Vegan Friday: Too lazy to experiment

September 12, 2014


Y’all, I’m tired. Long week. Lotta crap to keep up with. Long day scheduled for tomorrow. I didn’t try any new vegan recipes this week. I just made a batch of black bean chili tonight for dinner, added some leftover Boca crumbles I had in the freezer to give it extra protein, and diced up some avocado on top when it was done cooking. If you haven’t tried my chili recipe yet, you really should. It’s quick and nutritious and nice to warm you up on a cool evening.

I saw a picture of an ice-cream sandwich somewhere the other day and have been craving them ever since, so instead of a recipe tonight, you’re getting a product endorsement: Tofutti Cuties.

At a little over $4 a box, Tofutti Cuties are rather pricey, but you seriously cannot distinguish them from regular ice-cream sandwiches, and if you’re going full-time vegan, they’re about the best thing you’ll find to take the edge off a craving. At 130 calories a pop, they’re not horribly fattening, either. Just, y’know, don’t eat the entire box at once.

And lest you feel cheated: Assuming I get a hand free tomorrow, I’m planning to post instructions for canning salsa — which is completely vegan — as this week’s Eco-Saturday offering.

I really want to post my adventures in soapmaking, but I’m waiting until it finishes saponifying so I can vouch for the finished product before I go bragging on it. It certainly looked and smelled nice when I unmolded it and cut it into bars, and it was a much easier project than I anticipated.

I’m confident enough in the recipe that I’ll probably start another batch this weekend to hand out at Christmas. Might even do a Christmasy scent if I can rustle up some pine essential oil. We’ll see.


Folk Thursday: Playing for Change with Keith Richards

September 11, 2014

This was Ron’s suggestion for this week. Y’all know how I feel about Playing for Change. And y’all know how I feel about Playing for Change covering Bob Marley. So obviously the only way to make a video of Playing for Change covering Bob Marley any cooler is to let Keith Richards play with ‘em.

Also, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog horribly. I’ve been too busy gardening and harvesting and canning and harvesting and canning and harvesting and buying apples and pressing cider and fermenting cider and hanging out with the niece and nephews and making cupcakes and bottling home-brewed green chile beer and making soap and shopping for exercise equipment and setting up a mini-gym in my house so we can cancel our little-used gym membership that we barely use because the hours are stupid and helping Zaphod with his dissertation and reading and chasing stories and … and … and …

Yeah. Been busy. But I have good intentions and a couple of killer salsa recipes, and I hope to have some good stuff to share with you this weekend.


Folk Thursday: Phil Ochs

September 4, 2014

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t posted any Phil Ochs before. Let’s rectify that.


Soap update

September 3, 2014

So my boss let me take today off because Labor Day fell on my regular day off, and we’re supposed to get an extra day off when that happens. You might think I’d spend the day relaxing, but you’d be wrong. Instead, I went out and got a kitchen scale and some olive and coconut oil and started a batch of soap. I managed to do it without maiming myself or damaging any kitchen surfaces, so we’ll put that in the win column. It’s in a cooler in the basement now, setting up overnight. I’ll check it tomorrow, and if it’s set up properly, I’ll slice it into bars, wrap it in waxed paper, and ignore it for a month and a half while it saponifies.

Once I finished my soap project and got the kitchen cleaned up, I brought in some tomatoes and pecans from the garden (the neighbor’s tree has thrown a few nuts into the far corner of the garden) and transcribed an interview for Zaphod before heading out to pick up groceries.

I really don’t understand the concept of rest, apparently.

In unrelated news, remind me next week, and I’ll post a different sort of Munchkin Tuesday. The kids redeemed some of their coupons the other day, and we did an awesome science project that needs to go at the top of your to-do list if you have any children in your life. If I still taught, I’d be finding an excuse to do this with my sophomores — possibly as a sensory-language exercise or something. It was that cool. 


Canning season

September 1, 2014

I will never get tired of hearing the soft plink! of canning-jar lids sealing as they cool.

Put up 14 pints of salsa tonight, made with heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden and good New Mexico chiles.

Meanwhile, I picked up a jar of lye at the feed store Saturday morning and spent part of my Sunday afternoon researching Castile soap recipes. True Castile soap is nothing but lye, water and olive oil, but I’m reading that it’s slow to trace and unconscionably slow to saponify, and I think we all know I don’t have the patience to fool with that. It’s really taking all the restraint I have to stay out of my cider while the yeast does its work.

I swear, this house is turning into one endless science-fair project. So far this year, I have made my own laundry detergent, yogurt, beer, pickles, salsa and apple cider, and I’ve got a batch of hot sauce started on the counter.

Miss Loretta Karen Moomaw the barn cat disappeared Tuesday and hasn’t been seen since, but I noticed her food bowl was empty this morning, and I’ve found only one bird-damaged tomato this week, so I’m pretty sure she’s still around. That’s fine with me. She’s cute and seemed to enjoy being petted, but if she doesn’t want to be anybody’s full-time pet, that’s her decision. I’ll keep refilling her food and water bowls as long as she’s using them.

I think that’s all the news from the hippie cottage this evening.


Eco-Saturday: Cottage vs. McMansion

August 30, 2014

View of our house from the backyard. We have an attached garage, which is handy for storage.

View of our backyard. Our house has an attached garage, which is handy for storage.

While a few notable exceptions exist, as a general rule, big houses are terrible for the environment.

Think about it: The bigger the house, the more material it takes to build, and the more energy it takes to heat and cool. Big houses also encourage consumption; if you have a lot of excess space, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to fill it with shiny objects.

For the sake of both the environment and our bottom line, Ron and I have always insisted on buying small houses.

Our current home is an 86-year-old, 730-square-foot Craftsman bungalow with hardwood floors; a full, unfinished basement; and a front porch that’s just right for sitting with a glass of wine and watching the world go by on a summer evening. Despite its diminutive size, it feels roomy, and I’ve managed to live in it for 16 months without cluttering it up.

Here are the advantages of a small house:

* They cost less to buy.
* They cost less to heat and cool.
* They are easier to retrofit for alternative energy. You can go solar in a 3,000-square-foot McMansion, but it’s never going to be cost-effective.
* They discourage unnecessary purchases. If you don’t have a place to put it, you can’t buy it. I still buy a lot of stuff for the garden, but I waste far less money on odds and ends for the house these days.
* They take less time to clean.
* They’re cute.

Small houses require some creativity and planning, especially if you’re downsizing from something bigger, but the payoff in terms of energy and cost savings is worth the extra effort. If you’re considering a move in the near future, get on or another MLS engine to get a feel for what’s out there. Take an honest inventory of your personal possessions, and get rid of anything that’s taking up space without giving you anything in return. Figure out how much space you actually need, then look at your options. Chances are good you’ll save a pile of money, both upfront and over the long haul, and you’ll certainly be doing the environment a favor.

Here are a few photos of our house to give you some inspiration:

Bedroom. That's a battery-operated, LED reading lamp mounted to the wall. It folds up and out of the way when I'm not using it.

Bedroom. That’s a battery-operated, LED reading lamp on the wall. It folds up and out of the way when I’m not using it.

Dining room. Look at all that floor space! (Don't look at that ugly chair. I haven't had time to repaint it.)

Dining room. Look at all that floor space! (Don’t look at that ugly chair. I haven’t had time to repaint it.)

Kitchen. The counter was a tad more cluttered than usual because I was in the middle of a couple of projects.

Kitchen. The counter was a tad more cluttered than usual because I was in the middle of a couple of projects.

Our house was built before recycling was a thing, so I had to improvise to find space for the bins.

Still life with recycling bins and cat food. Walter photobombing.

We use a corner of the counter as a sort of breakfast bar for Ron's toast and my coffee.

We use a corner of the counter as a sort of breakfast bar for Ron’s toast and my coffee.

Office. The only truly cluttered space in the house, mainly because it's a multi-purpose room, and I'm always in the midst of one project or another.

Office. The only truly cluttered space in the house, mainly because it’s a multi-purpose room, and I’m always in the midst of one project or another.

Living room. I have no idea why Walter felt the need to photobomb every room.

Living room. Clingy cat photobombing yet again.

I can’t tell we’ve lost anything by downsizing from 950 square feet to 730. We have enough room to live our daily lives comfortably with a cat and two dogs, and those low energy bills make up for any minor inconveniences (e.g., the lack of a good place to store dog food and recyclables).


Vegan Friday: Green chile burritos

August 29, 2014

Little packets of awesomeness.

Little packets of awesomeness.

One of my favorite recent additions to Route 66 is a truck stop just off I-40 in Endee, N.M., called Russell’s. The classic car museum, diner and terrific assortment of souvenirs are all nice, but the real attraction for me is the green chile burrito.

Wrapped in foil and tucked in a case under a heat lamp, Russell’s green chile burrito looks like any other gas-station snack you’ve ever seen, but trust me on this: It’s different. Way different. Stuffed with meat, potatoes, cheese and green chile, this burrito is basically your first taste of New Mexico after you cross the state line from the Texas Panhandle. 

Knowing it could be a long time before I had another opportunity to enjoy the real thing, I paid special attention to what I was eating on this trip, savoring the taste with an eye toward replicating it at home. Here’s the vegan version of what I came up with:

2 small potatoes, diced
Small onion, diced
Two green chiles, roasted, or 1 small can chopped green chile
Olive oil
1 bag Boca crumbles
Cumin to taste
Chili powder to taste
4 to 6 flour tortillas

Nuke onions and potatoes with a little olive oil.

Nuke onions and potatoes with a little olive oil.

Nuke potatoes, onion and a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a covered dish until potatoes are soft. Add Boca crumbles, green chile, cumin and chili powder, stir, and microwave again until heated through. 

Warm each tortilla for 10 seconds in microwave. Using a big serving spoon, put a scoop of potato-Boca mixture in center of tortilla, wrap and serve. (If desired, add a small handful of your favorite vegan cheddar substitute before wrapping.)



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