Here is a gluten-free, dairy-free, low calorie fun noodle from House Foods in California. I just got back from grocery shopping and wanted some lunch and decided to try it with some leftover eggplant w/garlic sauce. I ate the whole 8 ounce bag of the shirataki angel hair and it was only 40 calories for the noodles... 40 calories! And they have a wonderful texture; kids would love them. And you don't even have to cook them. And they weren't that expensive - $1.79 for the bag. And they are vegan! What a deal. I wish I'd gotten more than one bag!
No time to write more - just wanted to hollar about these fun "noodles".
I've discovered a new food that rocks my boat. It's harissa - "a North African hot red sauce or paste whose main ingredients are chili peppers (often smoked or dried) and garlic. Though most closely associated with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, it is a standard ingredient of North African cuisine.
Harissa often contains seeds like coriander, caraway, or cumin, and usually olive oil. It may also contain tomatoes. It is used both as a condiment and as an ingredient in recipes." - description from Wikipedia
I was on Heidi Swanson's 101Cookbooks siteagain and when reading about one of her recipes, a vegan asked what a good substitute might be for Parmesan cheese. Heidi suggested that she might try harissa. I'd never heard of it, so I did a little research. It's nothing like Parmesean cheese, but it sure offers a punch of flavor where you need it so was a great suggestion. I'm not much for very hot food because my tongue just can't handle it, but in my new vegan cooking, I am trying all kinds of new things. And I have a yen to grow lots of different peppers next year and am looking at the mild and hot ones. They are so easy to grow and I've enjoyed my bell and banana peppers this year so much. I'm letting the banana peppers mature to a flame red and they are so much more flavorful riper. And my bells are actually "chocolate" bell peppers, turning a beautiful brown when fully ripe. Now I have a desire for some peppers with a little more heat.
I found a recipe for harissa that looked good and tried it recently. You can make it as hot or mild as you want, so I decided to start on the mild side, though the more you use in your food, the hotter it will be even when "mild". I'm using it as a condiment. I've added it to spaghetti just before eating it, vegetable soup and stir-fried veggies that I put on top of all kinds of things. I can see it being used in lots of different foods. Here is a great article about harissa and the possibilities; some of the info I have added here.
I got my recipe here and changed it slightly because of what I had on hand. Here is the recipe I used:
Basic Ingredients: 2.7 ounces ancho chilis (dried poplano peppers) 1.3 ounces sun dried tomatoes 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided in half 7 or 8 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Directions: 1. Put enough water into a medium pan that would cover all the dried chilies. Bring the water to boil and then turn off the heat. Add the chilies and cover. Allow the chilies to soften - about half an hour.
2. If you are using whole spices, grind them in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
3. After the chilies are rehydrated, squeeze out water and seed and stem them. Some suggest to wear rubber or latex gloves, as the oils from the peppers can irritate your skin and remain on your hands. I didn't use gloves and had no problem. But don't handle hot peppers and then scratch your eye!
4. Blend the chilies, tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander and salt in a food processor. The consistency should be a thick puree, the color dependent upon your ingredients. Mine looked like dark chocolate, because my chilies were very dark.
5. Transfer to a jar and pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil on top. Cover tightly and refrigerate for a few days before using. Taste and adjust salt as needed before serving. If kept tightly covered, it can last up to 3 months in the refrigerator. More olive oil might need to be added periodically to the top of the harissa to prevent it from drying out.
After you've made the basic harissa, you can also vary the flavor profile you want - adding cilantro and dried mint to the chili paste, or fresh chilies, onions, roasted bell pepper, or a dash of lemon juice. I added the dried tomatoes and will probably continue to do so. It's such a fun and easy thing to make and can be fine-tuned to your own taste preferences
Animals by the Watering Hole, tapestry, 'Ali Salim, 1985. Museum no. ME.1-2008
"As our hearts open to deeper understanding, our circle of compassion naturally enlarges and spontaneously begins to include more and more “others”— not just our own tribe, sect, nation, or race, but all human beings, and not just humans, but other mammals, and birds, fish, forests, and the whole beautifully interwoven tapestry of living, pulsing creation. All beings. All of Us."
Mike and I are funny about traveling. We want to get out of town, but by the second day away we're ready to be back home. We like being at home. There's stuff to do there that we want to do! I missed my kitchen, that's for sure. We had a cute little kitchen at the Apple Orchard cabin where we stayed. And it had all kinds of dishes and pots and pans - and the cabin was as pretty as it could be. But something about being on vacation means that we should be out and about, not hanging out in a cabin and cooking our time away. So that's what we did - and I didn't cook at all other than oatmeal one morning. I did pack a huge fruit salad consisting of cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries and pineapple though... just in case I couldn't find anything to eat on the way, and when I wanted a snack.
Finding food for me was a challenge at restaurants though.The first restaurant was touted as having a "great" veggie plate. We got there and the veggies included macaroni and cheese for cryin' out loud. I've never understood that. Is it a Southern thing? I dunno, but it makes no sense whatsoever. None. They did have a sweet potato and fried mushrooms. No green veggies though! So I ended up with the sweet potato which was sweetened and spiced up to the point that I couldn't even taste the potato. And the mushrooms were encrusted with a thick layer of dough. Mike and I husked them and left the hard, dry shells in a heap on the plate. I was just about to take a picture of the pile when the waitress scurried off with them. I also got a "side salad" and it was so sad. Sad, sad, sad. I tell ya, being a vegan you gotta be tough. You are a freak and the minority and most people don't care if there is anything for you to eat. Regardless, I had a great time, and the other two nights were good food-wise. I had a hummus dinner with great, ripe veggies and an Italian dish made with penne pasta, broccoli, garlic and olive oil. Simple and wonderful.
Okay, I have a few more picture of the trip... starting off with another view of the area where we were staying. The sun was setting in this one:
And a couple of pictures of yours truly at that site:
This picture shows where someone wrote "GO Lance Armstrong" when he participated in the 2004 Tour de Georgia (he won!). This was approaching the very top of Brasstown Bald. As we drove up the lower part of the mountain to get to it, there were lots of bikers riding up and up; it was astonishing the great shape they were in.There were many bikers in the area while we were there.
Here's a picture of barefooted Mike walking down the trail from the top of the mountain to the parking area.
Look at this sign attempting to lure you inside to get a biscuit. I know I shouldn't be so mean because some poor soul probably spent a lot of time painting that picture. But... I can't help it... that biscuit looks about as appetizing as a pile of poo. My apologies to the artist.
I fell in love with this weeping willow tree as the sun was starting to set, casting a warm glow:
Here's one more shot of me on our little cabin's front porch.
And a shot of Mike at the little dock on Lake Chatuge right across from our cabin the night before we left.
And just one more shot at the scenery as we left to go home.
I have a love/hate relationship with the South. I grew up here, so it feels like home and there is a warm comfort being here. Kinda like a soft, faded quilt wrapped around me on an autumn evening. And it has a certain beauty that can't be found elsewhere. But it has parts that make me cringe, and I don't fit in here... never have. But I believe it is where I'll be 'til my dying day. I don't like Coke or fried food or people waving the confederate flag, and since I'm not a Christian, the Bible Belt is way too tight for me. But I love okra and magnolias, going barefoot half of the year and the smell of the damp air in the Blue Ridge mountains. There is a certain rawness here I love, but sometimes that rawness can turn ugly. But it's home and like with most places, I take the good with the bad.
Mike and I spent two days last weekend in the Hiawassee area of north Georgia - right near the North Carolina border. We stumbled upon this insanely tumbled mess of a store that just demanded I take pictures. It was just too... quintessentially rural south... that part of the south that makes me wince. Here, you see the confederate flag flapping in the wind. Why? I don't know. It makes me squirm when I see it. It reminds me of a painful and ugly past that should be far removed from today.
To the right of this display was a dog lying next to a big, black smoking pot of boiling peanuts. He was sacked out livin' the life. As I approached him to take his picture, the store owner walked up and said, "That's Bark Obama. Since he is part white and part black, we decided it would be a good name for him." Sure enough, he was indeed black and white. And he didn't mind having his picture taken at all. Click on pictures to enlarge.
About the only things that didn't attack my senses at the store were these apples and pots placed amongst a huge smiling plastic pumpkin, gnomes and gargoyles. Tackiness and haphazard clutter abound in certain parts of the South.
About an hour later we were sitting on the deck of our cabin enjoying the view of Lake Chatuge and the mountains in the distance.
Out for a drive, we saw these loblolly pines.
And these chickens for sale...
I saw my dream truck at a little car show we stopped at to check out. Only I don't like low-riders... too impractical and way out balance if you ask me. Otherwise though, it's a cutie.
This street sign made me laugh...
But this sign annoyed me.
Below, the sun was setting on a small part of Lake Chatuge.
Mike and I went up to the top of Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia with an elevation of 4,784 feet above sea level. You can see North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee from there. We enjoyed the view and breeze; it was quite a bit cooler than in Atlanta. It has the same year-round temperatures as Massachusetts! The view was a bit hazy, but we could see pretty far. Did you know that the Appalachian Mountains are said to be 230 million years older than the Rockies? And that they were once as tall and imposing as the Rockies are today?
Here is a picture of the path back down from the peak. It was late and we were the only people there, so it was a quiet, peaceful hike.
On the way back to our cabin, we spotted another cool truck, only this was was out of commission. What a shame.
And, that's it for now. We had a great time and I'll post more tomorrow.
"All I can say is that there's a sweetness here, a Southern sweetness, that makes sweet music... If I had to tell somebody who had never been to the South, who had never heard of soul music, what it was, I'd just have to tell him that it's music from the heart, from the pulse, from the innermost feeling. That's my soul; that's how I sing. And that's the South."
Mike and I are taking off soon... we'll be home some and traveling some during the next few days... and I won't be online after tonight until Sunday or even Monday... a break from the computer - yay! I think it will do me lotsa good. And Mike can rest his poor, overworked body. We'll leave all the daily challenges, political news and craziness bubbling over in the world behind for a few days and instead... concentrate on peace and quiet, nature and beauty and just spending time together... reading a little, sleeping a lot, wandering in the mountains and enjoying the wonders of nature...
I'm glad Mike and are taking off a few days later this week; I need to get away from blogging and emails and work and the city and the regular day-in and day-out of living. Sometimes it can just wear ya down y'know...
I must apologize for not keeping up with my emails to anyone waiting to hear from me. Some of you other bloggers probably know... if one has a blog and you post controversial topics on the blog, you will receive lots of emails. Well, I do anyway. Sometimes I feel like I'm running around trying to put out little fires everywhere when I get them. I love writing, and I truly love getting comments and emails very much, but sometimes I just want to live in the real world and so the emails wait. My apologies. I spend so much of my time reading and researching and delving that I have to force myself up for air and let myself see the sun and trees and birds flying around... I hope you know what I mean.
I didn't mention it, but the little ticker on my countdown clock on the left side of this page is now below 365 days. That's now less than a year until we can move to the farm! Only... I need to change it to say,"Time left until I retire" instead, because we won't be at the farm full-time by then, only part-time. We have to sell our current house and figure we'll spend half the time at the farm and half the time at our current house until we can get it cleared out. We can't clear it out until we build a storage place up at the farm. But I'm not complaining... you know why? Because it's less than a year before I get to retire! I've worked full time since the beginning of time (well, it sure seems that way) and really, the thought of not having to go into an office five days a week is almost too much for me to comprehend.
Here are a few updates that don't warrant a whole paragraph:
My veganism is going along fantastically and I am still enamoured with learning new ways to cook with new ingredients. Mike is hanging in there. I'm quite sure he will never give up eating meat.
The movie Julie & Julia was a lot of fun. Especially watching Meryl Streep play Julia; she was wonderful - and sounded so much like her. And Mike didn't fidget much at all during the whole movie! Of course... I didn't enjoy seeing all the raw meat they kept prepping to cook and boiling lobsters alive. Didn't like that one bit.
Sophie has learned to not get anywhere near the steps on the deck. She was "bad" two times and then got it. She's a good kitty. She and Zena are loving their 13-foot scratching post.
I have so many peppers on my deck garden I might have to freeze them. I'd never heard of freezing peppers before, but yep, you can do it.
I feel bad that I never wrote the two book reviews I said I was going to write. I don't like that and I am going to do it one of these days. Both books have so much to say and are so profound, I want to write the reviews.
That's enough for today... I have some reading and dreaming to do... vacation days... soon...
I do believe that health care reform must take place soon for many reasons, but I agree with lots of people that it shouldn't to be super rushed through until all the kinks have been ironed out. Of course, what you think is a kink and what I think is a kink will probably be two different things. But those things are debatable and maybe even negotiable if people are willing to talk about it. Ultimately though, the majority of people voted for Obama and want major health care reform. It's impossible for all of us to be happy with every part of what is passed; I'm sure there will be parts I don't like.
But! I agree with what Dean Ornish and Andrew Weil say about needing more emphasis on prevention in the new health care bill. Unfortunately, you then get into that area of life choices and people don't want to be told not to smoke or to stop eating red meat and eat more vegetables or that they need to exercise, etc. Things that I believe very strongly in. They won't like that anymore than what's in the bill now, even if it makes sense and has been proven to improve one's health and longevity at much less cost. Here are two articles by both doctors giving their take on it:
So... maybe we can at least agree that the bill should not be super rushed through - though it needs to be done quickly before it gets caught in the political quagmire of Washington, and that more preventative care should be added. I know it's already in the bill, but maybe just not enough.
I've been having so much fun cooking lately, but this weekend time has been limited and since Mike and I will be gone part of next week, I don't want a lot of food around anyway. But I did make Mike a vegan chocolate birthday cake and it is one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever had. No eggs, no butter, but it is very rich tasting and I really don't think anyone would ever have a clue. They would just say, "Can I have your recipe?" It does have some sugar and maple syrup and is half white flour and half whole wheat pastry flour, but I bet it could be tweaked. I decided to go by the recipe exactly the first time. It has a "cream" filling between the layers and a very chocolaty icing. Here is a picture of a slice:
After making the cake, I picked some tomatoes from my deck garden. I ate one right off the vine and was reminded by the ripeness and explosion of flavor in my mouth how much better home grown is compared to store-bought. I wish I could grow them year-round. Here they are in a bowl... they are so pretty...
I made some salsa (thank you for the recipe, Mermayd) and tried to spice it up a bit this time. It calls for serrano peppers and the last time I made it, it never got hot - not one bit. Mike picked up four more peppers and I put them all in this time - seeds and everything- and it is slightly hot. I don't get it; serranos are supposed to be pretty dern hot. But it's still really good. Mike loves to sweat when he eats spicy food, but I can't eat food that hot. I'm trying to get a heat we can both enjoy. Here is the finished product:
I finally found some stacking bowls I like and ordered them last week. They arrived yesterday and I love 'em! They're stoneware and the perfect sizes for me - and only $18 for the whole set. I do a lot of cutting and chopping when I cook and I'm always grabbing bowls here and there to put stuff in. This way, they're all in one place. I wanted blue ones, but they were out, so decided the off-white would do. Sophie is checking out the strawberry.
We're going to see Julie & Julia later this afternoon. I read somewhere that you should eat before you go because all the sumptuous cooking that goes on in the movie will make you hungry. Maybe I should have a big piece of chocolate birthday cake just before I go.