Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

The End of Suburbia? Peak Oil and Its Implications

Disclaimer: This post is not about food, this is one of my 'other random musings', if you are looking for food, scroll down to the next post. This is also a really long post, and it could have been much longer, but I figured I was pushing my luck in getting anyone to read this anyway. You have been warned. :-)

Second, the title for this piece, The End of Suburbia, is taken from a documentary by the same name. The film was highly influential in my life, and I would recommend anyone interested in the topic below watch the film.

Without further fanfare, enjoy yourself a 'J-Style Rant.'

So, if any of you knew me, you would probably be surprised that I haven’t written about the concept of ‘peak oil’ and its implications until now. Well, I have been reluctant, as peak oil is a complex topic and I’ve still barely been able to wrap my head around what it all means. I will spare the scientific explanation and instead refer you to others more knowledgeable and eloquent on the technical aspect of it than I am. For a more technical overview, I would recommend reading Kenneth Deffeyes, Colin J. Campbell, Jeremy Leggett, or M. King Hubbert himself (who came up with the theory of peak oil and illustrating oil reserves using the bell curve).

The purpose of this post is to lay out a ‘laymen’s’ summary of the concept of peak oil and what that means to, well, you and I really. The concept and what it implies is very important to me, as I feel it has the potential to change the way we do pretty much everything, and thus it has been one of the primary factors behind my recent lifestyle changes.

Let’s start with a brief overview of oil:

Oil is the driving force behind western civilization; it is hands down the most important aspect of our society and is what has allowed us, especially in the United States, to ‘party it up’ as we have been for last couple hundred years. Oil is involved in pretty much everything either directly or indirectly. I have challenged others before, and challenge you all again to find something in your homes that isn’t there directly or indirectly as a result of oil. We are oil; we wear it (synthetic fibers), eat it (petroleum based pesticides and fertilizers), and drive it (cars, obviously); our houses would not be as they are without it; the gadgets we have wouldn’t be here without it; the trinkets we have in our houses wouldn’t be here without it; I could go on and on.

I liken oil to an addiction, as many others do in the sense that we are unable to live without it and generally unwilling to accept the negative consequences our dependence on this ‘black gold’ has leveled upon us.

Brief Intro to the Concept of Peak Oil:

The United States was, not too long ago, the world’s oil producer; we had it coming out the wazoo! Business was booming and our society was progressing technologically by leaps and bounds – the standard of living for the average person rose significantly. Many thought the oil here would never run out. Well, except a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert. Hubbert realized that oil, being a finite (limited) resource would eventually run out, and he wanted to determine when that would occur. In the mid 1950s, Hubbert asserted that the United States’ oil production would peak sometime around 1970. He was looked at, as most are when they are the bearers of bad news, as a bit of a loon, and he wasn’t taken all that seriously. Turns out though, he was right. The United States peaked in oil production in 1971. Of course, nobody had an ‘aha!’ moment in 1971 when they realized that we peaked and that Hubbert was, in fact, right; it’s something that we saw in hindsight as we noticed the decline in domestic oil production.

What does this mean though, that the US peaked? Imagine a bell-shaped curve. Basically, in the United States’ oil producing heyday, we were quickly traveling up the steep part of the curve, meaning that each year, more and more oil was extracted from the ground. That is, until 1971, after that, our production leveled out and then went into terminal decline. This led us to becoming a net oil importer rather than exporter. This made for tricky foreign policy on the part of the US government as we now have to rely on others for our ‘fix’.

Well, When Will The World Peak Then?

This is a tough question that I, and really nobody else, have a solid answer to. There are many factors that go into calculating when the world will peak and many problems with the information we have to go on. Hubbert asserted later in his life that the world would reach its peak oil production in the late twentieth century, though the oil embargo of the 1970s and the resulting efficiency measures have likely pushed that off a bit. OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), in a move that some say was to increase their revenues from the oil they export, changed their reported reserves in the late 1980s, even though no more new oil reserves had been discovered. Why did they do this? Well, I personally don’t know, but many theorize, and I agree, that it had to do with quotas. Basically, the amount of oil they were ‘allowed’ to pump was in relation to the amount of oil they had in reserve. The more oil in reserves the more one could pump and thus the more petrodollars that could be obtained, so why not inflate the numbers? We must remember long-term thinking isn’t something that many humans are all that great at.

How about new discoveries? The discovery of new oil fields peaked back in the late 1960s. This means that each year, as more and more oil is pumped from the ground to keep up with ever increasing demand, oil discoveries are on the decline. Not to mention, the fields they have discovered since then are ‘small’ in relation to say, Saudi Arabia’s massive Ghawar oil field.

Many of the world’s largest oil fields are aging. And the technology used to extract the oil at first wasn’t the most efficient and thus much oil was wasted, not to mention natural gas (another natural resource that is peaking in many areas), which is generally ‘flared off’, or essentially left to burn. The remaining oil – well, all that has been discovered – it’s in many of the regions of the world that aren’t very fond of us Westerners coveting their natural resources.

So when will we peak? Well, some claim that we already have, other, more conservative estimates say it could still be 10-20 years off. Basically though, many feel that we will peak in our lifetime.

What Does This Mean?

I think many, when they hear of the concept of peak oil, imagine it as this definitive moment when the world will end. It’s not like that. All peak oil says it that oil production will eventually peak, level off, and then go into decline. No biggie, right? We’ll still have half the oil left after all.

Well, not exactly. Things aren’t going to change overnight, this happens more gradually but there are still issues. The problem is three-fold: first is our level of reliance on the substance and that there is no silver bullet alternative to it (especially given all its applications, but more on that in a moment); the second is the growing world demand for a substance in decline; and third, most of the ‘easy’ oil (light sweet crude) has already been used up. So now we have to try to access countries’ ‘more difficult’ oil reserves such as the tar sands, shale, or heavy oil in Venezuela. Other oil, say in the Middle East, that’s politically difficult and beyond the scope of this piece.

On a large scale, this could mean major resource wars, when we realize that OPEC can’t up its production because the oil simply isn’t there, and that others are willing to fight for the remaining reserves in the less friendly places. On a more human level, it could mean a lot of hunger in parts of the world that have already experienced their fair share, as well as the possibility of our own affluent populations going hungry.

The End of Suburbia?

How is the decline in oil going to affect most of us? Well, probably in more of the same ways it already has, the prices of everything will continue to rise, and could to a point where many of the things we enjoy today are a thing of the past.

Most troublesome though is the literal infrastructure of America. America was built on the assumption of a never ending supply of cheap, abundant oil. If you live in America and have never been elsewhere, you probably don’t realize just how unique our country is and why. We have the most sprawling, inefficiently planned society in the history of industrial civilization. Many of us live so far from where we work that getting there any other way than driving is simply not an option. We live in unnatural suburbs, that mimic the ‘country life’, except as James Howard Kunstler notes, we get all the negative aspects of city and the country but none of the positive ones. People don’t know their neighbors, don’t want to talk to them, the ‘nature’ around them is in the form of cars, cars, and more cars, sitting outside of cookie cutter houses on streets named after the trees that once lived there. We don’t have access to fresh, local food, or decent public transportation, and the idea that we can change that overnight is laughable.

So what happens to those suburbanites when gas is $20 a gallon and they can no longer afford to drive to work? What happens when the grocery stores can no longer stock strawberries in February, at least not at a price that you or I could afford? More basically, how will we feed ourselves if we no longer have ready access to mass quantities of fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides? Our soil in most places now is dead for all intents and purposes and has merely turned into a medium with which we turn oil and natural gas into food. These are questions I grapple with everyday.

I think the title of James Howard Kunstler’s truly riveting book The Long Emergency is very illustrative. This is what we may see, in short a depression that doesn’t end, at least not while we’re still around. How could it be otherwise? The price of everything is inextricably linked to the price of oil, as it should be; it’s what makes this all possible.

Many quickly point their fingers to the alternatives: hydrogen powered cars, ethanol, nuclear, and so on. The problem here is these ‘solutions’ only touch on part of the energy shortage. These alternatives could provide much in the way of transportation and electrical power generation, but nukes can’t feed us. That is a big problem. Nor do I think any of these alternatives will really be viable in the near future. Many will point to organic agriculture in response to the food issue, but there are two problems with that. First, there is a lot of knowledge about actual farming that has been lost, the ability to understand the soil, climate, rainfall and how that will affect the crops, and so on. The second problem is that land that has been industrially farmed cannot just be switched over to organic agriculture. The soil is essentially dead and takes time to build back up, a long time if you are talking top soil, hundreds of years, which is time that we don’t have.


I wish I could end this post with a ‘Here’s what to do’ plan, but unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, nor do I see any solutions that will take care of these problems without creating their own set of problems. This is why I truly feel that our stupidity is intimately tied to our intelligence. We seem to have so many of these ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ moments, where we achieve an amazing feat only to find out that many of the problems that the ‘solution’ caused were not worth the ones ‘solved’.

Where I diverge from many people in my thinking is that I do not think we will go ‘backwards’, meaning, some tend to paint this picture that the post-petroleum world is going to look like times of old: no running water, people in horses and buggies, you get the idea. I don’t think that is what is going to happen here. Humans don’t go backwards, that’s not how we work. Technology is not all bad and definitely has its place. I still think we will have electricity, running water, the internet, and so on, but feel that our local communities will become much more vital to our survival, as we can’t just go buy bottled water or food from elsewhere if there is something wrong with ours. So in some ways a scaling back of society could be good for communities and humans in general. I really feel the robotic way most of us live now is not human.

What I can say is this, I have no idea what is going to happen, whether or not we will make the ‘right’ decisions, or how any of this will affect us – if at all, but at the very least, learning to live with a little less and in ways that don’t require oil is highly rewarding, even if done just for the sake of doing so. Our lives are so cluttered with stuff, work, etc., that most of us never stop to live. If our money is no longer worth anything or there is not much worth buying beyond our basic necessities, we will have to find other ways to spend our time, such as enriching our minds and connecting with others. Learning to live in ways that don’t require oil or at least not nearly as much, such as organic gardening, cooking and preserving your own food, getting around by food or bike, is good for the mind and body. And taking ourselves out of the ‘global stuff chain’ as much as we can will allow us to, well as a wonderful quote says ‘live simply so that others may simply live.’

In spite of all of this, I am a cautious optimist. I’ve seen what humans can accomplish when they are in a bind. We are highly ingenious, it’s just sad that, to this point, most of our ingenuity has been used to come up with more sophisticated ways of killing people. That aside, I do see some very positive things, mainstream individuals are starting to understand that things are not as they should be. And I don’t believe that humans are naturally selfish individuals, it wouldn’t have been in our evolutionary interest to be so – I think we were ‘programmed’ to be this way as a result of how our society has been shaped. With that said, once people understand, and then begin to accept what is happening, I think we will see progress. I just hope it comes soon enough.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read this novella. I could have gone into much more detail and I left many things out for the sake of not writing an entire book about the topic (though I probably could). I also don’t mention that this isn’t the only resource we rely upon that is getting to be in short demand, there is also talk of our running out of natural gas, potable water, arable land, and so on, but I focused on oil as I feel that, for most of the people who read this blog, this is going to be what affects you the most.

If you want to know more about the topic, I highly suggest reading The Long Emergency by James Howard Kuntsler, anything by Richard Heinberg, Michael Ruppert, Matthew Simmons (Simmons is an energy investor, he has a vested interest in knowing when supplies are going to run out), or Michael T. Klare, just to name a few, as well as those authors I noted earlier if you are interested in a more technical look at the topic. Also, if anyone questions any of the assertions made in this piece, or wants to know specific sources used, please just email me or leave a comment, I'd be happy to dialogue and provide my sources.

Update: A commenter, David, provided a link to an excellent source of information, which I thank him very much for sharing. This is an excellent 'crash course' as to the current state of things. It provides a comprehensive, though brief background on many complex topics, all interrelated, in an easy to understand manner. If any of you have the time, I highly recommend checking it out.

'Til next time!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quesadillas de Frijoles Negros Refritos y Arroz (Refried Black Bean and Rice Quesadilla)

I hope I got the translation right. If anyone out there knows Spanish and wants to correct me, please, by all means, do so! I am essentially trying to 'learn' Spanish via eating Mexican food. :-)
These were really, really good. I can't believe, seeing how much we love Mexican food in my house, that I've never made refried black beans until now. What's wrong with me?! Refried black beans rock!

(Notice how I sneak in greens in the oddest places? How else can I make sure Brett eats his greens? Gotta be a bit sneaky sometimes, and it helps that spinach is seriously one of the best veggies there are, period!)

Frijol Negro Refrito y Arroz Quesadillas

Refried Black Beans:
2 cups black beans, cooked
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
splash veggie broth
juice of half a lime
garlic powder
onion powder
chili powder
Mexican oregano
dash of white pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the peppers and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a seperate bowl, heat 1 tsp coconut oil. Fry the black beans until they begin to get mushy and split.

Transfer everything to a large bowl and combine with a mixer or potato masher.

The Rest of the Filling:
1/2 cup of corn, cooked
1 cup long grain brown rice, cooked
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

Mix corn and rice together in a bowl.

Heat a few tablespoons of veggie broth in a small sauce pan. Add the spinach (in batches if necessary) and cook until wilted. Drain any excess liquid.

The 'Other Stuff':

Layer beans, rice and corn, and spinach in warmed tortillas.

Fry if desired and top with guacamole and Tomatillo-Jalapeno Green Sauce.

We will be making these again very soon!

'Til next time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Southwestern Lentil Burgers with Spicy Shoe String Yams and Roasted Asparagus

This meal was really good. I modified the recipe from one of Chandelle's that can be found here. I basically changed the spice combination to suit our tastes and changed up the ingredients based on what we had on hand.
'Burgers' are a great summer meal as you can make up a large batch, freeze what you don't use, and have yummy dinners that require the stove to be on for just long enough to cook the burgers. I don't know about anyone else, but I like to avoid using appliances that heat the place up when it's hot!

Note: Don't get the 'super-ultra-mega' big burger buns like we did. I had to make the patties HUGE, these were so big we didn't need the sides! In my own defense, these buns had the fewest preservatives in them.

Southwestern Lentil Burgers with Spicy Shoe String Yams

Lentil Burgers:
1/2 cup green lentils (raw)
2 cups veggie broth
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup Matzoh meal
1/4 cup long grain brown rice, cooked
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
juice of half a lime
2 tbsp Bragg's
chili powder

The Rest of the Stuff:
whole wheat (or whole grain) burger buns
leaf lettuce
sliced cucumber
sliced avocado
sliced red onion
chipotle vegan mayo (I just mixed some chipotle chili powder, cumin and salt in some Veganaise)

Bring broth to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain any excess liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the peppers, garlic and onion and cook for 10-15 minutes or until soft, drain any excess liquid.

Combine all other ingredients with the lentils.

When cooled, form into patties.

Heat just a bit of coconut oil in a small skillet.

Fry for 5 or so minutes on each side until golden brown.

Spicy Shoe String Yams:
1 large yam, cut into very thin strips
1 tbsp coconut oil
chipotle chili powder
cayenne pepper
ground coriander
dash cinnamon
dash cocoa
Mexican oregano
Preheat oven to 450.

Toss yams with oil and seasonings. Layer in a baking dish.

Roast, uncovered for 30 minutes or until soft.

We also made some roasted asparagus to go with the meal.

Aside from the size of the burger, this was an excellent meal!

'Til next time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Garden Update #8

The themes of the week have been aphids and blooms. Let's start with the aphids. We had thought we had gotten the habanero under control using lemon juice, but we were very wrong. Turns out the aphids were going and hiding under the leaves when we'd spray them and that the lemon juice does not work on them.
Now I know it's not very nice of us, but we are launching a 'war on aphids', it's either them or our plants. So we decided to use a more 'potent' organic pest remedy: a combination of boiled garlic, cayenne pepper, oil, and natural dish soap. I did a lot of research online and found that this is a fairly 'sure fire' way to get rid of aphids, however, I did not take note of the part that said to only spray the plant once a week. We really sprayed the habanero good with the stuff, and then came back the next day and did it again. Needless to say, the spray did kill all the aphids on the habanero, but it also got all the blooms and kind of did a number on the habanero. It's survival is a bit tenative at the moment.

And of course, since our peppers share the same space, now they all have aphids on them. None of them are as infested as the habanero was (it came with aphids from the store), so hopefully we can get it before it gets too bad. We've decided that we will spray them once, lightly, then go back an hour or so later and rinse them off, and repeat in a week if necessary.

Aside from the aphids, which don't kill the plant, they just stunt its growth, we've had a lot of progress. Everything is growing and blooming. Sadly, due to the flippin' constant wind and rain we've had in Missouri this spring, the Hungarian Wax pepper I showed you guys last week broke off in a spurt of wind. But there is more where that came from. The peppers are all blooming like crazy and the Community Garden plot is looking excellent. Blooms galore there as well.

Check out the Community Garden:

And some bloomage:

Here is the container garden (I apologize for the pictures, it has been really windy here lately):

New Mexican Chile start.

Serrrano pepper start.

Hot banana pepper.

So, aside from the aphids, which I think we can take care of, things are going well. And with all the rain we've been having, it's required very little effort on our part.

'Til next time!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yummy Vegan Wedding Food, Another 5 Things About Me, and A Grocery Store/CSA Wrap Up

First off I'd like to give a big thanks to everyone who wished me well during my 'tooth ordeal', it means a lot! I'm happy to report that I'm back in action! I am able to eat solid food and have really been enjoying it. My first 'celebratory' meal was vegan sushi. I love sushi! We made avocado rolls, cucumber rolls, and avocado/cucumber rolls. We, as always, added pickled ginger directly to the roll.

Last night, we had the wonderful honor of watching some good friends of ours get married. The ceremony, with some glitches, but with a sense of humor about it, was wonderful and both the bride and groom looked amazing. Both so happy! Brett was able to get a picture of the vegan dish prepared especially for yours truly.

Not only was I honored that they made a special dish for me - it was unbelievable! And the guy who prepared the food had never cooked vegan before, all I can say is he seems to have a knack and perhaps should. He marinated portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinegar and then stuffed it with ratatouille. It was topped with a bit of faux cheese and he made a balsamic reduction to go on top. It was out of this world! Seriously it looked and tasted like something you'd get at a really fancy restaurant. After we got ours, the meat eaters got in on the action and cleared them out! The omni's even enjoyed them. I was told that he would give the recipe, so I'm going to make sure I get it, I'll make that whenever I want to wow someone with vegan food!

Romina tagged me to tell you all another five things about myself. This is the third time I've done this! I'm running out of interesting 'Jen Tid-bits' but here you go.

1. I have never wanted a wedding, nor to have children. I guess I'm just not a 'traditional' person. Brett and I will get 'married' eventually, but neither want the fuss and hassle nor are we religious, so will likely do so at a courthouse. We are already committed to each other, we've lived together for 5 years, we just want to legal recognition at this point.

2. I'm sure this comes as no surprise, but I'm not into fashion, I like to look presentable, but don't really put a whole lot of fuss into it - never have. I've learned what colors and fits of clothing work for me and stick with that. Unfortunately, the colors that look the best on me are my least favorite colors: orange, red, pink, mustard, etc. Basically shades of red. So most of my clothes are colors I don't actually like. My favorite color, oddly, is brown, and I happen to look alright in that too, so it's not all bad.

3. I'm a very 'serious' person, I suppose you could say. But I'm equally as silly as I am serious. I love crass, politically incorrect humor. I love to make fun of myself, others and uncomfortable situations, it helps me cope with the reality we currently live in. I think humor is essential to a full, healthy life, and can help make times of strife more bearable.

4. I value honesty above being 'right'. What I mean by that is, say you are a racist, sexist bigot, I would rather you be honest about it, even though most people wouldn't consider those feelings 'right', than put on some facade and poorly hide your obvious 'ism's'. We can't solve really hard problems unless we can face our own 'ism's', it's tough, uncomfortable, but we all have them.

5. If I met the person I used to be now, I would want to kick their ass :-) or at the very least I would have considered myself a 'douche'. I used to be a very close-minded, selfish individual who cared only for myself. I also made horrible decisions, which I think most young-ins have the propensity to do. However, as I've gotten older I've consciously tried to explore my own short comings and do what I can to actually be the person I'd like to be.

Now I have to 'tag' five people to tell us five things about themselves.

Let's see:

Jessy from Happy Vegan Face; Lisa - the Show Me Vegan; Kumquat Peekapoo from The Path of the Vegan; Callina from Epic Eclectic; and M from My Face Is On Fire.

And finally, I will end this post with a grocery store/CSA wrap up. Our CSA bag was much larger this week thanks to the weather starting to cooperate (aside from far more rain than usual and lots of wind!).

Here is our grocery store haul:

I never know where to start. I'm going to change it up this week. Starting from the back left: pickled ginger, organic Mexican style cheese (for Brett, he likes regular cheese on black bean quesadillas), organic veggie broth, organic plain rice milk, organic Fair Trade Sumatra coffee, sushi nori, whole wheat burger buns, Newman O's, organic strawberries (from California!), a Sweet and Sara Peanut Butter S'more, sea salt, an Alternative Baking Company vegan Espresso Chocolate Chip cookie, wasabi powder, 3 organic California avocados, 2 organic cucumber, 2 organic yams, vegan jack, quick oats, organic frozen sweet corn, and black peppercorns.

Here are the peppers and such: 2 organic red bell peppers, poblano pepper, organic garlic, habanero, jalapenos, and serrano peppers.

Here's our CSA bag for the week:

It's all organic. We've got leaf lettuce, spinach, green onions, spearmint, radishes, and asparagus. I can't wait to eat that asparagus, it's so good!

Well, I'll try to get back on later to post the weekly garden update and catch up on all your blogs!

'Til next time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sesame Ginger Soba Noodles and Thanksgiving in May?

For dinner a few nights ago, I made a Sesame Ginger sauce, since I haven't been able to eat completely solid foods, we served it over soba noodles, instead of rice and veggies which we usually prefer. I also added some adzuki beans to it. I wouldn't normally pair beans and noodles, as the beans sink to the bottom, but I've been needing protein.
The sauce turned out really well, Brett raved about it, probably because it was sweet. :-)

Sesame Ginger Soba Noodles (with optional adzuki beans)

Sesame Ginger Sauce:
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, minced
4 Chiles Japones, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tbsp agave
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tbsp seasoned brown rice vinegar
2-4 tbsp hot water
cayenne (optional)

1/2 package of soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)
1 cup adzuki beans, cooked (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small sauce pan. Add the garlic, ginger and Chiles Japones and cook for about 10 minutes. Add all the other ingredients (except the cayenne), and simmer on low while the noodles are cooking.

Cook noodles according to package directions.

When noodles are finished, drain and rinse. Top with aduzki beans, sauce, sesame seeds and cayenne.

(If you want a thicker sauce, you can dissolve 1 tsp of arrowroot in a couple of tbsp of water, mix it in the sauce, bring it to a boil and remove it from the heat as soon as it is at the desired thickness.)

So, I have been running out of ideas for soft-ish things to eat, and to be completely honest, I am sick of soba noodles with sauce, mashed beans, and especially applesauce. Which is a shame, because I used to love applesauce, I've just been living off of it for a week.

Brett came up with the idea of cooking up a bunch of 'Thanksgiving-ish' sides, since they are all soft and savory, something I haven't had much of this week. So he went to the store and even cooked half of the dinner.

Brett steamed some carrots, cooked up a few cranberry beans, and made his world famous (ok, well I think they should be considered world famous) Garlicky Mashed Potatoes, when he makes them, they always turn out better than when I do it. Part of his bag of tricks includes using Silk Soy Creamer instead of regular soy, rice or hemp milk and using red potatoes instead of russet. It gives the potatoes a richer flavor.

Anyways, I made Veganomicon's Mushroom Gravy (so good!), steamed some spinach and prepared some vegan stuffing (from an organic mix bought from the store made with veggie broth). It was really good and hit the spot.

I think my stomach has shrunk, well, and my eyes were far bigger than my belly, I couldn't eat nearly all of this. I was stoked that there were leftovers so I can enjoy this again at lunch today.

I'm making Lentil and Potato soft tacos tonight! I think I can do the tortillas, just maybe not fried yet, the healing process is moving along quite quickly and I am starting to feel brave enough to 'test the waters'.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Orange-Chipotle Anasazi Bean Quesadillas

This recipe is dedicated to Alice (in Veganland).
She declared her undying love for all things citrus when I posted about the Spicy Chipotle-Citrus Marinated Veggie Fajitas, and her comment reminded me of this other citrusy-spicy recipe I created awhile back.

Oh, and this is my 100th post! Wowsa!

I can only imagine what these tasted like in crispy tortillas, as I was only able to eat the filling (at least I could eat that!), and boy, it was good. Brett made some tofu sour cream to go with this and it complimented perfectly.

It may not look very pretty but don't be fooled, this is a sweet, tangy and spicy delicious meal. The spice level bordered on too much for Brett, so I may add the habanero just to my dish next time.

Orange-Chipotle Anasazi Bean Quesadillas
Serves 2.

1 cup Anasazi beans, cooked
1/2 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and minced
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 habanero, seeded and minced (optional)
2-4 chipotle chilies en adobo, minced
1 tbsp adobo sauce
juice of one orange
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup veggie broth
2 tbsp dried cilantro
Mexican oregano
white pepper

picante sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of water. Add the peppers and onion and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Place all the filling ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan. Simmer, covered on low for 30-35 minutes or until sauce has thickened.

Layer mixture into warmed tortillas and top with guacamole, tofu sour cream and picante sauce.

'Til next time!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Garden Update #7

Things are going pretty well on the garden front. We’ve transplanted all our peppers into containers. Our porch is like a jungle! The broccoli and chard are still going nuts, but as of yet, I see nothing but leaves on the broccoli plant. Our Hungarian Wax Pepper plant already has a pepper on it!

The community garden plot is doing pretty well too. Some of the plants look a bit beat up, but I think they’ll be alright. When we bought our pepper starts, the hot banana peppers came in a pack of 6 starts. We planted 2 in containers on the porch, and the other 4 in the garden. Banana peppers are awesome pickled and I have no shortage of ideas for their use. We also planted the Roma tomato plant and put a tomato cage around it. We weeded and did a bit of tilling; all the rain and our walking around in it when it was muddy last week had caused a lot of deep pock marks and trenches. It looks a lot better now.

Check it out - here is the container garden:

The mighty broccoli plants.

Broccoli, hot banana pepper, bell pepper, and habanero pepper (the aphids are back, but we've got a fresh lemon juice concoction for them.)

The habanero again, our sad yucca, the chard, and cayenne pepper.

Orange bell pepper, jalapeno, Hungarian Wax, super chili, chocolate pepper, serrano, some flowers, and another hot banana pepper.

New Mexican Chile start. It's still moving along. I'd say it's about 3 inches tall now. I'm really hoping it takes off.

Our first pepper! It's a Hungarian Wax! It looks like it's going to grow upside down. I love when they do that. :-)

And the community garden:

This is a view of our plot at the community garden. Our plot is from the post you see at the left to the hay. I think some people got the impression that the whole thing was our plot. I wish!

I hope you guys can actually make something out of these pictures. There is grass going right up to the garden and the plants are still pretty small as we buried them deep. Good thing too because it's been a lot windier than I recall Missouri being lately.

Well, I'm pretty tired, we worked a lot today! I'm off to relax, oh and probably eat some vegan ice cream, calories have been more difficult for me to come by sans tooth.

'Til next time!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Our First CSA Box!

Well, so far the tooth, or lack there of rather, isn’t giving me too much trouble. It’s been a bit sore, but the real kicker is not being able to eat fully solid foods. I’ve been relegated to what I call ‘semi-solids’, yesterday I was able to eat a can of Amy’s Black Bean and Vegetable soup which I doctored up with some cayenne pepper (any surprise there?), and for dinner I cooked up some soba noodles and tossed them with some store bought Thai Peanut Chili sauce, which I doctored up with some hot chili sauce (again, any surprise?) and a splash of lemon juice. It hasn’t been too bad, but I’m used to eating far more substantial food than this (read: lots of beans, rice, fiberous fruits and veggies, etc), so I’ve been really hungry. Luckily, I was thinking when we ran to the store last night, I got some So Delicious Chocolate and Peanut Butter ice cream, which I've never had before (I think it's awesome that there is such a good selection of vegan ice cream). Now, I am a freak in that I don’t really like ice cream very much, I never have, but I was wanting chocolate and I knew I couldn’t eat the dairy-free wheat-free Newman O’s I love so much, they are just too crispy, so this is what I got. And it’s really good, just very sweet, I couldn’t eat very much of it.

Today has been pretty much the same, I can’t really eat anything crunchier than roasted asparagus, which isn’t very crunchy, but I’ve planned out some menu items that I think will make it tolerable. I just cringe to think that it could be weeks before I can eat tortilla chips or raw veggies. :-( But I am lucky that it hasn’t been for me how it was for Alice, I can actually eat some substantial foods (read: she was only able to eat blended food), just not anything I want. I'm so sorry you had to go through that Alice, it must have been rough.

We got our first ‘box’ from our CSA today! It was fairly skimp as the weather has been very rainy and quite cool as of late, but with my tooth situation, I think it worked out well that we didn’t have a ton of stuff around. Anyways, the forecast is looking great, warm temperatures, no rain for the near future that I saw, and SUNNY! Good news for the garden. Speaking of which, the bad weather last week got one or two of the starts we put in the ground, one broke off pretty cleanly. The rest of the plants got a little beat up, but look like they are going to make it. Since there is extra space now, Brett and I decided to pick up a Roma tomato plant at the farmer’s market this morning. We are also going to be getting a cucumber start as that was one of the things that broke. I’ll post pictures of the gardens status tomorrow as today I will be transplanting all the peppers into pots on the porch and tomorrow we will be going down to weed and clean up the garden from all the bad weather this week.

We also stopped by the grocery store to pick up some grub for the next few days. We are taking smaller, more frequent trips to the store this week as I can’t really predict what I will and will not be able to eat later in the week. But I thought I’d leave you all with some pictures of our CSA and grocery store grub, as well as the new addition to the garden.

Our first CSA box consisted of spinach, oregano, radishes, green onions and some gorgeous asparagus. When we got home, we roasted the asparagus with some garlic, and sauteed the spinach with some of the white part of the green onion and some garlic. It made for a wonderful, local breakfast, and one that I was able to partake in! And I'm telling you, this asparagus was the best I've ever had. We will be drying the oregano to use for spice and the radishes, well, those will be eaten raw, with sugar. Yum! Well, Brett will be enjoying them that way, I'm not sure they will still be around when my mouth is up to that.

Our small trip to the grocery store. We've got: 2 anaheim peppers, 2 habaneros, serrano peppers, 2 avocados, a poblano pepper, an orange, red onion, lemons, an orange bell pepper, and 4 small red potaotes.

The new tomato plant! It's really big. Some of the tomato plants at the market already had fruit on them! Crazy!

Anyways, I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday!

'Til next time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Black Bean and Quinoa Taquitos

So, my tooth is finally gone! I didn't think I'd ever be so happy to go to the dentist. I am now happily at home, with gauze in my numb mouth, but the jaw pain should be gone! Wahoo! It's likely that I won't be able to eat solid food for a day or so, but seriously, I'm just happy the whole 'tooth fiasco' is over with!

Last night, I was still able to eat solid foods, so I whipped up some taquitos. Yet another good finger food, and really easy. Enjoy!

Black bean, quinoa and veggie filling!

Taquitos ready to go in the oven.

Black Bean and Quinoa Taquitos
1 cup black beans, cooked
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
1 cup mushrooms, finely minced
1 zucchini, chopped
4 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and minced
1 habanero, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 red onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can of sliced black olives, drained
chili powder
ground coriander

corn tortillas (we used white corn)
Green Chile Taco Sauce

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the mushrooms, peppers and onion and cook for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and season to taste.

Layer filling in warmed corn tortillas and secure with a toothpick.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until tortillas crispy and golden brown.

I hope when the numbness wears off that my mouth isn't too painful. We get our first CSA box this weekend and I want to be able to enjoy some of it!

Anyways, I'm off to read, it's a gorgeous afternoon here in Mid-Missouri.

'Til next time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spicy Chipotle-Citrus Marinated Veggie Fajitas

Ah, these were really spicy and really good. Both Brett and I agreed this meal was a major hit! I do think, though, that next time, I will reduce the amount of hot peppers in the fajitas as it was a bit on the spicy side for Brett.

The marinade really pulls the whole meal together, the sweetness of the marinade complements both the spiciness of the peppers and the savory flavor of the potatoes and mushrooms. Yum!

Veggies marinating.

Yummy cooked veggies!

This meal was served 'family style', Brett and I shared a plate of warmed tortillas, a bowl of olives and a bowl of guacamole. We each had our own bowls of veggies and sauce.

Spicy Chipotle-Citrus Veggie Fajitas

Chipotle-Citrus Marinade:
juice of 2 oranges
juice of 2 limes
4 Chiles Japones, minced (dried de Arbol chilies would be even better)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp good olive oil
4 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
3 tbsp dry cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

The Veggies:
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 poblano pepper, sliced
2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced
2 serranos, seeded and sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used half a pack of baby portobellos and half a pack of white button mushrooms)
2 small red potatoes, sliced

Combine veggies with marinade, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least an hour (about 4 hours is perfect).

Once marinated, heat a large skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the veggies and a few spoonfuls of marinade. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until veggies are soft. You may need to add more marinade to the pan, and covering the pan with a lid will really reduce cooking time, but won't get the potatoes golden brown.

The other stuff:
fajita sized tortillas
can black olives, drained
Jalapeno-Tomatillo Green Sauce


This was really good, but if you don't like a lot of spice, I would recommend reducing the hot peppers, and maybe just adding an additional red or yellow bell pepper.

I love the combination of spicy peppers and tart, sweet citrus, it really works.

Well, I'm caught up now!

'Til next time!

Dr. Kathy's Cupcakes and J's Perfect Lunch

So this should come as no surprise but I hate the dentist. To a fault. You see, I have a tendency to avoid going to the dentist until the problem gets really bad, and I have no excuse (though I will try to come up with many). Case in point, about 6 months ago, I noticed that I was getting a cavity in one of my back teeth. Well, I decided I would just ignore it, pretty much. Let's just say, that over the past few months it has really started to bother me, so I finally decided to set up an appointment. Over the weekend, my tooth decided it was going to start really giving me trouble. The pain was off and on until Sunday, then it was pretty much on all the time. It was so bad that I couldn't sleep last night, so I ended up staying home from work in hopes of getting some sleep and maybe getting in to see the dentist sooner. I got some sleep, but the dentist situation isn't looking very good. What I can say though, is Brett (so sweetly) got up around 4 in the morning with me, when my pain was really intense, and put a cold pack in the freezer. Thanks to that, I am experiencing a reprieve from the pain, and I was able to sleep. I think I'm also going to get some Advil or something, I hate taking medicine, but I think I'll just deal with it at this point.

Anyways, woe is me, right? Well, don't feel too bad for me, I've known this was an issue for awhile, I have dental insurance, I've had the money to pay for it, I have sick time and an understanding employer, I just put it off because going to the dentist sucks and it's always painful.

You know what I don't understand either? It doesn't hurt when I eat, or anything like that, it's just an aching in my jaw. Argh! Dumb teeth!

Anywho, enough of my complaining. A positive aspect of this is that I can catch up on my blogging! I got a bit behind this weekend, as I was busy in the garden and such.

I'll start with the baked goods. A dear friend and co-worker of mine, Kathy, recently successfully defended her dissertation and is now officially Dr. Kathy! (Congrats again Kathy, I am so proud of you!) Well, of course I had to do what any good vegan does: bake for her! I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Who doesn't like chocolate on chocolate?

A couple of notes: these are not healthy. I generally use less or no oil in my recipes, but find that when I feed vegan goodies to omni's I like to make things really decadent, it makes us look better. :-) So this is an oil laden recipe, but I did use whole wheat pastry flour.

I also attempted to make my own chocolate frosting. It must be an art, it seemed like all was going well, and the next thing I know I have something resembling a marshmallow. So I took Bianca's tip and got store bought 'accidently vegan' (but really unhealthy) chocolate frosting. Thanks Bianca!

This picture is obviously sans frosting.

Dr. Kathy's Chocolate Cupcakes

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups organic raw sugar
6 heaping tbsp unsweetened organic cocoa powder (I used Green & Black's)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil (eeek!)
2 tbsp white distilled vinegar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Slowly add in the oil, vinegar, vanilla and water and stir until smooth.

Fill muffin cups (or an oiled muffin tin) 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when cupcakes pierced in the middle.

They turned out really good, and I had to leave some at home for Brett, but apparently what I left him wasn't enough as I had to make another batch this weekend. Brett is weird with chocolate, I think he and Katie (the Chocolate Covered Vegan) would get along just fine.

Next we have what is a very common 'Jen Lunch' over the summer. Hummus, veggies, pita, etc. The type of hummus and veggies change but the general idea is the same. What is pictured below is my lunch packed into my Zojirushi lunch jar. I really like that thing.

It's classic hummus (with extra cayenne pepper on top), pitted organic kalamata olives, pickled hot peppers :-), organic 'baby' carrots, sliced organic red bell peppers and organic broccoli, and whole wheat organic pita bread (called 'Bible Bread'). This makes for an awesome lunch.

J&B's Classic Hummus

Makes about 4 cups of hummus.

4 cups of garbanzo beans cooked
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of one lemon
1-2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
cumin to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
water for consistency (bean cooking water if possible)

In a food processor combine ingredients until desired flavor and consistency.

Well, I've got one more post and then I'll be caught up!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring Veggie Fusion Quesadillas

This meal consisted of an odd variety of ingredients, but I like to rebel against the norm and do crazy things with my food. Sometimes it turns out really good, other times not so much. This was a good one.
And on the name, Spring Veggie Quesadillas, I think the only 'spring' vegetable in here is the asparagus, but that's the idea I had for a name for it, and I'm not all that creative with titles, so there it is! :-)

My freezer has been filling up with the sauces I've been making for the past few weeks, so I pulled out a couple to have with the recipes I chose for this week.

Spring Veggie Fusion Quesadillas
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 small can chopped black olives, drained
1/2 bunch of asparagus, woody ends discarded
2 small red potatoes, srubbed and cubed
1 red or yellow bell pepper, halved
1 poblano, halved
1/4 red onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms (I used a pack of Enoki and half a pack of baby portobellos)
4 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 habanero, seeded and minced (optional)
Mexican oregano
ground coriander
vegan jack


Preheat oven to 425.

Melt 1 tsp coconut oil on a baking sheet in the oven.

Layer asparagus, potatoes and peppers on the baking sheet and toss with oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt over veggies. Roast for about 20 minutes or until veggies are soft.

You may have to remove the asparagus and peppers before the potatoes are done.

Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of water in a medium skillet. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and peppers and cook for 10-15 minutes or until veggies soft. Drain any excess water and transfer to a large bowl.

When roasted veggies are cool, chop and put in bowl.

Add artichokes and olives and season to taste.

Layer filling and vegan jack in warmed tortillas and fry if desired.

Serve with guacamole and Chipotle Tomatillos Serrano Sauce.

'Til next time!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Garden Update #6

Happy day to all you Momma's out there, whether to human critters or fur-children.
I've spent what is looking to be a gloomy Sunday morning listening to jazz and enjoying coffee, that has brightened the day quite a bit. Anybody out there like the Modern Jazz Quartet? They do my very favorite jazz song, Blues in A Minor. They don't make music like they used to.....

Anyways, we put our starts in the ground yesterday. It turned out to be quite a muddy affair as it rained most of the week after the garden was tilled, but we made it work.

The weather decided to, of course, take a turn for the worse after we put our plants in the ground, since then it has been raining and very windy. I'm a bit concerned about the plants, but what can we do now? I guess they'll have to be able to take wind and rain if they hope to survive, right? We planted them really deep, so hopefully that helped. We'll be going to check on them a little later today. We might not have a garden anymore. :-( It must be a mighty stressful profession, being a farmer, with your livelihood at the whim of Mother Nature.

We also got our pepper starts this week. We're going to have to make a trip to the store to get some terra cotta pots, organic potting mix and worm 'casings' (worm poo - hehe) early this week so we can transplant them. One of the starts we have already has a bloom on it!

Check out the community garden:

I owe much gratitude to my coworker Ann, who so kindly donated some garden implements to our community garden. It was such a nice thing to do, as our gardens are humble, rely on donations and the kindness of people like her. Brett and I are especially grateful as we didn't have any gardening implements at all (unless you count gardening gloves). Thanks Ann! I'm sure everyone at the garden appreciates it.

This is me in the garden. Don't know if you can tell or not, but I'm covered in mud. :-)

The broccoli is going wild!

The chard is too!

(I apologize for some of the pictures of the peppers, it's really cloudy today so the lighting made for poor pictures.)

Poblano pepper.

Habanero. It's looking good and I think the aphid situation is finally coming under control.

Orange bell pepper.

This is something called a "Super Chile", it's a very hot, long red pepper that is apparently suited to Missouri's climate.

Hot banana peppers. When we were picking out starts, Brett informed me that he prefers the hot banana peppers to the sweet ones. Who am I to deny him his spice?

Jalapeno pepper.

Chocolate sweet pepper.

Long red cayenne pepper.

Bell pepper.

Hungarian wax pepper. (I was really excited to find this one!)

The Hungarian wax already has a bloom on it!

The serrano is starting to develop some buds as are the rest of the pepper starts. We kept a serrano pepper and a couple New Mexican Chile starts we started from seed just in case they get big enough to fruit this summer. I forgot to take pictures of them, but slowly but surely they are growing, getting new leaves and so one.

Anyways, I will try post about a fusion quesadilla I made last night if I have time later today.

'Til next time!