Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I Am a Strange Loop"

I finally moved husband-recommended "I Am a Strange Loop" to the top of my pile! I've been thinking about it for over a year now, and the universe encouraged me to think that now is the right time: a damaged copy in the donate box at work beckoned at lunch break.
WOW-- now I can see why Jordan was raving! Some parts are for skimming, but so much is for enjoying and pondering. Hofstadter is exploring consciousness and the sense of "I," so far delving into such fascinating concepts as "soul shards" (bits of people's souls that live on in objects and memories-- not horcruxes, but the way a photo of someone you love will call to mind that person) and a gradation of "souledness" (there can be bigger and smaller souls-- the difference between your beloved pooch and your beloved, wise old grandmother... or the difference between Ronald Reagan affected by Alzheimer's and President Obama).
I'm riveted! There are some bits that remind me of my least favorite part of my Philosophy core class ("What if the car were made out of CHEESE?"), but even those are funny and punny, like little tickles to my brain, rather than big brain squeezes of absurdity. I really enjoy Hofstadter's rigorous arguments coupled with playful analogies. His examples are delightful, as is his sense of humor. (For example, he writes something about the fact that he can't imagine his audience could have possibly missed all the Star Wars movies-- and the interesting examples of soulful robots C3PO and R2-D2, acknowledging that many of his readers might be classified as, well, geeks...)
Huzzah, Mr. Hofstadter! You're a gentleman and a scholar! AND a vegetarian!

Vegan BBQ?

Last night I was hankering for some BBQ (perhaps because I was catching up on the delightful "stuff southern people like" blog). This was a little tough for me once we moved back from Austin, but even tougher now that we're vegan.
So I improvised.
I had lentils. Cooked them barracho-style, kind of: sauteed garlic, onions, and orange peppers, them added water and lentils to boil/simmer. For spices, I used cumin, mustard seed, bay leaves, a few cloves, a teeny bit of fennel seed, and my secret BBQ/summer taste ingredient: celery seed. I don't usually like celery seed, but I really think it gave a boost that made our lentils more satisfying as BBQ. I added a few spoonfuls of tomato paste, salt, and pepper, and a splash of hot sauce, too.

In another pan, I had braising greens. I sauteed some garlic, then simmered the heck out of those braising greens, adding a splash of beer from Jordy's dinnertime can and another secret ingredient: sliced up hickory smoke flavor primal strip vegan jerky. I don't do much fake meat, but I had a few of these kicking around for soccer tournament junk food, and I thought it would add the ham-hocky taste braised greens should have. It worked! A little goes a long way.

I served all with rolls, but next time, I think I would actually serve the lentils a la sloppy joe, on a big toasted bun (maybe with some shredded cabbage) and I'd make some vegan cornbread to have on the side.

(Something interesting: why _does_ a Yankee vegan think of BBQ as comfort food?)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roasted cauliflower

I couldn't resist the lure of leftovers when I got home from work this afternoon. Yes, I'd already had a hearty serving for lunch, but there was some left in the fridge, and it was calling my name. I discovered that it can be might tasty cold, too.
The leftovers:
cauliflower roasted in olive oil, with spring garlic, salt, and a squeeze of lemon, mixed with:
sage, rye berries, crimini mushrooms, and fava beans. (Boy, was shucking and popping the fava beans fun! I'm not kidding. I wouldn't do it every day, but I liked the process.)
Is it just me, or is cauliflower roasted with olive oil really rich and buttery tasting?

The Passage= great summer reading

Justin Cronin's vampire epic fit the bill-- a long, juicy, page-turner to give me that sit-around-and-read-all-day feeling that is what I love most about summer.
I didn't find any printing error in my copy, but I did find plenty to ponder about, gasp at, and predict for the sequel.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vampire goodness: "The Passage"

I'm reading Justin Cronin's "The Passage." At work last week, we did a line by line, word for word comparison on page 270, the page we thought the publisher had told us contained a printing error that affected the plot. I couldn't find any difference between the first printing that they made us pull and the new copies we are selling now, but I did get completely caught up in the story, just from one page. Now I've committed to a 766-page vampire epic that (I've heard) ends as a cliff-hanger for the sequel... but somehow I just couldn't say no. I enjoy the different styles as the outbreak progresses/time passes, and some of the characters I've already left behind were fantastic. It's not quite as gory or creepy as "The Strain," and I like that over 280 pages in, there isn't any romance to speak of, and there certainly isn't any paranormal romance! I'm definitely in a summer reading mindset.

Pasta with kale, garbanzos, and chanterelles

I'm inspired by my friend Lillian's orechiette with hearty greens and sausage post at her site, obsessedwithdinner. We are eating our way through our first CSA box of veggies, so tonight I'm using kale! And rye berries! And spring onions! (The spinach, radishes, and baby carrot will go in a salad on the side.)
I'm simmering chick peas, dried chanterelles, bay leaves, and rye berries. When those are all soft and tasty, I'll sautee the rest of the spring onions and a little garlic. I have some whole wheat penne I'll boil, using Lil's tip of adding the kale at the end of the pasta cooking, then combine all together with olive oil, maybe with a little fresh basil and a splash of white wine. It's not a very summer dinner for the solstice, but today's not feeling very summery, so that's OK.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer re-reading

I just started working with a rising sixth grader on his summer reading. He has one required book (Uglies by Scott Westerfeld), and he got to choose one book from a list. His pick is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He and I have both read it before, so I'm looking forward to practicing reading comprehension skills.
The book stands out in my reading memory as one of the first tragic books I remember. Mrs. Penny assigned it, and I remember reading it on a family trip to Maine to visit my uncle, his wife, and their new baby. I was bawling in the car as we pulled up to the restaurant, and I remember being embarrassed about my red eyes the way only a sixth grade girl can be.
I'm so excited to reread with Jack! Already we've discussed pets, hunting, and foreshadowing.
If Jack grants permission, I will link to his blog, where he will be writing a journal of his summer reading experience.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marinated portabello sandwiches

I recently made a dinner that was proclaimed "perhaps the best vegan meal thus far" by J--
marinated portabello sandwiches. I marinated the mushrooms together with slices of onion and red pepper in a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and chile pepper (with a little salt and pepper), then cooked them over high heat in my wok with peanut oil (Chinese fajita-style?). I toasted ciabatta rolls, spread homemade guacamole on them, then loaded up with the 'shroomy goodness. Served with warm tomato cumin lentils on the side. Tonight we test drive the mushrooms at a BBQ. If all goes well, this will be our go-to summer cookout party food- the thing we bring to throw on the grill when others are cooking burgers. Fingers crossed!

To read: "The Blood of Lorraine"

While I'm baking chocolate chip cookies, I am also reading a heart-wrenching mystery set in France-- "The Blood of Lorraine" by Barbara Corrado Pope. The main character is Bernard Martin, a republican magistrate just lately relocated to Nancy. Anti-semitism, a mutilated baby's corpse, and very realistically portrayed grief make it much darker than my usual mystery fare, but the exquisite writing and character development render me unable to put it down. (Except to watch World Cup and make cookies.)

Another reason to love being vegan...

Eat all the raw cookie dough you want, no worries!

Here's the recipe I'm baking now, but I just ate a spoonful from it before I put the cookies in the oven:

Combine 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, mash a ripe banana. Add 1/3 cup canola oil (maybe a little less), just under 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp flax seed, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 cup oats.
Stir the dry mixture into the wet one. If it looks too dry, add a splash of coconut milk or almond milk.
Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spoon onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
On a summery Seattle late-spring day or equivalent, put a scoop of coconut milk frozen "ice cream" in between two of these cookies for vegan ice cream sandwiches. mmmmm