I pretty much forgot about my food blog. Cooking has been my major source of stress relief this past year, so it wasn’t for lack of potential content. I cook almost every day and usually try out a few new recipes a week. I’ve been cooking a few meals a week for my mother too since her husband died. Referring to him only as my mother’s husband is so distanced, it sounds wrong, like he was nothing to me, but familial labels fail me. Language in general fails me, but it is better than silence. So anyways, my mother’s husband, whose name still comes up on the caller id so that I have this brief moment of doubt whenever she calls me, died a few months ago after being very ill for a few months and sort of better for a couple weeks, and that and everything else that happened during those months got tangled into this morass that I’ve been somewhat caught in.

It has been a dark summer. Literally. The sun banished behind clouds. Constant rain. Constant chill. July nights in the 30s. The most feeble summer to follow the most hellish winter. The nights are getting longer already. A couple weeks ago I was going home and a cutting north wind nearly knocked me off my bike. I had to start wearing scarves and shoes and socks and long underwear and I’ve even worn a coat a few times. So the summer seems lost and irredeemable.

That makes me think about the bag of basil from my CSA that accidentally got put in the freezer. Perhaps by me, perhaps not. We keep compost in the freezer (on a temporary basis, not for permanent storage…) so it might have been mistaken for the compost. It was a smallish quantity of basil, but I regret wasting it. I am constantly making pesto. It’s hard to believe that a few years ago I had no clue what it was, and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it then anyway. I’ve never had non-vegan pesto so I am clueless as to what it’s “supposed” to taste like. Most of the time I use a variation of the basil-cilantro-almond pesto in the Veganomicon, using primarily parsley and cashews and sometimes adding nutritional yeast. Somehow I do not think that thawing the basil will save it.


I made egg salad

Finally some hope that spring is on its way. This winter has been so incredibly nasty. Just last week we had negative wind chills again. At last the snow was melting and it was warm enough to open windows for a while (nearly 50 F). The nicest day of the year, so far.

Anyway. I made egg salad. Not for myself. I’m as vegan as ever. But I came into possession of some chicken eggs, not commercial chicken eggs and I’m pretty sure the chickens are as happy as chickens can be. Which is to say that I appreciate the gift of eggs even though I don’t eat them myself. And Papa Miao, being vegetarian but subjected to a mostly vegan diet, enjoys eggs very much. His arm is broken so I have to make the eggs for him. I fried some and scrambled some others – the scrambled eggs actually turned out as an egg pancake. I guess I need to practice the scrambling part, but that’s another issue. French toast is also within my repertoire. And for reasons related to Doctor Who, I’d really like to try my hand at a souffle, but that seems like too extreme a sacrifice of effort for something I wouldn’t eat.

Back to the egg salad. I was advised that egg salad is a good way to use a larger number of eggs, and it just so happens that Papa Miao loves things with mayonnaise (whereas I could never stand it, something about its sliminess). So I boiled the eggs (possibly for the first time in my life) after gathering advice from online and from my grandmother. It seemed to be going well, until I tried to peel them. Who would have thought that peeling eight hard boiled eggs could be so frustrating and time-consuming? And then there was the smell. The stench. Papa Miao thought they smelled okay, so it could just be me, but I’m pretty sure I over-boiled the eggs. I have since read more than I ever wanted to know about how to easily peel hard boiled eggs, something about putting them in cold water right after they’ve boiled, and maybe cracking them? Not sure about that bit, because it seems the eggs would be too hot to crack at that point, except maybe with a hammer.

Papa Miao assures me that the end result was tasty.

He still has a bunch of eggs left, so my adventures in non-vegan cooking haven’t ended quite yet.

I am signed up for the CSA again this year. It will be even more of a challenge because it will be divided between two people, not four this time. But last summer I had to buy stuff to supplement my share, and I want to freeze and dehydrate some things to use later in the year. We shall see.

Running shoes and the replacement thereof

My basic research suggests that 400 miles is a good lifetime for running shoes. Now that my most recent pair is within a couple weeks of that mark, I am starting to hesitate. Sure, they’re pretty worn, but can I really afford a new pair of $100+ shoes every three months? I could buy cheaper shoes, but cheaper shoes have always disappointed me. Maybe I could get 500 miles out of this pair. Maybe when winter strikes (leaves are turning already, and we had frost one night a week or two ago, and basically only five days of summer total) and I’m running on a treadmill in the gym, I should just wear my old shoes. I would hate to waste a good pair of shoes on indoor running. That’s probably not the right way to think about it.

Running is going well, more or less. I had to decrease my miles for a few weeks due to ITB and knee tightness, but I got a massage that helped tremendously. My massage therapist recommended that I use a foam roller, and while I had heard of them, it all seemed a bit mystical to me until I got one myself. I’ve been using it for less than a week now but I’m already almost back to normal. Supporting my weight on the roller thingy has had an unexpected and beneficial side effect of strengthening my arms. I hope.

The leg tightness started getting unmanageable when I went for almost two weeks without taking a rest day. I guess it was a bad idea. There didn’t seem to be another way to increase my mileage, given the time constraints of running before work. But then I started getting tired and achey and the weather got insanely cold in the morning (even UNDER 40 F some days!), and I dropped from 40+ miles/week to 14 miles/week. Relatively little harm was done, though, and I am bouncing back.

It occurs to me that this post has nothing to do with either floof or food.

Tips for cooking rice

Don’t forget to add water.

I probably eat my weight in rice each year, but for the first time ever I discovered what happens when you don’t add water to the rice cooker. You’d think they would have some type of fool-proof mechanism, but mine is quite rudimentary technologically speaking. It makes beautiful rice, under the right conditions. I did rinse the rice, I always rinse it, so it was strangely steamed and desiccated at the same time.

Then I recooked it with the proper amount of water and it turned out unevenly chewy and bloated, with none of its jasmine aroma. Overall what I learned from this experience is that I need more sleep.

Chard Samosas

I made raw chard-wrapped spring rolls once and wasn’t too impressed, but I decided to give chard wrapping another chance. Potato Samosa Stuffed Chard from the Forks Over Knives cookbook looked promising. It turned out to be a multiple-step cooking process which I made even more complicated by modifying the original recipe it an attempt to make it less healthy and more yummy, but in the end it was worth it. Since my modifications were fairly significant, I will post my version here. It took a while to make, with all the different steps, too many opportunities to burn myself on steam, and way too many dirty dishes at the end. I’m sure next time I make it, it will be easier. It was good enough to make a second time.

Chard Potato Samosas

8-12 chard leaves

spice mix
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp (tandoori) masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric (more won’t hurt)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small chilis, minced (or more, or less, or none, depending on your desire for spiciness)
1 medium-large onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 cup green peas
4 medium potatoes, diced and boiled until soft
2 tablespoons cilantro, for garnish

1. Cut the thick stems off the chard. Make sure you get all of the thickest part, because it isn’t so yummy when it is baked. The stems get kind of thick and soft and fibrous and interfere with the overall texture of the chard samosas. They are much better chopped up into thin little pieces and added to the samosa filling itself, along with the onions.

2. The ice bath step. This may be called blanching, but I’m not sure about the technicalities. Not sure if it’s really necessary, but it may be. I wish it weren’t. The purpose is so the chard leaves don’t overcook and become unusable. So, you boil a large pot of water, add the chard for 30 seconds, and then quickly remove it and dunk it in the pre-prepared ice bath (big bowl filled with cold water and some ice cubes). Then carefully remove the leaves from the ice bath and drape them around a colander.

3. The potatoes should be cooking in a separate pot at this time.

4. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan, medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the spice mix and stir it around in the oil for ~30 sec (the pan can’t be too hot or too not hot – if things seem to be sticking too much then splash in some water and adjust the heat), then add the garlic and ginger, and then after about 30 more secs, add the onion and chopped chard stems. And the chilis, if you’re using them. Cook for ~8 min until the onions are translucent. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of water. It shouldn’t be liquidy but it shouldn’t stick too much either.

5. Add the green peas and potatoes and salt to the pan. Cook for ~5 minutes. If the potatoes haven’t disintegrated, get a potato masher and mash it up a bit. There shouldn’t be too many large potato pieces.

6. Preheat the oven to 350F. Use a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or something similar so it doesn’t stick. Lay out the chard leafs and put a nice amount of potato filling in the center of each. Roll up the chard leaf the long way and fold the sides in a bit so the filling is secure. They shouldn’t be so full that they will burst their seams. Then bake for ~20 minutes. I didn’t cover them, and they were slightly crispy on top. It was a nice effect.

Disclaimer: All quantities and times are approximate.

Easy lentils

Thanks to the magic of lentils, I wasn’t hungry today. It was great. This little improvised recipe took about 30 min, including the time to cook the lentils. My first try at an easy lentil recipe was way too bland so I wasn’t motivated to eat it. This one is yummier. I had it for breakfast. And lunch. This morning, I got up at an insanely early hour to go running in order to beat the heat, but it was raining instead, a nice steady downpour. It was beautiful. I think I prefer running in the rain, so long as it’s warm enough out. I’m almost ashamed to admit how early I got up. Still, I can’t go running before I have a cup of tea and at least 30 min to read a book. So long as I have my tea and reading to look forward to, I can make myself get up early.

Easy lentils

1.5 cups lentils, rinsed (brown or green)
4 cups water

3 tablespoons lime juice (lemon would work too)
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tablespoons miso (I used sweet miso, but in retrospect I would use non-sweet miso or maybe 1 tsp sea salt)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

– cook the lentils in a medium-sized pot with the water.
– when the water has mostly boiled off and the lentils are tender, remove from heat.
– Add all the ingredients and stir. add the cilantro last.
– adjust seasonings. good hot or cold.

In retrospect, I would have added 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Because oil is good. My lentils turned out flavorful but not exactly spicy. Next time I will use spicier and/or more cayenne.

This crane has nothing to do with lentils or running. It is sitting on my CSA cabbage. I made a coconut curry with most of it (the cabbage, not the crane), but now I have more cabbage. For some reason, I never ever bought spherical cabbages on my own, but it’s actually pretty good. They always seemed a bit intimidating, maybe because they are so dense and heavy, and somewhat brain-like. Untitled by Miao Miao Miao on 500px.comCrane on Cabbage by Miao Miao Miao

Feed me!

Today got off to a good start. I went running before it got too hot, and then I worked on weeding the garden. Before I did gardening, I had some hemp protein with wheat grass powder (yes, it’s about as appetizing as it sounds, but so much better than my infamous green “smoothies”), and while I think the hemp protein is overall a positive contribution to my nutrition, it’s not exactly a meal. And now that I have finished the yard work (using the word “finished” loosely – at least I did something), I starving and there is nothing in my fridge or cupboards that I could eat without taking half an hour too cook it. I’m not in the mood for chard and romaine and there isn’t any hummus for my carrots. I am too hungry to even contemplate making anything. I already reached my hummus quota for the week anyway.

Almond butter only goes so far, too. I can’t eat a whole jar. I mean, I could. But I can’t.

I’ve discovered that now that I am running regularly, I need to eat a lot and if I wait too long to eat it, I become extremely crabby and get a headache. That’s what happened at work yesterday, and then I was really fatigued biking back. I thought two of my homemade energy bars plus some hummus would be a good enough snack + lunch, but I probably could have had four energy bars. The reason I need a hummus quota is that I could eat a can of chickpeas a day. And that just doesn’t seem right.

I have a natural disinclination to eat large servings of food I make for myself because I put effort into making it and then it’s gone and then I have to make more. There’s also the cost of it, buying extra food just to burn the energy doing something that is in no quantifiable way productive (except that it keeps me from going crazy). I am caught in this endless cycle of cooking and eating it and then cooking again, and the cycle is sped up the more I run, and if I ignore the imperative to eat as much legume-y food as humanly possible, then I’ll be too tired to run the next day. And if I don’t go running, I’m not happy.

What I need is a bottomless pot of Lentil Something in the fridge, which tastes good cold and never runs out.

Kitchen Disasters: Unmeltable Chocolate & Unwelcome Fruit Flies

I’ve never had a fruit fly problem. I’ve had fruit flies, but they have always vanished when I removed the decaying banana or overripe compost. They’ve never bothered my kombucha. But this time, the fruit flies seem to be here to stay, and they are harassing my kombucha to such an extent that I feel like I should stand guard. I watched a how-to video on building a fruit fly trap. Mine hasn’t trapped a single fruit fly. Admittedly, mine was even more makeshift than those shown in the video and most pre-schoolers could have done a better job. But the point is, I am afraid that the fruit flies are threatening the health of my kombucha. What if they get into the jars when I start a new batch? What if they never leave?

I don’t even want to think about chocolate anymore. It makes me sick to think about it. I have tried to make three recipes recently that used melted chocolate, and each experience has been worse than the last. I realize I need a double boiler. My makeshift double boiler worked just about as well as my makeshift fruit fly trap. The latest disaster can be partially blamed on the tornado siren thingy that went off right when I was in the middle of things, so I turned everything off until I was sure the house wouldn’t blow away and the chocolate cooled before it had finished melting, and then when I tried to melt it again it turned into some kind of thick unstirrable mass that refused to melt. So I went back to heating small batches of chocolate chips in a saucepan (well, heating the saucepan and then removing it from the heat and stirring the chocolate until it melted) and that way I was able to melt enough for the cookies. I was making the Minonos from the Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar book, which are inspired by Pepperidge Farm Milanos. Mine look… well, I’d like to think a pre-schooler couldn’t have done much better, but they look too sloppy to give as a gift, which was my original intention. I also think the cookie dough was too thick, though I’ve never had the original Milanos.

My running is going well, though. I normally don’t mind heat and humidity, but running on a humid sunny afternoon is really challenging for me. I don’t know if that means I should do it more often, or I should avoid it as I have been by getting up earlier and earlier. Back when I went running in college and grad school, I would go at an insanely early hour like 5 or 5.30am, but I don’t have any plans to repeat that. 7am seems early enough to me, but on days I have to go into work earlier, I may have to force myself to run earlier in order to avoid the afternoon heat, and that means I will get less time for my reading and morning tea. There is no way I could go running first thing after waking up. The thought is painful.

Garlic scape granola energy bars

I guess there should be commas in that. I wasn’t adventurous enough to make garlic scape granola energy bars, but I did venture into new, albeit basic, cooking territory in the last few days.

Garlic scape pesto, from this recipe. I don’t really like garlic by itself but I found myself eating a lot of this with rice crackers. Garlic scapes are garlicky but also green and vibrant.

For some reason, large amounts of garlic (or any garlic if I have gone without garlic for awhile) give me nightmares about aliens. It’s always aliens. This time, it was a Star Trek/Doctor Who cross-over that involved an alien taking over a swimming pool on a spaceship and trying to possess a little grey tabby-cat. Everyone was insisting the kitteh was possessed and therefore dangerous but I stood up for the kitteh until the end. Which I can’t remember. In Chinese food therapy, garlic is said to very hot and capable of disturbing the spirit and the sleep, and I guess in my case it is true.

Granola: I can’t believe I’ve never made it before. It seems kind of basic.

I kept it relatively simple:

1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup cashew butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 cups oats

Preheat over to 325. Warm the brown rice syrup and nut butter over heat until liquid. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. If you use a large enough saucepan, you can remove it from the heat and then add the oats directly and mix. It saves dishes. I used my hands to mix it to make sure it was all even. Then spread it sort of clumpily on a baking sheet. I found that the 2 cups was just about the maximum my regular-sized baking sheet could handle. Bake for 8 minutes, then stir it and bake for 5 minutes more. I’m not sure how much time it ended up taking, but I wanted it nice and golden so the baking time was longer.

Then I stored it in a jar in the cupboard after it had cooled off, but it didn’t last more than two or three days anyway.

And last but not least, the energy bars I made. They aren’t great, but it was my first attempt. I based it off the the energy bar formula here. It’s really helpful and I’m sure the inadequacies of my energy bars are due to my inexperience. Probably too much cocoa powder and therefore a little bitter, and maybe not all of the tastes combined optimally. It was mix-and-matched depending on the ingredients I had available.

Blend the following ingredients:
black beans, 1 15 oz. can, drained
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Then mix in the following dry ingredients (my blender can’t handle all of it so I mixed it by hand):
1 1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup cocoa powder (probably too much)
1/4 brown rice flour
1/4 hemp protein
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins

I added the raisins because it didn’t taste good and I thought a little extra sweetness would help, but I was almost out of raisins. The energy bars are edible and there are lots of them, but right now I don’t have anything more favorable to say about them.

Bake in greased 9×13 in. baking pan in oven preheated to 350F for 18 min.

in which I share a photo of garlic and complain about stuff

So far this year, I have made 65 new recipes. This includes salad dressings and the occasional frosting, because sometime last month I made my first vegan cupcakes ever. Simple chocolate cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting, and super delicious. I had forgotten how divine cupcakes could be. It is hard to image how I went eight years cupcake-free.

The only photo I have to show for all my effort is this garlic, which I roasted for the tomato rice and navy bean soup in Veganomicon.

garlic to be roasted

Running has also been going well, but it is extremely clear to me that I need better running clothes. I only have one pair of shorts that don’t have awful seams on the inside, and yesterday I wore the wrong pair on my longer run of the week. I also managed to nearly get lost on some narrow two-lane woodsy back road. There are only so many directions you can run in a small town like this before you’re in the middle of nowhere. I thought I was going BACK to town but the woods went on forever but backtracking would have added miles to my route and I didn’t want to do that primarily because my clothes were uncomfortable, so I continued on and eventually wound up back in town like I thought I would. There were hardly any cars on the road because it was so early, but still not ideal for running, to say nothing of the multitude of ticks roosting in the trees above ┬ájust waiting to drop onto my head. I am so bored by the lack running routes in this area.

I don’t like my new running shoes. I want to blame my right ankle achiness on them. So much for all the research that I put into deciding which pair to buy. And all the money. Boo. My first Asics were so wonderful, but I could not figure out what style they were. I have put 120 miles on the new ones so far, and it seems that 400mi is a reasonable lifetime for running shoes so as soon as I reach that, I will get another pair. Who knows if they will be any better.