Vegan Friday: Stuffed peppers

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This recipe takes a few extra minutes because of the baking time, but it’s easy to assemble in advance and keep in the fridge or freezer for later. I’d initially planned to make these with red beans and Cajun seasoning, but I grabbed the wrong can of beans and didn’t realize it until I’d opened it, so I just switched to Mexican spices and called it good.

Ingredients:
Four bell peppers
Small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
Can of tomatoes
Can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Taco seasoning (I use homemade)
About 1/2 c. whole-wheat couscous

Preheat oven to 350.

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Cut tops off peppers and remove cores.

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Chop up tops and saute with onion in olive oil until onion is clear. Add tomatoes, pinto beans and seasoning and bring to a boil.

Stir in couscous, turn off heat, and let couscous absorb liquid.

pepper3

Fill peppers with couscous-bean-tomato mixture and bake in a covered dish for about 20 minutes until pepper starts to soften.

Serve with hot sauce and salt. (Non-vegans can add a handful of shredded cheese to the top of each pepper halfway through the baking time if desired.)

Makes 4 servings, obviously.

Emily

Road work ahead

I had some good intentions about updating Route 66 for Kids last winter, but then I got busy chiseling my car out from under umpteen ice storms and picking up extra projects at work and replacing my hard drive after the old one crashed and starting tomatoes and insulating the basement and covering a murder trial and raising quail and planting the garden and setting up beehives and shopping for lawn gnomes and covering an execution that ended up being postponed, and by the time I got through all that, vacation season had started, and there really wasn’t any point in releasing an update after people had already started traveling, so I just gave up and let the whole mess slide another year.

Anyway, I’ve had the Mother Road on my mind the last couple of days, and the book is past due for an update, so I think I’m gonna start that tonight and see how far down the road I can get before bedtime. I’m kind of looking forward to the excuse to call old friends. I don’t get to see the roadie crowd often enough now that I’m a two-hour drive from the nearest alignment of 66, and as much as I enjoy the Blues Highway, it just isn’t the same. (Yet, anyway.)

I expect to release the new edition before Memorial Day weekend. I’m playing with the idea of doing a print edition as well, since Amazon now offers a print-on-demand service, but I haven’t decided whether it’s worth the effort yet. We’ll see.

Emily

Long weekend

We had today off in exchange for working Thanksgiving. I took advantage of the free time to get an eye exam and order new glasses, which look about the same as the old glasses. They were having a 60 percent off sale, so I also ordered a pair of single-vision sunglasses with a gradient rose tint in them. (Protip: If you’re basically blind without your glasses, make sure your sunglasses are light enough to wear indoors juuuuuust in case something happens to your daily drivers. I’m partial to rose, as it tends to be the least annoying in low light, but any gradient will work, as the bottom third of the lens will be practically clear.)

We didn’t accomplish much else today. It was cold and gray and nasty outside, so I spent most of the afternoon taking a nap. I’m still tired. Short days and cold weather wear me down.

Ah, well. Spring training starts in two and a half months. Phillies and Rockies haven’t announced their reporting dates yet, but I’m sure they will in the not-too-distant future.

Also worth noting: Kate Pierson has a new album coming out Feb. 17. January is really going to have to put in some effort to justify its existence this year.

Oh, P.S.: Sarah over at New England Permaculture Homestead posted a Q&A featuring yours truly today as part of a series she’s doing on people who are trying to reduce their environmental impact. Go take a look. (Bonus: She included a photo of me at age 5 with a birdhouse Daddy designed and let me help put together.)

Emily

Pond maintenance

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See my goldfish? Six for a dollar. Comets, man. You can’t beat ‘em.

Today was warm enough that I finally had a chance to clean out the pond. It desperately needed it; that cold snap we had a few weeks ago came on so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to rescue the floating plants, so I ended up with a thick layer of decaying vegetation floating on top of the pond. Yecch.

I’d been planning to wait until spring to change the water, but once I’d scooped out most of the dead plants, I could see how nasty it was, and I was a little concerned the decaying organic material would compromise the oxygen level in the water — endangering the goldfish — if I left it all winter, especially when it gets cold enough to warrant shutting off the pump, so I went ahead and swapped out about 30 gallons of water, which Ron poured onto the garden.

I also hosed off the top of my homemade filter, which had gotten clogged with roots from the dead plants, and used a quarter-inch drill bit to enlarge the holes, which instantly improved the flow rate on the pump.

Water lettuce and water hyacinths are pretty, and they definitely kept the algae down this year, but those long roots kept clogging the fountain this summer, and I suspect they were responsible for its premature demise. I’ll swap them for duckweed next spring. It’s just as good at preventing algae bloom, but its roots are shorter and less likely to clog up the equipment.

I am pleased to report that my goldfish are thriving. I found the body of one very small fish caught in the roots of a rotting hyacinth, but I couldn’t determine the cause of death; it might have frozen, but given its size in relation to the other fish, I suspect it simply succumbed to the law of natural selection. The dead fish was only two inches long, and the three survivors are all four or five inches long, so I’m guessing they just out-competed the little one.

BTW, there is no need to spend ridiculous money on fancy goldfish for your pond unless you just have your heart set on a particular breed. Koi are fine as far as they go, but they’re expensive ($12 to $150 or more) and require more space and better water conditions than plain old feeder goldfish — a.k.a. comets — which are cheaper (25 cents or less), tougher (I’m pretty sure these guys could thrive in a mud puddle), and IMHO, just as pretty as their fancier counterparts. They’re just as smart, too; I’ve heard koi owners brag about how their fish come right up to the edge of the pond to greet them when they come outside, as if that’s some amazing feat of intelligence. I’ve kept comets on and off for years, and I’ve yet to see one that wouldn’t swim to the surface and beg when it saw me walk outside. These guys know a gravy train when they see one.

Bonus: Because comet goldfish are marketed as food for larger species, when you buy one to live in your pond, you’re saving a life.

Yeah. Comets. Getchu some.

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I love it when the water is clear. The pump is aerating the pond nicely, as you can see from the bubbles.

One happy side effect of getting the flow rate up on the pump is that it’s aerating the water better. The fish spent a lot of time playing in the ripples near the surface this afternoon, so I’m assuming they liked it, too.

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Don’t forget to install artificial landing strips for pollinators when vegetation is scarce. Wine corks are ideal for this purpose.

The bees — who were very active today, thanks to the warm weather — were none too pleased with me for messing with their water source and taking away their landing strips, but I’ve been saving wine corks to serve as replacement perches, and I threw a few out there today.

In other news, the quail have quit laying. I could use artificial lights to get them going again, but the whole point of raising my own birds was to ensure they weren’t subjected to the kind of evil crap that goes on in factory farms, so I’ll just trust Mother Nature and let them set their own schedule. If they need the winter off, they can have it.

Hope you had a productive Sunday, wherever you are. I think I’m going to wind mine down by bottling some pinon-infused beer we started a couple of weeks ago and racking a batch of cider. (Homemade hard cider will be an Eco-Saturday one of these days if I ever remember to take pictures of all the steps. It’s a little time-consuming but very easy to make, and the end product is magnificent.)

Emily

Vegan Friday: Sushi

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to make vegetarian sushi. That’s because — also contrary to popular belief — the word sushi refers to the rice preparation technique, not the other ingredients. Pieces of raw tuna or salmon artfully arranged on a plate are delicious, but they are not sushi. They are sashimi. If you don’t have rice flavored with rice vinegar, you don’t have sushi.

With that in mind, here’s how to make a fantastic lunch.

Ingredients
1 1/2 c. sushi rice, cooked
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
3 nori sheets, toasted (available from the health-food store; do yourself a favor and buy the pre-toasted kind so you don’t have to toast it yourself)
Mild-flavored vegetables such as avocado, cucumber or carrots
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger
Wasabi

You’ll also need a sushi mat, available for about $5 at most health-food stores and Asian groceries. (Aluminum foil will work in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it, especially if you’re not used to working with sushi.)

Stir the sugar and vinegar into the rice and refrigerate it for an hour or so.  If you’re not great at making rice, get yourself an automatic rice cooker; they cost about $20 at most big retailers and will save you a lot of time and effort.

After the rice cools, cut your vegetables into thin strips.

Lay a toasted nori sheet on the sushi mat. Place about a third of the rice on the end of the sheet closest to you and use the back of a spoon to spread it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.
Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.

Make an indentation in the middle of the rice and lay vegetable strips in the indentation.

Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.
Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the nori sheet up around the filling as tightly as possible, rolling the mat with it as needed to keep everything together.

The roll should look something like this.
The roll should look something like this.

Unroll the mat. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and use them to moisten the loose edge of the nori, smoothing it down against the roll.

Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.
Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into slices.

Arrange the slices on a plate. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. (Pickled ginger and wasabi both should be available from most grocery stores.)

Makes three rolls.

Sustainability on a shoestring

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