Thursday, February 11, 2016

When Buffaloes Fly

I can't remember what I was searching for. I can't recall if it was on Pinterest or Twitter or YouTube or plain old Google. I do know I didn't type in the search words "cauliflower" or "vegan" or "Buffalo" or "wings" or "Super Bowl Snacks for People Who Live on Tree Bark."

But somehow I stumbled across a grand thing. A thing of wonder. A vegan treat for carnivores. A carnivorous treat for vegans. We discovered Cauliflower Hot Wings.

Back between my 20 or so years of being a vegetarian and my current status of being vegan, hot wings became one of my favorite things to order at restaurants. Not as an appetizer, those things will ruin your appetite - I would order the wings as my entree. I loved the spiciness cooled by the Ranch dressing. I loved the pieces of celery that made me feel better about all that chicken. And I loved the fact that my husband wouldn't steal any of them. Because as much as he loved meat, and he loved meat, he hated "gnawing on bones" as he would put it. He didn't want to be reminded that meat came from animals, and the bones are pretty much a dead giveaway on that front.

Enter complete veganism for a few years now. No meat, and no bones about it. No hot wings, no cold wings, no buffaloes roaming in our home. Until this recipe literally flew into my laptop. 

Vegan Buffalo Wings

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegan milk
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 dash hot sauce

1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup ketchup 

Heat oven to 450. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or non-sticking option of your choice. Combine water, milk, flour and spices to make a thick batter. Dip cauliflower in generously and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Combine ketchup and hot sauce. Dip baked cauliflower pieces in the sauce and put back on the baking sheet. Cook for another 20 minutes or so until they become all yummy looking. Then chop up another cauliflower and start again because your first batch will be gone in no time. 

Something happens to that lowly cauliflower in the process. It must just love all the attention of getting double dipped, because it magically transforms itself into something that is no longer a cruciferous vegetable. How can I describe it best? To be honest, it tastes a lot like chicken.

So get yourself some garbanzo bean flour...

...whip up some batter...

...make a hot diggity sauce...

...get in your double dippin' groove...

...and make some of these cauliflower hot wings!
(No buffaloes were harmed in the making of this appetizer.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rising to the occasion

In our quest to keep my husband's arteries free and clear, there have been many (many many) foods we have given up. If it squeals, moos, clucks, gobbles or makes fish faces, we don't eat it. If it looks like dairy, smells like dairy and walks like a hunk of cheese, it's a no go. If it cracks like Humpty Dumpty, we're not buying it. And horror of horrors, we even stay away from extracted fats. Yes, even olive oil, And coconut oil. We eat olives, we eat coconut, we just don't eat the oil apart from the whole food. It's unconventional to say the least, but my husband's health issues are unconventional too, don't even get me started. Oops, I almost forgot the salt, we limit our salt intake. Because when it comes right down to it, the rules of our diet are simple. "If it tastes good, spit it out."

Hence, I'm one of those label lookers, ingredient dissectors, package perusers. The ones in the aisle at Trader Joe's to whom you just want to say "Would you just buy the idiot can of marinara sauce and get out of my way, Lady, how bad can a jar of marina sauce be?" But I ignore you and read on, carefully doing the math, comparing fat calories to total calories, checking the sodium content and examining whether or not someone snuck in something that squeals, moos, clucks, gobbles, makes fish faces or walks like a hunk of cheese. 

One thing Ernst hasn't had to give up is bread. Of course as our diet has morphed into one resembling a chimpanzee's in the wild, I have to stand there and check for fat calories verses total calories and look for that all-important sodium content. "Would you just buy the idiot loaf of bread, Lady..." 

I've never had the desire to bake our own bread, ever. Banana bread yes, zucchini bread of course, but not real honest-to-goodness, flour-on-the-counters, arm-muscles-rippling, make-the-house-smell-wonderful bread. Adding to this lack of bread baking desire, there is the little tiny issue of my wheat issues. As in, eating bread makes me puff up like a muffin high on poppy seeds. It's not like I haven't tried to prove my body wrong, oh have I ever tried. But waking up with muffin top above the neck is not a pretty sight, therefore I do a pretty good job of staying away from bread. Plus all the good sandwiches contain something that squeals, moos, clucks, gobbles, makes fish faces or walks like a hunk of cheese anyway.

Then I read Michael Pollan's book Cooked. His amazing writing style not only convinced me to try making totally-from-scratch sourdough bread, but I was sure that somehow I would be able to handle eating sourdough and not look like a poppy seed addicted muffin face the next morning. He kind of promised. 

So I mixed up some water and flour and set it out in our kitchen And we waited. We went away for the long weekend and I had a neighbor come over and stir the mixture up. It didn't quite go bonkers or anything, but it did start to bubble and smell like socks dipped in beer (that's good) and it increased in volume. I had made sourdough starter!!! The bread part was still to come, but making the starter from scratch is pretty fun in itself. I'm not super good at following instructions, and I didn't quite do the "feeding" right, and it apparently takes some time to develop the "mother" but I called it a success. I decided it was time to make the bread, the magical bread I could eat.

It's got bubbles! It smells bad! 
Next step was to take some and save it in the fridge and feed the mother and let it set out overnight, all fat and happy. We heard a pop in the night. I went to check.

The mother blew her top/

The whole process seemed really scary at this point, and I had a head cold, so I chickened out and stuck the mother back in the fridge with her baby and went back to bed. I got my courage up the next week and tried again. By this time I had seen so many videos on YouTube of how to make sourdough bread, I didn't know who to believe. There are some mighty strong opinions out there in the land of sourdough making. I decided it was just flour and water, how hard can this be, just do it. So I did. The rising part was simply lovely to witness.

Big and fluffy! It rose like a champ.

Hard and dense, it fell like a brick.
But it was bread, and it was sour and had a great taste, so we ate it. I woke up a few hours later with a stomach ache and then woke up again in the morning looking big and fluffy, yet feeling like a brick. So much for sourdough bread for me.

But this story of gluten intolerance has a happy ending. Feeding the mother, keeping her happy, means you end up with lots of extra sourdough mixture, All those bread experts on YouTube kept mentioning that you can use your extra sourdough starter to make pancakes but I was sure they all contained things that oinked and mooed. So I searched for "low oil vegan sourdough pancakes" and this came up from

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Yes, mostly in French and in grams, but a good start(er).

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So I made these. No oinks, no moos, no eggs, no oil.
Not much to look at, but still yummy.

Then I made these beauties. They were delish filled with jam.
Ernst thought they were the best thing since sliced bread.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Autumn Rose Blooms in a Blizzard

When I order something online, I'm much too cheap to pay for expedited shipping. Or express mail, or even priority. No, I just check the box for "delivered by snails wearing lead jackets" and I wait patiently. It's sort of fun to finally get a package that I've completely forgotten about, and probably already made the first credit card payment on. "Why, whatever could it be...?" is the best reaction ever when ripping open packing tape with one's eye teeth. (They don't call them canines for nothing.)

When I'm on the other end of things, it's another story. My Etsy shop has free shipping and a promise to ship within three business days. You wouldn't know that from my reaction to getting a sale notice. I spring into action. I race to get the quilt out of my sewing cabinet. I usually give it a final wash, dry and a once over, looking for stray threads. I pack it carefully and tuck the gift tag into the box. Then it's time to weigh it, make up the shipping label and slap that on with packing tape that fights me like a crazed wolf. That's just in the first half hour of the sale's notice.

Then comes the dash to the post office. The timing of the trip to the post office is in direct correlation to the latest incoming precipitation event. Yes, this is drought-striken California, but when I have a quilt to mail, it is guaranteed there will be a monsoon or a typhoon or the Pineapple Express or the Siberian Express or an Atmospheric River, or some other catchy named event made up by weathercasters sick of blue skies.

When Autumn Rose sold, my client specifically said "Take your time. No rush. Don't hurry." But I had boxes to box, tape to tape, labels to label, and this quilt went out in one of the downpours of "El Niño-ary" with wiper blades wiping and puddles puddling. And smack dab into Winter Storm Jonas. I should have gone with Parcel Post. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Calling Molly

The dream of most dog owners, I imagine, is to have a perfectly behaved dog, the kind that can go to a dog park and show off its superior canine skills for all to see. While the other dog owners apologize as their pup wee wees yet again on someone's leather loafers or terrorizes the terriers and bullies the bulldogs, the confident dog owner just smirks that smirk of a good dog owner. I hate that smirk. I want that smirk. I practice that smirk in private.

After being Molly's owners for over five years now, our expectations have dropped considerably. At this point all hopes of the smirk have faded and I would settle for two commands:

Don't kill the skunk

That doesn't seem too much to ask. Yes, the daily bedside paper delivery is quite awesome, and she smiles almost on demand now. But Come and Don't kill the skunk would impact our lives in such a positive and pleasant smelling way. 

While Ernst commands more respect from Molly in the Come department, she seems to be an equal opportunity ignorer when it comes to Don't kill the skunk. Molly definitely views Ernst as the Alpha Dog, and she and I as underlings on the same footing. I know my issues of letting her get away with too much come from that first photo we saw of her from Golden Retriever Rescue. That poor little dog in Bakersfield, tied to a trailer hitch with a rope, with scratches on her muzzle, kennel cough and pregnant at one year old with 9 puppies from a pit bull. Poooooor Little Doggie!

While Ernst has been able to put aside that image of Poooooor Little Molly from his mind, I haven't. And it shows up in the list of nicknames we each have for her.

What Ernst calls her

Shawubadawah (This came from who knows where, he uses it, I don’t)
Little Girl
The Girl
Noodle (When he’s mad at her)

What I call her

Molly Wolly
Molly Malone
Mols the Wols
The Mols
The Girl
Poooooor Little Girl
Pumpkin Girl
Poooooor Little Pumpkin
The Pump (This one stuck and I don’t know why, Ernst has even started using it.)
The Schnook
Silly One
Little One
Poooooor Little One
Just a wisp of a thing
A mere wisp
MoLLEEEEY (When I’m mad at her)

Queen of the Ottoman Empire

Crocodile Mols
Sleeping Beauty

Skunk Magnet

Snug Bug

Chipmunk Molly

Triangle Molly

Bally Molly



Rooster Killer

Dog Park Dropout

Kid Lover

Flying Ears

Ball Watcher

KonMari Molly

Hat Hater

Poooooor Little One!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

California Cow Carnage

There are three ways to make a rag quilt. One way is to sandwich a piece of flannel inside, cutting the flannel the same size as the squares. This is probably the fastest technique and ensures a good fringy raggy look. The second way is to make a puffy rag quilt, which comes together fairly quickly but really only looks good in bigger sizes - they are a bit too puffy in just a little lap quilt. The last way is the first way I learned, where a smaller piece of quilt batting is sandwiched with an X by either a straight line, a zig zag or other decorative stitch. These to me are the cutest, but take more time to make when I add in the extra step of sewing the X on every square.

The technique using the X poses a problem too when the fabric I'm using has animals or people in it. That stitch always seems to whack right through some poor animal's vital parts, or stab through an unfortunate person's torso. This doesn't help in my quest to improve my photography for my Etsy shop. One can only crop so much before you've cropped the whole quilt away. 

When I took the photos for Fredrica the Farm to Fluff Quilt, I fully intended to do a retake. Or at least a recrop. But after cleaning up the fabric scraps, prepping the quilt for the photo shoot, writing the description and deciding on the price - Eh! Good Enough! I folded Fredrica up, stuck the quilt in my storage cabinet and called it done. Fredrica waited patiently until the time was right, and pulled my last quilt sale of 2015 out of her little bovine sleeve. Good cow. 

But I still have goals to improve in my photography skills in the coming year. Better lighting, more props, and no carnage allowed. 

OUCH! Straight through the neck!

Mr. Rooster gets it right in the tail feathers.

Cut off that ear and slice up that side of beef.

Busy background! Where is Fredrica?

Poor thing never had a chance.

Goals for 2016? I've got some great quilts planned using very refreshing colors moving into spring. There's a super cute Alphabet one planned using some vintage ABC fabric, a couple more using adorable lady bug prints, a shabby chic pink number or two, and some always popular blue and white quilts. Last year was a great year for quilts - here's hoping 2016 is just as good, with no farm animals harmed in the process.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My brain break is over

Coming back from a two week visit with my family in Connecticut involved five airports, four planes and a big bump – the kind that left me with a hefty travel voucher. I came back with a cold too, but a NyQuil induced coma of 24 hours cured that up real quick.

As is typical on any vacation I take, my intentions of working on my Romanian were lofty. Reading aloud, some intense study sessions, new vocabulary words, nailing down those pesky grammar issues that have plagued me for years – the plans were set. But any really good plan has some wiggle room, and I was in the mood to wiggle. There were gab sessions to enjoy, mountains to climb (OK it was just a hill) and thrift stores to explore.

I believe that Connecticut has the very best thrift stores in the country, if not the planet. Picture Talbots sweaters with original price tags and buttons still attached, as far as the arm can stretch. My sister Joanne and I went four times to the same Savers and I now have enough sweaters to get me through the next Ice Age. Which by the way has not hit the East Coast yet, some days it was just sweater weather. I’ll blame my lack of Romanian lessons on global warming.

One of my first days back home I read a passage of Romanian out loud to my husband, who by the way stayed home in California where it was cold. It was rough, my reading that is. My short two weeks away did a number on my Romanian pronunciation, that was apparent. It had nothing at all to do with the amount of chocolate consumed or all the Hallmark movies I watched. Time away and global warming, they are language killers of the worst kind.

So my first Romanian meeting back after the NyQuil induced coma was a bit nerve wracking. Everyone was happy to see me, and I stumbled through my story about my family being fine and the weather in New York being so warm. I've found it’s just easier to tell a person from Eastern Europe that my family lives in New York. They don’t know about Connecticut and its thrift stores full of never worn cardigans.

To my pleasant surprise it was the most I ever understood in my history of attending Romanian meetings in Sacramento. I got most of it, or at least I think I got most of it, which is a victory. There was even a video played that had Romanian dubbed over English, and I didn’t have my typical scenario of the English voices trying to drown out the Romanian. I heard the Romanian and I got it. And the last talk was by our dear Grigor, who talks at the speed of those people at the end of an infomercial. You know, those guys who read 10 minutes of material in 5.7 seconds. 

I’m chalking this language victory up to two things - giving my brain a rest from Romanian, and my new hearing aid! Yes, my dear Mom insisted I see her “hearing aid guy" in Brookfield Connecticut, right down the street from Savers. He was great to work with, and he set me up with a fancy new hearing aid to combat the hearing loss I have from Meniere's Disease.

Frank the hearing aid guy says my situation of really good hearing in one ear and horrible in the other is frustrating to my brain and emotionally draining, like having my brain cut in two. Yep, I would say so. It was wonderful from the moment I tried the loaner on, I danced around the office and hugged Frank and his assistant. I absolutely love it. I hope my brain can forgive me for putting it off so long. Romanian grammar, I’ve got my whole brain back and I’m coming at you.

Loved it from the second it went in my ear.

Me and my brother Jeff on the Walk Over the Hudson.
It wasn't cold, the hat was for a bad hair day.

My friend Sara's feet and my feet with a sign.
It's what people do now.

Me in Warwick NY
December 2015, no coat!
My Mom and I took a little drive down to see my friend Sara in Warwick NY. She and her family moved there to help with the new headquarters for Besides getting to chat with someone who always helps me put my head back on straight, I got to see a bit of Sara's lovely home and new town. Charming. Simply oozing with it. I can't wait to go back and spend some more time in Warwick in the coming years. Because everyone needs a brain break now and then.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I think, therefore I yam

Or is it "I think, therefore I sweet potato?"

Turns out it's the second one. I finally got it straight. All those ugly looking tubers in your neighborhood grocery store, the ones hanging out near the potatoes and the onions, are sweet potatoes. Apparently, we've been lied to all these years. Every last one is a sweet potato. 

But the deception continues because a sweet potato isn't really a potato. More lies! They're not in the potato family, but rather the Convolvulaceae, or morning glory family. True yams are something completely different, way more dry and starchy and have scaly skins. But the moniker has stuck here and you'll find them named whatever makes them sell. Because their looks are not their best asset. Raw or baked, these guys are pretty ugly.

This was labeled Asian sweet potato.

These lovelies were called Beauregard yams.

The lighter skinned ones are usually labeled sweet potatoes.

The checker told me the insides of the purple ones would be white.

Two by two, they went into the oven for the ultimate taste test!

We don't smother our sweet potatoes in marshmallows or brown sugar or butter. We just bake them and eat them plain. They are really hard to mess up. Scrub them gently under water. Put them on some parchment paper, foil or Silpat, and then on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven at 350 - 400 degrees and let them bake until they're done. When are they done? Hmm, how do I put this delicately...

Cook them until they poop.

Cook the c€@p out of them.

Cook them until they're even uglier than when you put them in. 

That purple sweet potato is the one the checker said would be white on the inside.
What is it with the lies?

My verdict in the ultimate taste test? This particular purple one was a bit dry, but I've had others that were moist, so I'm not writing off the purples ones yet. The white one (labeled sweet potato) was really delicious, with a mild flavor. The Beuregard yam and the regular old yam on the far right had the softest texture and the "yammiest" flavor. They are so full of color,  I bet nutrition-wise maybe the yams have one up on the lighter fleshed sweet potatoes.

If I could find one that has the skin of a sweet potato and the flesh of a "yam" that would be my dream tuber. But they are all terrific and yummy, so flavorful I don't want to put one thing on them. And since there are nearly 400 varieties grown, I see more yam poop in our future. Excuse me, sweet potato poop.