Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Happy List

I recently joined a little book club where we read only food/nutrition and health-related books.  Even though this is the type of stuff I'm interested in, I often find that it closely resembles work.
As I read about healthful eating or sustainable agriculture, I can't help but think about how I'll use this in my job and then I start to wonder why I'm reading this in my spare time.  Then I put it down and pick up a mystery novel.  And a cup of tea.  And a cat.

But the truth is, I like reading these non-fiction books and I want to keep learning.  So instead of relying on my own motivation to pick up these books, I joined a this book club.

We started out with Your Body's Many Cries for Water, which made a rather in-your-face argument for chronic dehydration being the root cause of every major illness in modern society.  It felt a little like being recruited into a cult, but at least the cult only encourages drinking 8-10 cups of water a day.  Cheap, easy and definitely worth a try before heading over to the doctor.  Overall, though, the author came across as a wing-nut.  But I'm still drinking more water and feeling good.

This month's book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I had read this one before, but could probably read it a few dozen more times- or maybe just every December/January in preparation for new year's resolutions.  In the spirit of all things happy, here's my current list of things & activities that make me happy (by no means a complete list).

Jigsaw puzzles
Herbal hot tea (specifically, Lemon Ginger Yogi Tea with lots of lemon and local honey)
Wool socks
Flannel sheets
Pilot gel pens- bold
Watching the cats snuggle together
Gardens. Any kind.  Any where.
Fiesta ware
Organizing things!!!
Taking pictures of food
Having a clean house
Listening to music while driving
Jam with cheese and crackers
Pickled anything
Murder mysteries
Pure beeswax candles
Wednesday nights by myself when I watch New Girl
A new project or challenge
Canning jars of all shapes and sizes
Power walking and yoga, while listening to Young Jeezy, Kanye, T.I. and Lil Wayne
Slightly alcoholic mini-milkshakes
Getting things in the mail
Making lists & budgets
Crossing things off lists

Just like Julie Andrews says, sometime you just have to remember your favorite things and then you don't feel so bad.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seitan Fail, Soup Win!

This year's Thanksgiving meal was fantastic (if I do say so myself).  But I wasn't 100% happy with my seitan turkey.  I tried a new recipe this year and despite being flavorful and impressive looking, it was rubbery.

I won't blame the recipe entirely, though.  I tried the "unturkey" recipe, which sounds amazing and has been my favorite commercially made faux turkey in the past.  I might have neglected to time it during the boiling process, though, so I'm trying to not give up hope on this recipe.   But I think next time I'll go back to using Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe, which I can't find on her website anymore.

Anyhow, it was really easy, smelled amazing and I was able to stuff it like I imagine you'd stuff a real turkey. After slicing open a cavity, I stuffed it completely full of stuffing (see "before" photo on left).  It felt seriously gross sticking my hand up inside a seitan roast.  But, at least there weren't any giblets!

Here's the finished product.  It looks good, right?  Too bad the texture was off.  But the best part of this recipe wasn't really the "turkey".  It was the broth!  Since this recipe required boiling the seitan in a fantasmically flavored broth, I was left with 2 quarts of it after Thanksgiving.

So I stashed the broth away until I wasn't sick of Thanksgiving food...Today!

Instead of a seitan soup, I went with roasted carrots, celery, butterbeans and whole wheat pasta.  Since the broth was already steeped in seitan, I didn't need to worry about using gluten free pasta for Mike to enjoy this.  Sorry, honey, it's all mine!

Yum, yum, yum.  Butterbeans are the best.  I also added a hefty amount of grated ginger to the broth for a little kick.  This will definitely be making an appearance in my lunchbox all week.

PS- This Thanksgiving marked my 20th year as a vegetarian.  Feels good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I'm harvesting now

There's not a lot left in the garden these days.  It's unseasonably warm this weekend  and I'm taking advantage of it by spending time harvesting the last of the veggies.  Or at least the last of the veggies that Hannah Dog hasn't stolen.

 Luckily the dog has't figured out how to steal carrots (yet).  Carrots have got to be the most fun vegetable to harvest.  I nearly waited too long to harvest them this year.  The ground was really cold and dry and I had a rough time digging these guys out- But it's so much fun to pull each carrot out!  I love that satisfying moment when the soil loses its hold and the carrot emerges...short, long, fat, skinny, tiny or huge.  I had quite the variety this year, probably because I refuse to thin my carrot plantings.  I just can't bear to pull the little ones.  

The award for biggest carrot of the year goes to this guy.  I'm hoping it's still tender and not fibrous, like overgrown root crops can sometimes be.  I think this one is destined to be roasted and then made into soup if I can stop myself from just eating the roasted carrots right off the pan.

I thought that my Brussels sprouts were a dud this year.  I planted them a little later than I should have and they just didn't seem to be forming sprouts- they were just big and leafy.  I was surprised today to find those big stalks covered in tiny Brussels sprouts!  They are very little, but there's enough of them to cook some and freeze some.  I just have to decide how to cook them up...roasted? sauteed? steamed?  Tough call.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Cake

I'm about to get seriously snobby up in this hizzouse.

I love cake.  Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, banana cake, whatever.  I will eat any vegan cake you put in front of me, and even some not vegan cakes.

But you know what kind of cake is just worthless? Refrigerated cake.  If you can't eat it fast enough to prevent it going bad, then share.  In my experience, cold cake is dry and all the flavor has been sucked right out.

Some exceptions might exist- perhaps freshly baked cakes that have been refrigerated a very short time and then are brought up to room temperature before serving might be okay.  I understand that we're supposed to refrigerate things for food safety purposes, but I'm willing to risk my life for fresh, room temperature cake.

That is all.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sicky Soups

Meeting new people can be dangerous when you're getting over a cold.  Last night I met a new friend and we spent about 3 hours talking at a friend's wedding reception/party.  Last night I sounded like I'd been smoking for 30 years (I must have started young).  Today I can barely talk!

My only (inaudible) question for today is: Which soup should I make?

Here are my top 4 favorite soups to eat when I'm sick, in no particular order:

A gingery-lemony-spicy lentil rasam

Seitan noodle soup

Meemaw's potato soup

Lemongrass Pho

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sweet, sweet victory

My garden carrots may not be the biggest carrots ever, but they are the sweetest.  I planted lots of Yellowstone carrots this year, not my usual varieties (Scarlet Nantes or St. Valery).

They're just lil' guys, but they pack some serious flavor, color and sweetness.  The carrots' inaugural dish was a stir fry packed with lots of broccoli and green onions coated in a lime-tamari glaze and served with udon noodles.

What is it about udon noodles that is so comforting?  I think it's something about how puffy they get compared with regular ol' Italian style pasta.  Or that they're often swimming in savory broth.  Anyhow, I ate an extraordinary amount of this meal.  I ate an entire head of broccoli.

I highly recommend keeping some dry roasted sliced almonds around the kitchen so that you can sprinkle them on top of dishes like this.  It doesn't take much, and the nuts really bring out the earthiness of the sesame oil in the glaze.  I also like to grind up some salt with a dried Thai chile to sprinkle on top.  Just remember to clean out the mortar and pestle afterwards, because it is SPICY!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Breakfast Routine

I've been eating the same thing for breakfast for months. You'd think I'd be bored by now, but I'm not.  I'm sure it'll happen eventually, but for now I love my routine.  Here are all of my favorite parts of this breakfast routine.
Great meme a friend "pinned".

Favorite Breakfast Smoothie
Super simple. Super easy.  Virtuous, but tastes like a shake.)

1 ripe fair trade, organic banana, peeled
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened organic yogurt (Wildwood soy or Kalona Supernatural full-fat dairy)
1 heaping spoonful of fair trade, organic baking cocoa (Equal Exchange is my favorite)
1 cup organic milk (Blue Diamond almond is my favorite)
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed (Bob's golden is my favorite)

Blend.  I blend it right in the wide mouth pint jar that I drink it out of using my immersion blender (Cuisinart stainless is my fave).  It's important to drink this with a straw. That's part of what makes smoothies so fun and convenient for breakfast. I love these stainless steel straws the best.  And I love that this smoothie is kind of tart- it's only sweetened by the banana and milk.

I couldn't drink my usual smoothie this morning, though, because my dog Hannah ate all of my bananas.  It was the largest bunch of bananas I've ever seen at the co-op.  The cashier and I marveled at how huge they were and then 24 hours later, Hannah ate every single one.  She didn't feel very well.

I figure that this deserves her very first entry into

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I admit to half-assing my gardening this year.  I was ambitious in my initial planting, as usual, but didn't follow-through with successive plantings.  After my cucumbers failed, I just left my bed sitting empty for the rest of the summer.  Sometimes it's good to let the soil rest, though.  And I needed to rest, too.

No fun being strapped into this.
I was just opening a can of tomatoes for some enchilada sauce when the lid sliced into my pinky finger.  What seemed like a fairly bad cut that probably needed stitches ended up being a really bad cut that required surgery to repair the flexor tendon in my finger.  And my right hand was stuck in a splint for 6 weeks, with strict orders to not use that arm for anything.

I've been lucky enough not to have had too many major set-backs or medical issues in my life, and this injury just showed me how lucky I've been to be so able-bodied.  All the things I love to do in the garden, the kitchen, on my yoga mat, around the house and at work took five times as long to re-learn with my left hand- if they were possible at all.

Without the ability to quickly whip up some homemade soup, cookies or even a fresh garden salad, I lost my appetite and my motivation to do just about anything.  I watched a lot of New Girl and read a lot of books (even reading a book is more challenging with one hand).  Luckily my sweet partner Mike took care of me and discreetly asked my friends to come check in on me.  I even had friends come over to help harvest my garlic and elderberries and weed my garden back from a jungle-like state.

I ended up learning to do just about everything with my left hand, as I accepted the fact that it would just take more brainpower to do things that I used to do without thinking.  I learned to tie my shoes and put up my hair with one hand. I watched YouTube videos to figure out how to get toothpaste on my toothbrush.  I even canned a batch of pickles!

Turning my half-splint into a hand puppet helped.
Now my hand is working pretty well.  It's been 3 months since I injured my finger and I have re-gained most of my hand strength.  My pinky finger is still struggling to bend fully or straighten fully- and I can't move it at the first knuckle, but I do my finger exercises every day and see my physical therapist every week.  They think that within the next year I should regain the full range of motion.

So long, tomatoes!
I can do nearly everything I used to do now, except reach the far-right keys on the keyboard, hold small things like vitamins or beads in my right hand, stir thick batter with wooden spoon click the end of a click-pen while holding it or hold a toothbrush without looking like I'm having a tea party. I'm still struggling in my yoga practice- I can put weight on my right hand, but holding adho mukha svanasana for more than about ten breaths is pretty painful.  On the upside, I have gotten a LOT of practice on my standing asanas lately!

Yesterday I worked in the garden like nothing ever happened.  I pulled baby trees that tried to sprout up on the strawberry patch, trimmed the blackberry canes & elderberry shrubs, composted the tomato remains and put away all the cages & supports.  Besides being a little stiff from the cold and switching to my left hand for any challenging tasks, I'm back in business.

Pinky is just a little wonky now...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Hobbery

I've been thinking about this little blog lately.  You might not think so from the lack of posts, but it's true.  I wish I could say that I stopped blogging for some good reason.  I'm still recovering from a hand injury that left me unable to use my dominant hand for about two months, true.  That's a pretty super excuse.  But I stopped writing well before that.

I think I just lost my motivation for telling other people what I'm doing.  I just wanted to do and not to tell.  This blog has brought me a lot of joy and introduced me to new friends.  But it's also been an obligation to some extent and for a while I just wanted to let go of all my non-necessary obligations.

I got a good deal of release and relief from letting go of expectations from myself in regards to cooking/blogging/household crafties.  But I also lost some of the joy.

Last night I was having trouble sleeping, so I wandered downstairs and contemplated doing some writing to give my mind something to focus on.  Instead I surfed Pinterest.  But what's really cool is that I got this comment from a reader at about the same time I was thinking about my next steps for this blog.


Surely I'm not the only person who has missed you! If your blog is done that's fine. You've given me tons of juicy tid-bits by which to live and eat. I'm a carnivorous eater here in mid-Missouri and I've loved going through pretty much every single page of your blog. :) But if it's done, can we at least have a closing post? Hope your garden was great this year! 

Thanks, Yoakumputer, for your comment.  I've been struggling to figure out why I should keep blogging when there are thousands of other bloggers out there writing about very similar topics.  It was really nice to hear that my writing was missed.  

I think I'll give this a shot again.  Food Snob for life.  It's just time to make it my Hobbery again.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Candles in Jars

I did a little science experiment in my kitchen last weekend.  I can't say I necessarily recommend these methods, since I'm fairly certain that one wrong move would have sent hot wax and boiling water all over me...  But luckily that didn't happen and you can try this at your own risk.  

I've been wanting a set of candles in canning jars.  Obviously candles should be in canning jars.  Everything else works well in canning jars.  But I didn't really want to buy a bunch of beeswax and melt it down myself.  I  can get really awesome 100% beeswax candles at my co-op with my employee discount, so there 's really no reason to make candles myself (this is me talking myself out of making things from scratch that I can easily buy).  

The Problem:
The standard candle sizes that I can find won't fit in a wide mouth pint size jar (my favorite size).  


Peel off the labels and such from the candle.  Fill a heavy bottomed pan with enough water so that it comes about halfway up the sides of an empty pint sized jar.  Put that jar in the pan of water (keeping the water outside of the jar only) and place the not-quite-small-enough candle into the jar as far as it will go.  The candle should be heavy enough to keep the jar from floating.  

Heat the whole contraption up over medium high heat.  As the water begins to simmer, press firmly on the candle- making sure to press straight down.  [This is where you might scald yourself]  Repeat frequently until candle sinks enough to meet the level of melted wax in the bottom of the jar.  Wipe any stray wax from the jar rim.  Turn off the stove and use your canning tongs to pick up the very hot jar and place it on a dry kitchen towel until it is cool and dry.  


 So cute!  Everything's better in a canning jar.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One Pan and One Pan Only

I can't believe I've never done this before.  This was way too easy and saved me from dirtying extra dishes.  

I was cooking up some brown rice (a big batch of 3 cups of uncooked brown rice in the pot) and had cauliflower and red pepper in the fridge as possible veggies to include in my dinner.  I was feeling pretty lazy and decided to just chop the veggies up smaller than I normally would and throw them in the pot of rice.  I just waited until the rice was just barely done and the water was mostly absorbed.  Then I shut off the fire, stirred in the chopped veggies and replaced the lid.  10 minutes later the veggies were perfectly tender and the rice was done.

I drizzled this combo in a flax oil-lemon olive oil-tamari-umeboshi plum vinegar dressing.  Excellent side dish- but I ate a big bowl for my dinner.  It could use some grilled tofu on top or something, though.  I imagine this would work with nearly any vegetable -carrots, cabbage, sweet potato, broccoli- you'd just have to cut it smaller or larger (or shred it) to make sure it gets fully cooked.

Anyhow, I love that the veggies could cook in the same pan as the rice.  And the leftover veggie-spiked brown rice can go in burritos, stir fries, etc.  Am I the last person on earth to try this?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sort of a picnic

The dining room table is covered in a jigsaw puzzle, so we're eating picnic foods ... probably on the floor.  
Field Roast hotdogs, baked beans  (with a little kale mixed in), waffle fries, and coleslaw. Heck yeah! Hooray for a sunny day and summer food!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

BBQ Biscuits

It's been a while, folks.  I have no excuses for my blogging absence.  I just didn't feel like it.  

But here's something you should know about.  If you like biscuits and gravy, or barbecue sauce, or both, you should try this.  

I needed something extra special delicious to eat for dinner because I had a headache from battling computer problems all day.  And Zooey Deschanel on SNL requires a special accompanying late dinner.

Since I had a half jar of "Bone Suckin'" (gross name) barbecue sauce in the fridge and some canned jackfruit, I mixed them up and simmered it down while I whipped up some seriously large and fluffy biscuits.  Then I got a little inspiration and poured some stout-style Crispin cider in the sauce.  That was a very good thing.  I think I like this cider better in food than for drinking (but that's how I feel about most alcohol).  

So go get some barbecue sauce and some booze and make this happen in your kitchen, too.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Z Pizza!

Forgot how good this is.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This Year's Resolutions

My partner tells me that it's bad luck to tell other people your New Year's resolutions.  I think that's only the case with the wishes you make on birthday candles, though.  If it is bad luck, I'm doomed.

1.  Wear more skirts in the winter.
Ridiculous, you say?  Petty? Sorry.  Skirts make me happy, are way more flattering than pants for my body shape and allow me to stretch during the day without the constraint of something enveloping my legs.  I hate clothes touching my body.  Usually I just sacrifice comfort in the winter because it's cold, but this year I'm going to keep wearing skirts (with thick tights and boots) into the winter months. Plus,  it's been really warm so far (40 degrees in January?!?!) so this sounds completely reasonable.  Check back with me when it's -15.

2.  Integrate more music into my life.
Perfect example: Right now I'm sitting in my living room, home alone, and it's silent except for the sounds of the keyboard and the dog licking herself.  I would love to listen to some music, but I just don't think about it.  When I DO listen to music, I feel really happy.  So I'm going to find ways to listen to music more often this year.  So far I've joined Spotify and a "music club" with friends where we make a mix CD every month and trade.

3.  Continue being active for my mental health, rather than physical health.

4.  Stick to my budget so that I can pay off my car and meet my "emergency fund" savings goals in 2012.  [Look out, students loans.  I'm coming for you in 2013]

That's it for now!  I'm sure I'll think of some more along the way this year.