to thank me for my recipes or pictures or something I’ve sent them. I don’t want or need anything. I keep this blog because I enjoy doing it and because this is my only contact with the vegan community. Mark and I are able to pay our server costs without a struggle and I’ll never subject you to advertising. But while I don’t need anything, Dogue Hollow does, and although I’d be uncomfortable asking for donations in my capacity as a blogger, in my capacity as a Dogue Hollow board member, I’m kind of obligated to make my first feeble fundraising attempt.

We have two very large projects we desperately need to do as soon as possible at Dogue Hollow: we need to build a new nursery for baby raccoons, which will require about $6,000, and we need to install a generator, which will require about $14,000. Dogue Hollow was hit hard by the derecho last July: we were without power or water for 5 days in the 100+ degree heat. Had the storm hit a few weeks earlier when the babies were younger, we’d almost have certainly have lost some of them; we were very lucky they all survived, but it was a terrible strain on our resources. It is VERY hard to keep nearly 50 baby animals alive without running water for cleaning or electricity to refrigerate formula and medicine. The weather around here is only getting weirder and we are likely to lose power for multiple days during any bad storm. Hence the need for the generator. Our first priority is the new nursery, which we need because we’ve been taking in more and more baby raccoons every year and we simply no longer have room to house them. If we don’t have more room, we run the risk of having to refuse raccoons simply for lack of space.

These needs put our operating costs very much over our normal annual budget, and we usually scrape by as it is. So we’re trying to ramp up fundraising right now…though none of us are fundraising experts. (By the way, if you are and you want to volunteer, let me know! And also if you live in Northern Virginia and want to volunteer in some other capacity, let me know.) We’ve opened a special savings account specifically for these two projects and kicked it off with two very generous donations totaling $3,500. I don’t expect most donations to be anywhere near that large, but they put us more than halfway to getting the new nursery, which means smaller donations of even $10 will go a long way to getting us the rest of the way there. So if you’ve ever wanted to thank me for anything, or if you like my raccoons stories and pictures, or if you just want to help wildlife, please consider making a donation, however small. You can do so either via Paypal on our website or by sending a check. You don’t have to, but if you’d like, you can mention with your donation that Renae sent you – I don’t get anything but gratitude from the other board members, but it helps us to know how people heard about us.

This just in! After discussing this with Mark, I can offer anyone who makes a donation of $20 or more a free custom drawing by Mark. Mark is an amazing artist. He could seriously have a second career drawing comics. The only restriction is you must request something “fanciful” that leaves him room for creative interpretation: for example, a raccoon eating a sandwich, not Batman. He’s also very good at aliens, monsters, and the like. This is a picture he drew for me last Christmas.

If you’d like to receive a drawing from Mark, you’ll have to let me know personally as Mark isn’t making this offer to Dogue Hollow in general, so email me at [email protected] if you are interested.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I have some other random wildlife pictures. Last weekend I trekked out to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Part of my mission was to play with my new camera, a micro 4/3 I got for traveling, which I LOVED for our Charleston trip. Unfortunately, it’s really not the camera for birds in flight and within 10 minutes of arriving at the refuge I was mad I hadn’t brought my dSLR because there was a bald eagle soaring over my head. This was the best picture I could get and I was lucky for it:

That turned out not to be the only eagle I saw last week. I later saw one standing on the side of a busy parkway, which kind of freaked me out because you just don’t expect to see a bald eagle on the side of the road when you’re whizzing by at 60 mph in crazy suburbia Northern Virginia. So I had mixed feelings about that: I’m always in awe when I see them, but I hate seeing any animal near a road.

Back to OBNWR, though. I go there regularly, usually better camera-equipped. Other than the eagle, not much else was going on, although it was a gorgeous day. Mostly I just took landscapes, which was okay because I hadn’t really been there in the middle of winter before so it was a new perspective. My two micro 4/3 cameras (one is the infrared-converted one) were fine for that:

After two eagle sightings in one week, I was all hopped up for more raptor photography. A friend had given me a heads’ up on some places that are good for seeing hawks, so on the frigid day that was yesterday, I dragged Mark around two counties trying to get some hawk pictures. I saw nary a hawk. I DID see a Canadian snow goose flying upside down, however:

Apparently this maneuver is called whiffling and if is something they will sometimes do if they need to slow themselves down very quickly for a landing. I think it looks very silly!

After two parks and an exploratory drive, we’d seen zero hawks and we were freezing. We drove back home and parked in our driveway. I gathered my cameras and was hopping out of the Jeep when Mark said, “There is a huge bird sitting on the fence!” And there was a Cooper’s hawk, sitting 20 feet from my front door!

That was pretty amazing because I’ve never seen anything like that in our suburban yard. We get a lot of songbirds, doves, and corvids, but I’ve never seen a raptor. And I happened to have my camera IN MY HANDS! With the 400mm telephoto lens on it and everything! What are the chances?! AND I was dejected at the time because I’d failed to find any hawks after looking for them all day! (Moreover, just the day before I’d expressed jealousy when my mom said she saw a kestrel at her house.) I’m sure there’s some sort of moral here about what you’re looking for being right under your nose, although I hope Mark doesn’t think we’re just hanging out in the backyard next time I want him to go wildlife stalking with me…

Unfortunately, I have a feeling this hawk was menu planning on my fence – he was 10 feet from my bird feeding station and probably hoping for a snack of songbirds. This kind of upsets me because I want the birds I feed to feel safe. But at the same time, LOOK AT HIM! He’s awesome!

That’s it for now. Thank you for indulging me with this post. I promise I’m hardly ever going to make any mention of money for raccoons and I’ll keep posting pictures of them no matter what because people seem to like it. It’s just I’ve been tasked with trying to think of any source possible of animal lovers and it dawned on me that the audience of a vegan blog is probably a good source of animal lovers. Thank you for being really, really great readers whether or not you are able to donate. I have to tell you, I don’t really visit a lot of forums or anything like that because I get really depressed by the negative vibe of many of them, plus I’m very shy – bizarrely even more shy online than in real life – but everyone who comments here, and the writers of all the other vegan blogs I read, are so nice and supportive and wonderful; it restores my often-flagging faith in humanity and truly means a lot to me. I feel like I should be donating to you guys, not the opposite.

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