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.

eatmorveg
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.

gratin

The topping totally makes this recipe.

VEGETABLE GRATIN
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.

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.
TOPPING:
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.

“Ah, he always smelled that way”

When I was young, we’d go visit my great great aunt and uncle’s farm on the west side of town. Uncle Walt and Aunt Dorothy had 80 acres, and at various times, cows, chickens, corn, a pond, an inground pool (this was the most exciting part for my brother and me at the time), dogs, woods, strawberries, you name it. They had a long dirt lane and when you drove on it, the resident dog (jobs included guard and groundhog killer) would come running to meet you.

My mom and her mom both spent lots of time at the farm when they were young. I am SO glad we got to go visit too, but I wonder what it would have been like to live there for whole summers. There are stories of using dynamite to blow up field rocks and my mom getting lost as a toddler and the dog finding her.

They lived in a creepy-cool 1850s(?) farmhouse and the upstairs, a place we rarely visited, wasn’t even vented for heat. The dirt cellar had amazing jarred veggies on old shelves. The big wraparound porch had rocking chairs and bees would visit the flowers while you sat around and talked.

The old barns were really amazing to me. I was not very adventurous and didn’t explore as much as I should have, but the falling-down old chicken coop and slatted corn sheds fascinated me. My memories don’t include the animals that lived there, since Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Walt were older by then and rented their cornfields to other farmers, but the old buildings were right there by the house as a reminder. There’s a picture somewhere, one I clearly remember, of kids bottle-feeding a calf. I remember the wooden ramp with rails where the grown cattle apparently climbed on the truck to go to slaughter. My mom said Uncle Walt would cry when they left.

Whatever happened to that world? It must have been amazing to be an American farmer through the bulk of the last century; the changes in fertilizers and yields, the move to families shopping in big grocery stores, the selling of this beautiful property in the country to be another fancy subdivision after the old farmers went off to assisted living facilities. Uncle Walt suffered from illnesses related to his life’s work, but I just remember him sitting in a recliner and telling deadpan jokes. (When asked why his dog was so spoiled, he responded with the title of this post.) Aunt Dorothy climbed on top of the shed in her 70s to paint; I remember her still liking to eat Long John Silver’s food, of all things, in her 90s, long after moving away from the farm and going deaf.

I was thinking of the farm after watching Food, Inc. last weekend with friends. Please go see it–it’s amazing what we don’t know about the food we eat and where it’s sourced. I visited a farmers’ market just before the movie, and went to another one this past weekend, but yet that’s not where the bulk of my food starts. I’m trying to take advantage of more markets this year while we are in growing season, plus we are growing more vegetables ourselves. When I stop to think about this basic thing, food, it amazes me what an industry it’s become. Now there are even concerns about ‘food security,’ whether from national perspectives or right here in my city.

Maybe it’s not helpful to idolize the old family farm in this day of WalMarts and a bigger population, but I know none of Uncle Walt’s cows stood knee deep in their own manure their whole lives, nor did his chickens live in cages the size of a sheet of paper. The unchecked growth of factory farming and seed law signals to me the dirty politics and the greedy side of capitalism that tosses aside any reasonable treatment of worker, animal, or planet.

The power of consumer dollars: a vote every time you eat.

I’m very excited about the upcoming opening of our first non-profit community grocery in a rehabbed building in an underserved part of the city: Pogue’s Run Grocer!

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!

porcupines1

porcupines2

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
Peruvian food: vibrantly colored pesto pasta and potatoes from Machu Picchu restaurant

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

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

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.
weirdlemon

Multimedia (you were sick of reading, right?)

I have been giving to more charities lately and every freakin’ time they add me to the mailing list. This drives me nuts. I understand I look like a good prospect because I’ve donated once, but my environmental side detests physical mail, especially solicitations, and I only donate online anyway. Why can’t there be a radio button for me to decline future mailings when I give the first time? I’d be much more likely to give again without the aggravation. They waste my donation on paper, postage, staff… that’s not why I gave them money.

Seriously, people, contact me by EMAIL if I gave you money through your website. Then I can spam or unsubscribe (or even better, set my preferences to remind me again in six months when I’ll be ready to give to you again) and you don’t waste your time and money. Let’s put the Post Office out of business. Nonsense. Why do you need my address to give you $$?


Went to Indiana Black Expo corporate luncheon this week. My company bought a lot of tickets. After a silly string of forwarded emails that never did find out if I’d have something to eat at this function, and several comments that I could always eat the salad (argh), in an ironic twist, EVERYONE ate salad! That was the meal. Sure, everyone else had a chef salad but sure enough, there was a foliage-only version for the picky weirdos like me. Wow, I had a lot of fiber that day.

Jamie Foxx and a few other folks received awards after short comments by the governor, mayor, and former mayor (who oddly enough received an award at the other corporate fundraiser I attended and he now works for my company). I was looking forward to inspirational speeches and was a bit disappointed that it focused on entertainment and awards, but I projected my previous experience here, I guess. Or perhaps that’s a cultural bias. Anyway I really preferred the Lambda Legal dinner because the speakers were good.


Okay, now my debut music video. I’ve been playing with a little Flip video camera mounted on my bike. The lame Windows MovieMaker software won’t allow me to specify how much to speed up the clip (at least I can’t find a way to do it other than double or half speed), so I couldn’t match the length to the song I chose. But I do have a video now which is just part of a cloudy Friday’s ride home, sped up so it’s less boring. Of course you won’t get to hear the guys yelling at me out their car window (the only part I understood was the F-bomb), but you will get to hear Silversun Pickups’ Lazy Eye. Until the song ends and there’s a little silent cycling left over. Ideas for better (hopefully free) software? Also, what is the best (fast, universal, whatever) file format for sharing on blogs and such? I started a Vimeo account, which is the embedded video below, but it’s showing as slightly poorer quality than the original file I uploaded, which can be clicked on with the text right above the Vimeo stuff. The direct link file format seems slow and large.

Yes, I know I have lots of room for improvement in editing. Just a first attempt.

commute071709_0001

Indy Bike Commute from Amy D on Vimeo.

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.

Cool food stuff coming soon

I’m glad this film is coming to Indy! I can’t figure out if it’s really playing on Friday or if that’s just the national release date; the local theater says it’s coming July 31.

Coming to Indianapolis
July 17
Keystone Arts Cinema

Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA.

Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

There are some free screenings too, but not in Indy.

This one is happening at our favorite restaurant and involves bikes and the urban eastside! I hope we can get a reservation.

August 4: Urban Farm Tour & Farm to Table Dinner

Where: R Bistro (888 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis)
When: August 4:
5:30pm Urban Farm Tour followed by dinner seating at 7:00pm
OR
7:00pm Urban Farm Tour followed by dinner seating at 8:30pm
Cost: $25 for Slow Food members or $30 for non-members
(price includes taxes and gratuity – drinks are not included)
Dress: Casual with comfortable shoes, as guests will be walking or biking and exploring urban farms before dinner.
Reservations are required: Call R Bistro at 317.423.0312
*If you prefer the vegetarian option, please alert R Bistro when you make your reservation.

Join Slow Food Indy for a tour of urban farms and kitchen gardens and enjoy a local hog roast at R Bistro.
While guests have the option to skip the tour and simply make dinner reservations, we hope you’ll follow local farmer-tour guides on foot or bring your bike! We’ll tour the Big City Farms Urban CSA lots, the Cottage Home Community Garden, and several backyard kitchen gardens in the Cottage Home Neighborhood. The tours will depart promptly from R Bistro, and guests are requested to meet there at 5:30pm (in advance of a 7:00pm dinner seating at R Bistro) or at 7:00pm (in advance of a 8:30pm dinner seating at R Bistro).

Only a few seats are still available! Call R Bistro at 317.423.0312.
Reservations will be closed on July 31st (or when all places are filled).

Found both of these at Slow Food Indy. I’m not a member but they often have interesting stuff going on.

A tomato ate my sister

My work email is at 180%, I have two extra days of work to cram in this week since I dared take vacation, my arm hurts from being on the computer too much, and my neighbor mowed our lawn because I’m too lame to make time for it. I struggle with being in a funk half the time and the other half avidly planning Big Things like catching up on life, as neatly described in lists (the bits and pieces must be captured on paper so I can free my mind to remember other things). All of the errand-doing makes me feel in control and when those things are done and the house is clean, I’m unstoppably happy. It just doesn’t happen very often.

A friend of mine quit her job today. She saved and made a plan (things I am reasonably good at) and just quit to pursue something better on her own. I am risk averse and actually I like my job (mostly), so I don’t see quitting in my near future. But what if I could make a living out of something I really liked? What if I weren’t stressed from work most nights, lugging my laptop home to write my Performance Management since I’m being Performance Managed tomorrow morning by a person I see in meetings now and then who judges my Performance on many items, not the least of which includes my ability to balance work and life and taking care of my ergonomic injury, both of which I’ve just admitted I am unable to do well at all? Meanwhile I’ve felt too busy to exercise in weeks and coupled with stress-eating, well, I’m unfit and cranky.

So let’s talk about happier things like vegetables. I planted some for the first time ever.

garden0709a
Pretty peppers. They are planted in a drawer box that never made it to drawerdom. I love how the bell peppers start out like a baby acorn and suddenly turn into an ungainly fruit. The mint achieved real pots, and note the famous hose reel. And David made me some cute little support sticks from leftover cherry.

garden0709b
David’s tomatoes match my height. He keeps singing about their Attack.

garden0709c
Zucchini takes over the world, obscuring some sad broccoli, neighbored by the coneflowers which made it back from last year’s flowers, basil, and parsley with mutant branches.

The coworker whose phone keeps playing TNT, it’s Dynamite is about to get slapped.

Off to the big city

I finally planned a Chicago trip and took a couple extra days around the long weekend to enjoy it with David. The old Amy never would have paid for a hotel in the Loop but the new financially mature Amy quoted her Dad (“Can’t put a price on a good time”–keep in mind he’s MUCH more of a miser) and got a room overlooking Grant Park.

We hit Chicago Diner, an all-veg place that wins lots of awards. Check out my (not)chicken-fried-(not)steak and David’s avocado quinoa nachos, plus the pot stickers. I get really excited when I have an entire menu of choices.
chidiner1 chidiner2

We didn’t have a chance to try out the other recommended veg place I was hoping to visit but I did have veggie BBQ at Taste of Chicago. Yay food on a stick! Maybe this year I’ll finally get to the state fair.
taste

David played conductor at the Museum of Science and Industry. Some of it hadn’t been updated since I was a child and the rest seemed to be all noise and flashing lights for kids, the parking was $16, and the body slices weren’t there. Now I’m officially old and cranky. But we did enjoy the U-505 sub, which was put in the basement since the last time I saw it.
davidtrain u505

We did one of the architectural tours by boat (thanks for the idea, Mymsie) and enjoyed that despite annoying people behind us hitting on each other while we were trying to hear the guide. (Also: we’re old. But who pays thirty bucks and doesn’t listen to the tour?)
boatchicago

I really liked these frogfish at the Shedd Aquarium. All three had adapted to look like the structures near them. Yes, the black one is also a fish. I liked the orange guy because he looked like a plastic super hero.
frogfish

We also hit Kingston Mines, the oldest blues club in the city, where we happened to wander in early during amateur time and therefore paid no cover!

I bought tickets to the museums online before we left and while TicketMaster fees always make me angry, it sure was nice not to stand in those long lines. Highly recommended.

Our neighbor helped with the dogs on one of the days, and after we got home she apparently told David she thought Walter could use some more exercise (I’m not denying that) and she volunteered to take him on her 0630 daily walks! The real trick here is that neither of us are up that early and I don’t suppose we should let her waltz on in while we’re in bed, even if she’s trusted with a key and the alarm code. But since I do get up close to that time (or should be up then anyway), perhaps we can do a trial where I’m up and send him off to school with her while I get ready. It’s just that guilt factor of someone else walking my dog that’s getting in the way…