Roasted Veggies, Kale, and Mixed Grains

This isn’t really a recipe but more of a description of what I had for dinner last night. There were three components:

  • Roasted vegetables: one beet (peeled and chopped), two large carrots (peeled and chopped), one medium potato (chopped; I don’t peel potatoes), and one onion (peeled and chopped), tossed lightly with olive oil, baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour, then tossed with some pesto.
  • Dinosaur kale: Chop the kale and mince or press a few cloves of garlic. Saute the garlic in some olive oil, then add the kale and saute until starting to wilt. Add 1/4 cup veggie or vegan chicken broth, cover, reduce heat, and cook until done to your liking. After the kale was cooked, I coated it with a tahini-nutritional yeast-lemon juice sauce that I can’t give you an exact recipe for because it started off as leftovers from another sauce that I added things to. I was sort of cleaning out the refrigerator. I also tossed in the remainder of a home-canned jar of chickpeas for a little additional protein.
  • Quinoa/millet mix: 1/2 cup quinoa + 1/2 cup millet + 1 1/2 cups water or broth. Bring to a boil in a small/medium heavy pot, cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook about 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, covered, then fluff. (This makes enough for several meals.)

I recently did something I never do, which is purchase salad dressings (I vastly prefer homemade), but Trader Joe’s has these refrigerated Green Goddess and Carrot Ginger Miso dressings which are vegan and looked really good, so I couldn’t resist trying them, even though I could probably have easily made both of them at home. They are in fact really good and although I probably won’t use them on my regular tossed salads, I really enjoyed them mixed in with this meal. I realize that between the pesto on the roasted veggies and the tahini thing on the kale, this is a lot of different sauces in one bowl, but what can I say: I’m a sucker for sauces.

And for today’s bonus, here are some photos I took on a kayaking trip in Elkhorn Slough near Monterey on Sunday, which was absolutely delightful. Elkhorn Slough has the highest concentration of sea otters and I’ve been dying to go there for a long time. It was great!

There are also sea lions and harbor seals:

And lots of pelicans:

I love where I live!

Comments (5)

Tomato Farro

Last night I made Smitten Kitchen’s One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes. I won’t post the recipe as the only change I made was replacing the fresh basil with a dollop of pesto, as earlier in the week I’d transformed all my basil into pesto. I also halved the recipe since it was just me, and I still have half of it leftover. It was really good – I’ll make this again.

I served this with a salad. Because I love salad!

I’m not going to be able to do long posts all the time, and if start expecting to, I’ll never keep up with this, but I was thinking this was going to be really short since I wasn’t actually posting a recipe, so who wants to see some cats???

Well, first you’ll have to read about something seemingly unrelated. Or “seamingly” unrelated, hahaha. When I started looking for places to live this last time around, I knew I was going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff, and honestly, I love getting rid of stuff, especially at this juncture in my life, but there is some stuff that would be a struggle to live without, like, oh, most of my immense amount of kitchen stuff. (But as mentioned in a previous post, I really lucked out as far as my kitchen is concerned!) One thing I was a little nervous about possibly having to get rid of was my sewing machine. I’m not a huge sewer, because I’m not good at anything that requires complicated patterns (or any patterns, really) or more than the very basic straight stitching, but as you can see from the several sewing tutorials I have on here, I do occasionally sew simple things. If I were a normal person and just had a modern sewing machine I could stash in a closet when I wasn’t using it, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but after destroying about 5 such sewing machines in a lifetime, I bought an antique 1949 Singer a while back, which totally changed what happens when I sew (soooooo much less cussing and anger!). In addition to actually WORKING, unlike all the machines I’ve broken in the past, it’s a showpiece because it’s so beautiful, and it sits in a special table and all that jazz. Which is great and all but that means it takes up space that I was sure was going to be at a premium. I was stressing out about this a bit, even though I’ve really only used the sewing machine maybe 6 or 7 times since I got to California three years ago.

As it turns out, I have plenty of space for the sewing machine. I still didn’t expect to be inspired to USE it any time soon, though, because I am ridiculously busy. But I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the bag I was using at the wildlife hospitals. A couple years ago I made myself a handbag to use on “normal” days, and a separate bag to carry on “wildlife” days, stashing in the latter things I only need at the hospitals, like my set of hospital keys, a notebook, name tags, raptor gloves, training whistle, etc. I just transfer my wallet from bag to bag depending on the day. But I was starting to find the wildlife bag too small, the more involved I get and the more things I’m doing, and things weren’t as organized as I’d like, so I decided to make myself a new, improved bag this week. Since it had been a while since I’ve sewn anything, I had forgotten how SUPER INVOLVED Gomez gets when I sew!

Like, he’s got to roll around on the fabric while I’m trying to cut it. Super unsafe! So annoying! But also adorable! HE IS VERY HANDSOME.

He also enjoys sitting on my lap – or on my shoulders – when I’m at the sewing machine. Anyway, as soon as I managed to clear Mezzie off the cutting mat, THIS one showed up in his place:

I swear, that bag took twice as long to make as it should have! If you are curious, here’s the final product:

I pinned one of my nametags onto it because it was always stabbing me when I had it tossed into the bottom of the old bag, but I just realized I pinned it right over the peacock’s eyes. Oops!

My other bag was made using an owl print, quilting weight fabric, and since I wanted something heavier this time, I tried to find owl upholstery fabric that wasn’t overly cutesy, but didn’t find anything I liked, so I went with this peacock fabric. It’s not as heavy as I was hoping either, though, so I’ll use this for a little while and see whether or not I like it or if I need to try again. I did put owls on the inside though!

I’ll be headed to one of the hospitals this afternoon (well, actually I’ll be at both of them at one point today, god I’m busy), so we’ll see how it does when put to the test!

Comments (2)

Roasted Vegetable Pesto Polenta

Hello, is anyone out there? After a lengthy absence I am back with some recipes! I doubt anyone will see this after so long, but I’ve been cooking up a storm lately and decided to post if for no other reason to give myself ideas at some future date when I’m not feeling as creative.

Like a lot of Americans, I’ve spent the time since my last post, which I see was just after “the election”, in a state of deep depression, stress, and anxiety. Much of it was directly related to the election and continues to this day, and will undoubtedly continue through 2020, although some of it was due to personal reasons. The good news is I’m feeling better personally. (Though still feel increasingly terrible as an American.) Dark as my days may have been, I never stopped wanting to cook, and I frequently made really good stuff, but I wouldn’t say I was being particularly explorative when cooking over the last couple of years. Occasionally a friend would tell me I should post something here, but I either didn’t agree the meal warranted a post or just didn’t have the wherewithal to get around to it.

I moved into my third new place in three years in California a few weeks ago. I’m sill in the Bay Area (I’ve barely moved a mile each time), but have downsized to a slightly more affordable condo as opposed to the single family houses Mark and I shared. I wasn’t sure how the transition to a multi-family building would be for me, and there are still some things I’m getting used to, but I wasn’t expecting to get as extra-excited about cooking as I have! Especially since although I REALLY lucked out regarding the size of my kitchen, the electric stove top is vintage to the 1983 building construction and it’s a freakin’ mess! (The double oven, though, is brand new!) Ironically, the stove is probably partially responsible for my recent cooking zeal because it “forced” me to buy an induction burner, which I’ve wanted for years, and use it for most of my cooking, AND I LOVE IT. I should have bought one a long time ago: if nothing else it would have saved me from the ten times I’ve let my homemade soy milk boil over when making yogurt!

I’ve been more consistently going to farmers markets lately, and being at farmers markets makes me intensely happy. I come home with a basket full of produce, eager to turn it into delicious meals. My meals have become a little more imaginative and healthy than they were. I’ve never actually eaten badly, by any means, and maybe it’s just the summer season with all its bounty, but I feel like I’m just eating fresher and healthier than ever before. I’m actually overwhelmed with ideas and meals I want to make! As I said, I thought maybe I’d try to document some of them here, because I know these things come and go in phases and in a few months I might not be feeling quite as imaginative or excited. So to that end, here is last night’s…

Roasted Vegetable Pesto Polenta

One trend in my meals of late has been roasting vegetables, making some sort of whole grain or grains, concocting some new sauce, grabbing handfuls of fresh herbs, and serving a one-bowl meal of it. I scored a huge bunch of basil for $1.50 at the market yesterday, so I made pesto. Although I have been doing a lot of experimenting lately, I actually made a very traditional pesto, although for me THAT was experimental because as a vegan, I’ve never actually made pesto exactly as you’re supposed to, since obviously I don’t eat cheese. I really like Follow Your Heart’s vegan parmesan, though, so I used that.

1 cup whole grain polenta-ground corn
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 zuchinni or summer squash, sliced
1 small onion, roughly chopped

1/4 cup pesto (homemade is best, but Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)
3 Tbsp corn relish
vegan parmesan (optional)

I made the polenta in my Instant Pot using these directions, but basically to make it, you put the water in a pot (Instant or otherwise), then slowly whisk in the polenta meal. Then you add salt and cook it until it’s done, stirring often if you are making it on the stove, or on the Porridge –> More setting on the Instant Pot. Both methods probably take the same amount of time when it’s all said and done, but with the Instant Pot method I just walked away from it for half an hour, so that’s easier.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the prepared vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Roast them until they are tender, about 25 minutes.

To serve, scoop some prepared polenta into a shallow bowl. Dollop half the pesto on top. Add the roasted vegetables and dollop the remaining pesto on top of them. Finally top with the corn relish, and if desired garnish with vegan parm. The corn relish I used was my home-canned relish using a recipe from the excellent Saving the Season by Kevin West. If you don’t have corn relish, find some other pickled item to add a “zing” – otherwise maybe just try a little lemon juice. I liked the contrast between the sweet polenta corn and the zip of the corn relish.

I served this with field green salad tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic, Dijon, and salt):

As I’ve eaten ALL my meals lately, I ate this on my balcony, and it felt like being in a particularly cozy restaurant.

Another unexpected thing about my new place is that my favorite “room” is the balcony! (Well, one of the two balconies!) I absolutely love it out here (I’m composing this post from it!). The weather is (almost) always perfect here, so it’s always pleasant to be outside. Here’s a picture taken of my lunch (gumbo!) earlier yesterday: on the table you can see the basil that would shortly become pesto:

I don’t know what it is about this balcony, but I honestly feel like I’m on vacation every time I’m out here. It puts me in a very relaxed state. Since I work from home, I’m able to eat all three meals outside and mentally it’s extremely good for me. I usually read while I eat, or if I want to watch TV or a movie while I eat dinner, I use my tablet. It’s sooo much nicer than what I’ve done for years, which is eat dinner on the sofa (unless we had guests). The only downside to the balcony is I miss the cats, who used to sit on my lap while I ate, but now have to sit by the door and look forlornly out at me since they can’t come out here. But having such a wonderful place to eat is probably another part of the reason I’ve been so into cooking.

I’ve also been canning a lot since I moved. A friend, who had helped me pack my jars last time, came to visit the new place and commented that it looked like I had fewer jars this year than I did last year. So I promptly canned two different kinds of pickles, 40 pints of different soups, chili sauce, and ginger syrup – I must have added at least 75 jars to the shelf since I got here. I should do a post soon on the beautiful jar shelf Fortinbras built me and all the stuff I’ve been canning. I’m currently developing a “gumbo starter” recipe I want to pressure can. (Hence yesterday’s gumbo lunch!)

And in other news, I’m only even more involved in wildlife rehab than I was the last time you heard from me. Because it’s the busy season, I’m working a ton of hours on wildlife-related stuff, several days a week. I’ve also started doing at-home rehab: some baby mammals (I’m actually picking up a batch of 30-gram opossums tonight), but mostly, and my favorite – OWLS! That’s right: I keep owls in my house. It’s amazing. Once the animals I’ve raised and/or healed are ready to go, I usually get to release them myself, so in addition to all the rehab, I’ve been doing a lot of wildlife releases. I’m not allowed to share pictures from inside the hospitals or of rehab patients in my home on social media, so sorry, I can’t post tons of adorable owl pictures, but here is a video of me releasing a white-tailed kite last week:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQWRS8PtU3I

And finally, I’m still trying to hike a few times a week, although I’ve added kayaking and biking to my activities as well. I’m still seeing all kinds of amazing animals when I go out! A friend and I came across this Great Horned owl fledgling in Redwood Regional Park last week.

Comments (6)

Miscellaneous Fast Meals

No real post tonight, but I did take pictures of some of the quick meals I put together this week. I got a shipment of Cheezly today, and since I had some soy chorizo in the fridge, I was thinking of going the Mexican route with dinner. Not having any tortillas on hand, and having just had rice last night, I was perusing my stash of grains, trying to figure out which would work best with a Mexican theme. I settled on millet. I quickly learned after googling “Mexican millet recipe” that “Mexican millet” is actually a recipe in Veganomicon, and deciding for once that there’s no need to reinvent the Mexican millet, I grabbed my copy of that and followed it almost exactly.

I ended up not using the soy chorizo at all and instead making a super-fast no-added-fat refried bean dish. I put a can each of pinto and black beans into a small, heavy pot, added half a cup of water, 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp granulated onion (I’d already chopped an onion for the millet and was feeling really lazy), and 1 Tbsp vegan bacon bits and cooked until the pinto beans were creamy and everything was warmed through. When serving, I topped the beans with nacho Cheezly and chopped onion and tomato.

This was a good, quick dinner. I’d make it again.

The other night I made some sort of quinoa dish that consisted of red quinoa cooked in broth, to which I added sauteed sliced onions, chickpeas, leftover artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and salt and pepper.

Yesterday I worked from home in order to accompany Miss Brachtune to the vet for a follow-up visit to see if her urinary tract infection is gone (it’s not, unfortunately, but she did get her shots and some more antibiotics). This meant I was able to make a hot lunch, but I was caught up in what I was doing so I didn’t want to take too long cooking it. I made ramen in about 5 minutes. It’s just vegan broth, a spoonful of chili garlic paste, a spoonful of fermented soybean paste, a tablespoon of dried soup vegetables, and half a package of chuka soba. (Wow, they’re really expensive online; they cost half that at Super H.)

I’m afraid that’s all I have for you today. I’m hoping to do a lot of cooking this weekend because after that I have one completely crazy-busy October lined up, including a trip to San Francisco.

Comments (7)

Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

I felt like veganizing another old recipe tonight. This is my grandmother’s recipe for Chili Con Carne, which I picked out because I thought topping it with one of the new Cheezly flavors that arrived Friday would be a good way to test the cheese out. I often find myself wishing I had discovered my interest in cooking long before I did so that I could have apprenticed myself under my grandmother before she died, or better, that she had lived longer. I’m positive she would have happily helped me make vegetarian meals. Here’s the original, rather vague recipe:

Cook ground beef, 2 onions, and pepper until brown. Add 1 can tomatoes and 1 can kidney beans. (Pour broth off kidney beans before adding.) Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, 3 Tbsp. Chili powder, and dash red pepper. Simmer 40 minutes.

So I set about looking for beef substitutes. First I thought of TVP, which would have also been good for nostalgic purposes, reminding me of all the times my college roommate and I made huge pots of Fantastic’s Chili, but I discovered I had less than a cup of TVP. Next I thought of bulgur, which is a great texture for chili, but I had even less bulgur. But I probably had enough of both combined, so that’s what I did. You could use one instead of the other and still have great results, although you may have to adjust the amount of water. Bulgur requires more water than TVP, so just keep that in mind.

Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
4 cups vegetable or vegan “beef” broth
1/2 cup bulgur
3/4 cup TVP
3 Tbsp vinegar (I used white wine; apple cider would have been good too)
3 Tbsp chili powder
minced hot pepper or hot sauce to taste (reduce the amount of vinegar if you use a vinegar-based hot sauce)

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, then add a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the green pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.

Rinse the beans …

… then add to the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, …

… reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, until the bulgur is soft and the chili is as thick as you desire.

If you like, top with shredded vegan cheese and/or vegan sour cream.

The Nacho-flavored Cheezly was really good, both by itself and on the chili. I love Cheezly. As for the chili, it was good. I will definitely make it again. It was simple, easy, and very fast: a great weekday meal.

As Tigger and I were busy in the kitchen prepping the chili, I heard thundering cat paws in the living room. Quickly and quietly, I grabbed my camera and tip-toed into the room, viewfinder to eyeball and finger on shutter. Despite my stealth, Brachtune, who had been enjoying a Tigger-free reprieve and batting around one of the Cat Toys For Cats, heard me approaching and immediately stopped playing and started walking towards me. It’s so impossible to catch her playing; she always abandons her games and approaches me looking for love.

Then she gets her face so close to the camera, I can’t focus.

It’s much easier when she’s half asleep.

Comments (3)