Arliss the Disapproving turns 12

Welcome to 2012!

First, Arliss let us live to see another year.

And now it’s her 12th birthday!

I had another request for my vegetarian crock pot chili recipe, so I thought I’d post it here:

2 small to medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 pkg Boca “ground beef” soy crumbles (14 oz)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can chopped green chiles OR 4 tsp diced chiles in adobo sauce OR 3/4 cup finely diced green peppers
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
28+ oz canned black, kidney, great northern, or whatever beans
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1+ tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Worcestershire and paprika… I just kind of throw it in, never really measured it!

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker on high for 4 hrs or low for 8 hrs. (The crock pot is forgiving so feel free to cook longer.) You can also pre-saute the onions, garlic, and spices and then put them in the crock pot. I think the recipe is great without the Boca crumbles too, but might call for more beans that way.

I like to serve with cornbread!

Holiday spirit as experienced by the frugal introvert

The pups are lined up head-to-butt on the couch twitching in their sleep. I heard a report at work this week from David that speedy Emmy finally caught that squirrel in the back yard… with bad results for the squirrel. Her face is a little scratched up too. Walter and David were rather disturbed by the scene!

Thanksgiving has come and gone (and it was tasty). Now we’re solidly in the holiday season. I feel like purchasing zero gifts and I don’t want anything, which is generally a good thing when it comes to saving money and not indulging in consumerism. I suppose there’s some element of economic crash if we all stopped shopping, but I think it would be a good move in this country at least. I didn’t share in the outrage many people online expressed about Black Friday shopping starting early or even about holiday decor going up too early in stores. I really don’t care if there are decorations before Thanksgiving. If you feel retail is pushing you, don’t open your wallet. Big deal.

I think I’d like to put up a tree this year, especially since I collected so many ornaments while I was abroad last year, but I’m not sure we have room. There’s a foster rabbit in the usual tree spot and clutter tries to take over any leftover real estate around here.

Just heard the unemployment rate is down to 8.6%, the lowest in 2.5 years. Seems somewhat positive.

Bit of a PSA: here’s where you can opt out of receiving telephone books. My bunnies eat them but they can’t keep up with the supply.

Cute link of “grammar” gifts like air quote mittens and punctuation mark lamps. (But don’t buy me anything. 🙂

I made a tortilla soup last week that was yummy, based on two other recipes. My version:

Tortilla Soup

vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans, undrained
2 quarts vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn
2 avocados, peeled/pitted/cut into chunks or slices

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Saute the onion in oil in a large soup pot. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin, and chili peppers, cooking until onions are tender and spices are fragrant. Mix in the tomatoes, pour in broth and black beans, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix corn and avocado chunks into the soup, and continue cooking 5-10 minutes. Serve in bowls over tortilla chips, topping with cheese.

Happy veggie Thanksgiving

I took this week off work and have been pretty much lying around, still recovering from last week’s illness and also unfortunately doing some work from home. I have (not particularly intentionally) reverted to my night owl ways, staying up very late and sleeping until normal persons’ lunch times. Something about 2 a.m. just seems like a great time to start projects or settle down to watch TV to me.

After illness and work stress and just not wanting to leave the house, we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving. It’s the first time I did not eat with one of our families. It was great! Of course I missed the folks at home, but I just didn’t want to drive six hours in a day, or even to David’s family event closer to home. And get this: I made great food I was excited to eat! Being vegetarian at Thanksgiving provides a lot of side dish opportunities but is overall not the meal I used to look forward to when I was a kid. This time, I chose the menu, and holy cow I haven’t had gravy that good in years.

thanksg09b thanksg09a

The mushroom and spinach galette was ok to good (NPR article/recipe); the pastry is a bit dry for my tastes but the filling has promise in another application. But the gravy recipe at that page was terrific! I suppose all the fat (olive oil) and flavor (onions, garlic, veg broth, spices) just came together in a way that reminded me of the tasty drippings of yore. Tasty, yes, but again this year I adopted a turkey instead.

David made mashed potatoes and I whipped up the standard roasted veggies for a meal so filling I didn’t have room for the pumpkin pie I also made. I’m excited about the (gravy) leftovers! I had intended to do a Quorn turk’y roast as well but Kroger was out and we had way too much food anyway.

eat more chicken vegetables graffiti, Indianapolis

Of course today was Black Friday, and while I look forward to the ads for some reason (still a holdover from a history of the expectations of the season), I’m not usually compelled to go out in the fray. This time I considered it, then figured out I could shop online and actually pay less with online discounts than going to the doorbusters at ‘o-dark-thirty. Then I went back to bed!

When we were kids, we would craft our wish lists from looking at the Sears Wish Book and any other catalogs that came to the house. We often had rating systems to indicate how badly we wanted particular gifts. I remember the moms and grandmas and aunts getting together after Thanksgiving meal to discuss who was buying what for which kid–we knew to stay out of that room so they could decide! From then until Christmas was an exciting time, and I don’t think we were too spoiled, but maybe I just think that because our cousins got more junk than we did! It was easy to think we sacrificed for the family financial good when they had new stereos and TVs in their rooms each year while we just shared a video game system two years after it was initially released. I think our families were careful to get the items we would really play with, and the anticipation of Santa and stockings and the surprise Big Presents at the end of marathon gift opening sessions all made for a pretty neat holiday–not to mention the big family meals and waiting to watch each person open something in turn rather than tearing into the pile at once.

I still really enjoy Christmas, but I try very hard not to ask for or purchase items that won’t be valued and used. I definitely take more pleasure in buying for others now and in watching what others receive. It’s relaxing not to worry whether I’ll get some new gadget because I’m now in a position to just get it myself if needed. I try not to take that for granted. And I’ll be making my own gravy this Christmas as well.

For the excess of squash, zucchini, and tomatoes

David saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen recently. It tasted great! You can get the recipe from their site by searching for Summer Vegetable Gratin. However, you have to register to see it, which annoys me, so I’m sharing it here. Plus you won’t have to look at that dorky guy with the bowtie.


The topping totally makes this recipe.

America’s Test Kitchen, PBS, 8/2009

1 lb zucchini, cut into ¼” rounds
1 lb summer squash, cut into ¼” rounds
Place in strainer over bowl and sprinkle w/ 1 tsp kosher salt. Toss, set aside for 45 min. (You are trying to rid the veggies of moisture)

4 ripe fresh tomatoes, cut into ¼” rounds
Place on baking tray, lined w/ paper towels. Sprinkle w/ ½ tsp kosher salt and let drain for 30 min.

Julienne 2) med. onions and sauté on medium heat for 20-25 min. until caramelized. Early in sauté, add ½ tsp salt & ¼ tsp pepper.

After 45 min, press zucchini & squash between paper towels to drain, then toss with ½ of the marinade.

3 TBL olive oil
1 TBL fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
½ tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed

In baking tray, loosely fill with zucchini / squash mix. Add onions on top of mix. Neatly place tomato rounds on top of mix. Take second half of marinade and drizzle over tomatoes.

Bake @ 400 for 40 min.
1/3C fresh parmesan, pulsed in food processor
1 slice of bread, added to mix w/ parmesan
1 TBL olive oil
1/4C minced shallot

After removing dish from oven, increase oven temp. to 450. Evenly add topping and add to dish and place back in oven for 5-10 min., until brown.

Casper goes to the symphony

casperconcert parkmusic

Casper and I walked down to the park for a free concert last night. She wasn’t so sure about the clapping or the kids who petted her, but she did well. As usual, the walk home was her favorite part. Casper is not a social butterfly–unless you count the dogs she sees on the way. She was reluctant to keep going on our way there until she saw another dog and followed him!



Check out a total WIN for vegetarian comfort food. I took my mom’s porcupine meatballs recipe (which appears to be xeroxed from Betty Crocker), subbed in Gimme Lean ground beef substitute, and came up with ‘meatballs’ even David thought were great. He even said these were preferred over the real ones–obviously duplicating a steak is difficult, but for meatballs that get all the flavor from seasonings and sauce, the fake stuff wins and you don’t have any of the fat/cholesterol of ground beef.

A couple of pics of my recent dining adventures. Well, I guess it’s not that adventurous once you’ve had the dishes multiple times.
Peruvian food: vibrantly colored pesto pasta and potatoes from Machu Picchu restaurant

I took this picture because the falafel looks like little turds.

The neighbor’s dog, again hanging out on OUR front porch.

And this is just weird. I think I saw this truck at the Woodruff Place sale. They sell lemonade or lemon shake-ups or something. Whoever drew this ought to be fired.

Free tofu cookbook; $25 Whole Foods giveaway

This free .pdf tofu cookbook looks pretty good. Most recipes are vegetarian, but there’s at least one that incorporates seafood.

Delicious Living Tofu Cookbook

The cookbook does not talk about prepping the tofu first (I usually press it but some people freeze it or do other manipulations), and without prep you may have a disaster. One simple way to press it is to put the block between paper or kitchen towels and put something heavy (like a cast iron skillet) on top. The goal is to get rid of excess water before you cook it. Tastes and handles way better this way.

Also make sure you buy the right firmness. Basically choose firm/extra firm for any stir fries or other keep-it-intact cooking. If you are doing desserts or otherwise blending it, get the softer varieties.

Afraid of tofu? You might want to start with Tofu Prep for Virgins, a post where you learn to deep fry it and you can also link to some lovely macrophotography of grody lunch meats and sausages.

Where can you buy tofu? At most grocery stores, actually! It’s often in the refrigerated/produce section, like at WalMart. At Meijer it’s there too but in a subsection for soy products and organics. Note some brands, while sold refrigerated, don’t need to be kept refrigerated. Just check the box.

Enter to win a $25 gift card to Whole Foods! (That would buy a lot of tofu.) The blog post talks about value at Whole Foods, and I agree that their house brand is good and saves money. But it’s also true about organics being more expensive: for a shopper who never leaves a traditional grocery store, they’ll quickly see how the price is higher for organics vs regular offerings. I was at Meijer yesterday and found 5# of non-organic potatoes for about $2, but the organic potatoes, in a 3# bag, were $3, and the organic potatoes were smaller too. I try to strike a balance and go organic as often as the budget allows (which is frequently) and think about which foods SHOULD be organic in my diet. For example, banana skins are thick and don’t get eaten, so it’s less important to me if they’ve been treated with pesticides than a fruit or vegetable that I will wholly consume. Of course that doesn’t take into account the effects on the earth from using those pesticides, but sometimes we must ease into better decisions.

Did you know all produce at Marsh groceries is now organic? That’s one way to remove that painful decision for the consumer! I hope more places go that route, which creates greater demand for organically grown products, which will then become cheaper.

Cheap eats

Work is settling, but end-of-month is always a bit harried. I’ll interrupt the insanity with a recipe I made last night which is adapted from one at The Simple Dollar which was adapted from something on NPR. I aimed between their recipes because, come on, you shouldn’t sub garlic powder for real garlic! I even tried their use of bread to thicken the stew but either the execution or the idea was poor. Too much oil (I even used less than they called for) + bread = soggy oily bread (and then oily soup), not a thick paste. Here’s my recommended revision:

Spiced Chickpea Spinach Stew

2 cans chickpeas (I drained/rinsed ’em)
6 cloves garlic, minced or whatever size you like
Olive oil
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned
splash(es) of acidic something (lemon juice etc)
Salt and pepper, honey to taste
Cornstarch for thickening

Bring the chickpeas to a boil in a soup pot of water and/or broth (enough to cover what you’re cooking; I used up some old vegetable broth and added water to make up the rest). Add in the spinach and boil for a few minutes, then simmer at medium heat.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic in oil, adding in the spices and cooking until fragrant and thick but not burnt. {stop to enjoy the smell!} Add spice mixture to the pot of chickpeas/spinach. Continue medium/high heat and add enough lemon juice and honey to suit your taste, as well as salt and pepper. Thicken with cornstarch (bringing back to a boil for a bit helps). Serve with good, crusty bread or over rice or noodles.

This has strong flavor (not hot) and I swear it tasted like a beef-broth based soup. Check out the source links for info on browning the bread and mashing it with the garlic into a paste which then goes in the soup, which sounds great but I just couldn’t get it to work well. Easy meal! You can get lots of flavor from the spices and save yourself a high salt content as a result.

Chickpeas are so versatile. They’re one of my go-to foods.

How to be controversial (plus contest and recipe!)

My humble blog, just my diary and a way to keep up with friends and family, occasionally attracts some cranky outsiders. Getting involved with shelters confiscating breeders’ rabbits always pulls the breeding community in for a throwdown. Today I discovered my Tofurky picture, part of my meal last Thanksgiving, was linked in the comments on a conservative syndicated columnist’s blog post about people whining too much about Sarah Palin’s turkey-pardoning-in-front-of-turkey-killing interview. I think her interview was in poor taste (or perhaps super ironic but still poor taste) and I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not surprised that the Fox News-watching crowd thinks my Tofurky looks inedible; this is the guy who made my dinner famous. But I wouldn’t recommend reading his work if you think our president elect is more than his middle name or you actually like gay people.

Re: Fox News: I actually check in now and then to see what’s up. But the conservative columnist mentioned touts her contributions to the channel, so there ya go.

The folks who make Tofurky, who must have a sense of humor about how much ribbing their product gets this time of year, have a contest to win an eGO Electric Cycle. You guess how much grain is saved this year by all the Tofurky eaten instead of turkey. (Don’t worry, there’s a hint.) In 2007, 1.6 million pounds of grain were saved by not feeding them to turkeys first.

And now for something to eat with your Tofurky!

Curried Roasted Vegetables

2 large baking potatoes
3 red potatoes
3 large carrots
1 turnip
1 orange or red bell pepper
1 large red onion
olive oil
salt and pepper

1 T curry powder
1 t chili powder
1 t turmeric
2-3 t grated ginger
3+ cloves garlic, minced
1 can coconut milk
1 can chickpeas (I drained them)
vegetable stock if more fluid needed
cornstarch if thickening needed

Chop all veggies (except chickpeas) into 1″ chunks. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper on baking sheet. Roast at 425 F for about 45 minutes (time will vary based on size/type of veggies), turning veggies with tongs at least once during roasting.

Saute garlic and ginger in oil and add spices, frying to a lovely aroma (couple of minutes). Add coconut milk and chickpeas and cook (med/high heat) for a few more minutes. Add roasted veggies and simmer until chickpeas get that ‘done’ texture. Add vegetable stock and/or cornstarch to make more of a sauce or gravy as needed. Salt to taste. Serve over basmati rice or if it has a good gravy, on its own!

This recipe came together after I had a similar dish at Georgetown Market. I got an ingredient list from them and used tips from KNH and random online recipes to work out amounts. I used the root veggies I had available (and I wanted to finally try a turnip!), so feel free to sub in sweet potatoes or anything else that sounds good. We would like more zing to the dish so we’ll probably use more chili powder and curry next time, but as written, this is a hearty dish with a mild sauce that has a bit of sweetness.

Who wants a cookbook?

Anyone interested in a copy of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest? Most of the people I hang out with already have it. It’s all vegetarian recipes but generally simple/homestyle/hearty, and is another of Mollie Katzen’s in the Moosewood Cookbook series. This is the new revised edition. We already have a copy (which we use all the time) so I’d like to find another interested person! I can mail it to you (U.S. locations please), so be willing to share your address with me through email. I’ll give it a few days and then use a random number system to pick the receiver if there are multiple responses. Please let me know if you want it by leaving a comment!

You can see a preview of what appears to be the whole thing at Google Book Search. Google’s always doing something cool, aren’t they? Now you’ll know if you are really interested in it or not because you can read it ahead of time!

Now I hate them too

Day Off #2, and I had plans to paint the porch trim, but a few errands cropped up first.

After the pup and I took a ride to pick up my bike at the shop, I got a call from a bunny friend who was fostering a sick rabbit for a southern Indiana shelter. The rabbit has some lameness in one leg, drains in the other leg, sore hocks, and who knows what all, requiring an easy-entry special kind of litterbox I happened to have and not need. So, I took the litterbox to my friend, and picked up some hay and a dog crate while I was there.

My friend lives near a health food store that carries a few weird items I can’t find elsewhere, so to make the trip to the NW side even more efficient, I decided to go there. I’ve been to Georgetown Market at least ten times but for some reason I couldn’t find it today. My travels spiraled downward from there so I drew you a helpful map.

Red line: I traveled west/north to my friend’s house, where you see the red bunny. Note the attempted accuracy at using the correct exit ramps in my travel line.

Pink line: I try to drive from the bunny to the market, represented by a Quorn Turk’y Roast, which I bought for my Thanksgiving dinner. Remind me to tell you later about the turkey I adopted. Anyway, the Jeep now has hay in it, so I used Google images to find a representative picture by searching “jeep hay.” I got a picture of Hilary and Haylie Duff and their floofy dog doing some contest that Jeep sponsored, so that’s why you see them on I-65.

While I was unsure of how to find Georgetown Market from this direction, it is helpfully named after THE ROAD IT’S ON, so I turn left on Georgetown Road. I had a sense this was the wrong direction but to the right is a mall and no more road, so left it was. You will then see where I turned around at a liquor store because I could tell this was NOT the right way. I even checked my map at the liquor store but it also showed Georgetown ending at the mall. The map only cares about the part that goes to the Motor Speedway, I guess (note blue arrow pointing to the IMS, next to Danica Patrick making the sport respectable for other female drivers).

Light blue line: Now I’m heading back north (sorry that I’ve obscured the map’s “Georgetown Road” label with my pink and blue lines, but trust me, it’s the right road), and I decide to turn left on Lafayette, where you see the pink/blue/brown lines cross. I realize right about this time that there is a yummy Indian restaurant straight ahead (noted by the samosa) and it’s lunchtime, but I’m in the wrong lane. Surely I can stop back later, right?

The light blue line now stops at Rick James, because I notice there is an AT&T wireless store next to the market (yes, I’ve found it! Georgetown Road picks up again up here) and my cell battery likes to die after about ten minutes of conversation. I tell myself I’ll just price check here since cell stores tend to be a ripoff, and I chat with David on the dying phone about my plan. He says, “I hate cellular stores.” After signing a list in the store and after all the people ahead of me on the list have been helped, a salesperson gets to me.
Me: I need a battery for an LG CU500.
Her: We don’t carry those phones.
Me: I bought it from you.
Her: We haven’t had those in at least two years.
Note I haven’t had my phone nearly that long, but I do get a nice tip about a Batteries Plus store. I desperately ask for directions given my earlier problem finding the market, and find out it’s on Lafayette near WalMart, which I know is nearby, but she couldn’t tell me where to turn out of the store, so I will have to wing it. Then I call David and say, “Now I hate them too.”
(Regarding Rick James: That came up when I Googled for “AT&T b*tch”)

I walk next door to Georgetown Market where I buy things like organic carrots with the tops (the bunnies and piggies love those), no-beef-beef-bouillon, the aforementioned Turk’y Roast, rice noodles, etc. They don’t have harissa, which is in a recipe my magazine swears is easy to find at places like this. I’m still not quite sure what harissa is but it will probably involve a trip to the International Market, shown by the pretty bird. I put that in my head for another day because finding anything at the International Market requires a tour guide who speaks seven languages. I at least need to know what part of the world harissa comes from, and while I thought it might be Egyptian, this was not the day to get lost over there. Besides, I know there’s an Egyptian market nearby too! (See the camel.)

While at Georgetown Market I also have curried roasted vegetables from their hot bar, and it’s so good I’m going to find a recipe for it. It would be great with the turk’y!

Green line: Now I’m on a mission to find Batteries Plus. Watch the green line where I turn completely the wrong way, north, and end up on 56th Street, then come back down Lafayette. I see WalMart and figure the battery place might be in the outlot shops, but after driving around (see the circle around the second Hillary’s head), I discover it’s not here.

Now heading back down Lafayette, there it is! Except it’s not accessible due to a median. So I turn at the next possible spot, which is, oh, right in front of Georgetown Market at a furniture rental/clearance place. See the office chair made from a B-52 ejector seat. I decide to stop in and look for a used office chair, and the only ones that meet my ergonomic needs are used $600 Herman Miller chairs. Chairless, I get back in the car.

Blue line (not the Danica one): I finally get to Batteries Plus, where I pay $37 for an off-brand battery.

Brown line: Thanks to the median again, I have to turn around somewhere weird where I see a Mike-n-Ike car. Note WalMart in the background. I guess Hillary’s head is obscured by that utility pole.

In the interest of map accuracy, WalMart Hillary and the giant battery are actually on the east side of that street, but I ran out of room on my map where the ejector seat is. You probably shouldn’t get directions from me anyway.

I follow the brown line home, where I find an off-brand cell battery at for less than $9 with shipping. Along the way I call my mom to complain about her generation’s music because “Yummy yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy” comes on the radio, but she doesn’t answer.

Lessons learned: If I had an iPhone, I could have looked up Google Maps in the car and saved all that time and fuel. Better urban planning would have helped too. Heck, with an iPhone I wouldn’t need to go to the cell store because I could look online for the prices, get the phone number for Batteries Plus, find out what harissa is, etc. Meanwhile this entry took so long my wireless mouse’s batteries died in the middle.

I did get an hour of painting in before dark!