Friday, April 29, 2011

The RVegan Kitchen Moves Into The House

I started another blog, The RVegan Kitchen, last summer when we were living in the trailer in Oregon. Then I stopped. Too much work to cook and photograph at the same time. So I've been watching that sad little blog sit there, with a whopping 12 followers, and about 2 hits -- accidental, most likely -- a week. I really don't need to be reminded of my failed projects. Hey, some things work, some don't. And today is the day to say, Off with her head, to the RVegan Kitchen. I've transferred 3 entries over here, because I see no reason to write these recipes again. Next I'll delete the cooking blog, and set those 12 hungry people free. I will, however, continue to post recipes for you here every so often. This blog is about my life, which includes cooking, and maybe, someday, a completed cooking book. I'm still making food and taking notes. But I have to admit to being totally baffled as to how to turn it all into an actual book. I'll know when I need to, I guess. Till then, I hope to see you back here whenever you can make it. Topics will vary from day to day. That's how life works, right? Narrow focus is not of much interest to me after all.

Here you go. Make some lunch. Feed somebody.


Eggless Salad

I know I just did this on my other blog, but I want to migrate all the food over here. So here it is again, my very wonderful Eggless Salad. In these times of tainted eggs and greedy corporate farming, this one really makes sense.

To make enough Eggless Salad for about 3-4 sandwiches or wraps, use half of a package of tofu. I usually buy "firm" tofu, and always buy organic, non-GMO soy foods. Place your hunk of tofu in a clean dish towel, twist it up, and give it a few good squeezes over the sink. This will remove some of the excess liquid, leaving room for you to add back flavorful moisture without making it into a runny mess.


Crumble the squeezed tofu into a mixing bowl with your fingers. It's fun. Then stir in a blop of Vegenaise (made without eggs, and very tasty), and a good squirt of mustard, for flavor and eggy yellow-ness. Basically, make this any way you normally make egg salad. I like to add chopped dill pickles, chopped celery, black olives, salt, pepper, and paprika, to mimic my mom's deviled eggs, which were heavenly.

It couldn't be easier. And really, it's really good. Use it in sandwiches and wraps, or if you're watching your carbs, add a nice scoop to the top of a green salad or make lettuce wraps. You can also give it a finer texture with lots of tiny chopped olives and serve it as a dip. This stuff is versatile, and I'll bet the egg-eaters in your family will love it too!


Finally Got My Grill Pan

I've been wishing really hard for a stovetop grill pan for years. Literally years. I knew I could make some amazing food with one of these, but couldn't talk Rick into thinking it was a good idea. My super-logical Virgo Boy thought it would be too heavy for RV travel, and take up too much space to justify it's limited usefulness. After all, we do have a perfectly good campfire right outside our door. So I kept the grill pan on my Amazon wish list, and agreed to try one of those wire basket thingies you use over an open fire. It made nice tasting veggies, but I hated the bits of charcoal soot that got stuck to the food, and crunched in a really creepy sandy way when I chomped into them. I proclaimed the wire basket thingie insufficient, and went back to wishing for a grill pan.

Yesterday when Rick and I were in Medford, I remembered that I had a Kohl's gift card in my wallet, given to me by my sister for my birthday in July. We wandered through the store, looking for the Perfect Thing... I need a new Camp Ninja Bathrobe, but nothing was quite right. I looked at purses and shoes, but nothing grabbed me there either. I considered a new shower curtain. Nah. Boring. And then I remembered my grill pan fantasy and said, Come on honey! We're going to Cookware! And there it was, practically singing to me from across the aisle. The Grill Pan of my dreams. It's a Food Network Cookingreen 11" model, made from cast recycled aluminum. It's light weight and lovely, and I snapped it right up and took it home to test it out.

We were so excited about our new pan, we forgot to go to the store for something to cook in it. Fortunately, Ranger Bonnie had given us a beautiful yellow squash from her garden, so I sliced that baby up, coated it with garlic-steeped olive oil, and got grilling. I let it cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, until it just started to get soft, and then flipped it over for a few more minutes. When it was done I sprinkled it with some coarse sea salt, and OHMYGOD... The result was delicious. Honestly, it was the best yellow squash I'd ever eaten.

As luck would have it, Ranger Bonnie brought us another squash today, just an hour or so before lunchtime. This was very good news indeed, as I had no idea what to make today. Somebody really needs to go grocery shopping. But inspired by squash and my new grill pan, I rummaged through the fridge and pulled out a few stray items and set to work. 

I cut the squash lengthwise this time, and grilled it in only a tiny smidge of the best olive oil we have. The cooking was less smoky, and the finished product was just as delicious as the oilier version last night. I also grilled some red bell pepper, and then "buttered" some good grainy bread with Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread, and slapped that on the grill too. We call it "butter" for simplicity, but it's animal product free, much healthier for you than butter, and tastes really great. (Iwish they paid me to plug these products!) 

While everything was grilling, I stirred up some Chipotle Mayo, made with Vegenaise (they got their plug the other day), chipotle powder, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a teaspoon or so of the good olive oil. Then I assembled everything into sandwiches with lettuce and tomato, and handed a plate over to Ranger Rick.

I think I can say with some certainty, Rick is now a big fan of the grill pan too.


Grand Canyon Caesar

love the Grand Canyon. Rick and I have been there several times, and each time we stay a little longer. We do some hiking, some condor watching, some rim sitting, and of course, some eating. One of the restaurants at the south rim serves a crazy good southwest caesar, which we order every time we're there, and have recently modified at home, to a vegan friendly version, minus the typical anchovies and cheese. This salad is a meal in itself, but of course you could serve it alongside something else if you're so inclined.

Start with some nice romaine, or other favorite lettuce if you prefer. Add a can of drained, rinsed beans, like black or pinto beans, a small can of sliced olives, chopped red bell pepper, fresh or frozen corn (organic!), and maybe some sliced jalapenos if you like it spicy. Red onion is also good in this, but I don't like raw onions. - they keep me awake at night - so you don't see them here. Sometimes I also throw in some cooked brown rice, to combine with the beans for more complete protein and added fiber. You can't have too much fiber, I always say...

The dressing is made with a little bit of mayo (Vegenaise here), olive oil, dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast (for a nice cheesiness), chipotle powder, salt, pepper, and a touch of sweetener - we use stevia drops or brown rice syrup. 

Whisk the dressing together, adjusting flavors as you go, and toss it in with the salad. This salad is really Rick's specialty, so I "let" him make it this time. Maybe I should have suggested he do something about his hair before I turned the camera on him. But he's cute anyway, isn't he?

Once the salad is all tossed together, serve it up on plates with avocado slices on top, and some good organic corn tortilla chips. Make it pretty if you're serving it to company, and then suggest that they crumble the chips onto the salad for a great "crouton" crunch. And don't forget the beer! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Candle Inspirations

For those of you still holding out, and not joining Facebook, the update for today is...
New Candles! Just in time for Mother's Day!
I'm having a lot of fun with these, and will SOON have some of my own designs, printed on fabric,
for the coolest candles ever!
Get them HERE!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Miso Happy Soup

Springtime in the high desert climate of New Mexico can be pretty psychotic. One day it's sunny flip-flop weather, urging us outdoors to sip margaritas on the patio, and the next we're back inside, next to the fireplace, riding out a thunder-snow storm. Today is one of the cold days, so I made a nice soup for breakfast -- yes! breakfast! -- to sooth and warm us.

Miso Happy Soup is good for lunch or dinner too, of course, but I especially like it in the morning. As a fermented, live food, miso is an easy wake up call for the digestive tract, and is loaded with all sorts of nutrients and health-promoting qualities. I think of it as chicken soup for body and soul, only without anything... uh... dead.

As with other recipes I share, you don't have to be vegan to enjoy this soup. And it's super fast and easy to make, so let's get cooking. Always use the best organic ingredients you can find. If you have some leftover brown rice, you're in luck! If not, cook some up to use in the soup, and save the rest for a nice dinner stir-fry.

Miso Happy Soup

To make about 4 big bowls of soup, saute in a little oil:
1/2 a small onion - chopped
1 stalk celery - chopped
2 carrots - quartered lengthwise and chopped
4 cloves of garlic - sliced thin

When carrots are still crunchy, add:
4 cups water
1-2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup frozen corn
4 fat pinches of chopped, dried seaweed (really)

Heat to almost boiling and reduce heat to simmer. Never boil miso or you'll kill it.
In a small bowl or cup, place 4 heaping teaspoon "blops" of miso, then ladle a little of the soup broth into the miso. Stir until it's dissolved, adding more broth to thin it down a bit more. You can use any kind of miso you prefer. We happen to have red miso in the fridge today.

Pour the miso-broth into the not-boiling soup and blend. Add tamari to taste, and it's ready to serve. Garnish each bowl of soup with half an avocado, chopped in small pieces.

There you go. Enjoy! No matter what time of day you eat this, it will make every part of you happy. That's how it got its name.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the Short Answer

I'm still tinkering with links and attempting to get everything to line up properly in cyberspace. No small task! Why do I create these jobs for myself? Well, creating is creating, I guess. I really like having all my "stuff" in one place. Well, except for the blog. The blog works best here, but the website is another entity all together. A lot of people ask me for advice on site building. The long answer has taken me almost 15 years so far to figure out. It could be a book, but it probably won't. The short answer is:

I'm really not a computer genius. I just pretend to be. I am, however, a firm believer in building one's own website. I've seen too many friends depend on someone else to do it for them, and then dangle helplessly out of control of the whole thing. If you do it yourself, you can make updates and changes any time you want. And it's much cheaper. That matters to some people.

I've moved my site from Earthlink to Homestead to GoDaddy to Weebly. And although Weebly can be a bit skittery to work with at times, I'm staying put. A basic site is free to build and host. Can't beat that. And even if you opt for more bells and whistles, it's still really reasonable. Even cheap. I don't know how they do it, but I love them for it. You can make as many pages as you want, add photos, text, shopping carts, slideshows, videos, blogs, and more. And it's set up so anybody can figure it out. Just drag and click.

So OK, enough free advertising for Weebly. Go there. Check it out. And if you're still intimidated by the idea of building your own website, I'll do it for you. For a fee, of course.

And, while I have your attention, I also have some new earrings on the new Alchemy Jewelry page. I think you need some new decorations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Lights Are On

A quick update on Taos Light Works...
I've got it up and running!

I spent all weekend re-creating my website, and convincing all my creative efforts to peacefully coexist under one roof at With so much going on, it just makes sense to keep it all as streamlines and simple as possible. Now when you visit my main site, you'll find links to Taos Light Works, Alchemy Jewelry, and Art Glass Beads. Have some fun wandering around in there, and if you find any typos, please let me know... I'm a bit bleary-eyed at this point and might have missed something!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Taos Light Works

I've had a new Bright Idea. Literally. You know those Virgin of Guadalupe candles you can get at the grocery store? I like them so much, I always have at least one around, and when we were trailer-traveling, we used an empty one as a night light, with a rechargeable, battery operated candle inside. They're nice enough, those candles, but they're kind of crummy when you look at them long enough, and they're intended to be disposable, which troubles me. I found myself wishing for a nicer version of the Virgin. I googled all over the place, and spent hours on Etsy and Ebay. I didn't find anything I liked, so, as usual, I decided to make one myself. It came out so beautiful, I quickly cranked out about a dozen, wondering what I was going to do with all of them. And then it hit me. Not a light bulb moment, but a candle moment. The model for a nice new little business was right there in front of me, glowing quietly, waiting for me to notice it.

And so, I'd like to introduce Taos Light Works, my new line of beautiful candles, designed in honor and celebration of women everywhere. I'm making them myself now, but plan to expand to employ one or more local women. I also plan to donate $1 from the sale of each candle to local (and maybe global) organizations that support, assist, and encourage women. Years ago, when we were getting ready to move to Taos, a friend in Seattle raised her eyebrows at me, and asked, "Hmmm... are you a Light Worker?" I didn't even know what a Light Worker was then. But now, in an odd sort of way, I guess I'm becoming one through this. The idea here is not only to support myself and my family, but to help other women do the same thing. I want to shine my little light, and see how far it can go.

I've spent the last couple of days working out all the details I'm aware of at this point. I've figured out the cost of making them and shipping them, factored in what I can pay someone to help me, and searched for good sources for materials. Instead of cheap paper, I cover these "church candles" in beautiful fabrics, and add touches of gold paint and subtle glimmers of rhinestones. They're not only beautiful to look at, but have a nice rich feel in your hand as well. When the candle burns down, they can be used over and over again with little votive candles, or my favorite, the rechargeable battery candles. The designs so far are all beautiful women, but as I search for fabrics, I find so many others I'd like to use too. You can expect some expansion of the designs if this goes well.

I'm rebuilding my website and Etsy Shop next, and hope to have some candles ready to sell in just a few days. They'll be $20 each, and because they're heavy (over 1 pound each), I'll have to charge a bit for shipping. Of course, if you live in Taos, you can come and get them directly from me!

Wish me luck! And always shine your own little light. I still think we can change the world in small ways every day. I grew up in the 60's. I can't help it. (And yes, I'm still working on the cookbook too.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lasagne Lesson

Lasagne. Oh, where to start? With the spelling, I guess. I've always spelled it with an "e" at the end, but I know a lot of people prefer an "a". As I understand it, lasagnE is Italian, and lasagnA is American. Also, lasagnE is the plural of lasagnA, so unless you're making the dish with only one big noodle, you're making lasagne. So much for grammatical correctness. I've always used the Italian spelling because I like to pretend I'm Italian. I think I'm entitled, since my Dad spent two years in Trieste when he was in the Army. He came home with some Italy on him, and in some kind of alternate reality quantum physics way, that would surely be passed on to his eventual children. I am a big fan of quantum physics, although the learning is slow. But if I wake up one morning fluent in Italian and dashing out to buy a pasta maker, don't be surprised.

Anyway, I made lasagne last night, as a special Sunday treat. It's a special food, isn't it? A lot of work, and a lot of mess. It would be so much easier to just make a rigatoni casserole with all the same stuff in it, but somehow, when you take the time to layer those wide, flat noodles between the sauce and filling, what comes out of the oven is extra heavenly and loaded with love for whoever is lucky enough to get to eat it. I have worshipped lasagne all my life, and have made it many times. It had been a while though. Maybe years. I'd gotten lazy in the pasta department. For me, lasagne takes a little bit of mental preparation. I have to be in the right mood, in The Zone even, and yesterday, for whatever reason, I was.

Now veganizing a dish like lasagne can be a bit intimidating. Traditionally it has meat and gobs of cheese in it. The cheese is where the comfort comes from. But I hate vegan cheeses. Every one of them, so far. (I also dislike faux meats. If I wanted to eat meat, I'd eat meat.) I'm told that Daiya is the vegan cheese to look for, but I haven't found it in Taos yet. Might have to make the trek to Whole Foods in Santa Fe, just for cheese. It can also be ordered from VeganEssentials, but second day air, cold storage shipping is pretty pricey. Might as well make a day of it in Santa Fe. You can probably just drive down the street to Whole Foods, lucky duck.

Back to my dilemma. Not a terrible one, really. People make lasagne without meat all the time. I had some nice whole brown rice noodles, made a good tomatoey sauce, sliced up a load of mushrooms, "prepped" the spinach by opening the bag, and then made a wonderful creamy-rich filling that would stand in for the cheese. The recipe isn't exact yet, but I took notes, and I'll share it here later, or in the book, if the book ever becomes real. If you're a cook, take this list of ingredients and run with it: silken tofu, cannellini beans ( I use these two things a lot for creamy stuff), garlic, walnuts, nutritional yeast, herbs, salt and pepper... I think that's it. A quick buzz in the food processor, and oh, yum. A most excellent creamy goo. Assembled and baked, it was a truly beautiful lasagne, which I forgot to take a picture of. I was too hungry.

We sat there, eating in reverent silence for a few minutes, and nice salad and cheap wine on the side. What can I say? I can't afford good wine these days, but just like pretending I'm Italian, I can pretend I'm drinking a lovely little chianti from the vineyard just over the hill... When we finished, Rick asked me what I would change next time. I always change something. I critique as I eat, making mental notes, commenting on what could be better, and jumping up to write it all down as soon as the plates are cleared. I didn't do that last night. I just... ate... the... lasagne. All the flavor and comfort and texture required of lasagne were there. The only thing missing was strings of cheese hanging down my chin, which I really didn't miss at all.

I have to say, this was something of a Transformative Lasagne. As I ate it, enjoyed it, savored it, for exactly what it was, not noticing, or caring about, what it wasn't, I understood something important about turning regular recipes into vegan recipes. It's not important to exactly replicate a lasagne, or a turkey dinner, or a cheeseburger, or anything else. It's important to make great food, and allow it to be what it is. Taking it a step further, isn't it important to let everything be what it is, from ourselves, to the people in our lives, to our very lives themselves? Making everything exactly like something else, or like something we imagine to be ideal just isn't the point. Lasagne Lesson learned. Thank you. A certain level of acceptance for What Is can be every bit as comforting as a good lasagne. Now that's what I call a mess worth making.