Vegan Friday: Spicy baked potatoes

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I’m not gonna lie to you: I could eat my own weight in hot wings. I will eat just about anything if it’s doused in wing sauce. Fake chicken nuggets. Real chicken nuggets. Fries. Chips. Sandwiches. Whatever. I have been known, on occasion, to drink Louisiana hot sauce straight from the bottle.

I had a craving for wing sauce a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have any wings. Or sauce, for that matter. But I had TVP, potatoes, hot sauce, and butter, so I did the only thing I could be expected to do under the circumstances: I made fake-wing-stuffed baked potatoes.

Start by baking a couple of potatoes. You can do them in the microwave, but they taste better in the oven, especially if you smear the skins with olive oil, sprinkle them with a little sea salt, and wrap them in aluminum foil, shiny-side-in, so the skins get nice and crispy and browned.

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Melt half a stick of margarine (this is butter, which isn’t vegan, but it was all I had on hand, so let’s just pretend it’s margarine, which will work just as well) and add a quarter-cup of Louisiana-style hot sauce. Other types of hot sauce also work, but to get the traditional Buffalo wing flavor, you need a cayenne-based hot sauce.

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Stir until well blended and simmer over low heat while you do the next step.

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Microwave a small vegetable bouillon cube with equal parts textured vegetable protein and water (I think I used about 3/4 c. of each) until the TVP absorbs all the water. Stir the reconstituted TVP into the sauce and let it absorb as much of it as possible. It will look disgusting while it’s cooking. Don’t worry about it; the end product will be fine.

Split baked potatoes down the middle and top with the TVP mixture and, if desired, your favorite vegan sour cream substitute.

The TVP mixture also works as filling for wraps or sandwiches, but I like it best over baked potatoes.

Emily

Scenes from a relaxing afternoon

I spent part of last Saturday unwinding on the Makanda Boardwalk and wandering around Giant City and Carbondale a little bit. Here are a few visual highlights:

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View from the log where I stopped to play ukulele and sing old Dylan songs quietly to myself.
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Found this little guy in the garden behind Rainmaker. I can’t decide whether an eroded, crumbling Pan-cherub is cool or just creepy. Maybe both.
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I will never get done being impressed with these crazy metal trees. Also, I am in love with that retaining wall.

In other news:

1. All my seeds have sprouted, and my mini-greenhouse has created a wonderful micro-climate. I need to put a rug or something under it to protect the floor from excess moisture, but it’s wonderful to open it up once a day and breathe in warm, moist, earth-scented air while I wait for spring.

2. A stylist recently informed me that my hair is now 50 percent gray, so I have spent the past few days diligently seeking a viable means of either lifting my henna or masking my roots while they grow out. I still think henna is the most magnificent dye on the planet, in terms of both color and conditioning properties, but ginger will never be as sexy as salt and pepper, no matter what the Doctor might think, and the plan has always been to use henna as a way to showcase my gray streak and keep my hair healthy until it’s ready to go full-on Emmylou.┬áTo that end, after fading the henna from auburn to copper with Color Oops! (which I’m told would strip out all of the henna if I had the patience to endure another nine hours’ worth of sinus-crushing brimstone fumes, which I don’t), I rustled up a red mousse that precisely matches the remaining color, rinses out in a single wash, and should keep my roots from looking too unkempt while they grow out. I caught a three-for-two sale, so by the time I run out of the stuff, the transition should be complete. W00t!

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Tin-can planters

One of the little gardening tricks I learned from my parents, which they picked up God knows where (probably either Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News sometime in the ’70s), was to recycle tin cans into seed-starting planters for tomatoes.

For this project, you will need:

A can opener
Aluminum foil
Empty tin cans, rinsed well
Potting mix
Tomato seeds
Water
Some kind of drip tray

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Step 1: Use a can opener to cut the bottoms out of the cans. NOTE: Cans that are rounded on the bottom for easy stacking won’t work for our purposes, because you can’t cut out the bottoms. You want the old-fashioned kind with an identical top and bottom. Ro-Tel tomatoes come in such cans (hence the plethora of Vegan Friday recipes involving Ro-Tel lately), as do enchilada sauce and most brands of black olives.

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Step 2: Set the can in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil and drop the bottom back into it, making sure any barbed edges are facing up, not touching the foil.

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Step 3: Wrap the foil up around the bottom to keep everything together.

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Step 4: Fill the can with the planting medium of your choice (compost, potting soil, planting mix, whatever), tuck in a seed or two, set them on some kind of tray to catch drips, and water them.

The advantage of these little planters is twofold: First, there’s something about the metal that seems to stimulate growth in tomato plants, so your seedlings will be good and healthy, and second, when it’s time to transplant your seedlings in April, you can simply peel off the foil and use two fingers to push the plant up out of the can without disturbing the roots.

This is a project you’ll want to do a couple of months ahead of your last frost date so your plants will have time to sprout and grow.

Happy gardening!

Emily

Vegan Friday: Lentil soup

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Sorry I’m a few hours late with this. It’s been nuts around here this week. Anyway, here we go.

About 20 years ago, during one of my early forays into vegetarianism, I found a great little book called The Gradual Vegetarian by Lisa Tracy. It’s out of print now — or was the last time I checked, anyway — but if you can put your hands on a copy, do it, because it’s about as sensible an approach to the subject as anything you’re likely to read. As the name suggests, Tracy advocates easing into vegetarianism instead of trying to go vegan overnight or whatever. Hers is a three-stage approach that works very well, regardless of your ultimate dietary goals.

One of my favorite recipes from the book is lentil-mushroom soup. I have long since forgotten the proportions listed in the recipe (and you know I am too lazy to look them up), but soup is an inexact thing anyway, and as long as you end up with something earthy and hearty that tastes nice on a cold evening, you’re golden.

Lentil-mushroom soup

Olive oil
Medium onion, cut into little slivers
Sliced mushrooms (I think I used a pound)
About a cup of dried lentils
Chopped-up carrot (as much or as little as you like)
Water
Soy sauce

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Saute the onion in olive oil until clear. Add mushrooms and saute lightly.

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Throw the onions, mushrooms, lentils and carrots in the Crock-Pot. Add enough water to fill it up, turn on high, and ignore it overnight or all day or until the lentils are soft. Serve with soy sauce.

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The mushrooms and lentils combine to produce a sturdy, beefy sort of flavor that’s particularly satisfying on a chilly day.

Emily

Seeds

I did several things this weekend, but this was the most important:

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That would be the new mini-greenhouse shelf unit I found on sale for $17 while I was picking up seed-starting trays this afternoon. I bought four growlights to go with it and put them on a timer so the seeds I started this evening — parsley, chives, Genovese basil, cilantro, ┬ásage, echinacea, wisteria, pumpkin-on-a-stick eggplant, and eight varieties of tomato — will have enough light.

While we were at Menard’s, we found a compost bin for $30. I generally prefer a compost pile to a compost bin, mainly because I like turning the pile and watching it steam, but I don’t have a good way to keep the dogs from raiding it at the moment, and this bin was cheap enough that I’m OK with using it for a year or two until I figure out my optimal planting areas and install a garden fence.

Walter is terrified of the shelf. I think the assembly process freaked him out. We had the refrigerator delivered last week, and this week, I brought in several boxes, assembled a shelf in the middle of the dining room, and rearranged the furniture to accommodate it. Last time we started bringing in boxes and dragging furniture around, we were preparing to move, which Walter did not like one little bit, so he is understandably concerned this evening.

Poor kitty. His life is so stressful.

Meanwhile, I’m over here beaming, because Planting Day is two months away. Whee!

Emily