Homemade Deodorant

Weather-wise, this week has been brutal here in the Mid-Atlantic. We kicked things off with last Friday night’s derecho, which I had the pleasure of driving through, and which knocked out power to millions of residences and businesses. This during the middle of a record-setting heatwave. The storm happened around 11 p.m. and the temperature was in the 90s during the storm. There were a lot of miserable, very, very hot people for many days this week. We were fortunate to not lose power at our house, but the raccoon sanctuary was not as fortunate. Without power, they also have no water. So last weekend I was one of the miserable people, cleaning indoor and outdoor raccoon cages in 100+ degree heat with no water but what I was able to stop and buy on the way there.

I can’t think of a better test for my homemade deodorant! It passed with flying colors. I’ve been using it for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised, or even actually testing it as it’s already proven itself time and time again, but even with restored power, working at the raccoon sanctuary today when the heat index was 115 degrees got me thinking how grateful I am to have discovered it. So today’s post is on how to make your own deodorant, and why you should.

I stopped using antiperspirant years ago when I realized how terrible it is to stop your body from perspiring, a function it performs for a very good reason (to keep you from overheating). But I never found a deodorant that I liked. Despite my hippie-ish ways in many things, I often find that so-called packaged “natural” products don’t always perform very well. (I generally find that many commercial products don’t work particularly well either, of course.) But then I found Funk Butter, a natural deodorant made by a small company in Baltimore, my hometown. Not all of Oyin Handmade’s products are vegan – their specialty is using honey as an ingredient – but they are clear about which products are (see their FAQ page). Funk Butter was a revelation. It works really, really well. I used it for years. I have to occasionally ship some to Fortinbras, who loves it too. In fact, if you simply have no interest in making your own deodorant, I urge you to try Funk Butter instead.

The only reason I stopped using Funk Butter daily was, well, kind of perverse. I liked it too much. I was worried that as a very small business, one day in the future they may go out of business. I don’t think this will happen soon because I think they’re doing pretty well for themselves, but I was looking 10, 20 years down the road and worrying I’d be pretty upset if they suddenly weren’t around any longer. I realize this is a ridiculous thing to worry about, but it’s tied to the fact that I hate relying on others. Feeling self-sufficient is very important to me. I have to be able to make everything I use regularly by myself. For example, the only reason I can bring myself to buy the super-wonderful Twin Oaks Tofu (if you live in an area where you can get it, I highly recommend it) is I know I can make tofu of a similar quality myself.

I had to make sure I could replicate Funk Butter on my own, so I searched the internet and found lots of information on homemade deodorant. This was a while ago so I’m not sure every website I visited, but I know this was one of them. The “recipe” is nearly the same in all of them, though most people suggest experimentation to find the right mixture for you. Basically, you just mix equal parts coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. I’ll turn it into a recipe though, because why not?

Homemade Deodorant

1 part coconut oil
1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch

Mix together. Apply to underarms. The end.

Okay, more detail. The blog post I linked to suggests mixing the ingredients together while the coconut oil is in a solid state. I do it a little differently. I buy this brand of coconut oil from my local Indian grocery, just because it’s really cheap. This huge jug cost me $13 and even though I also use it as a body lotion, lasts me probably close to a year. (It’s a bit beat-up looking because I also use it as a doorstop; so useful!)

The only problem with this is unless it’s quite warm in the house, you have to warm the bottle in order to pour the oil. (This is not a problem right now.) To do this, I set the bottle in a high-sided pot, then pour boiling water into the pot. This usually gets the coconut oil liquidy enough to pour within a few minutes. This also means that my coconut oil is liquid when I mix it with the baking soda and cornstarch, and frankly, I think this makes it a lot easier to stir anyway. After combining all three ingredients, I pour them into storage containers, then I refrigerate them for a while until they’ve solidified. In the hottest days of summer this cooling stage is just reversed right away as it then melts again, but application is the same whether it’s solid or not.

This is what it looks like now, in my bathroom that doesn’t get much cold air from our A/C, when it’s 105 degrees outside:

It would look almost the same in a photograph if it were more solid. Either way, to apply, just scoop out a small amount and apply to your underarms. I’ve used a little jar that used to contain pimentos above. I also use empty Funk Butter containers like this one (I noticed on their website they’ve changed their packaging since I’ve bought Funk Butter):

It works great. In fact, I used to keep a commercial deodorant on hand for “emergencies”, times when I thought I would really need some sort of extra deodorizing power. Well, the emergency backup deodorant got chucked pretty quickly for being way less effective than the homemade. Some backup that was.

According to some sources, some people may require a transitional period before an all-natural deodorant like this will work as well as claimed. I’m no expert on the matter, but I would imagine this has more to do with your body purging chemicals and gunk from your commercial deodorant than it does the homemade deodorant not “working” right away. The only issue I have with this homemade deodorant is I wouldn’t recommend it for traveling because its solidity is so volatile. For that reason, I use Funk Butter when I travel, because it does not melt. This is what Funk Butter looks like:

Baking soda is fairly abrasive, so some people may experience some discomfort from this recipe. I find that the coconut oil balances the abrasiveness of the baking soda perfectly and I’ve never experienced any redness, rashes, or discomfort whatsoever. But I don’t want to be held responsible if you do.

A little more about how freaking awesome coconut oil is. Again, except when traveling, I use coconut oil all over in place of lotion. When I step out of the shower in the morning, I put on a light coat of coconut oil, including on my face instead of moisturizer. I keep it in a jar, just like the deodorant. I used to mix in some essential oils for scent, but I stopped doing that because Gomez likes to lap the oil out of the jar while I’m applying it. Which is fine with me because how many body lotions or moisturizers would you let your cat eat? I feel much better putting stuff on my body that I’d be fully prepared to put IN my body.

So yeah, here’s my beauty routine:

No wonder I’m so glamorous.

In what may be far more interesting news than how my underarms smell, we just got in two teeny, tiny late-ish baby raccoons. They are the tiniest raccoons I’ve ever seen! In fact, one of them still had its umbilical cord attached! They were found at a construction site. When they were discovered, the mother raccoon retrieved their sibling but did not claim this little brother and sister. They were just a a day or two old when they arrived on Thursday, so today they are about three or four days old. They are smaller than the palm of a hand. OH MY GOSH are they cute!!

Look how tiny compared to the baby bottle!!

We call this “hallelujah hands” – many raccoons hold their paws out in front of them like this while feeding from a bottle. I suspect it’s a reflex because they expect to latch onto their mother’s belly, but I love it because I find those dexterous little hands fascinating.

Their eyes will probably remain closed for another couple of weeks.

All the others are getting so big now – about a third of them have graduated to the huge outdoor cages, a move we generally make when they are about 5 pounds – and they are soooo playful and rambunctious and trouble-making, that by comparison these teeny tiny little things are extra-precious. My heart, it melts. (Of course, it’s 105 degrees here, everything in, on, or near me has melted.)

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Stuffed Globe Zucchini, and RIP Grandmother

So, my grandmother passed away on June 7. I didn’t mention it earlier because I was trying to think of a good food-related tribute to her. The problem is, although she liked to cook when I was younger and I always looked forward to special treats like roast beef when we visited (yes, I liked meat when I was little; I liked everything), it’s been really hot here and I just haven’t been in the mood to make some spectacular seitan roast.

But then I realized that seitan roast wasn’t really the right thing anyway. The one food that always makes me think of Grandmother is butternut squash. I lived with Grandmother for my first two years of college because her house was much closer to campus than the parental homestead. Honestly, it wasn’t a great arrangement: I was too wild for her and she was too restrictive for me. I think everyone was a lot happier when I moved into an apartment with a friend. But there were some high points in there. For example, although she’d never really had to cook regularly for a vegetarian before that time, she never once hassled me about my diet and instead went out of her way to buy me fresh vegetables and when she found things she hadn’t used before, she learned how to cook them, just for me. In particular I recall that the first time I ever had butternut squash was when she cut one in half, roasted it, and topped it with butter and a little brown sugar. I loved it! I remember, for some reason – it’s a weird thing to remember, once looking at my fingernails and noticing they looked really good and thinking to myself, “wow, I look and feel so healthy; it must be all the fresh food Grandmother is making me.” I don’t know how true that is, considering I just as often stuffed my face with pizza, french fries, and beer like any other college student, but now that I think back on it, the time I spent living with her was probably the first time I started thinking about vegetarianism from a health standpoint, and the first time I felt healthy effects from it. I never buy a butternut squash without thinking of Grandmother, and I almost always make it the same way she made it for me.

Unfortunately, butternut squash is not in season and there are none to be had. But I made something for dinner the other night that I thought was in the same spirit of things and probably similar to a dish Grandmother made for me when I lived with her. It might not be a recipe I got from her (and once she discovered the internet, she did email me tons of vegan recipes she found online), but I think it’s something she’d be happy enough to be remembered by.

Stuffed Globe Zucchini
Globe zucchini are a farmers market favorite and are ideal for stuffing with stuff.

2 globe zucchini
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup vegan sausage, crumbled
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
spaghetti sauce (or use tomato sauce and add some seasonings of your choice)

Another reason this meal had a grandmotherly feel to it was it was very frugal, and having lived through the Depression, Grandmother was a fairly frugal person. It took me no time at all to assemble because the rice and sausage were left over from the night before and the spaghetti sauce was part of a small bit I found in my freezer, which I removed to make room for a large May Wah shipment I ordered on a whim when they sent me an email about a sale. So to make the filling all I did was mix everything together with the chopped insides of the zucchini. But I’ll describe the steps as if I were making it from scratch.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a small bit of oil in a skillet and brown the sausage and onion. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, then stir in the rice and cook another minute or so. Finally, stir in the spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

Slice the top off each zucchini, then use a knife or a serrated grapefruit spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving a medium-thick wall all around. Chop up the “guts” you removed and add about half of it to the rice mixture. (You can save the other half for another use.) Spoon some of the rice mixture into each zucchini, trying to compact it a little bit. You can mound it up a bit as well.

Bake for about 45 minutes, then remove and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. I baked mine in the toaster oven, which was a perfect fit and didn’t heat up the kitchen. Since the tops of the zucchinis were so close to the top of the toaster oven, though, I covered them lightly with aluminum foil to prevent scorching.

I served it with a couple of vegan “drumsticks”, just because the May Wah shipment had arrived and I figured I’d better get started on eating it.

I asked my mother to send me some pictures of me and Grandmother together. She sent me a bunch but I liked this one because Grandmother has a cat on her lap. My love of cats was directly inherited from my mother, who inherited it from her mother. That side of the family has always grown up with cats, and in particular, Siamese cats. (Which I think Jes will like.) The handsome man is my grandfather, whom I called Bobby in imitation of my Grandmother (toddler Renae liked the sound of the word “Bobby”), and who died way too young.

I was struck that almost half of the pictures Mom sent were pictures of Grandmother reading to a little Renae.

I’m pretty sure I’m wearing a totally awesome kitten shirt in this picture.

No wonder I’m a bookworm!

Another thing that stands out about my grandmother is she was always on the forefront of new technology. She was the first person I knew to get cable television and we’d all crowd around her set and watch MTV when it was in its infancy. I’m not old enough that electric typewriters were a “new technology”, but I had a weird typing obsession as a kid so she taught me how to touch type and bought me an electric typewriter. Because I was the type of child who asked for a typewriter. While we had a standard Atari game console, Grandmother had an Atari computer. I was online before just about everyone I knew, but my grandmother’s was probably the second or third email address I ever sent email to. One thing she didn’t seem to believe in was a paperless society, because she has binders full of printouts of every single web page I’ve ever had, most of which are just embarrassing. I was flipping through one such binder one of the last times I was at her house and she had printed out a review I wrote of Aleister Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend. It was a very negative review – more of a rant, really – but still I was wondering why in the world she’d want to read, let alone print out and preserve for posterity, such a thing. The reason is, her granddaughter wrote it; that’s the only reason she needed. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is she was a very progressive lady in her way. Definitely not a technophobe like some members of generations older than mine (I’m looking at you, Dad!).

Rest in peace, Grandmother. Thanks for reading to me, teaching me to type, letting me play your video games, watching MTV with me, taking me on trips to look at tiny ponies, tolerating (to some extent) me living with you, feeding me, introducing me to butternut squash and a myriad of fresh vegetables, reading my websites, sending me email, and the very Grandmother-like binder I have full of vegan recipes you found online and emailed me after I told you I’d gone vegan and what that meant. Many of those recipes were the very first vegan dishes I ever cooked, in fact, the first real cooking I did. So there’s a little of you in I Eat Food.

In other news, Mark and I were unluckily caught in the derecho Friday night. I was driving on I95 South, coming home from Baltimore and watching what we thought was just heat lightning constantly light up the sky, when without a shred of warning, a sudden hurricane-force wind pushed our Jeep over into another lane. Fortunately no one else was there, but it was scary. So I pulled off into a parking lot away from trees and we sat it out and watched it. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures. News radio warned us of complete and utter mayhem, with millions of power outages, thousands of downed trees, accidents, and other travel nightmares, but although it was very, very, very dark, once we got back on the highway, our drive was relatively easy. Luck wasn’t with those on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway, but for us on the outer loop there were only a couple minor disturbances. And although it looked very much like we would be coming home to a dark house with no A/C during this record-breaking heatwave, we were again extremely lucky to have power once we finally made it home. So we are feeling very fortunate. Most of our neighbors are not as lucky. In fact, there is no power or water at the raccoon sanctuary, so let me tell you: today was fun. I’m actually heading back there now to take the raccoons more bottled water from our house, as well as some laundry I did for them. These are some wild raccoons that were restless in the heat around high noon today:

Raccoons usually come out at night, but they will make appearances during the day: it does NOT mean they are rabid. (That’s today’s Raccoon Fun Fact!)

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Sauerkraut Stew

Okay, I bet some of you are hoping I never go on vacation again. Good news: I have a recipe and a mere four pictures today! (Bad news: we have a week-long mountain escape planned in a few weeks, but I can’t imagine that will overtake my blog for a month afterwards.)

First of all, Happy Bloomsday! It’s mid June and although so far weather on the East Coast has been cycling from unbearably hot (Memorial Day weekend) and super-nice (this week), I decided the other night that I was making a stew for dinner. Honestly, it was a pretty wintry dish, but I eat soup year-round and I won’t apologize for it! Also, I had some sauerkraut that needed to be eaten. And I missed the farmers market last weekend so I didn’t have many vegetables and was totally lacking in inspiration. I suppose you could say my lack of inspiration inspired this stew.

Sauerkraut Stew

12 oz vegan “beef” (I used Gardein Beefless Tips, but TVP chunks or any seitan would work, and I think Soy Curls would have been excellent.)
1 medium onion, chopped (instead of this, I used pearl onions)
2 large carrots, chunked
2 stalks celery, chopped large on the bias
1 large or 2 small/medium potatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups sauerkraut
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. If you are using regular onions cook them for a few minutes. (If you are using pearl onions, skip this step and just add them with the other vegetables.) Add whatever “beef” you are using and brown it, then add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Then add the rest of the vegetables and fry for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and use their juices to deglaze the pot if necessary. Add the “beef” broth, sauerkraut, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about half an hour or until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mark and I top almost all our meals with some form of hot sauce, and I naturally assumed I’d add some to this stew, however, it was so delightfully perfectly sour, with a small kick of heat from the pepper, that I didn’t want to ruin it with hot sauce, especially a vinegar-based one. You’ll want to add the sauerkraut in accordance to your tastes, depending both on how sour your sauerkraut is and how sour you like your stew. Mark took one bite of his and said simply, “I approve.”

Guess what we haven’t had in a while? A raccoon update! We have, I think, 27 babies right now, and most of them are very healthy; several have overcome great hardships like being burned in a chimney and being chomped by some unknown predator. What we need is help! We really don’t have enough volunteers. Anyone in Northern Virginia interested in cleaning (or building) raccoon cages….and feeding little faces like this?!

Meet Tobias. He’s a real sweetie and one of my favorites.

This is not Ulysses; I believe it’s Unity, however we do have a Ulysses and I’m not telling whether or not I put Guinness in his formula today for Bloomsday! (Alright, I’ll tell: obviously I didn’t.)

Remember Emmy, the awesome surrogate mother who is raising five of our babies for us? Here she is during Memorial Day weekend trying to beat the heat by hiding under a deck. You never know where you might find a raccoon at the sanctuary! She was probably a lot cooler than me.

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Ospreys, etc.

WARNING! Portions of this post may be NSFW if you work for a particularly prudish osprey.

Yesterday I went to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In some ways it seems like the national park time forgot. It’s unmanned – the $2 entrance fee is based on the honor system – and the entrance road and parking lot don’t appear to have been paved in a couple of decades. There’s a vehicular trail that Mark and I have driven around before, which left us bored and confused because we didn’t see any of the abundant wildlife we were promised. I suspect, possibly because we were in a Jeep, we were expecting a safari. We didn’t stay that time, but I later had a hunch I’d have much better luck on the pedestrian trails, because wildlife would probably like a park no one knows about. I therefore returned on my own yesterday. Without my faithful tripod boy, I decided to forgo the tripod and try my luck hand-holding the rather-heavy telephoto lens.

The moment I set foot on the trail, a bunny crossed my path. I took this as a good omen, and it turned out to be so.

If bald eagles are Mason Neck’s claim to fame, osprey are apparently the neighboring Occoquan Bay’s. Within minutes of my lucky rabbit I was rewarded with:

Things quickly got a little…racy.

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for raptors. I think they are fascinating. When I came home and saw how well some of the pictures of the ospreys turned out, I was excited and sent a link to the whole set to Smark, my mother, father, and Fortinbras. Every one of them except my father said the osprey photos were nice but they loved the tree swallow. (My father said they were all great.) Don’t get me wrong, the tree swallow is adorable, but he was by far the easiest picture I took all day! He stood still staring at me for five minutes as I was a foot away – all I had to do was get far enough away to focus on him with my completely unnecessarily huge lens.

I’m enraptured by raptors, but I like little birds too. For example this Eastern bluebird.

Here she is again. I like this photo but I can sort of envision it as a Hallmark “get well soon” card or something.

I do love the gentle nature and sweet innocence of songbirds, but look at the power of this thing!

How can you not be in awe of a creature that is clearly looking at you thinking, “I wish you were a fish so I could tear your flesh to shreds and eat you alive.”?!

In other news, we are leaving for our trip to Amsterdam, Paris, and Nice in a few short days and I am busy preparing. I probably won’t have time to post again this week, although I will try to make a post from abroad. Here’s a quick raccoon update to tide you over:

We got five more tiny babies in. We always give them a stuffed animal in their cage to snuggle with, a kind of surrogate mom. Here they are after their first feeding of the day, snuggling under the purple bunny.

Aaand, we pawned another baby off on Emmie! What a generous mother she is! Here is (most of) her brood:

Smark was catching up on I Eat Food yesterday and said, “it’s turning into a raccoon blog.” Oops. Hey, that’s my thing, right? There are about a gazillion vegan food blogs, but how many of them have baby raccoons, I ask you? I have food posts planned, though. There was even a recipe in Life: a User’s Manual (which I finally finished), and you know how I love making recipes I find in fiction. It’s French of course, so it requires some heavy veganizing. When I return, the farmers market will be open (can….not….wait) and I’ll be so inspired….either by the fantastic food I enjoyed in France, or the starvation I endured there!

And now, I must get back to frantic preparations…beginning with some non-frantic sleep.

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Raccoon Interlude, and my dinner this evening

I usually only make a food post if I have some semblence of a recipe or at least one online I can point you to, but tonight’s post was actually meant to be about the raccoons and I just happened to take a picture of my meal before eating it, so it’s kind of a side-liner here. I’ll get it out of the way first.

The picture is terrible. I lost my gray card and I can’t get the white balance in my dining room right without it. The reason I’m posting the picture even though it’s crap and I’m not even giving you a recipe is because the Cauliflower in Herbed Vinaigrette with Capers is yet another one of many, many reasons why I love Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. It’s just what the name suggests: steamed cauliflower tossed with capers in an herbed vinaigrette, but like all the recipes in that book, it’s totally simple and totally delicious. That cookbook is the one I turn to most often when I have super-fresh and super-delicious produce I want to showcase. I’ve paired the cauliflower here with a farro alle verdure that I got out of a package, a fancy package, and it was really good. It’s rare I’ll buy packaged side dishes, but that one looked interesting and it turns out I’d buy it again. Also, a steamed artichoke. And red wine, bien sur.

Now on to the good stuff: pictures that don’t need any magic from me to turn out well because the subject is so adorable. Baby raccoons! We got another family in at the sanctuary and they are cuuuuute! A couple of people have asked me to share more about my work with the raccoons. I don’t want to overstate what I do; I’m just a volunteer and apprentice rehabber, but I am licensed by the state of Virginia. I help a local raccoon rehabber on the weekends; she does it every day, all day, and honestly I don’t know how she does it all. The bit of help I give her 1 or 2 days a week is a drop in the bucket. At first I was a bit reluctant to go into much detail here about it because it seems like talking about myself too much. But I’ve thought about it and if I care so much about the raccoons, I owe it to them to educate people as much as I can about them. So I’ll try to talk a little bit more about them when I post pictures. Not so much that this becomes a raccoon blog, but enough to explain why I love them!

April and May is the primary baby season, so mostly what you’ll be seeing from me this time of year is pictures of pretty tiny babies. Young babies are bottle-fed, starting at 4 times a day, then down to 3, then 2, etc. Once they are down to two feedings a day, if you give them the right kind of bottle, most of them will actually bottle-feed themselves – I’ll have to get a picture of that later when we have some the right age. The babies we got in the week before last are a few weeks old. They were found in a tree on a construction site and were apparently abandoned by their mother, and one was injured in the tree. At this age, they stay in a cage about the size of one you’d have for a hamster or gerbil. They sleep for a large majority of the day, but they know when it’s feedin’ time! Let me out, I’m hungry!!!

I SAID, I’m hungry!

When the bottles of special raccoon formula have been made up and warmed in the microwave, we’ll move one family (or group of individuals we’ve made into a family) at a time from the cage (so it can be cleaned and the bedding replaced) to an empty aquarium where they wait their turn on the bottle. They typically go a bit crazy at this point, scrambling all around, hoping to be picked first for food.

They are selected one-by-one – or if you’re feeling up to the challenge, two or even three at a time! – for the bottle and are fed sitting in our laps. They have to be stimulated (i.e. made pee and poop) when they are finished feeding, and then they generally fall promptly asleep. These guys could barely keep their little eyes open following their breakfast. One was also extremely camera shy!

Oh my GOSH this family is cute!

This has been a somewhat surprisingly slow-starting season for us. A big reason for that is we’ve been passing the buck on some of our work! Because our sanctuary is located in a large wooded area, we’re able to release our animals right onto the property when they are old enough to survive on their own. Many of the animals come back year after year to visit and bear young in the many nest boxes we provide them. One such raccoon is Emmie, who returns every year to give birth on one of the porches. Soon after Emmie gave birth this spring, we received a family of two and one individual, very young babies. Because the three babies we received were just about the same age as Emmie’s babies, and because we know Emmie to be a great mother, the rehabber offered all three of the babies to her – just put them in her hand and held her hand out to Emmie – and she accepted them, and adopted them as her own! She just grabbed each of them in her mouth, gave it a few quick licks to clean it of any lingering human cooties, and shoved it under herself with her own babies, where they each latched on and began nursing. I think that is just the coolest thing! It’s so much better for a raccoon to be raised by a raccoon, and I think it’s awesome that these three abandoned babies were immediately adopted by another mother…of their own species! This is Emmie with all her babies, biological and adopted:

The moral of THAT story is it is a total myth that animals – including birds – will reject a baby that’s been touched by a human. In general, you should avoid touching a baby animal or bird, even if looks abandoned, because almost always the mother is simply out gathering food and will return for it soon. However, if you do see a baby animal or bird that is alone and in imminent danger – from other animals or whatever – its mother will NOT reject it if you touch it and move it to safety. I kinda think that myth was made up by someone that wanted to keep humans from unnecessarily touching baby animals, and I agree with that goal, but it IS a myth. (It’s actually mentioned in Julien Parme, the French version of which I am just finishing up: Julien touches a baby duck and a girl later tells him that its mother will reject it and Julien gets very upset, and even though I was annoyed with Julien for wanting to be Holden Caulfield really badly, I felt like telling him, “SHE’S WRONG@!” – although you shouldn’t have touched him!)

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In memory of Jeremy: Rice and Beans

Today would have been our friend Jeremy’s 34th birthday. Last year when I emailed his mother on his birthday, she asked me to think of Jeremy when I eat rice and beans. We eat a lot of rice and beans in this household, so I think of him often, and I figured there wasn’t a better meal to make tonight in his memory.

Please excuse my even-more-lax-than-usual “recipe”. This was really casual. First I put some rice in the rice cooker and got that started. Then I took 8 oz of Rio Zape beans from Rancho Gordo and cooked them, unsoaked, until not-quite-done in the pressure cooker. How long did that take? Ugh, don’t ask so many questions – I don’t know! Until I sensed they were almost done, I’m afraid. I was outside doing other things while they were cooking and wasn’t paying attention to the time. Let’s say maybe 20 minutes?

When they were not-quite-done, I did a quick release and drained the beans. Then, in the pressure cooker to save a pot to wash, I heated some oil and then added a chopped onion. Once that was cooked to translucent, I added a bunch of pressed garlic, and continued cooking until it was all starting to brown. I deglazed with a bit of the red wine from my glass, then added about 1 1/2 cups veggie broth, two bay leaves, a healthy splash of Worcestershire sauce for tang, some liquid smoke, and a bit of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Once that was all boiling, I returned the beans to the pot and let it all simmer until the beans were creamy, maybe another 20 minutes?

Serve with LOTS of hot sauce. If you haven’t had Rancho Gordo beans, by the way, you’re cheating yourself. You could use pretty much any bean in this “recipe”, and you’re definitely never going to go wrong with Rancho Gordo beans, which don’t even need seasoning. The Rio Zapes have the creaminess of pintos, but they taste almost like chocolate. And I don’t usually taste chocolate in things people like to say things like wine has “hints” of. They are definitely a flavorful bean.

I cooked for Jeremy every night when we lived together. I think he would have liked this. He may not even have pretended to grumble about the lack of meat. We miss you, Jeremy. “WHAT?” WE MISS YOU.

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging over the last week or so. I’m starting to get much more serious about photography (although I’ve been “into” photography since high school), but I’m not going to lie to you: although I hope to improve my food pictures somewhat, I’m never going to be a great food photographer. Mostly because I cook in order to eat, and when I need to eat, I NEED to eat. I get bad headaches if I get hungry, and 99% of the time what you are looking at on this blog is my dinner – which I probably need to ingest right away. I’ve been finding myself thinking of blog posts I want to make, usually because I have pictures, but they aren’t about food. That’s not to say I don’t want to make food posts; I do. Very much. Even if they are more laid-back recipes like tonight’s. But I was wondering this week if I should set up a second blog for non-food-related pictures and rambling, so I don’t need to worry about straying too far off-topic here. I even looked to see if by remote chance itakepictures.com or .net was available, which would match ieatfood.net AND sound like an early Depeche Mode song (it’s not – available, that is; it IS an early Depeche Mode song).

The thing is, though, I didn’t really FEEL like setting up another blog. I could, easily. We have a server; I run other blogs for people. Adding another for myself wouldn’t be a big deal at all. But I just don’t know that I feel like dividing myself up that way. I think most of the readers of this blog would probably be at least somewhat interested in the other posts I want to make, because most vegans are interested in animals (and we’re mostly talking wildlife photos here), and anyway, I’m pretty sure most of my readers aren’t even vegan (which actually makes me very happy), and non-vegans who are open-minded enough to read a vegan blog are probably open-minded enough to not care if said blog sometimes features posts that aren’t about vegan food. Right?

What made up my mind, though, was when I thought about myself as a blog reader. I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and usually read most of them, but sometimes someone will make a post I’m not interested in, and you know what I do? Scroll right past it without even thinking. What I don’t do is think, “oh god, I can’t BELIEVE this person has gone off-topic, what a heretic!”. I don’t unsubscribe. I don’t think anything at all about it. It’s kind of crazy to think people are going to be upset if I sometimes unapologetically make a post to show off some pictures that have nothing to do with food. I don’t mind at all when food bloggers make an occasional post about themselves outside their cooking, in fact, I usually like getting a glimpse of them from a different perspective. So on that note…LOOK AT MY PICTURES THAT ARE NOT OF FOOD.

First up:

I’m not very pleased with this one because I should have used a smaller aperture so that the whole spider was in focus, but it’s a fun start to macro photography. This spider was about the size of my pinky fingernail; about half an inch long.

Like the spider, the following pictures were taken at Burke Lake Park.

I was stoked to come across some blue herons!

As I was heading back to the car, rushing a bit because I had a French lesson, I saw a squirrel way out on a limb over the lake.

I watched him slowly move ever further out, with some trepidation, wondering what in the world he was doing and whether or not squirrels knew how to swim, because I was going to be late meeting my tutor if I had to wade into the lake to rescue him.

Turns out he wanted a TWIG. Why he wasn’t satisfied with any one of the BILLIONS of twigs on the safe, sturdy GROUND, I do not know. (The twig is in his mouth in this picture, if you can’t tell. He’s feeling damn proud here.)

Suddenly, in one fell swoop, he was upside down and scrambling for dear life! Note, though, the twig is STILL in his mouth. This squirrel had his priorities.

Slooowly he righted himself.

Finally he inched himself to a thicker branch and had himself a good gnaw on his precious twig.

When he was done, he turned to stare at me like I was the crazy one.

I have some cute raccoon stories and pics, but I spent too much time on that ridiculous squirrel so I’ll save them for the next update! For now, here is the top of a pile of sleeping baby raccoons…

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Quick and easy yeast bread suggestion

Ready for another “really more a suggestion than a recipe” post? Well, ready or not, here comes such a post. I worked from home today, to allow some contractors access to not really do anything in our house. Earlier in the week I had thought vaguely of taking advantage of being at home to bake some bread today, perhaps to be served with some soup for dinner, but I’m really busy at work these days and when I looked at the clock with a mind towards starting dinner, it was 6 p.m. Ordinarily I’d tell you that any loaf of bread I’d bake will take a minimum of 18 hours from start to finish, because I always use some sort of pre-ferment or starter. But even if I were willing to lower my standards and bake a “same day” dough, starting at 6 p.m. and having bread in time for dinner would be an impossibility…right? I mean, you’re looking at at least 3 hours rising and proofing time, close to an hour baking time, and an hour to cool. (Cooling is non-negotiable, sorry. Slicing hot bread ruins it.)

Not only THAT but my scale is broken. How can I bake without a scale??? (And WHY is my scale broken?!)

There was an answer, though. I thought back to an earlier time, when I didn’t have a scale. I didn’t have my faithful mixer Hieronymus. I didn’t even have the two Kitchen Aid mixers I destroyed before Hieronymus graced me with his wonderful presence. I didn’t have a Thermapen, hand-crafted proofing baskets, multiple peels, a sourdough starter named Sally, or a Fibrament baking stone. What I had was a bread machine I hated and an incredible desire to turn myself into a bread baker, despite producing several paperweights the first few times I tried.

I was a much newer vegan, and still learning how to cook, back then and I spent a lot of time on Vegweb looking for recipes. I found a promising recipe for homemade bread: Outrageously Easy BIG Bread. Back then I think there were only about 10 comments (it looks like the old comments from before Vegweb updated their site a few years ago were removed; this was much longer ago than 2006), but they were all positive, so I gave it a go. And I was successful! I quickly began building a reputation among my friends for always having fresh homemade bread…people would regularly show up at 2 or 3 a.m. demanding some!

I’m a bread snob now. I’ve been an official tester for Peter Reinhart. People come to me for advice…and starter. I ordinarily wouldn’t deign to put more than a tablespoon of instant yeast(!) into a single batch of bread…ordinarily I’d use no instant yeast because I’m a sourdough gal all the way. But tonight, sans scale, I broke out my unused measuring cups and spoons, googled “outrageous bread”, and followed the familiar recipe…well, except for throwing all the ingredients into Hieronymus and having him knead them for a little bit for me. But if you don’t have a mixer and you want to try baking bread and you’re frustrated that EVERY recipe assumes you have a Kitchen Aid, except the famous no-knead recipe, but that takes a million hours…I’ve made the recipe as instructed, without a mixer, many times, and look where I am today!

So today’s post isn’t a recipe, at least not one of mine. It’s an encouragement to those scared of bread baking to give it a shot. And it’s a reminder to those who aren’t scared of bread baking but are snobbish like myself that sometimes you CAN make bread in two hours. Some photos to prove it:

After kneading for about two minutes. (But again, kneading is technically unnecessary.)

I let it rise for 45 minutes, then did a quick “stretch and fold”, which is a technique I’m sure I’ve documented somewhere on this site, but instead of searching for it, here is Peter Reinhart demonstrating it.

Partially because I was super busy with work and partially because I wasn’t really thinking, I returned the dough to the rising container after the stretch and fold, even though the recipe says to shape it and do the second rise on the baking tray. I was planning to make four small loaves for bread bowls and if I’d been concentrating on the bread instead of work, I’d probably have done a stretch and fold at 20-25 minutes, then let rise for another 25 minutes or so, then shaped into four rounds and let them proof for 45 minutes on the tray. But instead, I let the dough rise for another 45 minutes in the rising bucket, while pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and realized when I was ready to bake that I hadn’t shaped them. Here’s the dough, risen quite a bit, but not shaped.

No matter. I decided I’d just hope for a lot of oven spring and merrily but roughly divided and roughly shaped my loaves.

Then I baked them for the prescribed “exactly” 23 minutes, although I’m here to tell you that REALLY baking time is going to depend on your oven. After years of experience with all kinds of breads I can tell you that 23 minutes is not enough, especially if you use all that dough for a single loaf; even my tiny loaves really should have stayed in at least 10 minutes longer. However, I was too busy to worry too much about it so when they looked fairly golden at 23 minutes, I took them out and later regretted it. There IS such a thing as paying too little attention to your bread.

Now, ESPECIALLY if you are making bread bowls like me, COOL the bread before cutting. I know it’s hard. Mark managed to time his grand entrance home from work about two minutes after I’d removed them from the oven – I had JUST sat down – and he walked through the door loudly and excitedly exclaiming, “SOMETHING SMELLS AWESOME!! I can tell SOMEONE worked from home!” To which I shouted, “DO NOT TOUCH THEM! NO TOUCHING!” It’s true I worked from home, but as I didn’t start this bread until just after 6 p.m., I could easily have made it any other day, even if I had gone into the office! Well, if I had gone into the office and left at a reasonable time instead of some stupid time like 8 p.m.

I made Creamless Asparagus Soup for the bread bowls.

Okay, so not only is this post “more a suggestion than a recipe”, it is also more a shameless excuse to post completely non-food-related photos than a recipe. First of all, we have a cardinal family that lives in our yard and I’m always delighted to see how loyal Mr and Mrs Cardinal are to each other. They’re always together. I love it! And today I caught them kissing! It’s not a super-sharp picture because it was taken through a screened window, but the cute factor made it a keeper nonetheless.

I was alerted to the presence of these little lovebirds by Torticia, who suddenly took an “OMG!” stance while looking out the window:

And guess what else it’s time for?!? BABY RACCOONS, that’s what! These sweet little babies – a family of four boys – are about 10 days old in this picture, taken on Saturday, a few days after their mother failed to claim them after they were evicted from a chimney. I’m very sorry they won’t be raised by their mother, but very grateful that the homeowner opted for a cruelty-free eviction and spared the lives of these tykes, who would have been killed by most “pest” control services. If you find animals in your chimney or home, PLEASE search for a humane eviction alternative. They almost always result in the babies being reunited with their mother, and they never result in baseless wildlife murder.

Outside at the sanctuary, we found a friendly wild and pregnant raccoon having some breakfast. Because she wasn’t afraid of us, she is definitely a rehabbed raccoon from a prior season, returning to give birth in the safety of the sanctuary grounds.

She was hamming it up for the camera! Raccoons have huge personalities. I’m so glad I chose to work with them!

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Rice Noodle Salad Redux

Tomorrow is my company’s holiday potluck and I volunteered, as usual, to bring a salad. So last night I went to Wegmans and wandered around until inspiration struck. I decided to go with a rice noodle salad, so I bought a few things and then tonight whipped up a sauce to pull them all together. I knew I had posted a rice noodle salad here a few months ago, but I didn’t realize until now that what I made was almost identical. Nonetheless, I took a bunch of pictures of it, so I’m posting it anyway!

Rice Noodle Salad…again

1 package rice noodles
about 3″ of a wide daikon, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
2 carrots, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
a few leaves of savoy or Napa cabbage, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame paste
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
sriracha to taste

Prepare the noodles. Begin by soaking them in cold-to-room-temperature water for 10 minutes (this prevents them from sticking to each other later), then heat the water to a near boil and cook just until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Prepare each of the vegetables by julienning, shredding, or cutting on a spiralizer. Here is my daikon:

And here is my cabbage:

Put each of the vegetables in a bowl as you prep them.

Chop the cilantro, then place in the bowl with the vegetables. Set aside.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust the ratio of each to suit your taste; I just estimated above what I used. I adore this little Fire King bowl for making small amounts of sauce.

Whisk. This sauce would also be good as a dipping sauce for summer rolls. In fact, it ended up kind of watered down in the salad, but was good enough to show off, so I might have to make it again soon for dipping.

Put the noodles into a large bowl or pot, then thoroughly mix in the sauce.

Add the vegetables and toss until everything is combined.

I’m thinking this will be a good potluck dish because it doesn’t need to be warmed before serving and in fact can just sit on my desk for a couple of hours in the morning instead of taking up space in the refrigerator.

The bundle of cilantro I bought was HUGE! Help me out: what are your favorite cilantro-centric recipes?

In other news, I had some Tofutti ricotta left over from my taste test last week, so I thought I’d sprinkle some on a butternut squash before baking. Mistake. The Tofutti ricotta did okay in the pasta bake I made for my review, but it did not fare as well baked “in the open” instead of mixed in a casserole and covered. I put a bunch of the ricotta in the hole left by the seeds, and a thin layer on the rest of the squash. The ricotta in the hole melted to a very thin, watery, tasteless liquid, and the remainder of it turned…kinda brown and crusty. Looks like cat food, non?

That whole brown part was hollow and crispy and slid right off the squash. The ricotta added absolutely no taste to the squash; it was like water. (The brown part was like crispy water, I guess.) I should have just poured it off and sprinkled some of my normal brown sugar on the squash; it would have been much better. I definitely won’t be buying that stuff again. I gave the rest of it to Gomez, who likes it far better than I do, though I can’t imagine why.

What’s that you say? You miss the raccoons? Well, that’s understandable!

Scrumpy was found alone near a school a few weeks ago. As you may expect, young raccoons like toys similar to those you would give your cat or dog. They are so dexterous and curious, however, that they also enjoy toys made for human children, with buttons they can push and parts they can yank on. They get into as much trouble than a toddler, that’s for sure!

Renata is much larger than Scrumpy and in fact her siblings were released months ago, but she wasn’t ready to go. She’s adopted Scrumpy and will over-winter with us to take care of him, which works out well because raccoons like company and also learn from each other as they grow. Renata kept pushing her face into the camera when I was trying to take Scrumpy’s picture. Does your cat or dog walk towards you whenever you try to take a picture? Raccoons are like that too, except I think usually their motive is more to steal your camera than to say hi.

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Sauerkraut Noodles with Seitan

Every October 6th my father emails me to wish me a happy German-American Day. And every October 6th at least one food blog reminds me it’s National Noodle Day. So for dinner tonight, obviously I was having German noodles, right? The only trouble was the noodles involved in German dishes are always egg noodles, and even if I found a non-eggy noodle I thought would suffice, I’ve been eschewing the heavy dinners I feared anything “German noodly” would turn out to be. So I went browsing around Wegmans looking for a wheat-alternative noodle that would help me make a lighter dish. I found this rice spaghetti, which are absolutely, positively nowhere near being German. Nonetheless, I decided to try them. You could absolutely be much more authentic and use wide wheat noodle, although if you are vegan, you’ll probably end up having to use linguine or something similar.

Sauerkraut Noodles with Seitan

1 1/2 cups chopped seitan (I like to make a big batch on the weekend and freeze it in smaller portions)
1 cup vegan “beef” broth
3 Tbsp German mustard
2 Tbsp vinegar – I used malt, but really any kind would be okay
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 white onion, sliced into slivers
14 oz sauerkraut
2 Tbsp vegan sour cream (optional)
noodles of your choice, cooked unless you are using rice noodles like me

Whisk together the broth, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, caraway seeds, chili pepper flakes, and celery seeds in a medium bowl. Chop the seitan and add to the broth. Let it marinade for a while, say, half an hour or so (or much longer in the refrigerator).

The directions on my rice spaghetti said to soak it in water for two minutes before cooking. If you are using any other noodles, cook them as directed and set aside.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven and add the onions. Cook until they begin to get soft.

Drain the seitan, reserving the marinade.

Add the seitan to the onions and cook until the seitan begins to brown.

Stir in the sauerkraut. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any homemade, though I do have a pot fermenting that will be ready in a couple of weeks, so I had to make do with an authentic German brand from Wegmans.

Add the broth and the sour cream. I’m not sure the sour cream added that much flavor to the final dish so I wouldn’t go out of my way to include it next time.

CAT INTERLUDE. I have THIS whining at me the entire time I’m cooking anything:

I swear, that is SO like Tigger!

If you are using regular cooked noodles, boil off the broth a bit, or perhaps thicken it with a bit of cornstarch dissolved in cold water. I, however, needed to finish cooking my now-soaked rice noodles, which were softened, but not al dente. So I gently stirred in the noodles, lowered the heat a bit, covered, and let the noodles cook for 5 to 10 minutes. My original plan was to bake this dish like a casserole, but I wasn’t sure if the rice noodles would go soggy before everything else was heated through, so I kept it on the stovetop. The noodles stayed al dente.

And that’s all there was to it. I can’t figure out if that rice spaghetti was being marketed towards an Asian crowd (it seems proud to be a product of Singapore and I did find it in the Asian section) or a gluten-free crowd (it’s labelled as such) or what, exactly. I think it would seem more natural in an Asian dish, but then, I eat a lot of rice noodles in Asian dishes so maybe that’s just what I expect. You won’t get an experience like the European egg noodles that come to mind when you think “German noodle dish”, but I think I felt a little less fat after dinner than I would have had I used heavier noodles. Mark really liked this; he had three servings and informed me it was “elite”. So I don’t know, maybe my German ancestors would have found this meal absurd, but it was tasty and it’s hard to argue against something when you have people going back for thirds.

As I mentioned in my last post, we released some more raccoons a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a glimpse:

I think this one looks like he’s picking a lock…which by the way would be a great profession for a raccoon if he were human, and not just because they have built-in masks. I think that’s why I find this picture so hilarious.

Back inside, we have a few younger raccoons who will be over-wintering with us or who will be released around January. What is this one doing?

Gnawing on my camera strap, that’s what. If you want to know what kind of person I am, I’m the kind of person who will give a raccoon my camera strap when asked. I also give them my shoes, which they find just as fascinating.

Like I’m going to turn THIS face down.

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Mark’s Sushi Tutorial

The Smarkster and I were quite pleased to find that our local sushi restaurant recently upgraded their menu and greatly expanded their vegetarian options. Mark was so happy about it that he re-discovered his sushi obsession and when it came time to make his weekly Sunday dinner, he decided to make sushi. Which went so well that he decided to make more sushi last night. He suggested I do a post, so I have. Now you can learn from the guy who has made sushi twice sushi master!

What I didn’t chronicle is how to make sushi rice. I make my rice in my beloved rice cooker. To make sushi rice, I cook the rice as directed, then cut in some rice vinegar (sometimes seasoned with sugar, but sometimes I don’t bother) and salt. I just do this to taste, although there are plenty of tutorials around with much more precise instructions. Maki’s tutorial on Just Hungry comes to mind. When I’m making sushi rice to accompany a meal or even a scattered sushi, I just serve it warm, but when you are making sushi rolls, you’ll want to cool it, fairly quickly. To do this, Mark removed the rice from the rice cooker, put it in a wide bowl, and put it in front of a fan for a few minutes. So first, prepare some sushi rice.

Next, prepare some fillings. Raw veggies like cucumber, carrot, and avocado are common and easy. Cut them into thin strips like this:

I didn’t get a picture, but Mark also used some of the pickled radishes I’d made earlier in the week (using a simpler recipe than the one linked; I just put them in a slightly sweet brine overnight). This was fascinating because Mark has never, ever eaten a single one of my pickled radishes, and I’ve made tons of them. (Of course, I was only able to convince Mark he liked radishes at all a few weeks ago.) But he said these were really good! They’re great in sushi, even the red ones (whereas you usually see yellow pickled daikon in restaurants).

Mark, who would probably be happy living off of Gardein chick’n, also grilled up a couple of cutlets and decided to try that in sushi as well. Here he is slicing them thinly:

He also made some kimchi rolls. He prepared some bite-sized pieces of kimchi to use as a filling; though since kimchi is wet, these were a little trickier to roll. Totally worth it, however, as kimchi is great.

Next, he prepared the bamboo rolling mat. I’ve had this mat for years, with the best intentions of making my own sushi rolls, but I have never done it. Who would have thought Mark would make sushi before me?! He covered it with plastic wrap because he read that it is nearly impossible to clean stuck-on rice from them. Which I can believe, although I would imagine that once you’ve got enough practice, you shouldn’t be getting much rice on them, if you are making nori-outside rolls. Anyway, here is the mat all set up.

Place a sheet of nori on the mat. Our nori has these handy perforations on them showing you where to cut later. If your nori does as well, you want the perforations to go up and down, or opposite the direction of the bamboo sticks. Nori has a rougher side and a smoother side. Put the smooth side down; rough side up to receive the rice.

Set up a bowl with some water near your workspace. Sushi rice is sticky and you’ll want to dip your hands in the water often. With damp hands, grab a handful of rice and spread it out on the nori. You want to create a fairly thin layer of rice leaving about an inch at the top and bottom.

The lighting in our kitchen is not ideally suited for food photography, so this is a bit hard to see, but what Mark is doing here is placing some of the carrot and chick’n strips lengthwise along the bottom of the nori.

Next, he held the filling in place while simultaneously beginning to curl the bamboo mat, the nori lined up at the bottom edge, away from him.

Keep rolling until the edge of the mat hits the rice.

Then, keep pushing the roll together with your fingers, but release the mat.

And continue the roll without the mat, maintaining an even pressure on the roll and kind of tucking it in as you go along.

When the roll is complete, grab the top of the mat and start rolling back the other way to seal the roll.

Unfurl the mat …

… and if necessary, add a tiny bit of water to help seal the roll.

Next, with the sharpest knife you own, slice the roll into pieces about 1″ wide. My knives are rather embarrassingly dull right now, but Mark found that chopping fairly quickly was better than trying to saw through them. He also suggests wetting the knife first.

Pretty great for a second-time sushi maker, no?

Next up Mark wanted to make a drizzling sauce, which you sometimes find on extra-fancy sushi. He rummaged around the kitchen and pulled out these things: vegetarian stir-fry sauce, hoison sauce, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sriracha, and lemon juice.

He mixed them together in proportions that were pleasing to him. The vinegar and lemon juice were literally just drops.

Then he plated the sushi with some wasabi, pickled ginger, and some of the Korean banchan we had bought at Super H, because it looks pretty (and goes really well with sushi). The rolls also got a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I think Mark is trying to show me up by making things I’ve never made! And doing it well!

In personal news, we released some more raccoons this weekend, but this has been a long, photo-intensive post, so I’ll save pictures of that for another time. Oh, all right. ONE raccoon picture.

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