Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sand Dune Poetry


A Sharp Universe

Satin it seems
smooth and silken
sliding away
in an uninterrupted sheet

But She is a master of secrets and deception
Her detail work is unsurpassed

Each solitary grain is a sharp universe unto itself

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Food Love: Slowcooker Seitan and Panko

I currently have two major food crushes.  When I think, "What should we have for dinner?" they both immediately leap to mind.  I can't stop thinking about new ways to incorporate them into my daily life.  They seem to improve so many of my already favorite dishes.  I am infatuated...with seitan and panko bread crumbs.

Panko
I can't remember what prompted us to buy some panko breadcrumbs this summer.  I suspect it was that America's Test Kitchen cookbook, but I'm not certain.  Well, now I'm ruined.  My finely ground homemade breadcrumbs pale in comparison to these airy, crispy delights.  I don't know that I can ever go back.

Just tossing a couple tablespoons with roast vegetables takes the dish to a whole new level.  It makes a magical crispy topping to a casserole and don't even get me started on using if for breading and frying!

There is nothing else to it, I guess.  We're going to have to figure out how to make our own now...  I'm deep in the research phase.
Panko dusted seitan nuggets with homegrown roast veg tossed with panko.
Seitan
I can vividly recall the moment I first fell in love with seitan (also known as "wheat meat").  It was a vegetarian take on chicken fried steak at Watercourse Foods in Denver.  It was humongous and so satisfying along with its mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, and veg that Matt and I were both floored.  We went home and tried to make our own.  Even after playing around with different recipes the results were never fully satisfactory to us and it was a lot of time/work.  Store-bought seitan was either too expensive or we didn't care for it--or both.  So, we stopped eating seitan and began years' long culinary love affair with tofu.

That is until earlier this year  when I spotted a recipe for seitan from the slowcooker which looked ridiculously simple.  Mix ingredients, knead three minutes, plop in the slowcooker for several hours, boom--seitan.  After tweaking the recipe to my liking I finally have a seitan recipe that is everything we want it to be--an uncomplicated, fast and easy process which results in seitan with a very firm, chewy texture and deep savory flavor.
Shiitake mushroom and seitan stroganoff.
Slowcooker Seitan
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
fresh pepper, to taste
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce (divided)
1 T olive oil
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 large onion, quartered
4 cups water

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of tamari, as well as the oil and broth.  Stir until well mixed.  Knead for three minutes.

Divide the seitan into four pieces and add it to the slowcooker along with the water, onion, and remaining tamari.

Cover and cook for about five hours on low.

Once cooked the seitan can be stored, submerged in some of the cooking liquid, for up to two weeks in the fridge.   The remaining cooking liquid can be used in place of vegetable broth in other recipes.

This makes about 2 1/2 pounds of seitan.
Homegrown breakfast potatoes with crumbled seitan.
Matt is a better cook than me so I must say it delights me how pleased he is with this seitan.  We basically have a batch in the fridge at all times now, in addition to a pot of cooked beans or pressed block of tofu.  We've baked it, deep-fried it, stir-fried it, and ground it into burger.  It is dang good every way you slice it.

Panko breaded seitan cutlets are basically my new favorite food.

I could really go for one right about now...  Or seven.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sweater to Cardigan--At Last

This is a project I've had on the back burner of my mind for eons now it seems--turning a sweater into a cardigan.
I got this brown, soft, heavenly sweater at a clothes swap.  I've certainly worn it, but always wished it was a cardigan instead of a sweater.

I like that the top of my dress is still visible when I layer with a cardy rather than pull on a sweater.  I find it easier to maintain an ideal temperature in a cardigan, too.
After pouring over some tutorials online I decided to try a new commercial sewing product--HeatNBond--for my sweater project.  HeatNBond is sort of like double sided tape and fusible interfacing combined.  It made making the new center hems a snap.
It is impossible for me to refrain from calling things like this cheating, but...  Matt was quick to point out that its not like I grew the cotton and wove the fabric either so why not just use all the sewing tools at my disposal.  He offers such a reasonably balanced perspective when I'm getting all hung up on my relationship to the modern world.

I cut down the center front of the sweater and then made a simple folded hem using the HeatNBond to give each side a smooth, finished edge.  I then topstiched with this really cute rainbow variegated thread.  ...Which turned out basically invisible in the cozy thickness of the material, but oh well.
I considered adding a button or a hook and eye, but it already looks good, hangs well, and works to keep me warm and fashionable so I'm rolling with it.

I've already worn it way more in the past two weeks than I'd worn the sweater version during the previous year.  And it seriously only took 15 minute to make.  How cool is that?!
I did learn the hard way that it takes a lot more finesse if the original sweater is anything other than a straightforward crew or v-neck collar.  I've got one with a cute little Mandarin collar that is still not quite right...

You win some, you lose some.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

No-Shop November 2017

Today is the first day of the now annual tradition that is No-Shop November (NSN).
And Matt is going to buy a beer kit.  Quite a start to not-shopping, am I right?!
Seriously though, aside from that one beer oversight we're off and running with No-Shop November.
Actually, I think it is going to be an especially posh No-Shop month.  Our cupboards are packed to the brim.  We knew we only had access to our favorites at the Good Earth for a limited time and since they had markdowns up to 50% off it seemed only logical to stock up as much as possible.  We're swimming in lentils and rice noodles.  The bathroom cabinets are well filled with lotion and essential oils and toothpaste, too.
The "rules" remain the same as last year.
No spending whatsoever with three exceptions.  Money spent on concert tickets and gas for the car doesn't count.  We're also permitted a small beer allowance if we go out to concerts.  The rest we'll have to make ourselves with supplies on hand, barter for, or make do without.
I revisited my all my earlier posts about NSN and since I had all the links handy I thought I might as well include the round-up for anyone who might have missed it in the past and wanted to get up to speed.  They're presented below.
The Inaugural Year - 2012
Picking it up as an annual tradition - 2015
A Response to, "What are you going to eat?!"
A Reflection at the close of NSN 2015
An ode to gardening and NSN 2016
Consumerism and the official NSN 2016 kickoff
A Reflection at the close of NSN 2016

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Making It Easier: Cherry Jelly

We've been making cherry jelly for years now.  It was one of our first consistent seasonal food-foraging-and-saving endeavors.  Free tart, red cherries are pretty easy to come by around here, we've found.  For the first handful of years we picked along a fairly busy street downtown.  It was incredibly amusing for Matt and me to watch people sitting in traffic trying to figure out what we were up to.  Every single time we'd have at least a few passersby ask us what we were picking, a couple even joined us!  It secretly slayed me that some folks didn't recognize them as cherries.  I mean, they're like cartoon cherries they're so classic.
Those downtown trees have been systematically removed over the years, but there are still plenty of tart cherry trees to be found.  Our pal Casey took us out to pick her friend's house this year and the trees were just loaded.  We picked 15 pounds, but that was just a drop in the bucket.

This was right in the middle of August though and there was a lot going on so, feeling strapped for time, we tried a little experiment.  We didn't pit the cherries.
We've always manually removed the stones one by one in past years.  Since it seemed we were trying to cram too much into our days we tossed around the idea of skipping that step this year.  We didn't see why it wouldn't work.  We strain the fruit as we press our juice anyways so....
...And it totally worked.  So, yay!  No more pitting cherries for hours, but we still get that radiant crimson glory to spread on our waffles and toast.  That's a big win!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pearls

Pearls

Off to dreamland in Grandmother's pearls*.
Toss.
Turn.
Shift cat.
Toss.
Turn.
Shift cat again.
Toss.
Turn.
Belly, back, side, other side.
Cat leaves with utter disdain.
Belly, side, back, belly again...

Morning comes
As a lake of pearls
Rolling along the waves and folds
Of these horrid pink sheets.
Dribbled across the rug
Up and down the hall.
Sprinkled on the bathroom tile
Like confetti.

*Thank heavens they're not real pearls.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Good-Bye Good Earth Market

It is with sadness and regret that I write this post.
Our one and only cooperatively owned grocery is closing after almost thirty years of connecting people with nourishing, healthful, and local foods.
It was in the news last night and word is trickling out today.  Matt, as produce manager, has to call all the local farmers he's worked with over these years to tell them the news.  Another independent, grassroots, local business floundered and failed.  It happens every day.  It happens everywhere.
There are lots of reasons.  I think everyone who loves that place has seen the writing on the wall for a while now, actually. 
While more and more people are looking for local and organically-raised products there are also a lot more stores--even gas stations and Alberstons--that carry these sorts of products now, too.  Then Natural Grocers showed up.  Lucky's Market came in, too. Online shopping is so easy.  The Good Earth didn't rise to the occasion as far as keeping up with these competitors goes, didn't accentuate their distinctiveness, the things that made them different.  The board of directors seemed more willing to maintain the status quo than innovate and adapt with the times.  It is hard to be competitively priced and still be so tiny.  Advertising is expensive.  There was some bad advice given.  Some poor staffing decisions compounded already existing problems.  The downtown location proved to be a blessing and a curse.  A series of ineffectual general managers didn't help.
(These are just my observations and opinions, by the way, and I mean no offence to any current or past employees.)
The ship was sinking.  If it hadn't been for some last ditch financial efforts from the National Co+Op Grocers Association I think it would have actually happened long ago.
Sometimes we just have to let things go, even if it is painful.  Even if it isn't what we really want to do.
Matt and I will be fine.  He's a hard worker and will find something else.  I hope he finds something with a mission he feels as much pride and value in as he does for his local farmers.   We'll be fine.  It has been really touching that people have called and messaged and dropped by to talk to him about it, share their, oh, sympathies as it were.
I'm bummed about John Ross and his beautiful orchard in Fromberg.  He invited us out to see peak bloom and have a picnic in the orchard this year.  He toured Matt and me through the grove, talking with depth and passion about the merits of each variety.  This sort of relationship between seller and grower is something incredibly special.   It was something unique that the co-op had to offer.
I'm bummed about all the rest of Matt's local farmers, too.  Strike Farms and Gary Ostahowski, the garlic guy.  The woman with the 20+ varieties of heirloom eggplant and all the farmers that make up the Western Montana Growers Cooperative.  And all the rest.
I'm bummed that the Apple Gallery won't be included in Art Walk any more.  It was such a great space for budding local artists to display their work.  The art collections on display were consistently earthy and funky and bright--and exceptional.
I'm bummed for all the folks now unexpectedly on the job hunt.  I'm not worried though.  They'll find something.
I'm bummed to lose the community down there.  I met so many fantastic human beings through our involvement first, as customers, and later, though Matt as an employee.  What an eclectic, creative, fun-loving bunch of folks.
I'm bummed Billings didn't value the co-op model--which keeps way more money on the dollar in the local economy--as much as they value the killer deals at Sam's Club and Costco.
I'm bummed there won't be another staff Christmas party.  Matt and I had already been talking about what games were going to be played, who we might get for Secret Santa.
I'm bummed the loft won't be hosting any more vegan potlucks, lectures on tea, yoga, naturopathic medicine, or rallies for social causes.
I'm just bummed.
But nothing lasts forever.  Blessings come in disguise.  I'm not worried, just disappointed.
And grateful.  The sense of loss keeps trying to override that one.  I'm so grateful for the impact the Good Earth Market had on our life.  It brought us so much goodness, mostly in the form of people, and that remains the same no matter what happens to the building.
All photos (except the one in the apple orchard) were downloaded from the Good Earth Market's facebook page.