Meal Time

February 29, 2012

One of the most common reactions to hearing that I’ve been vegan almost 6 years is “what do you eat?!”, as if the plant kingdom isn’t full of delicious, nutritious foods. Initially as a young vegan my concern was only with eliminating animal products from my diet but as I have grown and learned, my aims have shifted more towards purchasing foods whose origins I feel comfortable with and wish to support. Generally speaking this means locally sourced ingredients when possible, which is a continual process of grocery list refinement.

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We order produce from a local co-operative business that I spent the summer interning for last year. They source mostly organic, local or regional produce year round and deliver it right to your door! Above are some delicious local salad greens (yes, even in the winter!!), cabbage, carrots, beets and some not-local kidney beans and raisins with imported balsamic vinegar.

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I love eating a meal that started with the most basic ingredients and, after personal effort and thought became something special and delicious. I am eating dinner alone a few nights a week simply due to scheduling differences between me and my partner, and it has been challenging for me to have the energy to make a meal instead of relying on whatever is lying around. Making these tortillas reminded me how nice it is even just to cook for myself, and leave leftovers for the one I love to appreciate on his schedule.

These corn tortillas were freshly pressed from masa harina and served with a black bean and corn mixture and some definitely not local avocados. The black beans I cook from dried beans several cups at a time and then freeze individual portions in glass jars. The corn came from a farm stand down the street. In July I bought 18 ears, lightly steamed them, then sliced off and froze the kernels for later use. The heat in this mixture also came from dried hot peppers I got as a part of a CSA a year ago.

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The condiment on this meal was some of our homemade tomatillo salsa. We used tomatillos, cilantro, onions and garlic all from our CSA last winter and spiced it up with some cumin and lime juice. We followed a canning recipe to be safe and processed the jars. It has been delightful to open a jar of this green deliciousness in winter months and remember that summer will be back again!

The salsa is perched on my tortilla press, which I bought off craigslist some months back. I’m not one for single-use kitchen tools- but this press sits on a shelf proudly next to my waffle maker.

Sunday Afternoons

February 26, 2012

I’m home alone for a few hours, a stack of work for the week ahead and yet, I can’t help but catch up a few projects I’ve been meaning to put into motion.

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Mustard may be the most used condiment in our house. We love it on just about everything from salad to roasted veggies to steamed greens. We had been buying the standard, Whole Foods-brand dijon and, although it is a fine mustard, I wanted the challenge of making something suited to our tastes. And- I love being able to cross off any item from our grocery list that doesn’t get processed by our own hands- even something as simple as mustard.

At M’s new job the kitchen makes a great, spicy mustard with horseradish. Since ours tends to be so all purpose, I decided to go for something a little softer. I adapted this recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

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Instead of using a seed grinder I used a technique borrowed from another mustard recipe that used only seeds and no powder. I soaked the brown mustard seeds over night in water equal to their own volume. This morning it was simple to spread them on a plate and crack the right amount with the back of a spoon. I wanted a fair amount of whole seeds, and the soaking had already started to release some mustard goodness which i could smell as soon as I poured them out. Aside from that, I followed the recipe to the T using mustard powder, apple cider vinegar and adding just a touch of honey, hoping for something very mildly sweet with a spicy edge. It needs to sit for about 12 hours before the flavors mellow, and I can’t wait!

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My second project was a breakfast of champions- some homemade granola! We have been buying granola in bulk at Whole Foods for about $4-$5 a pound, and this thrifty version cost us far less, with bulk oats running about $0.99 a pound.

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My ratio was adapted from an old recipe I’ve used and some others I found on line, ours is made of the following:

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts/seeds
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 c milled flax seed
2 T canola oil
1/4 c maple syrup
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon

I made a double batch, tossed everything but the flax and fruit together then baked for about 30 minutes at 350, tossing once and swapping the positions of my two trays so they browned evenly. Then I added the fruit and flax, let it cool and funneled it into glass jars for storage. My nuts were a combination of walnut pieces and sunflower seeds and the fruit were chopped, pitted, California dates.

I saw recipes using up to twice as much sweetener and twice as much dried fruit so, feel free to up the sugar content if it doesn’t meet your tastes- we tend to be a low sugar home around these parts. At the store many granolas have whey powder which, as a vegan, I don’t eat, or honey which, as a vegan, I don’t eat unless its from a local apiary. So making it ourselves opens up the options to craft it to suit our tastes and dietary desires!

If this recipe makes 6 servings- each one has 17 grams of sugar, 18 grams of fiber, 40% of your daily iron requirements, 13 grams of protein and 12% of your daily calcium. Not bad for a breakfast treat!

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And- the most exciting event of my morning was waking up to see this beautiful bubbly friend of mine. My sourdough starter took a little bit longer than Katz suggested but our space is about 10 degrees cooler than he recommends- we’re frugal! I am crossing my fingers that I can make delicious loaves in the next week or so. At this point my starter lives on  the counter and I feed it about a T of flour every day and stir it about twice a day. Once I start baking and it is stabilized it will live in the fridge and only get fed about once a week.

Happy Sunday!

Starting Something New

February 19, 2012

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What is this ghost like creature taking up residence on our kitchen table? A very exciting new creature indeed, friends! Beside the stacks of textbooks, the scribbled on outline for my thesis and an empty French press sits my brand new sourdough starter.

Following Sandor Elix Katz’s advice in his famed book, Wild Fermentation, I began trying to cultivate my own wild yeast to bake into delicious loaves of bread.

Any recipe for sourdough bread requires the addition of starter in place of some portion of the flour and liquid found in other bread recipes. Some starters can be made from bakers yeast, or bought from a company that specializes in producing starter to be regenerated in a home kitchen. Traditionally, however, starters are made by allowing whole grain flour and water to sit at room temperature and cultivate the wild yeast already found on the grains and in the surrounding environment.

Katz reminds his readers that bread was made in this way for hundreds of years before we even knew there were living organisms responsible for making our bread rise and for imparting that distinctly sourdough tang. I began my starter with locally grown and milled flour and tap water hoping to grow something totally unique to this environment.

I worry my apartment may be on the chillier side for yeast cultivation, but this morning, less than 48 hours after I began, I was greeted by tiny bubbles on the surface of my starter and a distinctly sour smell as the good organisms are competing for space with the bad microorganisms. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of my little guys!

If all goes according to direction I’ll have lovely loaves to post about this time next week. Fingers crossed!

Introduction

February 18, 2012

Hello, blog universe. I hope to maintain this as a space where I can share my attempts at reskilling myself, creating a home I am proud to live in and challenging myself to reconsider the way I live and its ramifications on the world around me.

What I want to do isn’t new or original. The skills I want to re-learn are ones forgotten by so many generations but which are slowly attempting to sneak back into ours. From sourdough bread baking to preserve making and clothing sewing I want to craft a self-reliant, self-reflective and challenging life. 

I am fortunate to live in a community of compassionate, considerate individuals who live enviable lives. In a community where local vegetables are the norm not the exception and entreprenurial folks are constantly looking for new ways to make this a healthier happier community. 

Our capitalist society has become so focused on the individual, destroying communities’ ability to support themselves. I see reskilling ourselves as the most effective way to challenge the concept of an individual only as a rational, self-serving economic actor. 

Thank you for reading, sharing and partaking.