Vegan Friday: Super Bowl snacks

So let’s say your sidekick waltzes in on Friday afternoon and informs you that the two of you are attending (or worse, hosting) a Super Bowl party in 48 hours. Annoying, yes, but don’t panic. Here are three vegan dip recipes you can throw together in about 30 minutes. That’s total, not each.

NOTE: These are the fastest possible versions of each recipe. If you have a little time and feel like dressing them up, any of these can be improved by substituting fresh ingredients for their processed counterparts, but the versions below are perfectly fine to eat while drinking beer and watching football.

This is an easy make-ahead recipe that works equally well as burrito filling.

Refried Beans

1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles, drained
Olive oil
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Ground cumin

Refried beans also make a killer topping for chili dogs.

Put a little oil in the bottom of a big frying pan or wok, dump in the beans and Ro-Tel, and cook until heated through. Add onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin to taste. Mash with a potato masher and serve with tortilla chips.

Two more recipes below the fold:

Continue reading Vegan Friday: Super Bowl snacks

Folk Tuesday: Farewell, Pete

I don’t suppose life owed him anything after 94 years, but I doubt there’s a folkie out there who wasn’t a little sad today to learn that Pete Seeger had slipped away from us yesterday.

Worth noting: On her Facebook page today, Judy Collins reported that she had a gap in her ridiculously busy tour schedule that allowed her to be home in New York City for exactly one day — yesterday. So of course she went to visit her old friend in the hospital, held his hand, sang to him, gave him a kiss, and thanked him for the song above, which she recorded in 1963, and which she cites as the main reason she switched to 12-string guitar.

After Mary Travers died, I said something to the effect that you know you’re folk royalty when Judy Collins shows up to sing “Amazing Grace” at your funeral. When God arranges her itinerary so she can show up at your deathbed to hold your hand, kiss you goodbye, and sing one of your own songs to you as you’re dying? I’m gonna go ahead and read that as a big ol’ “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If God is a folkie — and, really, why wouldn’t he be? — I’m betting as soon as Judy’s voice faded out, Mary’s faded in, segueing right into “If I Had a Hammer” to welcome him to a festival that makes Newport pale by comparison.


Route 66 memories

In sifting through my digital photo archive the past few days, I’ve run across quite a few images I’d forgotten I had. Most of the stuff in my archive is stuff I shot myself, but some of the most gratifying photos were the ones other people shot of me doing things on or for the Mother Road. For about 12 years, my life more or less revolved around Route 66 advocacy. Here are some highlights I found in my archives:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve identified the photographers as far as I can remember. If you recognize something you shot, and I didn’t give you credit, please let me know in the comments. Some of these images go back a decade or more, and I’ve slept since then.


Geeking it up

We got up later than we’d planned, mostly because we were up way later than we’d planned, thanks to a 10:30 p.m. shooting I had to cover on my night off and a 2:30 a.m. press release about the shooting that I found in my inbox just as I was putting the phone on the charger as I tumbled into bed. Rather than the trip to Jay’s Chicken in Sikeston that we’d initially planned, we decided to head out to the Blue Boar in Cobden, which we’d never tried. The food was just meh (good ideas; mediocre execution), but the setting was great. I was particularly taken with this waterfall — especially the statue above it, which is hard to see in this iPhone picture, but which appealed to my geeky little heart, for reasons involving a certain Doctor.

Look in the background. And keep looking. And looking. And looking. Don’t blink. Whatever you do, DON’T BLINK.

Then I came home and reinstalled the Adobe Creative Suite on my Mac, which I am pleased to report is alive and well and running just fine since I replaced the hard drive yesterday. Replacing a hard drive isn’t that challenging (if you’ve ever changed the air filter in an ’85 Nissan, you know the level of difficulty we are dealing with here), but it still felt good to be mucking about under the hood with a jeweler’s screwdriver like I knew what I was doing.

Unfortunately, I’d misplaced the serial number for the software, so while the installation CDs were running on my Mac, I pulled out my PC and contacted Adobe to find out how to recover the serial number. At one point, I was chatting with an Adobe support guy on my PC, installing software on my Mac, and resetting my Adobe password with my iPhone. This is what my desk looks like at the moment:


After spending the bulk of my weekend performing surgery on my Mac, sifting through more than 35,000 files (most of them images), transferring data from an external hard drive, installing software, and dealing with various and sundry other computer concerns, I think I need a trip to Mr. Typewriter in St. Louis to decontaminate from all these ones and zeroes while I pick up a replacement ribbon for my old Royal portable. Too bad he’s closed on weekends….


Eco-Saturday: Thermophilic compost

Compost is a gardener’s best friend.

If you’re planting a garden this spring, now is a great time to start a thermophilic compost pile.

First, some vocabulary: The type of composting we’re talking about today is thermophilic composting. The term thermophilic means “heat-loving” and refers to the type of bacteria you’re trying to encourage to grow in the pile. As these bacteria break down organic materials, they give off heat. You’ll know you’ve got a healthy thermophilic compost pile when you plunge a pitchfork into your compost pile and see steam coming from the middle.

To get a compost pile to heat up, you need four ingredients:

1. “Green” (nitrogen-heavy) organic material, such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps or animal manure.
2. “Brown” (carbon-heavy) organic material, such as dry leaves, sawdust or peat moss.
3. Water.
4. Oxygen.

Grass clippings are great compost starter.

Start with roughly equal parts greens and browns. Lay down about a six-inch-thick layer of browns, cover it with a six-inch-thick layer of greens, and water it until it’s about as damp as a wrung-out washcloth. Repeat until you have a pile about four feet wide, four feet long and four feet high.

Still kicking myself for giving that outfit to Goodwill. 

Once a day, use a pitchfork to turn the pile. The best way to do this is to leave a space next to your pile that’s the same length and width as the pile itself. To turn the pile, simply move it into this space, one forkful at a time, watering it several times as you go to make sure it stays damp. (Just water as needed; if the pile is sopping wet, you obviously don’t need to add any more moisture.) The next day, move the pile back to its original spot, one forkful at a time. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

Use a container with a lid, such as a one-gallon ice-cream tub, to collect kitchen scraps to add to your pile. Add the scraps to the center of the pile, where they’ll break down faster. Avoid putting meat, dairy or grains into your compost, as they can attract rodents.

Happy composting!


Vegan Friday: Barbecue


Remember when I said there would be just a few recipes that required ingredients you can’t get at a standard grocery store? This is one of them. To make vegan barbecue, you will need a product called Soy Curls. They’re made by Butler Foods, and I get mine for about $8 a pound at the Neighborhood Co-op in Carbondale, Ill. If your local health-food store doesn’t have them, you can order direct from the company or get them through Amazon. In a pinch, you can substitute regular TVP or crumbled veggie burgers, but the end product will be more like sloppy Joe than barbecue.

1 c. Soy Curls
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. molasses
Dry rub seasoning for barbecue
Celery salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Sriracha (optional)
2/3 c. water
Olive oil
Barbecue sauce
Small sandwich buns


1. Place Soy Curls in a small microwave-safe dish.


2. Whisk together vinegar and molasses, add spices to taste (I used about 1 tbsp. of dry rub seasoning, a pinch of celery salt, about a teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder, and a couple of squirts of Sriracha), and stir in 2/3 c. of water. Pour mixture over Soy Curls.


3. Cover and microwave until Soy Curls have taken on a chewy, meaty texture (about 2-3 min.)


4. Put a little olive oil in a skillet, dump in Soy Curl-marinade mixture, and add about 1/4 c. barbecue sauce.


5. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until liquid cooks off.

Serve on small hamburger buns or use as filling for tortillas. I especially like this recipe with a little Southern Illinois-style chow, which is a sort of slaw made with minced cabbage, mustard, a little pickle relish and a dash or two of hot sauce.

Serves 2 but doubles or triples easily. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it in less than 20 minutes, and it also keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can prep it in advance and just warm it up when you’re ready to use it if you really don’t have time to cook.


Sorting it out

The glory of digital photography is that you can take 30 shots to get the one you want, without having to worry about the cost of film or processing. The flip side is that you end up taking 30 shots to get the one you want, dumping ALL of them off onto your hard drive, and keeping them forever, just in case you might need them, as opposed to looking at prints and scanning only the keepers.

This is fine until you end up with so much crap on your hard drive that you realize it would take a full day to back it all up, so you just live dangerously until the inevitable happens and your hard drive goes bad, at which point you start using language that would make Samuel L. Jackson blush as you contemplate dropping the damn thing off the Bill Emerson Bridge on your way to pick up film and a new typewriter ribbon — except you can’t, because you pretty much have to order typewriter ribbons online. Kind of like how you have to download a slide rule app for your iPhone, because video killed the radio star. Or something. You kids get off my lawn.

Anyway, while I was rummaging through a flash drive last night in search of the one folder of images I was sure I’d backed up and absolutely could not stand the thought of losing, I ran across a keeper I’d scanned a little over 10 years ago, when I was still using 35mm:



Ron shot this during the weekend in 2003 when we repainted the sign at the now-shuttered Vega Motel on Route 66 in the Texas Panhandle. Last time I was through there, a little over a year ago, the sign still looked pretty good. It’s probably in better shape than some of the buildings at this point.



Munchkin Land and Marshmallow World

Here is how I spent Saturday:

We made bears. Hazel wants pink or purple everything (notice her glasses), and the boys want superhero everything (if you look closely, you’ll see Jamie is wearing Spider-Man glasses). At some point, I’ll find time to write them a book about a princess who rescues Batman.
The guys were VERY proud of their bears. Jamie’s dad helped him decorate his. I think Geoff was actually having more fun than the kids.
Hazel liked making her bear, but when I started taking pictures, Ollie made a funny face, which Hazel missed, so she thought we were laughing at her.
She tried really hard to put on a brave face for the camera, but she couldn’t quite manage a smile. Poor Hazel.
All was well, however, by the time we started making marshmallow pops. When you’re 5, chocolate and sprinkles will mend a broken heart pretty efficiently.

Hope you had a chocolate-covered-marshmallows-and-sprinkles sort of weekend, wherever you are.