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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beautiful Autumn and Very Veggie Soup

It's gloriously beautiful here in Ohio today....the sun is out, wind has died down, rain has stopped and the temps are rising today.  The sun is making longer shadows across the land these days, giving early morning and late afternoon a brilliant shine to the leaves, which haven't all given up their grasp on the trees just yet....but it's coming.....the dreaded "W" word and soon I'll have to dig out the Carharts and gloves and long underwear and wonder once again why we live this far north of the equator.

But for today, it's beautiful.

Our beautiful mare, Dani, enjoying the sun.

Lovely Laura


I started out the day harvesting some kale (the few plants that survived the onslaught of the cabbage moths) beet greens and spinach for my morning smoothie.  There is something so wonderfully simple and grounding about going out to your own garden, snipping a few leaves and preparing a meal with the yield. 

I'm really looking forward to expanding our very successful raised beds next year - I'm hoping to add two more, one for sweet potatoes and early/late quick crops, like lettuce, and one that I'd love to have strictly for flowers, possibly growing some edible flower varieties as well as my favorites like daisies and pansies, dahlias, cosmos, etc.

I had a craving for some vegetable soup yesterday and thought it would be a great opportunity to use up some odds and ends in the frig before they become Science experiments.  (Another great thing about being vegan is the much greater window of time before the stuff in the frig morphs into something truly nasty....). 

I've been in the habit this summer of stashing leftover bits of veggies from my food prep into large freezer bags and storing in the freezer - then I just add to them as I go along.  I mark the bags with ye ole Sharpie "Veg Stock", and now have quite the collection of these bags.  It is amazing how quickly you can fill one up with the ends of onions, carrots, tops of tomatoes, ugly butt end of celery, celery leaves, etc., etc. 

Every so often when cooking, I just empty the contents of a bag into a large pot and add water, probably 4 - 6 cups, cover and let it simmer.  An hour or more later and there is this lovely veggie stock.....strain and toss the spent veg parts onto the compost pile.  Usually I'll go ahead and freeze that veggie stock too, unless I am going to use it up in the next day or two.  It's a very simple process and I refuse to buy the high sodium stuff that is available in the store --- even if I find a brand that is low in sodium, it still just seems like a waste of money, when I can create my own with literally stuff I was going to toss out!

Very Veggie Soup

Homemade veggie stock (really try to make your own---I know not everyone can, but I really think it
      makes a huge difference in the taste)
Onions (I used some small ones I picked up at the farm market - a variety, red, yellow, white -
     about 8 of these)
Garlic - 2 cloves
Carrots (I used two from my garden - yum)
Potatoes - 4 medium
Corn - approx 1 C - (Trader Joe's roasted corn has a sweetness that is really nice in this soup)
Peas - approx 1 C
Edamame - approx 1 C
Red beans - 1 can, rinsed and drained
Anything else you would like!
Tomato sauce - approx 1 C - (I made from tomatoes from the garden - lots of flavor but could use
   canned or even a small can of tomato paste which would thicken the broth up more)
Pinch salt

In large soup pot, saute chopped onions and minced garlic in small amount of water.  Let cook about 5 mins or so until onions almost start to carmelize.  In the meantime, chop your carrots and potatoes and prep other items.  Add veg stock and carrots and potatoes.  Cook on low heat (I partially cover....lid not closed tightly) for 30 - 40 mins or so until potatoes are done.  Add in corn, peas, edamame, beans and tomato sauce and simmer til heated through.  Salt lightly if desired....I used just a pinch.

I was kind of going for something like Campbell's Chunky Vegetable with this recipe and I think this is fairly close.  The addition of the tomato sauce really gives the broth more body and flavor and it just really hit the spot for me.  I think it would be great with a combination of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.  Cannellini beans would also be great in place of the red beans or even a combination of several types of beans/lentils and you could morph this into a stew.  I'm sure my soup recipes will be getting a good workout in the cold months to come....but it'll be one more reason to be thankful for excuse to have a great, hearty soup!

Sue, greedily holding onto the warm temps, in Ohio

One of my favorite herbivores.....they know how to eat!

Excuse me while I go completely off for a minute.....

I'm embarrassed.

I posted these words on my FaceBook page not too long ago.

I went on to write the following.

I'm embarrassed to be in the same species, race and gender as someone who felt the need to forward a hateful e-mail comparing Michelle Obama to Cheetah (Tarzan and Jane).....

I'm embarrassed to be in the same group as the individual who commented 'this is the best one in a long time' what?  advertisement that you are racist, insensitive and lack any spirit of compassion whatsoever?

I'm embarrassed to find that in 2011 we are still a nation that is divisive and combative and stoops to the level of assault that was in this hateful e-mail and calls it humour.

I'm embarrassed that this individual, who also sends me God and Christian e-mail regularly, thinks that I am the kind of person who would find this remotely interesting.

'Nuff said, I'll save the rest for my blog.

So, I'm going to go off a while longer here, and I won't mind at all if you prefer to just close this window out and move on.  I'll put a nice recipe at the end for those of you who decide to read, (or just scroll down to the end and skip my tirade).

Because this morning, with a good night's sleep behind me and the dawn of a new day, I am STILL embarrassed.  ....and perplexed....and mortified....and damnit, I just don't get it!!!

The e-mail that was circulating around depicted pictures from the old Tarzan featuring Johnny Weissmuller and there were various photos and questions being asked of Tarzan with answers supposed to be in present day and down at the end it culminated in side by side pictures of Michelle Obama and Cheetah, the ape.  I was flabbergasted.  Obama supporter or not, this is just beyond any sense of decency.

And the girl that forwarded this to me is a Christian and references her god quite frequently.  I've received hateful e-mails like this before and have found it so odd that many are from Christians, although I don't appreciate them from anyone.  I asked someone I know who is a devout Christian about something similar to this once and she said "just because a person is a Christian, doesn't mean they're a good Christian.".  I thought she made an excellent point, but I'm thinking, in reference to this circumstance, how hard is it NOT to forward an e-mail???  Doesn't seem to take a huge amount of restraint, committment or fortitude.

I normally delete this garbage and move on, but in this case, I did respond to the sender and unequivocally told her not to send me this stuff any more.  I was reminded of the times in history, when with the silence of the onlookers (even in the last days of Christ himself!!!), their tacit consent was given to whatever atrocity of the day was taking place.  This is how it starts....we remain silent....we don't want to offend....we grant more respect to the perpetrator than they are giving to us and so the opportunity to affect a change is missed.    I may have hurt the sender's feelings with my reply, but I believe there will now be clarity on what my viewpoint is on this type of communication.  Possibly she may take a moment to assess, does she actually agree with the sentiment reflected in the e-mail, or is she just going along....does it reflect her Christian or humanitarian values, or is she just robotically hitting the forward button?  {Update:  Actually I grossly over-estimated my ability to affect a change....she sent me another, equally offensive e-mail just three days later <sigh>}.

Isn't this part of how we have gotten to the very sad state of affairs in this country with our school lunches, the subsidizing of farm factories, the subsidies of even tobacco until very recently?! 

My response to this e-mail became my 'line in the sand', my 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' and my pebble thrown at the Goliath that has become human indecency and lack of compassion in our modern day world.  World peace?  How are we ever going to get there when we can't even mind our manners with e-mail!?

Ok, I think I'm done now.  If you've made it this far, I thank you for reading, and for thinking, and if you are thoughtful in your life and show compassion and consideration for others, I thank you very, very much.  We need all of the positive energy we can get in this world.

Spaghetti and Vegan Meatballs
I found this recipe in the latest newsletter from Whole Foods.
I hope you are fortunate enough to have one of these wonderful stores nearby to you.  The closest one to us, is about an hour away, but I go there at least 3 times a month.  I think Whole Foods could be even more vegan-friendly than they already are, and I believe they have plans to expand their produce section even further, AND I would like to see the prices come down a bit, but they, along with Trader Joe's, make vegan and whole food cooking more doable.

(NOTE:  I altered the recipe a bit as it called for oil for sauteeing the onion/garlic and mushrooms).

1C chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 C roughly chopped cremini mushrooms
1 C packed baby spinach
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1 C black beans, rinsed and drained (divide in half)
2 t basil
1 t oregano
1 C brown riced, cooked
8 oz. spaghetti
Pasta sauce (25 oz)

Saute onion and garlic (in water) and cook til tender, about 5 mins.  Stir in mushrooms and spinach.  Cover and cook until mushrooms are tender and spinach wilts, about 5 mins.  (Add water as needed). 

Process, sunflower seeds (I just grind mine up in a coffee grinder solely used for nuts/seeds), until coarsely ground.  Add cooked vegetable mixtures, half the beans, spices.  Pulse until mixture is just coming together.  In large bowl, combine pureed mixture, remaining beans and rice,  Stir til combined.

Preheat oven 350.  Form mix into 1-2" balls and transfer to baking sheet (I use parchment paper with the eeniest bit of oil possible...we're talking drops here).  Bake veggieballs 30 mins or until heated through and crisp on the outside.  In the meantime, cook pasta and heat sauce.  Combine pasta and sauce and add veggie balls being careful not to break apart.

The squeaky wheel may not always get the grease, but the silent one never does.
Sue, squeaking, in Ohio

Monday, October 3, 2011

Garden Party and Die-and-go-to-Heaven German Chocolate Cake

I have a garden this year, a real producing, dang-I-just-made-dinner-from-my-harvest garden (ok, it was only a pasta sauce, but....still).  This, like most of what gets accomplished around here, is due in no small part to efforts from my husband.  He convinced me to try raised beds this year, undoubtedly inspired by my lack luster attempts at gardening in years past.  OMG, like my switch to denim jeans with some stretch, I will never go back.  My only complaint (of course I have to have one) is that he only put in TWO raised beds.  What was he thinking?  I filled those puppies up in no time.  Maintenance is ridiculously easy and because of the location we chose -- I walk past them probably 20 times a day--- it's hard not to care for them.

From July - I had sunflowers in the middle with young lettuce surrounding my stepping stone, tomatoes in the back and some carrots and brussel sprouts in the front.

My other bed, in July - cauliflower, broccoli in front, peppers in the middle and sweet potatoes and a few other brassicas in the back (my gardening assistant, Tonka the wonder cat, on the left)

Along about August I noticed a wee problem with my brassicas....ALL my brassicas.  The kale I had in pots, the kale I had in the side beds along-side my house, the cauliflower, the broccoli, the brussel sprouts.  Little worms, cabbage worms, were feasting and having a garden party, smorgasbord-style the likes of which hasn't been seen since we celebrated the turn of the century.  I set about picking the little suckers off and disposing of them humanely (i.e. tossing them in the tree-line).  I admit that my need to not do harm to the little vicious creatures became increasingly hard to maintain, but I didn't knowingly crush any of them, however a few died "accidentally" in the removal process.  It quickly became clear that I was losing the battle, and I tried various home-made concoctions to spray on the plants, but always the voracious buggars would be back---even tried removing the eggs....still they out-numbered me.  So, I ended up pulling out nearly all my brassicas, but have a few that I check several times a day and hopefully cooler weather will solve my worm issues.

  The culprit.

But they know a superfood when they see one!  My poor kale.

Carrots in the background and what's left of my brussel sprouts in the foreground.

They don't like peppers though....I'll be growing more of those next year and also sowing kale earlier to see if I can beat the worm season.

Not all is worm-food though; I've harvested pounds and pounds of tomatoes with plenty more on the way.  The very tall plants in back are a local heirloom variety called Calloway, an excellent producer.

         Here are the Calloways this morning, in October----doing very well....and no worm damage. 

This species of kale seems to be not the preferred worm entree.  This plant may even survive.

Spinach (La Dolce Vita) also doing well and I just sowed some more seeds in the newly vacant spots in the raised beds.  Am thinking of framing and covering one of the beds to try to extend the season and harvest spinach, beets and maybe some cool-weather kale later this year, sans worms.

Baby red lettuce (letti???) coming up along with new spinach.  I read recently that lettuce seed doesn't germinate well in hotter soil, so that could explain why I am getting better germination now.

My husband loves German Chocolate cake and I always make one for his birthday.  This past year I could not bring myself to make that fat laden, artery clogging creation, so I set upon the hunt for a vegan version.  I found one at this site:

and decided to give it a whirl.  Now, it is not exactly health food, but is definitely a better option than the traditional recipe.  I ended up just making the round pans and not stacking the cake layers and instead of using the ganache to frost the sides, I drizzled it heavily on the top.  This cake is amazing.....simply amazing.  My husband said it's the best dessert I've made in years.  We will likely have it only once or twice a year, but it is great to have this option available.  I think this would make up great as mini-cupcakes too to take to a party.

Sue, gardening, despite the worms, in Ohio
I guess my garden fairies don't mind worms.....well, they do grow up to be pretty cute butterflies/moths....even if they are complete kale hogs!!!