Sunday, August 24, 2014

Brown Rice Hippie Burgers

I call these "Brown Rice Hippie Burgers" because, well, that is clearly what they are.  They're burgers which are vegan and include hemp seeds.  What more can I say?

I thought it would be fun to experiment with some different burger options.  We like our Better Burgers and kidney bean bugers, but so many people have come up with so many different types of burgers I thought it would be interesting to play around with some different ideas.  Like brown rice burgers!  Rice is a whole food which is both cheap and easy to make.  That seems like reason enough for me to give a rice burger a try.

So I read a gazillion recipes for brown rice burgers, ruminated on them, and came up with my own version which I proudly present as Brown Rice Hippie Burgers.

They are remarkably flavorful.  They have mustard and ketchup and herbs and pepper built right into the burger.  Yummy!  They are very tender.  You can really sink your teeth into them.  Its a nice contrast between the soft, tender inside and the crisp, crunchy outside.    Forming them up is a bit trickier than the Better Burgers, say, because of this tenderness.  That seems to be the way it goes with rice burgers.  Once one side is cooked though its easy street.  Its just got to start to form that crisp outer crust first.  Refrigerating the mixture before forming the patties is critical.
Brown Rice Hippie Burgers                           Makes about 10 patties.

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice, separated
1 1/2 C onion, diced
1-2 bell peppers, diced  (substitute in some jalapeno for some heat if desired)
1 cup shelled hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T ketchup
1 T tamari (or soy sauce)
1 T olive oil, plus more for frying
1 t brown, spicy, or Dijon mustard
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried sage leaves
1/8 t sea salt, plus a pinch or so to taste
black pepper, to taste
Breadcrumbs, as needed for consistency
1/4 cup flour, for dusting patties

Saute onions for 3–5 minutes until the onions start to become tender.
Add bell peppers, salt, and black pepper and saute for another five minutes, until onions are translucent.
In a food processor, combine 2 cups rice, hemp seeds, garlic, ketchup, tamari, mustard, and herbs.
Process until fairly smooth.  Add additional salt, if desired.
Transfer to a bowl and add in remaining cup of rice.
Allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so that they firm up and easier to work with.
Form patties and dust lightly in flour.  Add breadcrumbs if the mixture is too soft to work with.
Heat additional oil over medium-high heat and add patties.
Cook for 5–10 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp on the outside.

Serve alone or on a fresh, soft wheat roll.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thai Basil at Last

We finally have fresh Thai basil!  Huzzah!  I am pretty gosh darn pleased.  We ultimately had to buy a seedling from one of the producers down at the farmer's market.  We just weren't making any progress starting from seed and I was dead set on having fresh Thai basil as my disposal.  We also found one lone Thai basil growing the massive patch of Sweet and Genovese basil at the community garden.  Oh, having that basil makes such a difference in the flavor of the Thai-inspired dishes.  It adds a wonderful taste explosion to stir-fried meals that I would never have thought of on my own.  Huzzah!

Backpack Waist Strap DIY

Years ago we got a Camelbak backpack.  I don't remember the circumstances.  Did we buy it?  Get it as a gift?  I don't recall.  But, we pretty much immediately discarded the waist strap on it.  We didn't use the strap and it was always just dangling down getting in the way or tangled on things.

Now, years later, we regret that.  I have a waist pack (think: hard-core fanny back with side water bottle holder) for hikes.  Usually that is all we need to take.  However, on some longer day hikes we have found that we need a little more room (for snacks, extra water, extra clothing layer, etc)  than the waist pack permits.  So Matt wears his backpack--and wishes he had the waist strap to help put the weight of the load on his hips rather than shoulders, as well as to stabilize it side-to-side when moving on uneven terrain.

Matt looked up replacement parts for Camelbaks and found it was going to be about $10 to replace the strap.  But, I looked at it and figured we could fix it ourselves for a fraction of the price.  We found nylon strapping and a "parachute" buckle at Jo-Ann Fabric.  Using a couple 40% off coupons we secured the nessessary supplies for under four dollars.   I took them home and attached the strapping to the waist loop on the bag with a little zig-zag stitch, attached the buckles to the other end and voila!  We have our waist strap back again.
Before:  Empty waist loop on bag and strap and buckle from Jo-Ann Fabric.
After:  Waist loop on bag attached to strap with buckle.
It feels good testing it out around the house.  We're excited to put it to the test out in the woods soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An August Garden Walkabout

An overview of the garden from the vantage point of one of our wee apple trees.
The garden grows.  We're eating from it daily for which we're very grateful.  And happy.  Having a plate full of freshly picked, homegrown goodness makes us so happy.  Its been a more challenging year than last year with multiple hail storms, insect invasions, a pesky rabbit, and a wedding that put us behind schedule from the get go.  But all things considered, the garden grows well.
Squash in the foreground with corn behind it in right bed.  Tomatoes with tomatillos in the rear in the left bed.
We've been overrun with earwigs this year.  They've never bothered us in the past and I always considered them fairly harmless insects, but I stand corrected.  The peppers are looking amazing, but the earwigs are quick to pounce on them if I am even a day behind in picking them.  I don't enjoy having earwigs inside my peppers.  Not really at all.  From what we've read it may have to do with our mulch.  As with everything its all about balance.  Too much mulch and the earwigs are in their ideal moist, dark, habitat of decaying organic matter and so they can thrive.  Not enough mulch and we must use much more water and spend much more time weeding.  I guess we'll have to work on finding that balance.  Even with the earwigs the peppers are amazing.  I am in spicy pepper heaven with lots of jalapenos to eat now and cayennes just starting to hint at changing color for later.
Jalapenos in the foreground, cayenne peppers in the rear.
Big, beautiful jalapeno peppers.
Cayenne peppers not yet turning red.
We picked corn at the community garden for the first time this season and ate it for dinner last night.  It got planted in a more timely fashion there.  Our corn patch in the home garden is just now starting to tassel.  Oh boy do I like sweet corn, especially on the cob.  We'll freeze some in the coming weeks to have on hand over the winter.  Frozen freshly picked sweet corn in the next best thing if you can't have the real deal and freezing it is so simple.
Tassels in the home corn patch.
There is a rabbit that is driving Matt bonkers.  He's chased the rabbit out of the yard a dozen times and is starting to talk about more drastic measures.   Fencing doesn't seem like a feasible option and we don't really want to kill the little thing.  I think I have a friend with a live trap.  We may try that.  We've been hoping to just discourage by chasing him out every day, but the food is too good apparently.  Not that I can blame the rabbit for thinking that!   The rabbit has a particular fondness for beans, it seems.
An overview of the garden from the vantage point of the other apple tree.
Three kinds of beans:  Red Mexican, Yellow Indian, and Hutterite Soup beans.
More of that striking and unusual dew pattern, this time around the edges of the cabbage leaves.
The rabbits also took to the sunflowers this year, mowing them down nearly as fast as they sprouted.  As a result I didn't get as many flowers as I'd have liked, but some survived.  I intended to replant a second sowing, but, well, that never happened.  The volunteer sunflowers along the side of the house and at the foot of the drive way pretty much compensate for it though.  One of the volunteers is by far the prettiest one of the season.  The petals are ringed with a lovely orangey, rusty color.
Isn't it wonderful?
Most were a more standard, and still lovely, solid yellow.  The bees sure like them.
We're eating the last jar of tomatillo salsa from last year as we watch the tomatillo lanterns growing in size.  What a unusual and interesting plant.  Its fun to grow and makes some fabulous salsa.  The tomatoes are coming on, too, and we've enjoyed that very much.  Neither Matt nor I much enjoy a raw tomato, but oh, do they make everything fabulous.  We grilled some the other night and oh my, were they sweet and wonderful.
Little tomatillo paper lanterns, each hopefully growing a fruit inside.
We grew a variety of heirloom breeds of tomatoes with an emphasis on pastes since we make so much of our tomato harvest into tomato sauce.
The DIY tomato cages are holding up very well.  They're so sturdy and its still easy to pick the fruit.  We stored them nested inside each other behind the shed covered with a tarp to protect them from the snow.
The fruit trees we planted earlier this year all seem to have taken to the planting well.  Even the apricot which  was nearly defoliated by the deer seems to have rebounded.  The current bushed produced a dozen very tasty currants.  The blueberries didn't do much, but they're still growing so there is still hope.  We transplanted some Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) we got from our friends Hannah and Erik as well as a handful of irises from a member of our community garden.  I like the idea of adding at least one perennial per year and so far we have been.  Strawberries and raspberries the first year, blueberries, currants, and a Russian lilac the second, fruit trees, sunchokes, and irises the third.  And I suppose that leaves out the perennial herbs!  Perennials are where its at, if you ask me!  Especially perennial food crops.
Our neighbor, Pam, is a crazy flower gardener the way we are crazy vegetable gardeners.  Her yard is amazing, quite a sight to behold.  This year she added an ornamental pea along our shared fence.  I like it a lot.  It compliments the earlier blooming clematis that grows along the same fence.  She probably helps bring loads of pollinators to our neighborhood with all those pretty flowers!  She inspires me to learn more about flower gardening myself.
And of course, it wouldn't be our garden if Matt wasn't trying to grow at least one sort of oddball crop.  That was how we got turned on to the wonders of the All Blue potato years back.  We didn't know it was so reliable, prolific, and tasty--though that's certainly a plus!  Matt just wanted to grow a potato that was purple all the way though.  Well, this year the odd crop of choice is an orange watermelon.  Growing a normal, red watermelon would be challenge enough with our relatively short growing season, but hey, why not try an orange fleshed one, too.  I gotta say though, the photos in the seed catalog did look pretty darn cool.  In person I can't vouch for that yet, but the leaves are cool looking.  Almost oak tree like.  There are some small fruits forming, but none yet bigger than a grape.  We're going to cut off the ends of the vines to encourage the fruits to grow bigger.  We never do that because it seems so ruthless and we just like to see things grow, but we'd rather have fruits than vines so we're going to give it a whirl.  We can be ruthless, if we have to be, I guess.
The watermelon vines.  They're in our front bed with the herbs.
And so the garden grows.

You Bring the Meaning - Inspiration Thursday

"Life is without meaning.  You bring the meaning to it.  The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be.  Being alive is the meaning." - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taking a Tiny Plane to See a Tiny Baby

One of my best friends, Alli, had a baby about a month ago.  This seemed like a perfect reason to make a trip back home to see my oldest of friends.  Instead of driving (which I generally dislike) I flew on the tiniest little plane I've ever been in.  I hadn't flown in years as I find the experience a bit off-putting, but in this case getting through security was a snap and I sure did enjoy the trip taking just a quarter of the time.
Let me go on for a minute about this tiny plane though.  I sat right behind the pilot.  And I mean right behind him. It was crazy.  No curtain, no barrier whatsoever.  In fact, they let one of the other passengers ride in the co-pilot seat.  I could see all the switches and dials which I found to be of great interest.
We took off in a storm that made for a bumpy ride.  At one point I actually caught air off my seat it was so bumpy!
I found it interesting how much closer to the ground the little plane flew than the larger jets I'm used to, only a couple thousand feet max.  It made for a good view of the terrain the whole time.  I saw the entire arch of a rainbow after the storm died down.  There were five other passengers and we were assigned out seats based on weight so that the plane was properly balanced.  It landed light as a feather though, bumpy flight aside.  And Alli was waiting for me in the lobby.
Then I spent the weekend eating too much and snuggling babies, mostly (though I did learn a new card game and visit various friends).  I got to see three of my friends' babies, in fact.  I love babies.  I love to cuddle and feed them, play with them, hold them, talk to them, pet their silky hair.  They're so small and soft and cuddly and they have that great baby scent (most of the time).  Her little pinky toe was like a miniature miracle.
Of course, there was also lots of sleep deprivation, endless diapers, sour milk smells, and, of course, crying to balance things out and make me feel glad about our decision to stay a child-free family.  I love babies for sure.  Just so long as they are other people's babies...
She's a good one, this little babe.  Totally worth a bouncy thunderstorm flight in a tin can with wings.  Totally.   I look forward to knowing her better.  I bet she's smart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Wiffle Ball Cat

I inadvertently found the perfect cat toy for Ginger while out on an evening bicycle ride with Matt a few weeks ago.  Its a wiffle ball.  I found it in the gutter.  I didn't pick it up with the intention of making it a cat toy, but the idea didn't take long to come to light.
See, Ginger loves chasing, stalking, batting, and, in general, playing with balls.  She has a few made just for cats, but she's also keen to improvise with a shooter marble, ping-pong ball, grape, or anything ball shaped, really.  She also like strings, but only if there is someone to play with (me, usually).  Balls she can fling around and chase like a madman all on her own.  She is a very playful kitty.

There is one problem though.  She is constantly getting them lost and/or stuck places--behind the sofa, under my sewing table, etc.  Frequently I cannot find one for her to play with and have to conduct a search.  That is where the brilliant new toy comes in.
The wiffle ball is light enough that Ginger can still send it flying across the room with a good whack of her paw, but large enough that it cannot get lost under neath the curio cabinet and the myriad of other nooks and crannies.  Plus, I was able to tie two short pieces of ribbon to the ball which make it even more fun for her.  She can grab it with her teeth as well as her paws.  Its a nice combination of her two favorite play things--a  ball and a string.  I'm glad that, like me, she is so easy to please with homemade entertainment.  That's my kitty!

Five Years Ago (Or I Never Saw This Coming)

Five Years Ago:
We bought store-bought bread.
     (Now we bake it.)
We didn't garden.
     (Now we grow all sorts of things.)
We owned and drove two cars.
     (Now we share one and bicycle and walk more.)
I couldn't sew a straight line.
     (Now sewing is one of my favorite pastimes and has saved our household loads of money.)
We ate highly processed canned soups and packaged grain side dishes.
     (Now we cook from scratch.)
We used plastic bags when shopping.
     (Now we always have our reusable bags handy.)
We didn't can or freeze or dry produce for storage.
     (Now we do so more and more each year.)
We didn't know about organic agricultural practices or genetically modified organisms, or, well, where food comes from in general.
     (Now we're more informed and connected to it and produce quite a bit ourselves.)
We rented house.
     (Now we've been homeowners for more than two years already!)
We bought canned beans at Wal-mart.
     (Now we cook dry beans and almost never shop at Wal-Mart.)
We didn't shop with attention to local producers.
     (Now we're proud to use Montana wheat, lentils, flax, etc., so the money supports our local economy.)
We maintained our hair with chemically-laden shampoos and conditioners.
     (Now we use an entirely plant-based shampoo and use apple cider vinegar as conditioner.)
We didn't buy anything in bulk.
     (Now we avoid SO much trash and save SO much money by refilling our bulk jars.)
We bought petroleum and chemical based cleaners.
     (Now we mostly use vinegar and baking soda.)
We hardly recycled and we didn't compost.
     (Now between the recycling and compost there is little to throw away.)
Making lefse - May 25, 2014
I am sure I could go on.  Knitting, farmer's markets, savings accounts, soap making, television viewing, clothes lines, pickling, homebrewing, and on and on.  But, I think I've made my point.
Grilled homegrown summer squash with "egg" rolls stuffed with homegrown cabbage and carrot - August 15, 2014
We didn't set out to do most of these things, really.  They just naturally followed in progression one after the other.  Its not like we consciously thought:  "We're going to start gardening.  That way we can start canning.  That way we don't have to buy disposable jars, will save money, and eat more whole foods."  That wasn't the thought process at all.  We just thought it might be fun to grow a few vegetables in our little flower bed.  It was just a simple starting point which brought us to walk a path we could never have predicted.  Its like that Lao Tzu saying:  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Its so true in nearly every sense.
Picking sour cherries - July 22, 2014
Its amazing how things can change.  I would never have dreamed of knowing and doing what I do know.  I suppose that is the way life is.  But, gosh, am I thrilled with what I've done in these past five years.  I feel like I am blossoming into myself more and more each year.  I wish that every single person could experience the joy that I feel in my continual (and I stress the word, continual) growth and evolution into a more intelligent, caring, self-reliant, gentle, thoughtful, earth-affirming person.  It feels good.  It feels rewarding.  It feels enriching.
One of my favorite tie-dyes - July 28, 2014
Anything is possible!