Sunday, April 15, 2012

crispy chips with no oil

I often buy those large packages of corn tortilla circles with no oil. I heat up the oven to 400–450 and put in my baking stone. You could also use a cookie sheet I believe or put them right on the racks. If using a baking stone (your best bet) make sure it gets really hot—leave at the high temp for 10 minutes.

I rinse the tortillas under water, sprinkle with salt, and slice into fourths. I put the slices on the stone and bake until crisp. Watch that they don't burn, cause they'll taste nasty.

Nicely toasted, they are yummy to eat with chili or dip in salsa.

I also use a similar method to make potato chips/crisps.

I slice Russet potatoes thin in my Cuisinart or by hand with a long sharp knife. Put them in a bowl and slather in sea salt and maybe some Mrs. Dash or garlic pepper.

Place them on the baking stone (thoroughly heated to 400–450) in a single layer and cook until they are crispy with a few brown spots. With potatoes, heating the stone is especially important, because otherwise they will stick like glue. I have never tried these on a baking sheet and don't know that they'd do well.

They are a delicious accompaniment to a tempeh sloppy joe or bean burger.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cat up a Tree

Our kitty Blaze got out.

More accurately, I let him out. He has escaped a few times in recent months and since I was staying out anyway and he was staying close, all was well.

So, with beautiful weather Sunday, I let him out and vowed to keep an eye on him, while I played ball with the dogs.

But, Blaze gave me the slip.

Blazer used to go out every day, but, in the process, acquired Feline AIDS. So, the vet advised keeping him inside to avoid exposure to germs and spreading the virus to other cats.

In the meantime, our neighbors have acquired a dog.

Blaze escaped next door and confronted the little terrier. Blaze ran up a tree. And went high. And then higher.

Oh Blaze. A whole community of cat lovers looked up, prayed, and hoped for the best.

Blaze was steadfast in his position, refusing to budge. So it was clear we would have to climb up to retrieve him.

Our neighbors have an industrial-strength extension ladder, but it takes a strong person to lift it into place.

Their son, Brett, was busy caring for a woman he feeds and puts to bed each night. He is the only one among us who could wrangle the ladder into place. He was running late. It was getting dark.

He finally got home and positioned the ladder into place. I am not afraid of heights and was ready to climb up and rescue the cat. Andy, who does hate heights, decided he should be the one to climb up. Blaze is a big cat, after all.

Blaze was rescued. Once inside, he ate a huge meal of cat food and turkey and fell sound asleep.

Life is good.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Plant Strong

Years ago, I read an article written by a doctor who believed that we needed to abandon all meat in our diet. I remember him saying that "even low-fat turkey had way too much fat for the human body to deal with."

Unfortunately I ignored him.

Since then, a friend has died of clogged arteries and another has been hospitalized and had a stent implanted because of them.

Eating a plant-based diet can be hard in this culture. No meat, no dairy, and no oil. Eliminating meat is the easy part. No kidding. Cheese, not so easy. But do you know you can make fake cheese out of cashews, garlic, miso, nutritional yeast, etc.?

Soy milk is a wonderful substitute for dairy in soups, breads, and on cereal.

Vanilla almond milk, which has some sugar, is like a milkshake.

Our friend who had the stent turned us on to this diet, sorta by accident. He visited for a weekend and I was challenged to cook for him. After reading every label in the store to find food I could serve him, the challenge turned into a mission.

Now, several other friends and family members, after hearing me talk at length about its benefits, have adopted a plant-strong diet.

Keep it up. Grow a garden. Do the best you can every day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Creamy Asparagus Soup (vegan)

Does anything shout "spring" like bright green, skinny asparagus stalks? They grew wild (or were a holdover from an old kitchen garden) in the ditch across the street from our house. We would harvest them in spring, and, as the weeks wore on, I enjoyed watching the plants sprout into bouquets of dainty fronds.

Any more, asparagus is available year round, but in early spring it becomes less expensive and has wonderful flavor. This weekend I made a creamy soup from a bundle I purchased at the supermarket. I left out milk and cheese, so we thoroughly enjoyed the grassy, earthy flavor of the stalks. In Vegetable Heaven, Mollie Katzen describes tarragon's affinity for asparagus. So, I added lots of this herb to the soup, to wonderful effect.


1 1/2 to 2 pounds asparagus
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 medium Russet potato
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I like Pacific or Wolfgang Puck brands if I don't have homemade)
1/2 to 3/4 cup soy milk*
salt and pepper to taste
generous sprinkling of dried tarragon

Chop the onion and garlic. The size of the pieces isn't important as they will be pureed. Saute them in a medium-sized pan with a pinch salt. Once they start to brown, deglaze the pan with a little of the broth. Then, add the remaining broth.

Rinse the asparagus. Chop off the woody stems. Remove the tips and set aside.  Cut the stalks into 2–3 inch pieces and add them to the pan. Keep on medium heat.

Use a grater to shred the potato into the pan. (The potato will add flavor and give the soup a creamy texture.)

Once the asparagus is tender (about 10 minutes), puree the entire mixture with the soy milk.  I use either a food processor or a stick blender.

Steam the asparagus tips. I usually do this in a cup, with a small amount of water, in the microwave for a couple of minutes. They are done when they turn bright green.

If you've pureed in a processor or blender, return the mixture to the pan. Add the steamed tips. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the generous sprinkling of tarragon.

Serve immediately. This soup makes a great first course before a meal of a heartier fare.

I've given approximations for the amounts of asparagus and milk, since bundles of asparagus in the supermarket can vary in weight. If you are unsure about how much milk to add, just add it slowly until the texture seems somewhat thick and pleasing.

*If you avoid soy, use dairy, almond, or hemp milk.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Lentil, Rice, and Sweet Potato Stew With Curry

[Sweet potato with plant growing
in background]

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
I took the car out of town yesterday so Andy had to eat downtown. He went to a restaurant famous (in Peoria) for vegetarian and vegan meals. They had lentils and sweet potatoes, but Andy learned they contained a "very small amount of oil." So, he chose raw veggies with salsa. I, however, dined with my Mom, who, after an endoscopy, chose Bob Evans. There, I found a spinach, apple, and cranberry salad. Skipped the dressing, but used the lemons from Mom's hot tea. I also got a potato with steamed broccoli. So, I came out ahead it seems.

Today, I decided to surprise Andy at lunch with a lentil and sweet potato stew, sans oil.

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup dry Lundberg wild and brown rice mixture or any brown rice. Cook to package instructions, usually 45 minutes.
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
1 carton Wolfgang Puck or Pacific vegetable broth
3 cups chopped cauliflower
2 cups dry lentils
2 tsp mild curry powder (or you favorite curry to taste)
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper, to taste

I put two large sweet potatoes in the oven @ 400° and baked them for about an hour.

Soon after, I cooked a cup of Lundberg wild and brown rice mixture. You could also use brown rice. The nice thing about the Lundberg mixture is that it adds a hearty, colorful, and chewy array of grains.

After the potatoes and rice were underway for about 15 minutes, I sauteed a large onion and 3 garlic cloves in a super-sized non-stick pan. After they had browned in the pan, I deglazed with Wolfgang Puck organic vegetable broth. (Pacific brand also works well.) Or, you could use your own homemade version, of course.

I added 2 cups of dry lentils to the non-stick pan and then covered them completely with the rest of the carton of veggie broth.

After the lentils had cooked for about 10 minutes, I cut up about 3 cups of cauliflower, chopped small, and tossed it in. Then, I added salt, pepper, and turmeric.

With a cover on the pan, I let the lentils and cauliflower steam for 15 more minutes.

I added about 2 tsp of mild curry powder, but you can adjust this to taste.

Remove the hot potatoes from the oven and the skins peel off easily. I diced them and tossed them in the pan.

Then, added the cooked rice. 

I had Sharwood's Mild Curry. This was good for me, but Andy said I could have put in more than 2 tsp. Please adjust curry to taste. If curry isn't your thing, another seasoning could be Tabasco sauce.

Cook on medium heat until all is well blended.