Making Stuff.

I've been making things like crazy lately. From changing a thrift store sewing table into something wonderful and weird, to bringing my crazy ideas of a bedroom decorated ENTIRELY with fiber arts to life...

I still bake bread a lot, the other day I finally cooked up some brussels sprouts that my lovely great aunt & uncle sent home with us on thanksgiving. I also made lentil soup that lasted me a week.

Mostly, I sit in my craft room that now houses a chair that I bought on Craigslist and intend to reupholster (until I do, it's comfy and doesn't smell like cat pee or anything), and I watch whatever strikes my fancy on netflix instant viewing, and I make things.

It seems I always have excuses for not updating this blog, this is just my latest in a long line... I guess it comes down to not being on fire for taking photos and writing about food... Part of it, I think, is that I want this to be a place where people come to get inspired and make things, but I don't know how to do that. I get people clamoring for recipes instead.

Even when I make things with my hands, that still isn't how I work.

I have never been cut out to teach, as I can't remember the time before I acquired whatever knowledge I have. It's a strange phenomenon. I have a weird lack of empathy for the learning curve.

At the very least, I will post pictures of my finished objects... And i'm always glad you guys read even if there's a lame lack of content. Thanks!


Mammoth few months, resulting mammoth post.

I've been busy since my last post. Really, really, really busy.

My parents and I took a trip to Oregon at the beginning of July. It marked the last time my mom will ever ride on the back of Dad's bike.

We encountered all manner of summer loveliness, including a dip in the mighty Rogue before trekking over 12 miles of gravel road that climbed to beautiful heights and breathtaking views like this one:

We enjoyed the 4th of July in Rockaway Beach, complete with small-town silliness...

...and family on the beach...

...before heading for California and home.

It was shortly after arriving home that the deal closed on my own little piece of the Golden State. One of the causes of all the busy-ness was turning this:

Into this:

If there's any interest in seeing more detail re: my lovely home and all the work my family and I put into it, check out my post in the "Saucy Dwellings" LiveJournal community. There is also a collection on Flickr containing (fairly) extensive "before & after" documentation.

In the midst of learning the meaning of "sweat equity," my mom and I took a break to go on the 2nd Annual Pashnit Girly Ride. We started in Visalia and trekked across mountains and desert, zigzagging back and forth over the NV/CA state line. We rode Sherman Pass:

And saw the Bristlecone Pine forest:

Being this close to some of the oldest living things on the planet (the trees, not my mom) was quite an experience.

We took in the desert landscape while racing for the mountains on Hwy 120:

... and saw the clouds reflecting on Mono Lake as we headed for the motel in West Walker.

Please feel free to check out all of the images from the trip in convenient slideshow format here.

We made wonderful new friends and reinforced old relationships on that trip, and a few of us got together again a few weekends ago to ride the north coast of CA. We met in Fortuna and spent a couple nights there, enjoying the fruits of the Eel River Brewing company after a chilly ride!! Some shots from Forest Service 1, a.k.a. Titlow Rd. (The SV was under the weather that weekend, and my dad was kind enough to let me borrow his new VStrom. What fun!)

Again, there are more shots available for viewing here, including shots from our ride to/back from Fortuna. Good times!

We also took my mom to her first track day in September, where she put on her race face and got down to business.

I had mine on too, though it's not visible in this shot:

Throughout and as always, there's been cooking. I cooked at my old place in Carmichael down to the very end, enjoying the bounty of our garden.

Now that this post no longer weighs on my conscience, I can say with certainty that there is more to come! I've taken tons more pictures of food, and have several more shots from the Oregon trip to edit and post. I've got some craft projects going and a sweater on the needles... I'll do my best to keep updating in the midst of everything else.

As always, thanks for reading!


Absolutely Pathetic.

My lack of posts lately, that is. Our garden is starting to go nuts, due in no small part (I'm sure) to the fact that I stay the fuck away from it. I hope the bounty of fresh veggies will bust me out of my slump and make me want to photograph food again.

I do have to acknowledge that part of the problem is that when the weather is as lovely as it has been, I will do just about anything to avoid going in the house.

I'm still making food, but I have little desire to photograph it and even less desire to sit in front of my computer futzing with the pictures and writing. My knitting is suffering as well, as easily 15 lbs of yarn languish in my overstuffed basket. Tony Harrison is half-finished... Maybe that should be my next project since finishing him would be the kind of epic win I need right now.

In hooligan news (did I mention the lovely weather? getting out on the bike is pretty much mandatory these days), another member has been added to our tiny, tiny motorcycle gang of scofflaws and miscreants on mean metric machines. Here she is, ready to flip off the man at 90 mph in a full wheelie:

Ladies and gentlemen, that's my mom and I couldn't be prouder of her. She is doing amazingly well on her Suzuki GS500 after passing her MSF course. More photos to come as we adventure around this great state together, looking for places along twisty roads to hike and swim.

Thanks for reading!!


After finally doing some grocery shopping...

I had some fresh produce in the house! This is not to say that I can't make something from nothing (or, more specifically, curry from nothing), but it's good to have leafy greens. I instinctively reached for my whole wheat orzo to make one of my standards- a pasta salad with wilted greens. It was then that I saw I had a choice:

I haven't used yellow split peas in forever, probably not since the last time I made split pea soup, which was some time ago. Attempting to work my way through some of the more arcane dried goods in my pantry, and inspired by Heidi Swanson's use of yellow split peas in a salad, I chose the peas over the pasta.

I boiled some water first, and have always wanted to photograph what it looks like with the float of olive oil on top. I only had to try about fifty times to get a shot that made me happy, but there it is:

Anyway. I cooked the split peas...

...and fried some onions with some thinly sliced seitan (made from scratch the night before). The onions turned out amazing, they tasted like I had poured a quarter cup of sugar in the pan. The seitan reminded me (in a good way, believe it or not) of SPAM, the way my dad used to make it when we went camping.

Since I intended to make this a salad with some torn arugula leaves, I made a dressing by thinning out some of Sunday night's pesto. The pesto was made from garlic, onions, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a big bunch of lightly steamed broccoli rabe.

Re: the pesto:

, it was bitter at first, but has mellowed as it's been hanging out in the fridge. I don't know that I would make it again because of the bitterness, but it's certainly interesting.

The pesto was thinned with balsamic and olive oil, and made a nice contrast to the sweetness/smokiness of the peas/onions/seitan mixture. Stay tuned for more experiments from the "pesto can be made from anything!" camp.

Here's the finished product, all put together and dressed:

It was delicious, and there was even enough left over for me to take for lunch.
I also baked bread last night:

...And so my dessert was a slice of freshly baked bread (it was still a little warm!) with Earth Balance spread and some spicy plum jam.

I threatened to wear a t-shirt to Coachella that said "Marriage Material." I may still add it to my summer wardrobe because seriously, how stoked would you have been to be married to me last night? :)

As always, thanks for reading!


Just an update.

On our trip to Coachella, I cooked all of our food so we didn't have to spend any money on the overpriced junk inside the venue. Gazpacho, brown rice salad with roasted vegetables and cashews, dried fruits, nuts, two loaves of fresh baked bread, baked tofu... We felt good all weekend, saved money, lost weight, and learned a thing or two about what would be better to bring next year.

I will be attempting in the next few months to not eat in restaurants AT ALL. I am both terrified of doing this and looking forward to the challenge. Eating out is my biggest cash suck, and I need to dispense with a few of the cash sucks in my life as I attempt to conduct myself like a fiscally responsible adult.

I also have to be careful at the grocery store, as I can go wild and spend hundreds of dollars in mere minutes. I'll be sifting through my reader to find all of The Urban Vegan's suggestions for saving money and eating on the cheap.

I'm sure I'll be going crazy, and will want to vent to my fine readers... In return, I'll be stepping up my efforts to bring you recipes and photos!

Thanks for reading as always.


Another Mammoth Post... And a recipe!

I really need to start doing this more frequently. Now I'm stuck having to post about some meals I had quite a while ago, as well as yet another ride with yet another dear friend (what can I say, I'm a lucky gal!). I also have... wait for it... a RECIPE. A real, honest-to-god recipe. I even have photographic proof of writing it down:


Firstly, some meals from a few weeks ago. I made grilled pizza with some vegan mozzarella that I bought at Whole Foods. I picked up this particular package because it said "It Melts!", all the while grumbling to myself "I'll be the judge of that." So first, the dough was set out to rise and rest, getting to the point that I could stretch it into something resembling a crust. I would love to learn to hand-toss crust, but have never gotten the hang of it, really. Anyway, here's the dough.

Mainly, I include this picture because I was so excited to photograph something in sunlight.

Then, after all the resting and rising and stretching, the dough was unceremoniously tossed onto my cast iron grill.

A warning that only the most inept of bakers (like myself) will need: any holes that develop in stretching are only going to get worse as the crust cooks.

After grilling, the sauce (very simple- can of tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, a tiny bit of sriracha for fun) was applied, and then some white onions, and then the vegan mozzarella.

This was tossed in the oven to melt the cheese. I'll admit, I was skeptical. The flavor was really good, but the texture was weird when the cheese was cold. While the results of my vegan experiment were pending, I made some bok choy with a more western bent than I suppose is normal, given that it was the side dish to pizza.

The bok choy was briefly sauteed in olive oil, salt and pepper:

and then tossed in lemon/garlic/earth balance sauce:

...and served alongside grilled pizza covered in melted vegan cheese!!

...and basil chiffonade. I was so impressed with this cheese, it was a wonderful alternative to the real thing. Even my cheese-obsessed roommate was willing to endorse it.

And speaking of my cheese-obsessed roommate, my dad and I took her for a ride out to Mt. Tamalpais on Sunday, March 15th. She had never really ridden on the back of a motorcycle, and had her cherry popped in many ways... including rainfall and witnessing a pretty epic high-side by a guy on a dirt bike where 121 and 128 meet on the way back toward Davis and home. The kid was ok, even with the shaking hands and sudden reluctance to get on his bike!

Here are Mari and I at the dam at Lake Berryessa... one of my favorite places to pause on a ride over 128.

I then rode ahead to take a picture of Mari and Dad as they rode by, but it ended up being really blurry. I was pissed, as it would have been a really cool picture. Here's one of them standing still, overlooking Stinson Beach:

And the last time I rode Fairfax-Bolinas, I didn't notice this at the bridge over Alpine Lake:

It was just so darn cool, I had to stop for a shot.

Fast forward to this past weekend- Saturday dawned at somewhere around 1 pm, and I decided to make red curry to enjoy while we watched the Dark Knight. For vegetables, I had red pepper, onion, carrots and an acorn squash. I also had a sweet potato, and figured I would parcook it in the microwave before tossing it in with the rest of the veggies. I ended up completely cooking it by mistake, and had to come up with another use for it.

First, the curry. These are the vegetables:

And this is the curry as it simmers its way to rich deliciousness:

It's very basic- coconut milk and vegan red curry paste and soy sauce. Brilliant.

With my cooked sweet potato, I decided to make patties using chickpeas to fill them out a bit and some flour and gluten to hold them together. This is what they look like after pan-frying:

And just for you, dear readers, I wrote the recipe!

1 large sweet potato, cooked
2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 can of chickpeas
3 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
1 tsp sriracha sauce (optional if you don't like spicy things!)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
Black pepper to taste

I cooked the sweet potato in the microwave by poking holes and putting it in a bowl with about a half inch of water. I scooped out the flesh, but there's no reason it couldn't be mashed up skin and all for this recipe. Mash the chickpeas with the potato.

Mix all other ingredients into the potato/chickpea mixture to form a dough. It will be quite sticky, not like seitan that gets super elastic.

Heat about 1/4" of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Form the dough into patties just before putting them in the oil and press them out thin with a spatula as soon as they are in the pan. Fry until golden brown on each side and place on a paper towel to drain.

Lunch is served!

Just the curry:

Curry and sweet potato patties:

Thanks for reading, as always.


Vicarious Valentine

So as it turns out, I didn't have anyone special to cook for on St. Valentine's day. I mean, there is always my roommate, but since her and I will likely spend the rest of our days together until we drop dead and get eaten by our 25 cats, every day is like V-day for us.

I turned to my beloved vegan food blogs to take solace in some crunchy, anti-"corporate holiday" rhetoric, but my RSS feeder looked like the inside of a goddamn Hallmark store by about February 6th. Recipe contests for romantic foods, tofu colored with beet juice and cut into heart shapes, good lord, it appears we're not even safe on the commune anymore.

Good thing there was a fantastic recipe for these Parsnip Dumplings. I love parsnips, and could not let my generalized dissatisfaction with all things valentine get in the way of making these beauties. Lucky for my dinner guests, even a jaded, rapidly-aging single woman on Valentine's day can acknowledge the power of pan fried dumplings made from caramelized onions and parsnips.

The sauce I made was a bit simpler than the one made by Becky Timbers. It was two red peppers pureed in my food processor, two cloves of pressed garlic, a can of tomatoes and some olive oil. I reduced it for a few minutes on the stove and called it good. The flavor had just enough punch and sweetness to nicely complement the flavor of the dumplings. I also grilled some romaine that had been marinated in olive oil and balsamic. Who knew cooking lettuce would be so delicious?

After the pan-fried dumplings were so amazing, I was inspired to make dumpling soup. It's been years since I've eaten dumpling soup, and I'm sure it contained chicken (as is traditional). The idea of tender dough with the parsnip/caramelized onion flavor cooked in rich, delicious vegetable broth was incredibly appealing.

I made a mirepoix in one pan, and sauteed my "chef's sampler" of mushrooms along with some sliced fennel in another, like so:

The dumpling dough was the same as in the recipe posted above, the only difference that I made the balls of dough much smaller and dropped them into boiling soup in lieu of frying. As for the soup, It really doesn't matter. Mine was comprised of all the vegetables in my crisper drawer (onions, carrots, celery, fennel, mushrooms, garlic) a cube of Rapunzel broth, some salt and pepper, a can of tomatoes, and enough water to fill the pot full enough to make lots of soup but not so full that it boiled over. I tasted the broth and seasoned it until it was to my liking. The soup was delicious, though not especially photogenic. It looked like this:

P.S.... The dumplings are done when they float to the top, akin to cooking fresh gnocchi or something similar.

For a fun rainy Sunday project, I made focaccia. The oil to pour on top was infused with garlic, sun dried tomatoes and rosemary, and I brushed on a very thin layer of the red pepper sauce for some sweetness. I kept the stuff i strained out of the oil (softened garlic, slightly crunchy rosemary, soft sun-dried tomatoes) and added it on after baking.

This stuff was like crack. If we finished it all in one day, you wouldn't judge us... right? Look at the picture before you answer...

Last but not least, in the category of "cleaning the fridge," this is cashew curry made with Vadouvan according to Susan's recipe over at the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. This spice is BRILLIANT. I'm pretty sure my onions were more "burned" than "dehydrated," but it still makes things taste really awesome, not the least of which was this curry. I think I did a bit of "globetrotting" here, but if it's ok with Nigella, it's ok with me.

About 3/4 cup of the vadouvan went into the food processor with about 1/2 cup of cashews. Those were spun around together, almost until the cashews formed a paste but not quite. I then streamed in soy milk until the texture was somewhat like a thin syrup. I added this to a pan full of onions, red peppers, cauliflower and cashews that were cooking up in a smidgeon of olive oil. I added a can of coconut milk to that, a few dashes of soy sauce to taste, and let it simmer until the vegetables got soft. I'll be trying this with more vegetables in the future, as it was positively delicious and really hit the spot during all the cold weather we've been having. Until next time...