Sunday, June 30, 2013

Better Burgers and TVP

Better Burgers (A slightly altered version of the recipe found in Vegan Vittles by Jo Stepaniak)

1/4 C rolled oats
1 T Italian seasoning
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t dry mustard
2 T sesame seeds

3/4 C almost-boiling water
2 T ketchup
2 T tamari or soy sauce

1 T peanut butter

1/4 C flour
1 T nutritional yeast

  • Place first six ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Mix ketchup, soy sauce, water until blended.
  • Pour into dry mixture and stir well.
  • Let rest five minutes.
  • Add peanut butter and mix well.
  • Add in flour and yeast and mix well again.
  • Shape into four to six patties.
  • Fry in a lightly oiled pan or grill, brushing each side with oil.

When we first became vegetarians some seven or so years ago we made Better Burgers quite a bit.  Vegan Vittles was the first veg cookbook we bought, in fact.  We were still working on a vegetarian cooking repertoire and these burgers were comfort food that reminded us of flavors and textures the we were familiar with and enjoyed.  Our palates were not yet used to the more exotic flavors of the world which we've now been opened to through our dietary changes.

We don't make Better Burgers nearly as much these days--maybe once or twice a year-- in favor of burgers made from kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, etc.  Dry beans are much cheaper than textured vegetable protein (TVP) and since TVP--plant-based though it may be--is indeed still a processed food we've moved away from it and towards the whole food option.

TVP is made primarily from soybeans.  Its soy beans dried, crumbled, and with nearly all the fat removed.  When prepared it is similar to ground meat in texture.  It is used widely in food service cafeterias, especially at schools, hospitals, and businesses, as a cost-saving, fat-reducing mechanism.  For example, our cafeteria here on campus combines TVP with ground beef in dishes such as lasagna and meatloaf.  The students have no idea.  The idea is that the cafeteria saves money and provides a dish lower in fat and cholesterol for diners.   TVP is cheap and since it is dried when purchased it can be stored for a long time making it popular in food survival kits as well.

But frequently TVP is not organic and since it is made with soybeans I am not really interested anymore since virtually all soybeans are genetically modified unless certified organic.  When I first became a vegetarian I knew nothing about GMOs in food.  I was only concerned with animals in my foods.  But, the more I learned and the closer I became to where my food was coming from the more I realized I was concerned with both aspects.

People frequently mention concerns to me about eating too much soy because they know I am a vegetarian.  I myself believe that soy itself is not the problem (I'm looking at Japan, China, etc with a centuries long history of eating whole and fermented soy foods without crazy rates of breast cancer and shrinking testicles and all sorts of things that have been blamed on soy in the US). To my mind, its that we're breaking down soy into bits and parts like soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, hydrolyzed soy protein, etc., instead of using the whole.  And that we're messing with the genes of this ancient plant in new and completely unnatural ways of which we do not know the long-term implications.  We may not know for generations.

That is all new.

I don't really want to be a test subject.  Its hard not to be in this day and age, but I can try to reduce my exposure to undertested new products and practices.  So, I tend to avoid GMOs and processed soy (well, processed foods in general, really) except under special circumstances such as dinners out with friends, birthday parties, etc.  I'm not militant about it.  Its just my preference.

So, I couldn't begin to recall the last time we made Better Burgers.  We just make bean burgers now.  I am completely satisfied by regular old bean burgers.  Matt enjoys them a lot, too, but I think that he does have a special liking for the Better Burgers.  I can't deny that they do have a wonderful flavor and texture because of the TVP.  They're about a million times better, in my opinion, than nearly all commercially available veg burgers, many of which are also TVP based.

So when Matt spotted a pouch of organic TVP at the discount grocer last month he purchased it expressly with making Better Burgers in mind.  It was a nice treat and perfectly timed for grilling season with tender grilled asparagus on the side.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

One Crazy Lime Pie

I had a little kitchen session with an old friend this week which resulted in our making the craziest pie I've ever heard of.  A key-lime sort of pie--except made with six avocados, no refined sugar, no grain, no dairy, no eggs, and served frozen and completely raw.  Pretty crazy, right?

Actually, the really crazy part was how decadently delicious it was.
Especially since I openly dislike avocados.  And am not really big on dates either.

RaeLeigh and I have known each other since I was born and as long as we both can remember.  She is nine month my senior and my parents are her Godparents.  Our mothers both worked at the county courthouse and our fathers are both in law enforcement.  RaeLeigh didn't have any blood sisters and so Lisa, Sarah, and I became her sisters in spirit.

After several years during college where we didn't see each other much RaeLeigh and I have developed a new routine of getting together for dinner every month or two (or occasionally more if time gets away from us for a while).  This month RaeLeigh sent me a link for this icebox pie and suggested instead of a dinner date that we have a baking date.  Or, not really baking since its a raw, frozen pie, but a dessert date, if you will.
I was skeptical.   I do not like avocados.   RaeLeigh knows this and thought perhaps it might be a way for me to learn to enjoy it.  I agreed that with enough coconut, honey, and almonds it was indeed possible.  So we set a date.
We didn't really think things through, I guess, in that we actually ended up having to set two back-to-back dates.  The pie has to freeze before serving and for whatever reason we didn't account for that time wise. Not really wanting to stay up until midnight in order to have dessert I just said I come back over the next day.  It was more than worth the wait.
Between the coconut oil and the avocados the pie is unbelievably smooth and creamy.  Its basically melts in your mouth.  The lemon and lime juice and zest make it refreshing and delightful--perfect for summer.  It did not taste at all like avocados, just citrus--creamy, creamy citrus.
But I think perhaps the bit of this recipe that is most interesting to me is the crust.  Its just almonds, coconut, and dates.  That's it--three ingredients--which made it a snap to make.  It was sweet without being overpoweringly sweet and wonderfully nutty and chewy.  I think RaeLeigh and I both agreed that is was a pretty brilliant crust.  I could see using it on a variety of recipes.  A few that jump to mind right off are as the base for any sort of cream pie, or the base for fruit pizza, or as the topping for a fruit dessert--something sort of like a crisp, but not baked, or even sprinkled over yogurt in the morning like granola.

I think we only made two minor adjustments to the linked recipe.  One, we didn't have a deep-dish pie plate and so we made a regular one and had enough filing left over to make six little mini, cupcake sized pies.  They were cute, froze faster, and were easier to cut and serve than the full pie.  In the future we think this might be the way to go all around.
And the second adjustment was just that of the six avocados we had one was way to firm still and so we only used five instead of the six called for.

 Yuuuuuuummmmmmy.  Good idea, RaeLeigh.  I'm glad I didn't let the avocados and dates scare me off.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feed Upon Strawberries, Sugar, and Cream!

"Curly Locks, Curly Locks wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash the dishes nor yet feed the swine.
But sit on a cushon and sew a fine seam,
And feed upon strawberries, sugar, and cream."
Matt didn't remember ever hearing that nursery rhyme.  Nor did he ever recall eating strawberries with sugar and cream.  I learned this when I suggest we have a bowl of strawberries with sugar and milk for dessert several nights ago.

What an absolutely scrumptious, yet still simple and wholesome dessert!!  Even with a little sprinkle of sugar I feel pretty darn good about eating just a big bowl of fruit to satisfy my sweet-tooth.  And it tastes so good, especially when the milk starts turning pink.  I told Matt is reminded me of strawberry Nesquik, but, you know, actually made with strawberries.
We've gotten quite the strawberry harvest over the last month.  Matt just picked what he thinks might be the last of them this morning.  We have both June-bearing and ever-bearing varieties though so we should get a second, smaller crop later on.   We ate what seemed like loads of them in all their vibrant, luscious red glory and still managed to freeze some for smoothies and the like later on, too.
Matt proclaimed this morning--over a quiche made with homegrown chard, spinach, and cauliflower--that he thinks we're officially in the season-of-eating-from-the-garden-every-single-day.  It sure tastes good.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Community Garden Picnic - Inspiration Thursday

Matt in our personal plot of onions.
Matt in the personal plot with the common ground off to the right.
For gardening and homemaking inspiration we need go no further than our community garden.  That collection of individuals is amazing.  What a wealth of knowledge to be had!
Common ground veg which will be donated to the needy in our community with the gathering picnic crowd in the background.
A beautiful individual plot...I don't remember who it belonged to.
Want to learn how to grow thousands of pounds of produce?  Need help organically combating insects?  Want to learn how to keep chickens?  Or start brewing your own kombucha?  Want to infuse oils, balms, and vinegar with herbs?  Or how to can, freeze, or dry your garden bounty?  Want to try gardening by the moon phases and signs?  Or raising green manure cover crops?  Need more info on how to manage a home compost pile?  Or another great recipe for a rhubarb dessert?  Want to learn a great method for caring for garden tools so they last a lifetime?  Or how to make plant markers that won't fade or run in the rain and sun?
The garden even provides veg burgers at the summer picnic.  And, to my delight, there were three different fruit salads.  And, of course, chips!  I almost never buy chips and so they are such a treat.
The gardeners digging in to a good meal.
These things and more we've learned about in varying degrees of detail from our fellow gardeners.

The tables loaded with potluck goodness.
We joined the community garden out of desire to garden and necessity (limited garden space at our rental) and stay with them now (even with our fairly large home garden) just because we love it.  We enjoy the company of the other gardeners and all they have to share and show us and vice versa.  We enjoy being a part of feeding the less fortunate in our community good, fresh, organic produce--more than 3,000 pounds last year.  We like the relevant seminars and the sense of community and friendship at the summer picnic and harvest dinner.
Common ground onion crop.
Common ground garlic forming scapes.
Women and men, toddlers and seniors, young families and childless couples, those with full time jobs and those in retirement,  wealthy and poor, those radiating health and those who can do just as much as their ailing body permits, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians, Agnostics, and a wide range on the spiritual spectrum, friends and relative strangers, the laid-back and the formal, and on and on.  Its a wonderful, diverse section of humanity that is a powerful--albeit quietly so--a powerful force for inspiration and goodwill within my community and I am so thankful to be a part of it.  I've learned so much...and not just about gardening.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


A table ready for friends and food.
Flowers from the garden.
Plates, tableware, and napkins at the ready.
Cauliflower peeking out during a garden tour.
Garlic starting to form scapes.
Carrots filling out their green tops.
The last blooms on the pea vines.
Peas swelling inside their pods.
Raspberries forming fruits.
Greens growing wildly.  Matt picked and processed 10 1/2 pounds of spinach yesterday.
Freaky strawberries.
With numerous bottom points.
Grilling a pile of pepper, summer squash, mushroom, and tofu kebabs.
Josh with his long red dreadlocks that make me wistful for my own long red dreadlocks of yore.
...and more friends.
And silly friends.
And a very happy Beth.  Happy Solstice.   I hope you all are enjoying the shifting seasons.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June Peas

We've now picked and shelled more than three pounds of peas so far this season.  We had our first harvest Thursday and a second harvest last night.
Three pounds shelled.  Yay.  That's more than last year and I do believe we'll get at least one more picking out of those vines yet.  Maybe more.  Then the vines will be torn out and composted and the bed replanted with squash and tomatoes (or that's the plan at this point, but as with all garden plans it is subject to change).
I really like how happy Matt looks in this photo.  He is so happy in the garden.
I think the sound of those first peas hitting the bottom of my shelling bowl is really grand.  It makes a satisfying little tinkling noise against the metal that fades as the bowl fills up and muffles it.  To think we put a few of those little guys in the ground in late March and from them sprung all these!
I like the way the inside of the pods feel as I slip my thumb down  between the split halves of the pod and nudge the the peas out the bottom where they can tickle against the bottom of my bowl.  The inside of the pod is so smooth, cool, and silky with just a slight slipperiness of moisture.  I think it feels good.
I rarely take self-portraits because, well, I am not good at it.  But, I was pleased with this one of me and my basket-o-peas.
As we shell the pods Matt keeps tabs (and asks me to keep tabs) on how many peas are in each pod as a sort of personal contest or source of curiosity.  He likes to find out what the fullest pod will be.  I guess he finds it fascinating to see just how many peas are possible.  Both harvests this year the most we've found was eight in a single pod.  That's pretty good.
I've also eaten creamed potatoes and peas three times already.  But, not with homegrown potatoes yet. They're still not quite ready.  But they are looking good.  Matt thinks we had 100% germination success with potatoes this year.   Yay.   The more the merrier, I say.  I am a potato fanatic.
I have a photo hanging at home in a round, vintage, wooden frame of Matt and I shelling our pea harvest into a cereal bowl in 2011.  Actually, you can see the photo in the middle of this post here.  I am glad the scale of our harvests have so increased that we had to seriously upgrade bowls.  We'd have needed many cereal bowls last night to get the job done.  Its nice to think we can eat the peas fresh AND still have some to freeze for later, too.   That is a super gardening bonus.  Fresh now.  Fresh frozen later.  Those peas will taste SO good in a warm vegetable soup some cold January evening.

But, I don't even want to think about that yet.  Its 80 degrees out and that makes me happy on this June summer day.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Oh, gooseberries....where have you been all my life!?!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Family Song - Inspiration Thursday

On my mother's side we have a what we call The Family Song.  It's true title is Family (Soar With Eagles).  But, we all just call it The Family Song.

My highly musical family sings it together at all sorts of gatherings such as our family reunions, our graduations, our weddings, and our funerals.  It has been with us through our greatest joys and triumphs as a family, as well as our deepest sorrows and pains.  It means so much to me that it is challenging to sing it because of the lump of emotion that rises in my throat when I do.  Even hearing these strangers sing it brings a mist of tears to my eyes.  It is so beautiful and full of meaning for me.  For us.

"This is my family.  They are a part of me.  They make me shine.  There love is mine.  I know that I can be all I expect to be.  I know that I'll be free to fly.  Soar with eagles.

Now every time I sing I will be remembering that laughter rings when someone sings of love.  I know that I can be all I expect to be.  I know that I'll be free to fly.  Soar with eagles.

Let laughter ring!  Let children sing their songs of joy and love!  Songs of love from above.  Songs of love.

There is a world of need.  Full of hunger, full of sadness, full of greed.  But a new light shines.  Its this family of mine.  I know that we can be all we expect to be.  I know that we'll be free to fly.  Soar with eagles."

I've been blessed with an amazing family--both immediate and extended.  They are farmers and teachers, sailors and musicians, parents and cousins, runners and mountain climbers, actors and writers, brothers and sisters, policemen and soldiers, aunts and uncles, bankers and nurses, craftsman and scientists, and so much more.  They are kind and good people who I am blessed to have in my life--even if I don't get to see all of them as much as I might like to.

And they have enriched my life and helped shape me into the woman I am today.  For which I am so eternally grateful.
Flowers transplanted from my grandmother's garden which were gifted to me by my mom.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Months of Growing

Peas on hemp twine.  5/19/2013
The bed of greens:  spinach, chard, beets, and kale.  5/30/2013
Matt looking over the broccoli and cauliflower with the bed of greens behind him and the potato patch at the very rear.  6/6/2013
The first broccoli of the year.  6/6/2013
Row of carrots and a few strands of persistent grass.  This is in one of the beds we Matt just dug this year and had previously been lawn.  6/6/2013
Peas are filling out in their pods and will expect to start eating them on the weekend.  6/9/2013
Broccoli plants are huge and in the center is the start of a head of broccoli which we ate with dinner this week.   6/9/2013
Spinach, a little haggard from the hail storm.   6/9/2013
Swiss chard in a bed of freshly sifted compost.  6/9/2013
Matt between the cauliflower and broccoli bed and the bed of greens shortly after covering the bed of greens with compost.  6/9/2013
Checking for leaf-miners in the bed of greens.  6/9/2013
Standing in the sunshine in the midst of the potato patch.  6/9/2013
Pinching off the bolting flower heads in the bed of greens.  6/11/2013
The bed of greens, many of the spinach bolting due to the heat.  6/17/2013
A garden overview.  6/17/2013