Tag Archives: Vegan Food

Quiet Day

Not much happening today, work wise, so I am finding ways to help the day along.  Cooking is always good.  Dinner will be pintos, collards and cornbread.  The pintos and collards are done, but the cornbread wasn’t going to make itself–so I did.

The recipe from Incredibly Delicious is wonderful.  I’ve probably talked about it before, but I don’t feel like looking it up.  My Dad likes it so much he asks me to send him loaves in lieu of gifts.

My mind is increasingly pulled in the direction of the gardens.  The seedlings in the basement are coming along nicely. Above are cukes on the left and tomatoes on the right.  Basil below. 

I might go out later and put cool weather seeds in the home garden.  Lettuces and such.  Frida is resting, as dogs will do.   Odd that she has her back to all possible danger.  Has she given up guarding the yard?  I don’t blame her.  Things can be pretty quiet around here most days.

The buyer of the Grand Velo picked it up last night.  Talking with him about bikes for twenty or so minutes was more pleasure for me than payment for the frame.  He has about the same number of bicycles as do I.  Buys and sells over time.  Even though I am going to make a concerted effort to sell, I’d be a fool if I thought I’d bought my last one.  In the end, what is the harm in collecting, really?  That’s how he feels anyway.  Who am I to argue?   His preferences run toward Schwinn Paramounts and Campagnolo.   I understand the attraction.   The Grand Velo is his first Bridgestone (but like me he has a Rivendell Atlantis and a Rivendell Road).  Toward the end of our conversation I complimented his VW GTI.  Told him I had one of the first ones and miss it to this day.  Turns out he had one as well (white!).  Big sigh for the days when small cars could be light.  So much more fun to run around in a small light car with a small motor than a heavy car with a huge motor.

Espresso machine is heated up.  I should go use it so I can shut it off.  Take care.

Going Big and Going Home

I love cooking big.  Today?  One one gallon of Indian dal and tomato soup and one half-gallon of collard greens.  Last week?  A gallon of pintos.  Scrumptious!  

If you don’t have half-gallon and gallon jars, I’d strongly suggest getting some.  Something very satisfying about the look and feel of a comically large glass jar filled with something you made.  If anything, you know you are going to eat for a week.

I got the last issue of Lincoln Ve-Low in the mail a couple of days ago.  Sad to report it came with a note announcing the demise of my favorite zine.  I didn’t know it at first.  I opened the envelope and was carrying the zine slack-style to my office.  Washingtons and Lincolns started raining from the pages (I prepaid for a year  or more subscription).  I opened the zine and found the note and the sticker.  Anyway, I am sure producing the magazine was a ton of work.  Thanks, Thad, for keeping it up as long as you did!

[Update:  Having just read said last issue of Lincoln Ve-Low, I learn two things.  First, Thad’s dad had a cancer scare.  Sounds like it is turning out as well as can be, but still… so sorry Thad!  We’ll be thinking of you and your family.  Second, Dave Sink, the owner of the Antiquarian Record Store (Omaha), passed away.  Oh man.  How sad.  That’s one reason I am going to miss Lincoln Ve-Low.   Where am I going to get that kind of news now?]

I’m staring at the Grand-Velo 3000.  Soaking up its loveliness before the buyer shows up tonight to carry it away.  I am probably jinxing the sale.  So what if I am?  I love this frame!

Take care, all.

Warm Concrete

I haven’t been outside, but looking out the door I can guess it is generally cool and the sun is warming the patio (and Frida).

This helps me gain confidence that Spring is coming.  What a great time to write about my grandma and her gardening and cooking.  The real story is my mom asked me to write a piece for an upcoming cookbook featuring cooks from Emerald, Nebraska.  Can’t say no to her!  Here’s what I sent.  The blanks are for mom to fill in (she’s good with dates and details).

My grandma lived in Emerald, Nebraska, from ________ to _________.  I enjoyed many visits to her Emerald homestead, but grandma wasn’t living there when I went. It had been passed to her son. During my life, she lived in a tidy bungalow in Lincoln, Nebraska, in a neighborhood called the Russian Bottoms.

The Emerald homestead was a working farm with many acres dedicated to ___________ and ___________.  There was a big vegetable garden near the house.  Grandmother and her kids took care of that.  She grew _______________, and canned what the family didn’t eat during the growing season.  These are just stories to me, though, shared with me by grandmother and my mother.  We should fast forward some to my direct experience, when grandma was in the Russian Bottoms tending a big garden there.

The work would start every spring after her son tilled the soil.  The rest was all grandma.  I remember her planting tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.  There was more, but I remember these plants because some of the tomatoes were prepared into spicy catsup, then canned, and the cucumbers were prepared as sweet pickles, then canned.  Both were the best I have ever tasted.  In the end it was the tomato catsup that took the blue ribbon for me.  Spicy and complex.  Store bought catsup just tasted like sugar by comparison.  I don’t think grandma had the recipe written down.  When I asked for it, she just listed the spices from memory.  I recreated it and always have many pints in the freezer.

In honor of grandma’s methods, I’ll just list the ingredients as she listed them for me.  You can work out the quantities to your tastes.  Tomatoes (skinned and seeded–grandma used the big round tomatoes she grew, but I grow paste tomatoes and use those), onions, mustard seed, black pepper, cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar and vinegar.  I never watched grandma make it, so the rest is just how I do it.  Blend the tomatoes and onions and cook them down until half the quantity remains.  Add the spices and sugar and continue reducing until it is as thick as you want it.  Grandma’s wasn’t as thick as store bought catsup, so mine isn’t either.  Finally, add the vinegar (a little at a time until it tastes right to you) and cook for just a few minutes more.  This cans well and that’s what grandma always did. I did for years, but now I just freeze it.

Grandma also loved geraniums. As I remember it, geraniums were the only decorative plant to which she paid much attention.  She’d grow them every summer and take clippings in the fall.  The clippings would go in water until they rooted, then they’d be transplanted into soil in tin cans and placed in her window.  There they’d wait patiently to be put out again in spring.  This she’d do, along with the garden, every year, like clockwork, until she was _____.  Then it was time to sell her home in the Russian Bottoms and move to a nursing home.  Before the house sold, I took clippings from her geraniums and have kept them going using grandma’s methods to this day.  I am looking at one soaking up spring sunshine as I write this.

Grandma’s gardening and cooking is what I remember best about her.  That, and her love of hosting the family’s Sunday dinner.  Hosting was a chance to share what she had grown and to listen to her family talk.  She didn’t speak much.  She was too busy working.  Others pitched in, but she was always at it.  It was accepted that grandma wouldn’t sit with us to eat the huge and delicious meal until everyone was done.  There was a place for her at the table, but it was mostly empty.  If everyone seemed sated, and then over sated, she might make a plate for herself.  Sometimes!

I learned from her steadfast example the importance of patience, love and the joys of hosting and sharing food.  I also learned from her that listening is better than talking (you learn so much more).  I have yet to meet a person with as much love in her heart as grandma, and I’d like to think some of that came from the quiet, patient work required to make a garden flourish.  I think about her every day and miss her so very much. She was one of a kind!

Sappy, but there is no other way to think or write about my grandma.  That’s that!

Mahar’s was open on Sunday (a rare treat).  I enjoyed a cask conditioned Blue Herron Pale Ale from the Mendocino brewers up north.  Lacey, a Southern Tier Oak Unearthly IPA.  Both were real standouts.  I share what we drink mostly for our reference.  I sometimes have a hard time remembering what I enjoy.  If it is recorded here, I can find it and enjoy it again.

Time to work!  Have a productive week.

Two 2s

I love my wife!  The day started with a nice walk with Frida.  Lacey said she wanted to go to the gym in the morning.  I said it was so pretty that maybe she’d be willing to bicycle in the country with me.  No driving to the gym.  No electricity used by the work out machines.  Free vitamin D from the sun.  Togetherness.  It is kind of cold and very windy, but she said yes!  I love pedaling with my sweetie!

Lacey wanted to ride her Bridgestone XO-2.  It is her favorite go fast bicycle.  Her Panasonic road bike is probably quicker, but it isn’t as stable or comfortable and the XO-2 has easier gears.  Perfect.  I picked out my new Bridgestone RB-2.

Lacey also wanted a bagel brunch.  I had thought the same thing when I woke up, so I stuffed a cotton bag in my coat pocket and planned a country route that dumped us out by a grocery (where we could get Tofutti cream cheese) and then we’d continue home and stop by the bagel store.  

The ride in the country was hard work.  A very strong head wind the whole way.  We enjoyed it anyway.  

After the grocery, we faced a pretty long ride along a very busy street, but as luck would have it we had the strongest tailwind the whole way.  It was amazing.  We had to be going twenty-five, maybe more, with almost no effort.  I haven’t had that kind of fun in ages!

The line for bagels was out the door and moving slowly.  When I got inside the door, I grabbed a bag of day old bagels and headed to the cash registers.  That’s the ethic there.  If you don’t need the help of the sandwich makers, you get to cut to the registers.  Score!

Home safe now.  Lacey is cleaning up while I type.  Then bagel brunch!  Woo hoo!

I hope your Sunday is extra special, too.

Tamale Jag

Friends invited us to a picnic at Joralemon, so I made a batch of tamales.  I’ve made tamales three times before, each time with guidance from Veganomicon and instructions on the side of the bag of Instant Corn Masa Mix.  The first effort went well enough, as I remember it, but the next two times, yesterday included, the tamales required nearly double the time in the steamer (an hour and a half as opposed to the advertised forty-five minutes).  I’d open one at 45 minutes and it the dough would still be wet.  I’d tie it back up and try another 15 minutes and at an hour and a half they’d seem close to right.  

Both Veganomicon and the bag suggest a one to one ratio of stock to masa mix, so that is what I always did.  The dough was pretty wet (just short of pancake batter), but what did I know?  This morning, with the problem fresh in my mind,  I made another batch.  I added one and  a half cups of stock to two cups of masa mix.  The dough was drier, but still easy to work with.  Between pancake batter and cookie dough.  I ended up with twelve tamales with lovely texture after 45 minutes in the steamer.  This reminds me of the importance of adding liquids to unfamiliar batters in stages.  You can always add more if the batter seems too dry.  

My folding technique has evolved, too.  I now press a quarter cup of dough into a small tortilla-sized, pancake-thick, round in my hand.  With the grain of the corn husk running vertically, I lay the dough along the left edge, leaving a couple of inches of husk on the top, right and bottom.  I lay a stripe of filling vertically in the middle of the dough.  I roll the husk from left to right until a tube of dough is formed (the empty right part of the husk is still unrolled), fold the top and bottom edges of the husk in and then continue the roll to trap the edges.  Very tidy.

Tying the tamales was always a struggle.  I’d make ties from strips of husk.  String would be easier, but about one hundred times less cute.  Now I tie two strips together to make a double length husk strip tie and tying is now reliable and fun.  Too long, really, but the extra length is pretty and makes it easier to untie when eating time arrives.

Filling?  I sautéed chopped onion for twenty minutes on low heat to come close to caramelization (I wanted to caramelize them, but in my thirty or so years of cooking have never once managed the patience required for a good caramelization–and only just learned that can take as many as forty minutes).  Then added jalapeno, garlic and mushrooms.  Spinach, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper last.  Next time I am going to leave time for full caramelization.

The picnic was great.  Our friends are so very wonderful.  Every time we get together I count my blessings that they share their lives with us.  We played bocce, skipped rocks at the river, looked for cave openings and ate wonderful food.  Most of these folks are vegan or nearly so and most of the dishes are made vegan.  If dairy is involved, it is kept on the side.  A little thing, but it goes a long way to making us feel welcome and cared-for.  Not a golf disk was thrown, but I didn’t mind a whit.  I was having too much fun to care.

Hope you are all well.