Tofu-nut loaf

For some reason I thought I had already posted this recipe. I just assumed I had because I make it so often. But here it is now. The title leaves something to be desired, but I promise that a tofu loaf does not have to be as bland as it sounds.

In fact, served with mashed potatoes and my brown shallot gravy, it’s about as hearty a meal as you can get. With the miserable weather the last couple of days, it has been just perfect for dinner.

Tofu-nut loaf

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1-pound brick of tofu, drained and mashed
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 a green pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then add the onions and saute until translucent. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl and combine with the onion. Pour the crumbled mixture into a loaf pan and press it with your fingers until it forms a loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Super simple mashed potatoes

5 medium to large golden or red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup half and half
Salt to taste

Heat water in a big pot until boiling and drop in the potatoes. They will need about 15 minutes to cook, so keep checking the pan and test them with a fork to see if they are soft.

Drain off the water and let the potatoes cool just a little before adding the butter, half and half, and salt, and mashing with a potato masher.

Brown shallot gravy (vegetarian)
(I keep tweaking this recipe, but this is what I’m using right now)

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
3 cups veggie broth
3 tablespoons corn starch

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are translucent. Add the tamari, black pepper, and two cups of broth, and heat until it starts to boil. Mix the corn starch with the remaining cup of broth and pour it in. Stir the gravy until it thickens. If you like a thicker gravy, use a little more corn starch.

Making progress in the garden

Mike and I spent most of the day Sunday working on the yard and trying to get our garden fully planted. Our tomato and pepper transplants arrived from Seed Savers, and after a little late freeze scare, we decided to get them in the ground.

I think this year will be our best garden yet. We’ve had three years to play with different setups and find out what works and doesn’t work here (and also what we will actually use). So this year’s garden will contain:

-Tomatoes (Amish paste, purple cherokee, brandywine and a cherry tomato variety)
-Peppers (red bell peppers than we can also pick green, small hot peppers)
-Beets (chiogga and yellow)
-Greens (spinach, two kinds of red lettuce, and a pretty green lettuce)

We’ve almost got a full salad already.

I’ve made the front porch a dedicated space for herbs in pots. So far I have sweet basil, Thai basil, thyme, and dill. I want to get oregano and cilantro, too.

We realized pretty quickly that we weren’t going to have room for everything in the backyard garden, so we picked a spot in our side flower garden to use for overflow. Last year we tried growing a watermelon there, but it didn’t work.

I still need to do some work on the side garden to make it look a little better. We have rose bushes, some perennial flowers that are just starting to bloom, and a bunch of bulbs that were there long before us. I just need to mulch around those plants and add the overflow vegetables there.

We also moved two hostas that were in a raised bed in the backyard to a shadier bed and covered them with black mulch. We’re going to use the sunnier spot that they used to be in for zucchini, which for some reason died last year.

To be honest, our yard is so overgrown in parts that it really needs a lot of landscaping help and tree removal to look truly great. But since we’re just renting, we are only going to do enough work to make it tolerable while we’re here, and to get the most out of our garden.

Thank goodness I have Mike to mow the lawn! (I really hate that part.)

There is one part of the yard that drives me absolutely crazy. In between our screened-in porch and the garage you can see an area (maybe 4 by 10 feet) that’s completely overgrown. I’m calling it the secret garden. We tried to cover it with river rocks a while back, but since we didn’t put plastic underneath, the weeds just grew through the rocks. I want to fix it, but it’s a lot of work I’m not looking forward to redoing. We’ll see how motivated I am…

I was going to show you more photos of our progress, but unfortunately it has been raining for three days and I haven’t gotten a chance to finish the side garden. We’re out of town this weekend so I won’t get to do it then either. I guess it will just have to wait for sunnier days!

Loving: blackberries

Berries have suddenly gotten WAY cheaper at the grocery store, so last weekend I found myself buying strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, even though I only had plans for the strawberries. But that’s OK. I just like to eat the other berries plain, or on top of yogurt and granola. For some reason I hardly ever buy blackberries, but I really enjoyed having them for breakfast this morning.

Do you have a favorite blackberry recipe?