So, I was a pretty awesome kid. I ate everything! My mother asked me recently how it is I ended up being such an adventurous eater when my family is not known for venturing far from the standard American diet, and honestly, I don’t know, but she shouldn’t be that surprised because I have always liked to eat and always liked what I ate, with one exception: lima beans. I hated lima beans as a kid. I know my parents urged me to eat them whenever we had them, although I don’t think they pressured me too much, because come on, I liked BRUSSELS SPROUTS. Who is going to give the kid who likes brussels sprouts a hard time?? Anyway, the only thing I hated more than lima beans was succotash, which my mom makes every Thanksgiving, because it pissed me off she’d mix perfectly innocent corn with horrible, nasty lima beans. At least when she made plain lima beans, no delicious corn was being befouled by contact with limas.

In the last couple of years, though, I’ve discovered I do actually like lima beans: just not frozen ones. I’ve therefore been snapping them up whenever I see them at the farmer’s market. I was trying to find a new way to cook them up tonight when I found this recipe for a fresh lima bean succotash with tomatoes and onions. I had two ears of corn I needed to eat tonight, and we’ve had corn on the cob twice already this week, so it seemed perfect. I’ve lightly adapted the recipe to what I had on hand. I’m sure my mom never thought all those years ago that one day I’d be publishing succotash recipes for the world to see. But believe me, even if you think you hate lima beans, you’ve got to try them fresh.

Fresh Succotash with Tomatoes and Leeks
adapted from

1 leek (mine was huge), minced (I’d have used a regular onion as the recipe called for if I didn’t have this leek I needed to use, so use a small onion of you don’t have a leek problem)
3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
coarse or flaked salt to taste
2 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 pint fresh lima beans
1/2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
several leaves of basil, chiffonaded
freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a heavy sauce pot, heat some oil, then add the leek or onions and cook until soft, then add the garlic and salt and cook another minute or two. Add the corn, lima beans, and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until limas are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Add the basil and pepper.

Tastes like the end of summer! I served it with some baked Italian herb tofu (you know, when I found that URL to link, I got to thinking I should totally take one of Twin Oaks’ Saturday tours one week; I’m only a couple of hours away), dressed with a light lemon-caper sauce.

Mark has been continuing to make Sunday dinners, somewhat to my surprise. Last Sunday’s pesto, which he made up:

I’m really proud of him; he’s becoming quite the chef!

And I’ll leave you with my parents’ silly dog Sophie wearing some silly socks and playing with a silly egg.

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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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Guest Post! Fortinbras’ Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté

Ole Fortinbras surprised me by sending me a guest post! First I’ll let you hear from him in his own words, then I’ll tell you how to veganize it (which is very easy, he just added some parmesan cheese at the end that I’ll be swapping out). So without further ado, heeeere’s Fort:

Hello all you fantastic I Eat Food folks. Since I’ve moved to California and returned to school, I have zero time to cook and zero money, so fast, cheap and filling is the name of the game. This recipe is something I eat a few times a week because it fits the bill, and it is just so delicious. Also, the aromatics are gonna make your home smell great.

When putting this together I throttle way back on the salt because the Parmesan cheese has a pretty high salt content.

Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté


Baby Spinach uncooked – 3 big hand fulls (about 6 cups)
1/4 of large onion chopped
Garlic – 6 cloves chopped
10 Cherry Tomatoes – chopped
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried rosemary
olive oil

Chop up your garlic, onions and cherry tomatoes. (Keep these separate because you will be adding them individually).

Heat a sauté pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat (you want your cooking surface to be hot enough to cook the onions and the garlic down but not so hot that it might fry the garlic).

When pan is hot toss in the onions and the garlic with a little bit of salt and pepper. As soon as the onions begin to become translucent reduce the heat to medium low (you want your onions to still have a bit of firmness).

Add in the basil, oregano, rosemary toss that around a few times and then add in the tomatoes.

After adding in the tomatoes and after mixing it all up real good, toss in your spinach and continue to incorporate the ingredients and reduce the spinach.

Toss it all about until the spinach wilts a bit (not overly reduced in volume) and then turn off the heat. Let the heat of the pan continue to reduce the spinach.

Now toss in the Parmesan cheese and stir it all about.

Now put it all into a bowl and eat it up because it tastes and smells so dang good and you are hungry.

Greetings and happy eatings from Sunny California!

Okay, Renae back at the helm. I made this tonight and it was really good. I followed Fort’s instructions exactly, other than the cheese, and using less oil (‘Bras – did you REALLY use 1/4 cup?!).

Here are my ingredients:

Sauteing the onions and garlic:

Adding the herbs and tomatoes:

And the spinach:

Okay, about that parmesan cheese. There are a number of ways you can handle this:

  1. You can just omit it – really, this is good enough that the cheese is superfluous.
  2. You can buy commercial vegan parmesan (although I never do this).
  3. You can just add a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
  4. You can add some Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix
  5. You can omit Fort’s seasonings and sprinkle some dukkah on it – I intend to try this next time.
  6. You can make a vegan parmesan. The simplest version is just equal parts nutritional yeast and sesame seeds or nuts, plus a little salt. But what I did this time was:

Vegan Parm
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp white miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder and blend for several seconds.

I just used a tablespoon or so. This will keep in the fridge for a while.

I served this with some sprouted quinoa that I made using sun-dried tomato soaking water that I saved a few days ago, with a touch of bouillon. Wow, that was inspired – the quinoa was fantastic and went very well with the spinach.

So, thanks to Fortinbras for taking time from his very, very, very, very busy life to share this recipe! Here is Fort’s current favorite picture of us.

If I try to make a post without kittens, I get comments demanding kitten action. Fort was in fact here the weekend we got the kittens but he isn’t in any of the pictures I took, and then he went and abandoned me for L.A., so you will have to settle for the only picture I can find of Fort and Tigger. It’s about a gazillion years old, but I remember taking it. Tigger was being unruly and Fortinbras was trying to tell him a thing or two. Tigger wasn’t listening. There were a bunch of people in my apartment at the time, which just goes to show you that Tigger always had to be right in the middle of things. Boy, do I miss him. And I miss Fort, too.

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Shepherd’s Pie

Once again finding myself with leftover mashed potatoes, I was trying to find a use for them. Shepherd’s Pie fit the bill!

Shepherd’s Pie

1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups vegan “beef” broth
8 oz tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 14.5 oz can your choice of beans (I used pinto)
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
TVP, optional
3-4 cups mashed potatoes
vegan cheddar “cheese”, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the carrots, onions, celery, broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are just tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add the beans and frozen peas.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan then whisk in the flour, forming a roux.

Cook for a couple of minutes, then transfer to the Dutch oven and whisk until it thickens to a gravy. I seemed to have a higher gravy-to-veggie ratio than I wanted, so I added in some TVP to soak up some of the liquid, which ended up being good because pinto beans are so creamy, the TVP gave the final dish some needed texture.

Spread the mashed potatoes on top.

I had an open package of Daiya cheddar, so I sprinkled that on top. That’s totally optional, though.

Bake for half an hour. The gravy bubbled up around my mashed potatoes. It’s definitely not the prettiest dish.

Although it’s impossible to make this shepherd’s pie look attractive in photographs, it was really tasty. I don’t think food gets more comforting than this. Mark literally licked his bowl clean. I will be making this again.

In craft news, after a particularly mighty battle with my sewing machine while making my fabric gift bags this year, I finally broke down and bought a new one. I’d resisted for a while because I didn’t want to spend money on a sewing machine when I hate sewing. Nonetheless, I do actually sew from time to time and I decided my sanity when doing so was worth $159 (which was the price I paid a few weeks ago). So far I’m really liking the new machine, although I haven’t done much more than make the gift bags so far. My dream sewing machine has long been an antique Singer, converted for electricity (honestly, I wasn’t even sure about the electricity) – I just assume they don’t make them like they used to – but I must say, this one seems pretty good and although I always thought it was silly for sewing machines to do all kinds of crazy stitches I’ll never need, some of these ARE pretty neat:

Anyway, does anyone have any favorite sewing projects for relative beginners? Since I’ve forked over the money for the machine, I might as well put it to use. I’ve already decided to make a rag quilt, but my ultimate goal is to be able to make my own clothes. If there are any sewers out there with suggestions for things to keep my interest without frustrating me too much right off the bat, let’s hear them!

And speaking of sewing, although I suck at it, my mother does not. She recently made the kittens a kitty bed. It contains a heating element, and with all this blustery, cold weather we’ve been having, the warm kitten bed is getting a lot of use. Often both kittens are snuggled up on it together. You can’t see much of Mom’s handiwork in this picture (just the blue edges sticking up from the cat tree I’ve set it in), but here is how you’ll usually find the kittens these days:

And with that, I wish everyone a very happy Hogmanay. (I just finished reading a Scottish book that takes place during this time of year, so New Year’s Eve is Hogmanay to me right now. Bring on the vegan haggis!) (The Crow Road, Zoa – don’t want you burning with curiosity!)

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

I don’t know if I have mentioned before that the company I work for was founded by an Indian American and although we are very diverse, many employees are Indian and consequently a pretty high percentage of us are vegetarian (although I’m the only vegan I know of). What this means is I can generally eat a surprisingly high number of dishes at potlucks and other gatherings.

Today was our annual Thanksgiving potluck and once again I was instructed to bring a salad. When I found my week packed with extracurricular activities, though, including a late night the day before the potluck, I was alarmed. How was I going to put together something stunning – it’s important to me to take any chance I can get to make vegan food that appeals to omnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians – that either required no time to prepare or would keep for a couple of days?

So earlier this week, I entered some panicky search terms into google and one of the first things that came back was this Strawberry Spinach Salad, which seemed quite promising. There was little prep work and I could do it all in advance except the final assembly. Tuesday night when I had a little extra time, I went shopping and bought the ingredients, then sliced the strawberries, candied the pecans, and pre-measured the dry ingredients for the dressing. Wednesday night I made the dressing in all of a minute, found a serving bowl, and set everything aside to remember in the morning. And this morning, I packed everything up in reusable grocery bag, stuck the strawberries in the fridge at work, and 5 minutes before I needed to, tossed the salad.

So here it is: my take on Strawberry Spinach Salad: a pretty, crowd-pleasing side dish that can be almost completely made in advance and in minimal time. I was told to scale this for 10 people, however, you could cut this in half for a single family.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

1 lb baby spinach
2 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 cups candied pecans (recipe follows)

1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 – 2 Tbsp white sugar (depending on the type of vinegar you use; use less for sweet balsamics)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar – I used a fig balsamic, but regular balsamic would be fantastic, as would any wine vinegar. This is the salad for those fancy vinegars you never know what to do with!

For the candied pecans:
3 cups pecans
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

First candy the pecans: Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat, then add the rest of the ingredients and push them around for a while, until the sugar has caramelized and the nuts are crunchy and delicious. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. You may want to make extra of these because they are addictive. I made a ton and almost didn’t have enough to take to work because someone – whose name rhymes with “Mark” – ate them all.

To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together until emulsified. Let the flavors blend for at least an hour; store in the refrigerator if it will be longer than that.

Lastly, to assemble the salad, just toss everything together. Most of the commenters on the original recipe said it will get soggy, so don’t add the dressing until the very last minute. I served the dressing on the side.

All my advanced preparation nearly backfired when our power was out for 15 hours on Wednesday, but fortunately my refrigerated items all seem to have survived. Try mandarin orange slices if strawberries are out of season. I’m horrible locavore in the winter, and was lucky to find pretty delicious strawberries at Wegmans.

This got rave reviews from my co-workers, including from the CEO. Everyone was calling it “Renae’s Special Salad”, but really it’s just something I found on the internet and copied. Yes, I’m one of those crazy cooks who makes untested recipes for dinner parties and potlucks. But come on, how could I possibly go wrong with this recipe? It’s spinach, strawberries, candied pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette – how is that not a perfect salad? Mark said he usually hates fruit in salads but he really liked this.

I’m incredibly shy, even though I’ve worked at the same place for 6 years and everyone is super friendly, but I can be lured from the safety of my cubicle for Indian food, of which there is always an abundance at our potlucks, much of it vegetarian. I raved so much about the rasam – one of my all-time favorite soups – a co-worker brought in that he gave me all the leftovers! Yay!! Even the Indian food-wary Smark loves rasam! It’s delicious!

Torticia liked it too!

And finally, we’re heading to LA on Thanksgiving. I know there are a gazillion vegan options there, but what should I definitely not miss? What bookstores do I need to go to? Thrift stores? Any other attractions?! It’ll be my first time there and although I’m going to miss these kittens something terrible, I can’t wait. Did I mention I’m seeing both Grinderman AND Einstürzende Neubauten while I’m there? Oh, and my dear Fortinbras. And the vibrant V. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself!

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Cabbage Thing

Ugh, still really busy! Tonight’s meal was yet another “throw a bunch of stuff together and hope for the best” meal. When Mark asked what it was, I answered, “some cabbage thing” and he glommed onto that, jabbering and even singing about his favorite meal “cabbage thing”. So here is Cabbage Thing in all its glory:

Cabbage Thing

1/2 large or 1 small onion, sliced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, if you like them
12 oz tempeh, chopped
2 small or 1 medium potato, chopped
4 cups vegan stock or broth (I used “beef” flavored)
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
2 cups cooked rice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven or large pot, then add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the tempeh and the caraway seeds (if you’re a fan) and saute a few more minutes, then add the potato, broth, tomato sauce, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes. Stir in the rice and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

The ambitious can add a lesser amount of uncooked rice and cook it in the pot with the potatoes and cabbage.

It ain’t pretty to photograph, but it’s tasty to eat.

Mark said he especially loved Cabbage Thing with cabbage on the side, which I thought was a great idea, so I ate mine with a side of sauerkraut.

This has been a super quick post, and I’m sorry – maybe one day soon I’ll have time for a proper post – but I only have time for a single quick kitten photo. Guess who loves nutritional yeast just like his predecessor?!

It’s Gomezian! Torticia, on the other hand, doesn’t understand the appeal.

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A Meal for Mandelbrot

I was sad to hear that Benoit Mandelbrot passed away last Thursday. A few years ago I asked myself where my obsession with physics came from and although it took a lot of thinking to remember, I finally recalled a day I was visiting the beautiful main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, looking through the science section for a book on fractals. I did in fact find a beautiful book on the Mandelbrot set, but on my journey to it I also came across a book on string theory, and I was hooked. That’s sort of a roundabout way of expressing my love of fractals, but my point is, like string theory, fractals – and specifically the Mandelbrot set – are one of those things that sort of define me because I love them so much.

I was hoping to find romanesco – a fascinating fractal member of the cauliflower family – at the farmer’s market, as I did last year, all summer and autumn, to no avail. I’d given up, so it seemed like kismet when I found it at Wegmans tonight.

I knew immediately I’d dedicate our meal tonight to Mandelbrot. I don’t really have a recipe for you – I just steamed the romanesco and whisked together a quick sauce – but I took some photos for your geeky pleasure. I guess it’s dorky, but to me this had a lot of symbolism: I find an intense beauty and peace in mathematics and science, and when you combine it with something as simple and nourishing as a vegetable, well, I’m just supremely happy.

The sauce is just some soy sauce, tahini, Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese, water, and lemon juice, whisked and heated until a bit thickened.

In other news, tomorrow is my birthday, but Mark could not wait and made me open my present tonight. (He’s always been like this. He meant to propose to me on Valentine’s Day, but he picked the ring up three days before and ended up proposing that night because he couldn’t stand it.) Our house is rather dark – perhaps I should call it mood lighting – so this picture is lousy, but I got a much-desired iPod dock; this is it blasting my “All Nick (Cave) All the Time” playlist:

The kittens aren’t too sure how they feel about ole Nick (actually, having just read the wonderful Room, I don’t think I can refer to Nick in that manner, it being too close to “Old Nick”).

They’re both pulling some weird “I’m an owl!” thing, and I don’t know WHAT Torticia’s doing in that top picture.

I don’t know if it’s ever come up, but Mark is an amazing artist. This is the tag that was on my present:

I love the cartoons he does of himself, and I think this is the first time Gomez and Torticia have made it into one. (Since I’m sharing, this is my favorite.)

We just got back from Charleston. For any Stone Roses fans, I’ll describe the trip down in verse:
Driving south ’round midnight
Man, I must have been insane
Driving south ’round midnight
In a howling hurricane

It was not good. But once we got there, Charleston was warm, sunny, and full of delicious vegan pizza. And I got to see the following in a swamp!

Six minutes to my birthday, which means I’ll begin receiving a bunch of phone calls from friends singing

I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
Because you’re evil and you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad but I won’t cry

…which, yes, is their way of saying they love me.

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Grilled Stuffed Peppers

Well, I don’t know if weather GETS more perfect than it was today, and I was looking for any excuse to be outside. Grilling seemed like a good one. I’d been checking out the offerings at the farmers market this morning with an eye towards what would make good grilling fare and had the idea to grill some stuffed peppers. And that’s what I did.

Grilled Stuffed Peppers

2 large bell peppers
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 chili pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup minced or grated seitan (I used Zoa’s chicken-style okara seitan)
1 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (I used about 1/2 cup each)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese, or vegan parmesan
grated vegan cheddar, optional

Dice the onions, mince the chili, press the garlic, and dice the seitan.

Remove the top of the peppers, remove the seeds and white membranes, and dice the removed tops.

Slice the peppers in half.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat, add some oil, and when it’s hot, add the onions, then cook until beginning to brown.

Add the chilis and minced bell pepper, cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic.

Add the seitan. Ignore the tomatoes in this picture – I forgot the seitan and added the tomatoes like a doofus, so I pushed everything out of the way, moved the skillet so it wasn’t over the heat, and added the seitan to the other side of the skillet that was over the heat, then browned it before mixing it all together. Cook until the seitan is beginning to brown.

Add the tomatoes/tomato sauce, soy sauce, rice, and pepper; cook for a few minutes, then stir in the uncheese.

Stuff into the pepper halves.

If you’d like, top with shredded vegan cheddar.

Prepare the grill. I don’t know enough yet to tell you how hot you want it; I know it never seems hot enough for me, which is something I’m working on. If you have a grill wok, put the peppers in that; otherwise, put them directly on the grill.

Close the lid and grill until the bottoms of the peppers are charred. Check out the awesome plate/platter I scored at the thrift store for $3 today! Have I ever mentioned I have the best thrift store luck?!

These were the best stuffed peppers I’ve made! By the way, you can make them in the oven – just don’t cut them in half; stuff them whole and bake at, I don’t know, 375 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or so? I can’t give you an exact time because I haven’t done it that way yet, so check on them.

I hope everyone’s weekend is going well.

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Refrigerator Dill Pickles and Spicy Green Beans

It’s hot here in the DC metro area.

It’s been hot for weeks. Personally, I’m loving it, so you’re not going to hear me complain. I’ll take 100 degree temperatures over a blizzard any day. I might feel differently if we didn’t have air conditioning, but frankly, Mark keeps it so cold at home, and our building management keeps it absolutely frigid at work (I actually sometimes use a space heater; how ridiculous is that?), and I’m cold when I leave the pool at the gym, and it’s always freezing in stores, so I actually consider it a relief to go outside. Our pool doesn’t work any more, so I don’t spend nearly as much time outside as I used to, unfortunately. Anyway, although I don’t feel all that affected by the crazy heat (watch our A/C break now that I’ve said this), I’ve been feeling a bit summery in the kitchen. That is, I eat a lot of pickles during the summer so I’ve been making a lot of pickles. Actually, I make and eat a lot of pickles all year round, but I’m trying to make this post topical. Also, I have been making pickles from stuff I get at the farmer’s market, so that’s seasonal. In fact, I have a pint of yellow jalapenos that I think need a vinegar bath. And a huge bunch of radishes. But today I present you two very easy, classic refrigerator pickles that I made a couple of weeks ago and am now ready to eat.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

1 cucumber (really, 2 or 3 pickling cucumbers would probably be better, but this is what I had)
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
few sprigs dill
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp pickling spices
pinch red pepper chili flakes
1 small clove garlic, lightly crushed
6 drops stevia or 1 Tbsp sugar

Chop the cucumber(s) into spears and lightly smash the garlic with the side of a knife. I also sliced the majority of the seeds off the cukes.

Put the rest of the ingredients except the dill into a large jar, cover, and shake to combine.

Put the cucumber spears, garlic, and dill into the jar. Top off with water if necessary to cover the cucumbers.

Refrigerate for at least a week (10 days is better).


Spicy Pickled Green Beans

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 jalapeno
few springs dill (optional)
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp red chili flakes
1 small clove garlic, lightly crushed

Trim the green beans. Lightly crush the garlic with the side of a knife. For extra spicy green beans, make a cut in the jalapeno. Add all ingredients to a large jar, topping off with water if necessary to cover the beans.

Refrigerate for at least two weeks (three is better).

Eat. (Don’t forget to eat the jalapeno too!)

In kitten news, my mother sent the kittens and me a care package. I got a ton of tea and the kittens got exactly what they needed: more toys. They took to the Turbo Scratcher right away. Torticia literally throws herself into playing; she’s so rambunctious and adorable:

Gomez is a bit more laid back, although he does leap around and act just as nutty. I think his philosophy is to sit back and let Torticia tire out their prey and so he can go in for an easy kill later. I don’t have the heart to tell him Turbo Scratchers don’t tire out.

For those of you who didn’t see it on Twitter, here’s my hilarious joke – it’s the Large Cat Toy Collider. We’re hoping to find the Gomez boson.

I don’t know why this surprised me so much, because they sleep together a good 80% of the time, usually in one of their two cat trees, but I was taken aback for a second to find both kittens on the back of my chair. I guess it is because both Tigger and Brachtune liked to sleep there but there is no way in hell they’d ever both be there at the same time. This picture somehow hides the fact that Gomez is now a full 25% larger than Torticia. He’s an enormous giant.

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Yellow Wax Beans

Another farmers market purchase was yellow wax beans. I used some in a soup that also incorporated the rest of my lima beans last night (yes, it was 100 degrees here yesterday and no, I don’t believe in “soup season”), but I decided to showcase the rest in a wax bean-intensive dish, which I based off this recipe on The Crispy Cook.

Yellow Wax Beans with Tomatoes and Shallots

2 cups yellow wax beans, trimmed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 or 2 healthy splashes champagne or white wine vinegar
flaked sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Boil the beans in water to cover for 5 minutes or until just past crisp-tender. Drain and run under cold water. In the same pot, heat a little oil, add the shallot and cook until soft, then add the tomatoes and cook for another minute or two. Add the beans and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

We got home a bit late tonight and, having been at a not-overly-vegan-friendly conference all day, I was starving, so this was quickly put together and served with Gardein Crispy Tenders, a cucumber salad I made yesterday, and a few pickled radishes.

Gomez and Torticia are proving to be mighty popular with readers, so I wouldn’t dream of making a post without pictures, but when we got home they were WOUND UP, and it is very hard to take pictures of kittens that are running around like lunatics, especially with a flash that has batteries that need to be recharged (and is therefore taking a while to cycle between flashes), and especially when one is starving and trying to cook dinner at the same time. So these pictures may not be very good, but they do capture the essence of An Evening With Gomez and Torticia.

The day before I brought the kittens home, I spent close to $200 buying them supplies, which included a number of toys. They also inherited toys from Tigger and Brachtune. Then last weekend, my mom and aunt came to visit and singlehandedly more than tripled their toy supply. What I’m trying to say here is these cats are NOT hurting for cat toys. Naturally, their favorite thing in the world is pipe cleaners. This picture amuses me because it looks like the pipe cleaner is a squiggle I rather inartistically added in GIMP (which, I’m afraid, is how I do everything in GIMP), but really Torticia is tossing it into the air. (The pipe cleaner used to be wound up in a nice spiral.)

I love, love, love it when cats carry their toys around in their mouths.

Torticia managed to lose the red pipe cleaner so I gave her a new yellow one, which she again carried around in her mouth because she knows how to make me swoon with her cuteness.

Speaking of losing toys, at the exact same time the red pipe cleaner went missing, Gomez lost HIS toy under the heater. At least he seemed to; he tried to retrieve it for so long I interceded on his behalf and there was absolutely no toy there. No idea what he did with it.

Poor Gomez.

I found him a new toy but he wasn’t sure if it was a fair trade for his pawn.

You can’t tell here but his final decision was whatever Torticia was playing with.

Finally, Torticia surrendered her toy to Gomez and invaded my dinner.

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