I have a lot to do today, so rather than chit chat, I'll just get right to it and post some beads for you. I have 6 ready to go today. I'll keep doing it this way until it no longer works. These are numbered from left to right. To buy them, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me which ones you want, and how many in total. I'll do my best to give you your first picks, but I insist on being super fair about this, so whoever gets their email to me first gets the beads. As soon as I post these, I'm going to the studio, and will not bring my computer with me. If you're one of the lucky ones, I'll send you a PayPal invoice later this afternoon. If not, I'll drop a quick email letting you know. It's sort of like the old Secret Bead Club, only much smaller and simpler. These beads are all encased CZ Flowers, and range from 15 to 18 mm across. Just right for wearing one or more simply on a chain, or incorporating into a fabulous design of your own.
Now that Oprah's gone, my hopes for a fabulous makeover are gone along with her. Fortunately, I have a blog and a website to play with, and I'm learning my way around Photoshop. Whenever I feel the need for a New Look, I can just change up my online image, even if my own personal face stays the same. That's what I did today. I was tweaking one little thing on my website, and before I knew it, I'd given it an entire facelift. Come see. It's really pretty!
While you're there, take a peek at the Alchemy Jewelry and Taos Light Works pages. I'm about to close them down, so now is the time to get your glowing candles and fearless bling!
I have to admit, I was surprised -- and quite pleased -- at the response to the return of the flower beads yesterday. I also have to admit that selling my work is the best encouragement to make more. I've spent the last several months doing a lot of things for nothing but Love. Don't get me wrong, I love Love! I also love to eat and pay my bills. You know how that goes.
I woke up this morning humming the Talking Heads song, "Nothing But Flowers." I took it as a personal message from the beads themselves, and possibly from the Universe. Nothing but flowers? Really? Well, OK, I guess I can do that for a while. My gift to the Universe.
Inspired by the Bead Love, I spent yesterday afternoon in my studio, and made 7 more sweet little flower beads, which you'll see below, and can purchase if you like. They may be my gift to the Universe, but unfortunately, everybody else has to pay...
These are numbered from left to right, 1, 2, 3, 4...
...and 5, 6, 7.
They're $25 each, which includes shipping. These average between 16 and 18 mm across. They're all encased, and all flowers have little CZ centers. To buy them, send me an email at email@example.com. Tell me which ones you want by number. I'll send a PayPal invoice for any that are still available on your list. I'll ship next business day, which will be Tuesday, and you'll get tracking info via PayPal.
I am not a gardener. Somehow, that particular skill was not passed along in my family. The only gardening activity I remember was my sisters and me sitting on the front lawn with our parents on hot summer evenings, pulling weeds, with the promise of a trip to 31 Flavors keeping us motivated. Later, as teenagers, we sometimes shoved the old push mower around that same lawn, but that was about it. There were flowers and trees and shrubs all over the place, but darned if I recall how they stayed looking nice. Mom probably did it, but she never shared her secrets.
Last weekend I planted some herbs in a big pot outside the front door. This was my big leap into gardening. I figure I can handle a pot of herbs, and if I keep them alive, I get to cook with them. So far so good. I've always kind of thought if I was going to grow something, it might as well be something I can eat. Then my neighbor gave me three little baggies of flower seeds. Morning glories, zinnias, and cosmos. There went my plant-it-to-eat-it theory. I hate wasting things, and I like flowers, so what the heck. I planted the morning glories along an ugly wire fence, and the zinnias in front of the little guest casita. I'm not sure where to put the cosmos yet. I need to consult with Rick, the resident master gardener, to see if he has a plan for the area below the living room windows.
Part of my morning routine now includes dragging the hose across the yard, and walking along the fence to water the seeds. I watch for them to come up, and pull a few weeds as I go along. I feel as if I've adopted that fence line. We have an acre of land here, and enough weeds to make us buy 3 goats a few years ago. The goats didn't work out, and we gave them away. The weeds are winning. But I think I can handle a fence line and a pot of herbs. Maybe I'll get the hang of this and expand my territory, but I'm going to take it slow.
A funny thing has happened though. Some little roundabout connection clicked in my brain yesterday, and I went out to the studio and plugged in my kiln for the first time in months. Then I sat down at the the dusty torch table, and made beads... I honestly didn't think I'd ever make a bead again, but there I was, music playing, CZs scattered on the table, and my hands remembering how to put tiny flowers into beads as if I'd never stopped. I made 5 little flower beads before I called it a day, and when I went to retrieved them from the kiln this morning, I was actually surprised at how nice they turned out.
The gardening connection seems obvious. I always sort of thought of myself as more of a "glass gardener" than a real one. Maybe now I can do both. Of course it would be nice if I could sell the beads, since I can't eat them. But rather than blasting back into my old "career" as a beadmaker, I think I'll keep it more on the semi-retired hobby level. I'll do it when I want to, never when I don't. I'll sell them when I can, and give them away sometimes too. That always makes me happy, like a real gardener sharing a bumper crop of corn or peaches with her neighbors. No promises. No custom orders. And no, even suggestions are not welcome. I am an uppity old bead-farmer.
So here's yesterday's crop. If you want to buy one of these, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. From left to right, let's number them 1 to 5. The background colors are transparent pale aqua, purple, lime, teal, and sky blue. The flowers are white, lavender, or blue, and all have sparkling CZ centers. These are my classic encased CZ flower beads, still as pretty as ever. And they're less expensive than they used to be. I'm feeling less competitive I guess. They're just $25 each, which includes shipping, and they measure about 16mm across the hole. I'll send you a PayPal invoice, and can mail next biz day most of the time. I hope you like them, and hope some of you who have been after me to get back to the torch already will take advantage of this little surge of creativity. It might turn into a big surge... or it might not. It's summertime. The livin' is easy. And I have a yard to tend to.
Thanks bead lovers! These sold out within minutes!
I did not believe for one moment that The Rapture would come on Saturday, although I thought it was a nice idea for certain people to be lifted off the planet. But any excuse for a party will do, so I looked into my magic refrigerator, and came up with a decadent snack that fairly screams of celebration, while making use of only things I already had on hand in the kitchen. After all, where's the sense in buying more food the day before the world ends?
The name, Frabjous Day Fritters, comes from the poem, Jabberwocky, and just sounds like more fun to me than the word "rapture", which always reminds me of "rupture." Anyway, if you're still here, as I imagine you are, celebrate that today, and fry up some fritters for you and your friends.
Frabjous Day Fritters
You will need:
2 red potatoes
1 cup rice flour (or any other flour you like)
3 T arrowroot
1 T baking powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
organic, unrefined coconut oil for frying (It smells so good. Use it on your skin and hair too. Wonderful stuff.)
In a food processor, grate the potatoes, carrots, and onion.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and stir in flour, arrowroot, and baking powder.
Return half the mixture to food processor, and blend till almost smooth.
Return blended mixture to mixing bowl, and stir into unblended mixture, along with all other ingredients.
I use my hands to get it all mixed together well.
Roll mixture into balls, and flatten in your hands to make little patties.
Fry in hot coconut oil till golden brown on both sides.
Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt if you like.
Serve hot with warm peanut sauce, or any other dipping sauce you come up with.
Here's how I make Peanut Sauce:
I make a big batch, so we can use it for several days. Usually we eat it up much faster than that.
In a large saucepan, slowly heat:
a whole jar of organic peanut butter
a large can of coconut milk
fresh grated ginger - a lot - maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup to taste
(Hint - freeze the fresh ginger to make it easy to grate)
juice of 1 lime
tamari for desired saltiness
red pepper flakes or hot sauce for desired spiciness
maple syrup for desired sweetness
I never measure anything for this sauce. Just add and taste, add and taste. It's a terrible job, but somebody's gotta do it... Add almond milk to thin it down if necessary, and serve hot with fritters, or over noodles, rice, veggies, etc. If you ask my family, peanut sauce makes just about anything better.
I thought it was going to be a long time before I could "come out" with what I'm about to tell you. But something I'm constantly reminded of is we have no real control over life and situations, especially when there are other people involved. And there are almost always other people involved. All we can do individually is make our own best choices, and then take responsibility for what happens from there. What's happening here is out of my hands. How I respond to it is totally up to me.
So here's the scoop.
Back in February, Rick's daughter Julia came from California to Taos to live with us and have her baby. She was fleeing an abusive relationship, and because of the violent nature of the baby-daddy, we all felt the only thing we could do was hide her here. At that point I went off the radar here on my blog, as well as on Facebook, never daring to post anything "real" for fear that baby-daddy might find Julia.
Due to decisions I didn't make, and do not agree with, everything is out in the open now, so I'm finally free to tell you... I am a grandmother! Baby Jacob was born on April 21. Rick and I were there to help bring him into the world, so we've known him from his very first breath. He is a beautiful baby, and a delight to have here with us. We know that in time, Julia will find her own place and move on with her life. So for now, we're enjoying every minute of watching this new little life learn and grow. Growing is what he does best right now! He was 9 pounds 13.5 ounces when he was born, and at 4 weeks old, weighs over 11 pounds now. He likes to be walked and danced around the kitchen, so we're all getting lots of exercise and building muscle! Fortunately, he approves of most of the music in my iPod, and is particularly fond of world music, which is nice to dance to in a late-night kitchen.
Secrecy is a hard thing for me to live with. I can keep other people's secrets. In fact, I'm really good at it. But they get heavy, and I get tired. I would much rather carry a baby than a secret. And I'm happy to welcome you back into my world. Here he is. Meet my new Love, Jacob.
I had planned to spend yesterday afternoon in the studio, for the first time in weeks, just to see if there were any sparks left, or if anything would stick if I threw it against the wall. Then Deborah suggested lunch, and I was out the door in a flash, no looking back. The studio has been waiting all this time, it will wait a little longer.
We headed to the opposite end of town, to Arroyo Seco, our destination, that-place-that-changes-owners-about-every-other-week. Last time I was there, well, a couple of years ago, it was called Gypsy 360. I used to get the Buddha Bowl, with brown rice, veggies, tofu, and peanut sauce. Mmmm. Or maybe I should say, Ommm. But when we got to the door and I saw the name is now Hunter Tom's, I was a little bit worried.
One of the many nice things about being vegan is I don't have to read entire menus. Since it was a special occasion -- Tuesday afternoon, and I was out of my house -- we started with a big beer, which we shared. It was really good, and the label was exceptional. My favorite part of the menu was the line at the bottom, that read, "There will be a $1 surcharge for any irritating substitution." The owner told us about the guy who asked for a slice of onion... exactly 1/4 inch thick. Irritating, indeed. I was reminded of our Honeymoon Pizza days, back in Seattle, where we learned very quickly that we couldn't please everyone, and shouldn't even try to. I did appreciate that Hunter Tom's offered one little nod to the veg-heads who might wander in, but clearly, the place intends to attract meat eaters. (I refrain from calling them meat-heads, because so many of my friends still eat meat. It's catchy though, and it might stick, so don't be offended.)
Skimming past all the meaty offerings, I noted that even the salads couldn't be veganized in a satisfying way. All of the dressings contained cheese, and a wedge of naked lettuce is just a little too Peter Rabbit, even for me. I ordered the only thing on the menu that looked friendly, the Buddha's Buns, which had the added comfort of echoing the name of my beloved, bygone, Buddha Bowl.
Deborah got a chicken-something, and we shared an order of sweet potato fries, because the burgers didn't come with anything. The food was good, even though the bread was too white for me. We both set the buns aside, and I took them home for the ravens that hang out around our yard, hoping for scraps. My lentil patty was house-made and quite good -- I'll be using lentils in my next batch of burgers at home. It had enough flavor and texture that it was still good all alone on a plate, with only a leaf of lettuce and a few slices of avocado. Hold the mayo, please. There are eggs in there. Deborah liked her chicken sandwich, but I didn't ask for a bite. You meat eaters are on your own.
I'm working on a rating system. Like Carrots maybe. On a scale of one to five, rating it from only my limited vegan perspective, I'll give Hunter Tom's 1 Carrot for vegan options, 5 Carrots for friendly service, 2 Carrots for price ($9.50 for lentils and white bread on a paper plate with no side was a little steep I thought) and 5 carrots for atmosphere. It's always nice to sit in the sun room, looking out at the greening elms and cottonwoods, while sharing some time and food with a good friend.
Bottom line, it was a nice lunch with terrific company, which is really enough to make me happy. I wouldn't go back there on my own, but then, it's very likely that the next time I'm in Arroyo Seco, that restaurant will have changed hands again. Maybe next time a couple of vegans will buy it. A girl can dream.
I don't have a car, and Rick has the bigass truck all day, most days, for work, so I don't get out much. I do my own so-called work here at home, and I cook a lot, so I'm busy enough, all things considered. The trouble is, I'm always at home. This is not good for a gypsy's state of mind. I've begun to daydream about going to school... in New York, or Paris, or Milan. I imagine where I would go each morning, if I had a car... grocery shopping maybe... in Denver... or Mexico. I look at the bike that's a fairly permanent fixture in the studio, and imagine how far I could get if the blasted wind would ever stop blowing. I am a wanderer in chains, and I am not happy about it.
Recognizing the deranged look in my eyes, Rick took the day off yesterday, and we went on a little field trip to Santa Fe. We did some shopping, and had plans to have a nice lunch at the Tree House. We wanted a Food Adventure, in a restaurant we'd never been to. I had seen this place mentioned in VegNews magazine, and was really excited to give it a try. Even though it's not really a "vegan" restaurant, the menu looked much more veg-friendly than we're used to in these parts. Not only do we live in the Land of Enchantment, we live in the Land of Meat-Eaters, where plant based meals are rarely found outside of one's own kitchen.
So I grabbed the address from the Tree House website, and off we went. But... my enthusiasm got in the way of my reading skills, and I sort of overlooked the part where they mention being closed on Sundays and Mondays. I should have known. A lot of places are closed on Sundays in this part of the country. After pressing my nose against the window and making a little whimpering noise, we got back in the bigass truck and just sat there in the empty parking lot. We didn't want to go to any of our regular lunch spots, all of which have had really limited menus for us since our grand vegan return to New Mexico. Finally I suggested we go to Whole Foods and check out the cafe. I knew we wouldn't get margaritas there, but at least we'd have some good food choices. Dining in a grocery store isn't exactly my idea of a fun date with my sweetie, but we were hungry. And I have to admit, we had a really delicious meal.
After cruising the cold deli, hot bar, salad bar, and sandwich/pizza counter, we decided on some cold salads from the deli, which they happily put on plates so we could "dine in." I had quinoa salad and a beautiful green kale salad. Rick had the same, and added some coleslaw with black sesame seeds, and a little bit of broccoli salad. It seemed like all of them had more or less the same dressing, sort of a light vinaigrette, but because the other ingredients were all so different, it tasted different from dish to dish.
I don't have actual recipes for these, but I did poke around on my plate quite a bit, and made some notes. I think you can figure it out from here. The quinoa salad had: red quinoa, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and parsley. The kale salad had: chopped kale, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, edamame, sunflower seeds, cashews, and... blueberries. Yes, blueberries. To be honest, I didn't think that part worked. There weren't a lot of them in there, but enough to know it wasn't a mistake. Still, every time I got a blueberry bite I just thought it was more weird than innovative. Not bad, but not worth doing, in my humble opinion. Anyway, we really did enjoy our lunch. The food was great, the ambience was... casual... and the price made me feel like a real cheap date. In a good way.
After clearing our own table, we got in line once more for a couple of excellent rice milk lattes, which we sipped on our way back home. The Rio Grande was beautiful, lined with sprouting green things all the way up through the canyon. We stopped for a few minutes at our favorite spot along the river, stalling just a little bit longer before going home. I waded in with two little girls who were there with their parents, and who warned me not to get my flip flops wet. I ignored the warning, and admired their Sunday clothes and pretty hair styles. That's what gypsies do; break the rules and look for the beauty. Standing there in the cool water, knowing it was on its way to Mexico, even if I wasn't, I felt more like myself than I have in weeks. I'm still in here somewhere, and I know I won't be stuck forever.
I'm not going to write a book.
Not a cookbook, or any other kind of book.
Well, maybe I didn't lie exactly, but I did overestimate my dedication, time, and abilities. I don't have the slightest idea how to make a bunch of thoughts and words into an actual book. It's too big a project, given everything else I have going on right now. (And I'm sorry I still can't tell you about the rest of it, but please trust me when I say it's all good. Someday I'll be able to talk again.) Besides, I recently read somewhere that about 3% of published authors make enough money at it to make it worth the effort financially. I still live in a world where I need to get paid for my work, which is pretty funny, considering all the things I'm doing these days for no money at all. Turns out, sometimes we do what we do for the love of the doing, or the love of someone else. Sometimes we get paid in a currency other than cash. I'm OK with that... for now. But when I get to a place where it's time to Do My Work again, I damn well want to get paid for it.
Sitting here in a sort of creative limbo, I hum the Jimmy Cliff song to myself often, and try to be comfortable with the fact that nothing I have ever done before will work for me now, and I have no idea what to do next. In the flashing moments where I can let that be okay, an ocean of possibility opens up. The trick is drop the oars and just let my little boat bob in the waves. When I try to paddle, I only get tired and lost.
Looking at some of my strengths, I'm a blogger, not an author, a cook, not a chef, an artist, not a factory. It makes sense to me to keep cooking, keep feeding my family and friends, keep making notes, keep making stuff, and keep sharing my best successes with you here. I never really know what's going to work, in the kitchen, or in life either. I do know that writing a blog for the purpose of getting noticed, getting sponsors, and getting paid is a silly idea. But I don't know that a well-tended blog won't someday evolve into something bigger than the sum of it's individual posts. I only know that I don't know anything, and from that starting point, again and again, anything can happen.
I can't talk about my life right now, but I can talk about food. Stick around. Let's eat.
I got a nice note from an e-friend this morning, who also happens to be named Kim Miles, and who's husband is also named Rick. How weird is that? She tried out my tamale pie recipe, and customized it to suit their tastes, which is great! I want to share her words with you here, in hopes that it will inspire even more of you to try something new. Quinoa is awesome. And just so you know, it's packed with complete protein, so if you're thinking of adding meat to the recipe just to add protein, there's really no need. I understand that some of you like meat... I'll be patient with you. :o)
I tried your Tamale Pie recipe the other night and it was WONDERFUL!!! I have been wanting to try quinoa and had no clue how to use it. I might have cooked it a little too long because it all but disappeared in the bottom layer but the flavor it added was really good. My Rick is not a vegetarian by any means and does need his meat for dinner so I added two chicken breasts that I sliced and cooked in Mojo. And we are both spicy freaks so I added some jalapenos. I was kind of afraid to do the tortillas because I thought they would be soggy so I only did two - again they were a great addition and I will add the amount you suggested next time. It is just my husband and me and it did make a BIG bunch but we both took it for lunch and then had it again last night for dinner because we couldn't get enough of it - we fought over the last bites!! Thanks for a yummy addition to my weekly cooking menu!!!!
Nice! Thanks, Kim!
So last night, for Cinco de Mayo, I made nachos. It was the first attempt at this gooey comfort food since finding Daiya "cheese." For those of you who dismiss faux cheeses on general principal, please give this stuff a try. You can find it at Whole Foods, and we even get it here at our little local organic market. It's honestly the only one I've found so far that tastes good and actually melts, unlike some that make your pizza taste like it has grated crayons on top. The nachos were delicious, but kind of soggy, because I made a cheese sauce instead of just sprinkling the shreds on the chips with the beans, olives, mushrooms, green chiles, and jalapenos. Sometimes I complicate things that would be better left simple.
So my advice on this dish is to do it the easy way. Anybody can pile up a tray of nachos and pop it in the oven. Don't forget the guacamole on the side! If you want to try the sauce, it's actually a wonderful queso dip. Just mix it up and put it in a bowl. I made a huge batch. I usually cook enough food for at least 6 people, so adjust this any way you want.
I used one 8 oz bag each Daiya Cheddar and Pepper Jack Shreds, one 13 oz tub Bueno Green Chiles, thawed and drained, one can pinto beans, one can sliced black olives, a chopped fresh tomato, and a big handful of chopped baby portobello mushrooms.
I heated it slowly, adding a splash of beer and some almond milk to thin it down, and a little salt and pepper. It does not turn that lovely orange color of Velveeta. It's more brownish, so don't be alarmed. And it's absolutely delicious. I can't wait for Happy Hour on the patio tonight, so we can finish up the leftovers!
I had a request for a main dish using quinoa, and a few days later, this appeared in my kitchen. It's a lot like the traditional tamale pie my mom used to make with ground beef, only without the meat, of course. Quinoa is a super-protein grain, and works really well in this dish. It was so good, we're looking forward to eating the leftovers tonight.
Quinoa Tamale Pie
These amounts will fill a 9X13 baking dish. Mine is a bit smaller, so I had a some left over quinoa and filling, which I'll use for something else.
Rinse and cook 2 cups of quinoa. Leave it in the cooking pan while you make the filling.
Chop and saute one small onion in a little olive oil.
Add 3 T chili powder and cook with the onions for 2-3 minutes. This gives the chili a wonderful deep richness. Don't skip this step!
Stir in 1 T cumin and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Add 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with the juice, 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed, 1 (6.5 oz) can sliced black olives, 1 cup frozen corn, and about 13 ounces chopped green chiles. I use Bueno brand, which is in the freezer section here, but may not be available everywhere. Fresh chiles would be terrific, and Ortega's will do in a pinch.
When the filling mixture is hot, add 6 organic corn tortillas, cut into bite sized pieces, and stir to coat them.
Spray the baking pan with cooking spray, and layer the quinoa and filling with Daiya Cheddar Shredsas follows -- half the quinoa, cheese, all of filling, cheese, remainder of quinoa, cheese. You'll use one whole 8 oz bag of "cheese". Daiya is the best un-dairy cheese I've found so far. Love it!
Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes. Serve with a green salad and simple avocado dressing (mashed avocado, vegan mayo, lemon juice, salt & pepper, a touch of maple syrup, and almond milk to thin)
A side note: Kicking the dairy cheese habit is difficult because the stuff is literally addictive. Cows milk contains morphine, as well as casein, which when broken down by the body releases even more opiates. The concentrations of these opiates in cheese are high enough to make it addictive. I know from my own experience how hard it is to walk away from cheese. But once I did, I noticed how much better I felt, and I also started to lose weight, which always pleases me. If you want a little help kicking your own cheese habit, watch the film, Go Further, in which Woody Harrelson bluntly explains how dairy products contain "blood and pus"... Mmmm. Appetizing, huh? Now get yourself some Daiya and make some tamale pie!