Sunday, November 11, 2012

an exciting week on my block

Friday before last I went to the store in the morning and saw a bunch of police cars arriving at the end of my block. Throughout the day there were more and more of them, and a big police bus. I was worried that there had been a terrible murder or something, so I looked at the Capitol Hill blog and found that my neighbor--the one with all the signs, who Rachael and I had long ago pegged as a suspicious character--had an eBay business selling stolen computers and bicycles. Rachael and I were pleased to be proven right, of course, and I was relieved that it was not a more distressing crime.

Yesterday I had Rachael, Tommy, and Dakki over for tea. I was standing at the stove pouring water into the teapot when I noticed smoke wafting past my window. I wondered if my next-door neighbors were cooking out on their deck, and Tommy asked if my neighbors had a fireplace. We decided we'd better investigate, and went downstairs to discover smoke billowing from the front steps! Rachael called 911 while I gathered Marigold (who now goes by her new middle name, Sheena) and Tommy rousted Dakki. My downstairs neighbor had been playing video games with his headphones on and hadn't noticed the smell, but I banged on his door hard enough to get his attention and he came out and managed to rip the insulating tape off of the outdoor faucet so we could squirt water under the porch till the firemen got there.

I forgot to put shoes on in my excitement, and Rachael wouldn't let me go back to get them, but a kindly neighbor gave me some flip flops (it was really cold out). My neighbor on the other side was worried about Sheena's welfare and offered to take her in if the house ended up burning down. They were so nice! Fortunately, the firemen got it out quickly and the smoke smell is fading, so all is well. I'm so glad I was home when it happened, though--it got smokey (smoky?) so quickly, I bet poor Sheena would have died of smoke inhalation before the firemen got there if we hadn't been alert.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I made this sauerkraut about a month ago, and I think it ties with my seaweed sauerkraut for the best yet. I didn't write down the exact weights of all the ingredients, but I do have an approximation so I can maybe replicate it later. If you like beets, this is the sauerkraut for you!

I scrubbed and shredded 8 medium beets, a small red cabbage, and 1/2 a small green cabbage. I added 3 cored and roughly chopped Gala apples, and ended up with about 2 kg total. I mixed in 17g salt, and some bay leaves, tarragon, marjoram, and sliced green onions. No matter how I squashed it I couldn't get quite enough juice to thoroughly cover it, so I added a little bit of water, maybe 1/2C.

After 2 weeks it didn't seem quite ready, and after 3 weeks the juice was so sour I thought maybe I'd let it go too long, but it turned out to be just right. This amount exactly filled up a half-gallon jar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

pretty pink plums!

My Victoria plum tree--only about three feet tall--made lots of plums this year. A few went to waste before I got around to picking them but I still had 1.9kg, enough to make lots of jam. The jam I made was so tasty that I think it will be my default Victoria jam from now on.

I halved and pitted the 1900g plums and added them to my jam pan with 1600g sugar, 300ml orange juice, and one big cinnamon (not cassia) stick. I brought it all to the boil, them simmered till the plums were soft. Let it rest for a few hours, then brought back to a hard boil and cooked, stirring very frequently, for about ten minutes at which point it had turned to jam. I stirred in 130g chopped walnuts, then put it in jars (11 half pints!) and boiling-water-bathed it for five minutes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What I did in August

My new computer was in Texas getting a fresh motherboard for much of August, so I didn't do much blogging. I did lots of interesting things, though, and took pictures as I went so that I would eventually be able to tell all about it.

Marigold Hanele

I bonded with my new kitty, Marigold Hanele. She's nothing like my darling Maria, but she's a sweet, good girl. She likes to cuddle me violently throughout the night, then play all day long. When I'm not playing with her, she works on little projects, like figuring out how to get a high-up cupboard door open so she can see what's inside and throw it on the floor. A grown cat--she'll be three in November--she's much livelier than Maria ever was. She especially loves to help me sew: the only time she likes to sit in my lap is when I've got a needle and thread.

Speaking of sewing, I made a couple of dresses. The first one was a McCall's 'Pounds Thinner' pattern from 1972, and I look kind of frumpy in it. Rachael says it's because I don't need slimming dresses, and says I should make myself a nice A-line dress instead. The second was a McCall's 'One-hour' dress, but it took me much longer than an hour to sew it. It's made out of leopard-and-floral print rayon, which I found very hard to cut and sew in a straight line. It turned out well in the end though, and as you can see it looks nice on Rachael!

I made lots and lots of jam and pickles! My damson tree had more damsons on it than ever before--9 ounces--so I made a tiny batch of damson apple jam. The Warner plum tree made many, many plums, and I made twelve jars of lemon-plum and lemon-vanilla-plum jam. And another twelve jars of pickled Warner string beans. I also made this saffron-peach jam. I didn't make it exactly as written, and as it was such a success I want to note down here what I did so I can replicate it in the future (isn't it a pretty color?): for five pounds of nectarines (they're better than peaches for jam as you don't have to peel them) I used 1 3/4C sugar, juice of a giant lemon, and only 6g saffron (and that was plenty). I ended up with 7 1/2 jars.

Finally, I made David Lebovitz's pineapple coconut macaroons. My pineapple came in a different size of can than his did, and I veganized them, so I had to change the recipe a little. These are the ingredients I used: 16oz canned, crushed pineapple, 160g sugar, 200g desiccated coconut, 6T flax gloop (in place of the egg whites), and 1/2t vanilla. I followed his method exactly. He's right that these are at their very best on the day you make them, because of their delightful crunchy crusts, but they taste just as nice for the next couple of days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

a quick carrot pickle update

When I posted about my sauer-carrot a few weeks ago, I promised to update you when it was finished. I got distracted, so am a little late, but now am here to tell you that it was a qualified success. I checked it when it had fermented for exactly two weeks, and it was just right--pleasantly sour, and still possessing a nice crunch. Its only trouble is that it's a little too strongly flavored for me to eat it on its own, as a salad, as I like to do with my regular, cabbagey sauerkraut. If I make it again--and I think I will--I'll add maybe a quarter of the carrots' weight of either apples or Asian pears. As it is, it makes a nice pickle to add to sandwiches and salads.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maria, the cutest, best kitty: a retrospective

Poor Maria had been off her feed for about a month before I took her in to the vet. For a while, I would give her some new and exciting food and she would perk up for a bit, but I realized I was deluding herself. Maria's bloodwork was okay and an x-ray inconclusive, but her doctor thought she should come back for a paracentesis: it might make her feel better, plus they could examine the fluid they drained from her and maybe figure out what her trouble was. We took her in the following Tuesday, but the results were not happy. Maria had a terrible mass around her liver and stomach, and there was not any point in sending the fluid for analysis. I should just try to make her remaining days as happy as possible.

The paracentesis didn't seem to have revived her at all, so I made an appointment for the home euthanasia doctor to come on Thursday, when Maria's mom Rachael could be there. Dr Knasiak was really nice. He was the same guy who'd drained her on Tuesday, and he told us that the mass was large and branching, 'like a ginger root,' and even if we'd caught it earlier, when it was smaller, it would have quickly grown back. He gave Maria a couple of shots--first a calming one, then a lethal one--and she died in her mommy's arms.

The very first picture I took with my first digital camera.

Maria with my knitting. She always loved to help me with it.

Here she is being groomed by her mom.

Maria looking like a little kitten with her doll, Ratty.

Maria looking elegant. This is the day she changed the pronunciation of her name from 'Mar-ee-a' to 'Mar-eye-a.'

Maria on her mom. Whenever Maria came upon a prone person she would sit on their back or bottom.

Maria helping me knit on her last day of life. She was so tired, she just sat on my lap all day waiting for her appointment.

If you want to see more pictures, there are lots on my flickr.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

red right hand

I'm really excited about my new book, The Art of Fermentation. I've only read a little bit of it, but already have a list of things to try on my next days off. There's a fizzy beverage made from juniper berries, and another one--Punjabi--made of carrots and ground mustard seeds.

I was inspired to make sauerwurzel when I read that almost any vegetable can be made into sauerkraut or kimchi, and that if you want to use less salt the minerals in seaweed will have a similar effect. I decided to julienne my carrots rather than grating them, as I thought that would improve the eventual texture, but the decreased surface area made it harder than usual to press enough juice out to cover the carrots. I would press for a while, let it rest so the salt could do its osmotic thing, then press some more. As you can see, all that pressing turned my hand red! It faded pretty quickly, but is still faintly orange from having carrot juice ground into it.

Here are the ingredients I used: 5lb carrots, julienned; 1lb radishes, thinly sliced; 1C dulse, soaked in cool water to make 1 1/2C (soaking water included in the sauerwurzel); a small bunch of dill, roughly chopped; and 15g salt. I'll check it in a couple of weeks. I just put the lid on my fancy sauerkraut crock at ten this morning, and it began bubbling after only eight hours.

quick and easy date candy

This is a really easy-to-make treat, and is always popular at potlucks. My friend Little Debbie often brings it to work meetings because there's nothing in it that any of our colleagues (a picky bunch) object to. It's a modification of this recipe from Vegetarian Times, de-glutenized and with different flavors. I also made it bigger so that there would be plenty of leftovers for me--it makes an excellent restorative at work.

When I brought these to work for the Fourth of July, also Nurse Mary's last day before retiring, several people asked me if they had figs in them. I think it was a combination of their slight pepperiness and the mysterious crunch of the chia seeds which made people think that.

Figgy Date Candy
makes a lot--enough to fill a quarter sheet (9"x12")pan
easily halved if you don't want that much

16oz Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/2oz raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
up to 1T water, as needed
6oz walnuts, roughly chopped, divided
3 1/2oz chia seeds
1/2t cinnamon
salt and pepper, and pinch of each
finely shredded desiccated coconut
coconut flour (or rice flour)

Whiz the dates and cacao in your food processor till they make a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary. Scraped the sides , then add 4oz of walnuts and the chia seeds, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Process till the walnuts seem well chopped and everything's thoroughly mixed.

Line your quarter-sheet pan with wax or parchment paper, then scatter a couple of handsful of desiccated coconut over the bottom. Scrape the date paste over the coconut, then press it flat, using a little coconut flour to help with the stickiness. Strew the remaining walnut pieces over it, and press them in. Put it in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up, then cut into pieces (how big is up to you), dust the edges with a little coconut flour, and store in a tin.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

first sprout your lentils

I now have such exacting dietary requirements (vegan plus low starch) that it's more important than ever that I bring something substantial for me to eat to any potlucks I go to. I brought a couple of recipes from my new favorite raw cookbook, Eat Raw, Eat Well, to a recent work meeting, and they were both very successful. One was a banana goji berry cookie, made from almonds and cashews stuck together with banana and coconut fat, and the other was a curried sprouted-lentil stew. I altered the stew quite a bit--I used sprouted lentils instead of soaked garbanzo beans, and toned down the seasoning. Raw cookbooks in general seem to use more salt and spices than I like, so I have to remind myself to be judicious when I get to that part of their recipes.

Below is my rendering of 'Curried Chickpea Stew.' You will have to start it a couple of days in advance, because it takes about a day and a half to sprout the lentils, but other than that it's a quick and easy recipe. And very tasty.

To start the lentils, soak about 1 1/2 cups of them in plenty of water in a big jar (mine's a half gallon) fitted with a sprouting lid. After they've about doubled in size--maybe six hours--drain the water and let the jar rest, tipped so as to continue to drain, in your dish drainer. Rinse and drain the lentils a couple of times a day,till they've grown as big as you want them. The last time I made them, they germinated after only twelve hours and were grown to my liking after another eighteen. At that point, switch to a regular lid and stick them in the refrigerator till you're ready to use them. They keep for quite a while in the fridge--at least a couple of weeks. You'll end up with more sprouts than you need for this recipe, but they're really tasty on salads too so you shouldn't have any problem using them up.

Curried Lentil Stew
serves six

3C sprouted lentils
1C dried tomatoes, soaked half and hour in warm water, then drained
1 lb fresh tomatoes (unless it's summertime, use cherry or grape tomatoes)
a carrot, roughly chopped
a celery stalk, roughly chopped
a handful of cilantro, including its roots if you have them
1/2 a small onion, roughly chopped
2T peeled, chopped ginger
1T peeled, chopped fresh turmeric (if you can get it)
3 cloves garlic
1/4C fresh lemon juice
1T agave nectar
2T olive oil
1 1/2T curry powder
2t cumin
1t ground coriander
1/2t aleppo pepper
2t kosher salt
2 ripe bell peppers (whatever color you like), trimmed and diced
herbs for garnish (I used some dill I got in my vegetable box)

Grind everything but the lentils and pepper in a food processor till there are no big, visible lumps. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the lentils and peppers. Decorate with your chosen herb and let everything soak for an hour or so before serving.

Monday, June 25, 2012

an easy summer salad

Annie came over yesterday to have some tea and work on our scarf knitalong, so I fixed us one of our favorite salads. I would usually wait till further into summer, as it's really dependent on good tomatoes, but Whole Foods had had some ripe looking tomatoes on sale and I thought I'd risk it. They turned out to not be quite up to snuff, but they were okay. I should have known: there never are really good tomatoes in Seattle till at least August. Anyway, for the benefit of my followers to the south, here's the recipe:

Tomato Tofu Salad
the amounts given are approximations; use however much you feel like using
tomatoes, two medium, halved vertically then thinly sliced
tofu, 6oz, cut into ~1cm cubes
2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced
2t each soy sauce and sesame oil

Arrange the tomato slices on a platter, then scatter the tofu cubes over them.  Grind pepper of it all, then whisk the soy sauce and sesame oil together and carefully drizzle so the at least a little gets on each piece. Artfully strew the green onions, then serve.

Below is pictured the scarf Annie and I were knitting. I finished mine last night, and she just started hers yesterday,  but we did work on them together for an hour or so.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I have long admired amigurumi, but thought they looked too finicky to be fun to make. They're so little, and have so many pieces to sew together, and you wind up with all those yarn ends to deal with! My friend Shannon--a capable maker of afghans but inexperienced at crocheting small things in the round--asked me to help her interpret the directions in her amigurumi book, and when I looked them over I quickly realized that they would be more fun to make than I had thought. There can be a lot of little pieces to sew together, but you use the ends for the sewing and then just bury them in the body; no need to laboriously sew them invisibly into the wrong side of your work.

I decided to make something small and limbless for my first project, as I thought arms and legs might be a little tricky to arrange naturally, and I was eager to get it completed. I settled on this tiny, tiny owl I found on Ravelry, and it was really fun and quick to make. I crocheted all of its pieces in about half an hour before I went to bed last night, and when I got up I found some beads for its eyes and sewed it all up in another half hour. The many yarn ends became the stuffing! I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and plan to make a sheep or a squirrel very soon. This will be an excellent way to use up little yarn scraps!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

raw foodist's strawberry pudding

One of my favorite late spring/early summer puddings is strawberry tapioca.  It's better than many strawberry dishes because the strawberries are never cooked; that cooking destroys strawberries' flavor is a Ross family truism. My new dietary regimen precludes tapioca, though, so I had to modify my recipe to make it for my work lunches this week. It turned out pretty well, but be warned: the success of this recipe rests almost entirely on the quality of the strawberries you use.

Strawberry Chia Pudding
serves two or three

1 lb strawberries, cored and thinly sliced
1/3C sugar (raw if that's what you like)
2T lemon juice
1/4C chia seeds

Toss the sliced strawberries with the lemon juice and sugar, and let rest for about an hour. Strain the juice into a big measuring cup and add enough water to make a total of 3/4C water plus juice. Whisk the chia seeds into the juice, and stir every few minutes for a while so they don't form a huge clump. When they've thickened up quite a bit, stir them into the strawberries, cover, and put in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

a spring tonic

I got some nice rhubarb at the farmers' market on Sunday and used some of it to make this juice. It has a really nice, revivifying tang. You can see from the above photo that I included some pineapple cores, but those aren't really essential to its success--I just had them around because there had been a bargain on organic pineapples, so I made a bunch of dried pineapple

Spring Juice
makes about 5 cups

20oz carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
2 fat rhubarb stalks
2 oranges, peeled
cores from 2 pineapple (optional)

Run through your juicer a couple of times, then chill.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a cheering pink drink


Poor Annie was feeling gloomy yesterday: the weather was too hot, and she was failing to tick off of her list most of the myriad tasks she had set herself. I was on my way home from a trip to West Seattle when she called me to propose a jaunt to our favorite restaurant, the Canterbury. 'It may dispel my gloom,' she speculated.

Annie had a shandy and a giant plate of hash browns ('They'll go right to my waist,' she lamented, and it turns out she was right), and I had a nice salad and  a gimlet (with more gin and less Rose's Lime Juice than Philip Marlowe's preference). Afterwards, replete and cheered, Annie came to my house to take some pictures for her blog. I persuaded her to try my tasty new drink, the Salty Setter (it's like a Salty Dog, but pink). 'Not too strong, now! I have to ride my bicycle home and don't want to get a ticket! And I don't like gin!' The one I made her (which she liked despite the gin) was semi-virginal, with only half of the specified amounts of gin and Campari.

Salty Setter
1oz each, gin and Campari
2oz grapefruit juice
juice of half a lime, plus a lime slice

Rub the rim of your glass with the lime slice, then roll it through a little saucer of salt .
Fill a cocktail shaker half-full of ice, then add the gin, Campari, and grapefruit and lime juice. Shake well, and strain into the glass. Garnish with the lime slice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

an excellent work lunch

I made a couple more recipes from Rawvolution before I returned it to Nurse Lu. She had encouraged me to try the 'famous onion bread,' so I made that along with some mock tuna salad (I'm a real tuna lover, and always looking for good vegan facsimiles). Both recipes required heavy modification--the bread looked like it would be far to oily and salty if I made it straight from the book, and the tuna had what looked like way too much mustard. They both turned out really well, though, and I will tell you how I made them for both our benefits (if I don't document it here I might forget what all I did). As you might guess from my remarks, I like this book but can only really recommend it to experienced cooks who will notice when something looks off about a recipe and can fix it to their tastes.

Onion Bread
makes 27 pieces

The amount of water is an approximation--if you use sweet onions, for instance, you will need less water than if you use storage onions. Start low so you don't end up with overly sloppy dough!

1kg onions
100g flax meal
100g sunflower seeds, chopped in your food processor till they're the size of polenta
1/4C soy sauce (nama shoyu if you want to be strictly raw, tamari if you you want your bread to be wheat-free)
3T olive oil
1/3C water

Peel the onions and halve or quarter them, depending on the size of your food processor feed tube. Slice them with the food processor (or cut them as thinly as you can by hand, wearing glasses to save yourself from onion tears).  Put in a big bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Squish with your hands to get the onions to release their juices.

 Divide the dough in three and spread each portion into a nine-inch square on a non-stick sheet. Put in your dehydrator and dry at 118° for about twenty-four hours. After at least ten hours, peel the breads off of the sheets and return to the dryer.

When they're done, cut each sheet of bread into nine squares. Store in an airtight tin.

Tuna-safe Salad
makes four generous servings

1/2C coconut water* or regular water
2 cloves garlic
1/3C lemon juice
1t kosher salt
1/2C each macadamia nuts and cashews
2t seedy mustard

2C sunflower seeds, soaked 2-6 hours and drained
3 stalks celery, diced
4 green onions, sliced
2-3T dulse flakes

Whiz the dressing ingredients in a blender till thoroughly smooth.

Chop the soaked sunflower seeds in your food processor till they resemble flaked tuna, then transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Add the dressing. Let rest an hour before eating. See below for a serving suggestion!

*The coconut water makes the dressing a little sweet and Miracle Whippy. The sweetness dies down a little after a while, but if you really object to sweetness in your tuna you should opt for regular water. That way you won't have to open a young coconut either.

Monday, April 2, 2012

oh-so-easy cauliflower couscous

couscous ii

One of the things I fixed for dinner in Orland was cauliflower couscous. It's a tasty and super-quick side dish, as long as you have a food processor. I'm just going to give you a basic template, and you can add whatever tidbits you see fit. This is adapted from Rawvolution, a book with lots of good ideas but recipes that are far too oily and salty for my taste. In Orland I pretty much followed the recipe below, except that I added a handful of almonds, soaked and then chopped, and some pretty purple celery we got at the farmer's market. At the bottom of this post you can see a wild, hippie version I made for my work lunch: I used a mixture of white and purple cauliflower, which turns magenta when the lemon juice touches it, and added almonds, goji berries, hunza raisins, and minced fresh turmeric root.

Basic Cauliflower Couscous
Serves 2-4, depending on what else you're having. Enough for 3 work lunches!
A small cauliflower, leaves removed, roughly chopped
A bunch of parsley or half a bunch each of parsley, coriander, and mint (or other herbs you have and think would be good), stems included except for woody ones like on the mint, very roughly chopped
A big handful of green olives, seeded and torn apart
Juice of a lemon
2T olive oil
salt and pepper (be stingy with the salt till you've tasted it, as the olives will add salt)
Optional: nuts, dried fruit (unless it's really hard, don't soak it), zest from half of your lemon if it's organic (chop it, then add it to the food processor with the herbs), small amounts of spices you think would be good (Aleppo pepper, cumin, ground coriander), other seasonal vegetables....

Chop the cauliflower in your food processor till it looks like couscous. If you don't have a big one it would be better to do this in a couple of batches, so it gets chopped evenly. Scrape the cauliflower into a big bowl, then chop your herbs in the still-dirty processor. Scrape them into the bowl, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Let it rest for half an hour, then taste for seasoning. More salt? More lemon? Serve!

cauliflower couscous

Thursday, March 22, 2012

our trip to Orland


Rachael and I just got back from a trip to Orland, where we got to see Granddenny and Granni Di for the first time in five or six years. We were expecting the weather to be warmer in sunny California--after all, it was still snowing in Seattle, while the weather reports said that Orland was consistently at least five degrees warmer--but we ended up being chilly much of the time. I was sorry I hadn't brought my hat and mittens!

Rachael, cold

Right outside the kitchen window there's a quince bush which is always covered with birds. We saw hummingbirds, house finches, warblers, and lots and lots of sparrows. The sparrows like to eat the quince blossoms, which is probably why the bush has only borne one fruit in the thirty or so years Granddenny's lived there. Below are pictured a white crowned and golden crowned sparrow I saw while I was fixing dinner:



We got to meet Lolly, the cute new Kelpie. Granddenny and Granni Di kept telling us that she was a naughty girl, but Rachael and I saw no sign of it except that she kept trying to herd her big sister Genna. She was really pretty, with her big expressive eyes and giant bat-ears--Granddenny thinks she looks like Anubis. She was sweet and cuddly, too, and followed Rachael around the house to be petted.


We went to John Carter in Chico (Rachael's a big Michael Chabon fan and Granddenny liked the books when he was little), and afterwards took a tour of Bidwell Mansion. Granddenny and I had last gone there over thirty years ago, and neither of us remembered much except the case of stuffed birds in John Bidwell's office and the life-sized painting of him from which his eyes follow you all around the house. Unfortunately, budget cuts will close up Bidwell Mansion forever on May first unless its friends raise a bunch of money.

One of the high points of our trip was a visit to the Chico farmers' market. When we went to it in previous visits it was always summertime, and it was pretty similar to farmers' markets in Seattle except that the tomatoes and eggplants were cheaper. It was really different in March! We saw sugarcane,



avocado stand

and olives.


My favorite rice farm had a booth,

rice stand

and I got a real bargain on these unpasteurized almonds which were only $15 for five pounds.