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:


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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Smoky “Cheese” Sauce and a perfect baked potato

This recipe is more for myself to refer to the next time I want to make something like it than a hard and fast recipe. I was planning to have a baked potato for dinner and wanted a “cheese” sauce to serve over it with steamed veggies, but I also wanted to clear a few things out of the fridge. I’ve just estimated the amounts below as it was a real throw-a-bunch-of-things-in type of deal. Here’s approximately what I came up with:

Smoky “Cheese” Sauce

1/2 cup silken tofu
1 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp tahini-based salad dressing (this was something I wanted to use up, in the future I’d just use 2 Tbsp plain tahini)
3/4 cup water (this I poured into the bottle I had the dressing in and shook it, in order to get the last of the dressing out)
1 small jar (4 oz) pimientos
1 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric (optional, for color)
juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat, stirring often, until bubbly.

For the baked potato, I scrubbed and dried a russet potato, poked it several times with a fork, then poured a little bit of olive oil in my palm and then rubbed my palms together, then rubbed my palms all over the potato to get a thin film all over it. Then I sprinkled some smoked Maldon salt on all sides and put it in the toaster oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

A perfect baked potato.

When it was done, I made a rough seam across it with a fork, then pushed the ends together to make it pop open into a wide boat to receive the veggies and “cheese”.

I steamed broccoli and asparagus together for just a couple of minutes, then topped the potato with the veggies, some “cheese” sauce …

… and some fried onions I found in the cupboard. OK, the fried onions kinda negate the innate healthiness of the meal, but I’ve had a really bad week and damn it, fried onions cheer me up.

Mark and I both had off on Monday for President’s Day, and Mark surprised me immensely by announcing early that day that he was going to Wegman’s to buy stuff for dinner. “Are you making dinner?!” I gasped in surprise. Turns out, yes, yes he was making dinner. He made gumbo and it was darn good! I’ve been eating it for lunch all week. I tried to get him to do a post, but I think that would have overwhelmed him. I did snag a photo, though. I didn’t help at all!

The last post was crazy kitten-heavy and I’m sure I do have readers that aren’t interested in kittens, and I don’t wish to alienate them, so this is a kitten-free* post. I’m sure they’ll have done something ridiculously cute that warrants a picture next time, though.

* It’s not technically kitten-free. If you look carefully at the last picture of the baked potato there is a vaguely kitten-shaped, black blob in the background that is, in fact, Gomez. It’s near impossible to take a kitten-free photo around here.

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Tempeh in Horseradish Gravy

I saw this in the grocery store and knew Mark would find it amusing. (He did.)

It is, of course, fresh horseradish. I’m a fan of horseradish, fresh or prepared. I like the sinus-clearing bite it gives to food. I did a little googling and decided to make this recipe, using tempeh instead of the unspecified meat. If you use vegan stock, it’s vegan as written. I made it pretty much exactly as directed, although some of the measurements are a bit vague, so I’ll clarify what I did.

1 package tempeh (no time to make my own recently, alas)
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 small to medium horseradish root, or about 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I used 3)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar (a bit less if you use prepared horseradish)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 to 1/2 cups vegan “beef” stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Chop the tempeh into 3/4″ cubes. Fry lightly in a skillet and set aside.

Peel the horseradish.

Grate the horseradish. I highly recommend using a food processor if you have one because freshly-grated horseradish fumes are quite noxious.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive or other oil in a skillet, then add the onions and brown.

Add 2 tablespoons of the grated horseradish and the flour, and fry for a minute or two.

Add the broth, cloves, bay leaves, brown sugar, and vinegar and bring to a boil.

Allow the gravy to thicken up a bit, then add the tempeh and the rest of the horseradish (you may want to taste it before dumping all the horseradish in), seasoning with salt and pepper as well.

Leave the burner on low until thickened to your likeness. Adjust seasonings if necessary. (I added an extra tablespoon of brown sugar.)

I also made some roasted mustardy potatoes.

I whisked together equal parts olive oil, German mustard, and white wine vinegar.

I tossed this with some teeny tiny potatoes, then spread them on a toaster oven-sized baking sheet. Whenever possible, I like using my toaster oven for small roasting and baking jobs. Then I roasted at about 400 degrees until everything else was done, about half an hour. Larger potatoes will take longer.

For the green counterpart of the meal, I made Elise’s Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika. I blanched the kale for 5 minutes …

… then drained, remembering (for once) to save the kale nutrient-filled water (I used it in the gravy above).

I gathered the spices:

Sauteed the onions, then added the spices.

And finally added the kale and sauteed a few more minutes.

And here it is all together:

Any Nabokov fans out there? I got The Original of Laura!

I was so excited about it I actually had to buy the December Playboy to get a preview, but the real thing makes for a bit classier of a read:

Each page is printed on heavy card stock with a scan of the actual index cards on which VN wrote the incomplete novel. The pages are perforated so you can re-order them. That’s how VN wrote all his novels: on index cards that he would rearrange until the story formed itself in the correct order. Because he died before the book was finished, we don’t know for sure in what order the cards would have ended up.

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Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes with Broiled Tempeh and Sauerkraut

We’re back from the beach! Although now Mark wants to move to Charleston….

I did some refrigerator restocking this afternoon but have mostly been just relaxing today and didn’t make anything elaborate: just the usual tofu and pizza (I need to show you my new crust made with 00-style flour!). It was nice to be back in the kitchen with all my own stuff, although I did enjoy making Carolina Red Rice for Mark’s family one night at the beach. Next year I am definitely taking my own chef’s knife, however! Anyway, since I didn’t have time to make tempeh this weekend, I sucked it up and bought some, although store-bought just does not compare to home-made. The night before we left for Charleston, I had moved my latest batch of sauerkraut from its crock to the refrigerator after a 6-week fermentation and it is really, really good so I wanted to incorporate it into dinner tonight. Here is what I did:

Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes

5 medium red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp German-style mustard
2 tsp sugar or 4 drops stevia
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp coarse or flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and chop the potatoes …

… and the onion.

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender …

… then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Put the cooked potatoes and the chopped onions into a bowl …

… and toss with the dressing.

Serve warm, room temperature, or cool.

For a protein, I made an improvised tempeh thing. I cut the tempeh in half, then cut each half into two slabs like this:

Then I whisked together a tablespoon of German mustard, a half tablespoon of soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I brushed both sides of each tempeh slab with the mixture, then fried on both sides until golden:

I topped each slab with a slice of vegan “cheese” (I used the swiss uncheese recipe from The Uncheese Cookbook). I also put a dab of habanero sauce on each slice.

This photo is blurry, but I wanted you to see that when I removed the tempeh I was a little worried that the uncheese was setting up and baking instead of melting:

But I smeared it around with a spatula, mixing the hot sauce in, and all was well:

I tried heating up the sauerkraut to serve it warm, but decided it tasted much better cold, which meant it was raw and probably even healthier. Mark made a sandwich out of the tempeh and sauerkraut and some rye bread; I served mine without bread. Mark’s meal was probably a little better, though, because the tempeh was a little dry: smooshing it together with the sauerkraut probably improved it. What Mark had, therefore, was a super-healthy reuben, minus the fattening Thousand Island sauce!

As promised/threatened, I have some travel photos. Mark’s mom arranged a salt marsh tour for us and it was rife with photo ops. This is the Morris Island lighthouse.

There were a lot of birds on the island we stopped to explore. This guy didn’t budge regardless how close I got to him and had what I thought was a funny expression on his face.

My college roommate’s father was an artist who named all his works “Sentinel”. I named this photo “Sentinels” in his honor.

This guy left his post:

This one is facing the wrong way!

This one is a loner. I identify with him.

These pelicans didn’t let me disturb their wading.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m from Baltimore and that the single non-vegan thing I probably miss most is steamed crabs covered in Old Bay. As you buy bushels of crabs still alive in order to steam them, I’ve seen plenty of living crabs. My uncle thought it was amusing to chase me around the house with them during family crab feasts after I went vegetarian. However, I’m used to the appearance of Maryland blue crabs. We saw what I’ve identified as ghost crabs, which look quite different, scuttling around the island:

He ran away from me – sideways of course! – as fast as he possibly could (which is quite fast), but he needn’t have worried because I haven’t eaten a crab in more than 20 years!

I had another lesson in seafood on the boat tour as well. These are birds standing on oyster beds:

I never knew what oysters looked like in the wild. In fact, I’ve never even eaten an oyster and don’t even know what they look like on a plate!

The best part of the tour, though, was getting to see some dolphins just a few feet from the boat, and the captain kindly cut the engine for several minutes while I snapped away. It’s hard to get a picture of a dolphin, especially through a telephoto lens, because by the time you hear them surface and focus your camera, their faces are back in the water again and you have no idea (because the water is not clear) where they will resurface. Here’s what I managed to capture, though:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but the fin in front of the mama dolphin belongs to a baby!

And that’s how I spent my week at the beach: hanging out with dolphins, swimming in the ocean, reading, enjoying the company of Mark’s wonderful family, reading some more, and swimming some more. Pretty idyllic, really. It was sunny and hot in Charleston, and at an amazing 83 degrees, the ocean temperature was a good ten degrees warmer than the water in my pool when I left it. When I got home, I found the pool had actually also warmed to 83 degrees, which was nice. What was definitely NOT nice was that the filter broke while we were gone and my pool was a green, swampy – but finally temperate – mess. So while I thought I’d spend my transition day from vacation to work week poolside, what instead transpired is I spent an hour cleaning the pool, which I couldn’t get in, and then it rained and was overcast all day anyway. Yeah, hello, Virginia. Can’t say I missed you or your lousy excuse for a summer.

In happier news, however, Miss Brachtune missed the heck out of us. She hasn’t left my side for 24 hours. I’ve never seen a cat so incredibly happy to see a human being before. And she’s doing great! The cat sitter said she was a perfect angel when getting her sub-q fluids and she seems to have eaten pretty well, and she just looked healthy. So that was a relief! And now I guess I have to confront the fact that I need to be at work in 10 hours. I did realize today that thanks to the Fourth of July on Saturday, I have a 4-day work week – woo!

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Lemony French dinner is mine

Dinner preparations were a bit haphazard tonight as I got home late and encountered some issues that needed to be dealt with when I finally arrived. Likewise my photos are haphazard. Nonetheless, I worked out a theme for the meal and it turned out pretty awesome. The theme was French. That’s because yesterday I found some French beans at Wegmans and revolved the meal around them. What I did was basically throw things together and ask myself what flavors seemed French to me, which isn’t easy because I’m not well versed in French cuisine as it’s not known for being particularly vegan-friendly. I’d also bought a bag of lemons yesterday because, well, I love lemons. They’re on my list of Things About Which I Freak Out if I’m Not Well-Stocked With. Garlic’s number one and onions are a close number two, but I think lemons may be number three. Anyway, right now I have PLENTY of garlic, onions, and lemons, so I found myself wondering what sorts of things seemed French and lemony. And here’s what I came up with:

Lemon-Dijon Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs red potatoes, chopped into even but chunky pieces
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves pressed garlic
1 tsp flaked sea salt, like Maldon
freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh herbs, to taste (I used rosemary and thyme)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and chop the potatoes. How large you chop them will determine how quickly they bake.

Place the mustard, oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper into a small bowl.

Whisk together.

Place the potatoes on a baking tray or dish on which they will fit in one layer. Pour the sauce over them.

Coat the potatoes with the sauce by tossing them around in your (clean!) hands. Place in the oven and cook for half and hour. Remove and add the fresh herbs:

Herbs from my indoor herb garden that I haven’t yet killed!

Return to oven and roast and additional 10 minutes or until done.


Lemony Garlic French Beans

1/2 lb French beans, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp shallot salt

Blanch the beans in salted, boiling water for 3 minutes.

Brush or spray a large skillet with olive oil. Add garlic and lemon zest, stir for 20 seconds. Add the beans and stir.

Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet, as well as the lemon juice and shallot salt; stir to mix. Cover, reduce heat, and steam for 5 minutes.


Basic Lentils

I know I was going for a vaguely French theme here and I do in fact have French lentils, but honestly, I love your plain ole, every day brown lentils more than any other and that’s what I’ve used here. I could eat them every day.

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups dry green or brown lentils
4 cups vegan stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp shallot salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring some oil (you need very little) up to temperature, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the lentils and stock; bring to a boil. Add the thyme and shallot salt, adjusting the amounts to suit your tastes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.

To serve, dress the lentils generously with fresh-squeezed lemon (I used 1/2 a lemon on my portion alone).

To be enjoyed with red wine and followed with dark chocolate. Trés français! If only I’d managed to incorporate a grapefruit so I could throw around my favorite French word. (Though I’m also fond of bibliothèque.)

Now for an explanation of tonight’s post’s title. If you’ve read my about page, you’ll know that part of the reason for the name of this blog comes from Invader Zim. I don’t remember the episode, but in one of them, Zim shrieks, “sweet, lemony-fresh victory is mine!”, which is something I have taken to shouting when things go my way. Dinner tonight did go my way, and it was lemony fresh. I have no idea how French it actually was.

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Breakfast Burrito

When I realized this morning that I had half a pound of tofu that needed to be used ASAP, leftover tortillas, and potatoes that also needed to be used up, breakfast burritos suddenly seemed inevitable. I didn’t document them for you, though, because I was busy documenting something else for you (coming soon!) as well as making tempeh at the same time, and I had no idea how they were going to turn out because I don’t know if I’ve ever even made a breakfast burrito before. I don’t make a lot of breakfast foods. But then Mark popped into the kitchen requesting a second burrito, exclaiming that they were “as the Italians say, ‘excellente'” and asking me if I was planning to write the recipe up for the blog. I said no, but then I decided that since he liked them so much and since it’s a great way to use up leftover tofu on Saturday mornings when I make the next week’s batch, I might as well write it up for no other reason than to remind myself what I did for next time. So apologies for the lack of photos. Once I decided I would write it up, I did take a picture of what remained of my burrito (I cut off the tooth marks out of politeness), but it turned out lousy.

Breakfast Burritos

Makes 3-4 burritos

2 small potatoes, small dice
1 large or 2 small shallots, or 1/2 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 pound tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup green salsa
hot sauce to taste
vegan cheese (optional)
1/2 can refried beans

Boil the potatoes in a pot of water until soft. While potatoes are cooking, prep the other ingredients. In a large skillet, heat some oil, then add shallots or onions. Saute for one minute. Add garlic and spices and saute for another minute. Add cooked potatoes and fry until beginning to brown. Add tofu and stir in gently. Add salsa, hot sauce, and optional “cheese”. For the cheese, I mixed a few tablespoons of Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix with an equal amount of water, stuck it in the microwave for a minute, then stirred in 1 tsp of dijon mustard. You could also just toss some nutritional yeast into the skillet and mix it in.

To assemble, heat the tortillas up, the smear each with some of the refried beans. Then add some of the tofu/potato mixture and roll up.

Here’s my crappy photo:

Since I subjected you to such a horrible photo, I will share a photo of Tigger helping me make the item I’m currently documenting for a post later today:

He’s such a handsome boy.

Now I’m going swimming! But I will be back later today with a tutorial that’s been five days in the making!

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Kale and Corn Chowder

I got Mark to eat TWO servings of leafy greens in one meal!! Does the glee in my voice translate to the typed word?!

I wouldn’t call Mark a picky eater by any means: he practically demands to eat Brussels sprouts, for god’s sake, but unlike me who will eat pretty much anything vegan that is NOT a mushroom, he has his limits, and leafy greens are in most cases across the line. Whereas I love spinach, he hates it, or cooked spinach anyway. He will eat raw spinach in a salad. And forget about collard greens or kale. So although I like collard greens and kale, I don’t make them that often because I know he won’t eat them. (Spinach is so easy that I will often make it as a side dish for myself.) But I bought some kale tonight because, by golly, that stuff is awesome for your health and we are going to eat it! So I came up with the following recipe that satisfied my requirements of maximizing the use of my my new toy AND getting kale down Mark’s gullet. And he LOVED it! While it was still cooking, he exclaimed “I don’t know what you are making, but it smells incredibly amazing!” And it seemed to live up to his expectations when he ate it.

Kale and Corn Chowder

I tried – I really did – to get a picture of the ingredients either without Tigger or with him in his entirety, but it wasn’t working out for me, so unfortunately you are stuck with a picture that includes his butt.

1 leek, chopped (white and green parts are okay)
1/2 celeriac (celery root), chopped (or 3 stalks of celery, chopped)
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili pepper, minced (to taste)
4 cups water, veggie broth, or vegan “chicken” broth
1 small bunch kale, chopped
3 red potatoes, chopped (I had tiny potatoes and used however many are shown in the picture)
1-2 Tbsp vegan “bacon” bits (optional; adds a smoky flavor that attracts Smarks)
1-2 cans creamed corn
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish

Maybe it’s because I have lived without a proper food processor for, gosh, about five years now, but it rarely ever occurs to me to use a mini chopper or the mixie’s chopper blade, or anything other than my chef’s knife to chop vegetables. I like using my knife, even though my knife skills are not superior. But I wanted to test out the new Multiquick, so its chopping attachment got a little workout tonight.

It chopped the leek:

And the carrot, celeriac, chili pepper, and garlic:

Meanwhile, I heated up a Dutch oven (or large soup pot) and added a little olive oil. When the oil was hot I added all of the above …

… and sauteed until soft.

Then I added the broth, potatoes, and kale.

And the optional “bacon” bits.

Then I covered and cooked for half an hour, or until potatoes were very soft.

Blend to desired consistency with an immersion blender (or cool and puree in batches in a regular blender).

Add the creamed corn. I only had one can (and despite frantically searching for some frozen corn, which I usually have stocked in the freezer, I found no more), and the soup was definitely a success, but I wanted to add more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the fresh thyme.

Some food bloggers label their recipes as “kid-friendly” when their kids particularly like a recipe. If I were to invent a “Mark-friendly” label, this soup would definitely win the prestige. He polished off two bowls and complimented it profusely the entire time. I served it with a tossed salad made with a ton of baby spinach, which he also gobbled up. And that’s how I got two servings of leafy green vegetables – and a host of other veggies – into Mark in one sitting!

This made about 5 servings: I had one, Mark had two, I packed one for lunch tomorrow, and there is another one leftover.

PS Tigger is STILL in the box:

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Aloo Gobi

As I mentioned in the previous post, Mark is not the biggest fan of Indian food, so I often try to get my fill of it (I love it) when we aren’t eating together. Unfortunately, this usually occurs on nights when I don’t have a lot of time to experiment, so tonight it was the old stand-by, aloo gobi. Fortunately I happened to have a nice cauliflower waiting for me in the refrigerator. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this recipe: when I want to make it, I just pick Indian spices off my spice rack and dump them into the pot with abandon. I’m hopeless, I know.

This recipe doesn’t make loads because it was just for me, although I wanted enough for a lunch or two too. I actually have trouble scaling my cooking down; quantity-wise, I tend to cook like an Italian grandma. So what I did tonight was use the adorable cocotte my awesome aunt gave me for Christmas. If I had made it in a larger pot, I’d have kept adding stuff until it was full. So the cocotte is a great way of curtailing my overzealous nature.

Aloo Gobi

1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1″ piece ginger, grated or minced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2-3 red potatoes, chopped
1/2 head small cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 springs cilantro (I used 2 of those frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s again because I haven’t yet acquired a new cilantro plant to kill)

In an aptly-sized pan, heat a small amount of oil (or vegan ghee) and add the cumin and mustard seeds, frying until they start to pop (about 30 seconds).

Add the onions and fry until translucent, then add the garlic and ginger and fry until onions begin to brown.

Add the potatoes and fry for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, remainder of the spices, and the water and simmer for 10 minutes.

Note: I called for canned tomatoes because that is what I usually use, especially in the winter when fresh tomatoes and tasteless and expensive, however, since I had half an overly ripe tomato that needed to be used up, I chopped that up and then added about 1/4 cup pizza sauce (the recipe for which you can find here) that I also had leftover. As I mentioned in my pizza tutorial, one of the benefits of not spicing your pizza sauce is it’s easy to use leftovers later. This is one way I try to cut back on wasting food.

Add the cauliflower and simmer until everything is tender and the sauce has reduced by about half. Stir in the cilantro (and if you are fancy, hold a little cilantro back for garnish).

I forgot to take a picture in the pot after it was done, probably because I was starving by that time.

The final meal, served with brown basmati rice. Also a crappy picture due to that whole starving/impatient thing. I really don’t know how all the food bloggers who actually take quality photos of their food manage to take the time to set up pretty shots!

Just after plating, I noticed there was nothing green in my meal and remembered that I usually add peas. Oops. If using frozen peas, stir them in just a minute or two before serving. It didn’t look too pretty, but it was tasty. It would have been even better with peas.

Does anyone else’s cat LOVE water?

And lest you think my other cat never gets any attention, you should know that although Tigger helps me prepare just about every meal I make, Brachtune is the one who helps me eat it:

If you’re curious, Brachtune’s current reading material is Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

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