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)
-Carrots
-Eggplant
-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?

Strawberry pie fail, sort of

Strawberries were super cheap at the store last weekend, so I bought two pounds. With half a recipe of pie crust leftover from my quiche, I knew exactly what to do with those berries: make pie!

I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to work with strawberries only, and it looked beautiful going into the oven. But when it came out … strawberry soup.

Despite a quarter cup of cornstarch, those berries put out enough water to render it useless. I will say, though, that after draining off some of the juice, that pie was darn tasty.

Next time I think I will use the technique that I use in rhubarb crisp, which is to heat the berries on the stovetop first, then add the cornstarch and make sure it thickens before I put it in the crust. I don’t think the filling would get overcooked with the extra cooking time, but if I needed to dial back the baking time, I think the crust would still get done. That was no problem.

Do you have a good strawberry pie recipe?

Yummy enchilada casserole

I made up this recipe because I’d made something similar before, didn’t really like it, and figured I could do it better myself. Turns out I can.

I combined the original enchilada recipe with a burrito bake recipe, added vegetarian chorizo, and voila. It was super tasty. By the way, this Melissa’s soyrizo is one of the only fake meat products I really like. We buy it all the time to put in scrambled eggs or to use in place of taco meat.

What I liked about the burrito bake was that it used turmeric to flavor the recipe. It’s one of those spices that seems reserved for curries, but you can definitely use it elsewhere. Not only is the color this brilliant yellow, but the aroma is wonderful, too.

I also like the addition of salsa verde, and the fact that I made my own enchilada sauce. It was wonderful, and so easy to make. I will never buy that canned stuff again.

Yummy enchilada casserole

1 medium onion, chopped (reserve 1/4 for the enchilada sauce, diced really small)
2 T. vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. turmeric
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 cups veggie broth
1/2 a tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup salsa (your favorite brand)
1 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Another T. each of cumin and chili powder
1 T. lemon juice
3 wheat tortillas
1 bottle salsa verde
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start by sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Then add the turmeric, stir, and add the broth. Heat to boiling, then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through.

(I can’t get over how great the color turns out!)

While that’s cooking, prepare your enchilada sauce. Heat a little more oil in a pan and add the finely chopped onion. Next add the fresh tomato. Squish the pieces with the back of a spoon and cook until it forms a paste. Then add the tomato sauce, salsa, tablespoon of chili powder and teaspoon of cumin. Cook just a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Pour into another container and set aside.

In the same pan, heat another splash of oil over medium high heat and quickly brown the soyrizo. While that’s cooking, mix the black beans with the cumin, chili powder and lemon juice in a bowl.

Shred the cheese. If you’re me, get really excited about your new Pyrex cheese grater with measurement window. Woo hoo!

Now you can start assembling the casserole. Really you can do this in any order you like. It’s all going to taste the same in the end. But this is how I did it.

Spread half of the salsa verde on the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish.

Layer one and a half tortillas over that.

Next add half of the rice and half of the beans. Top with half of the cheese. Arrange another one and a half tortillas, then top with the rest of the salsa verde. Add the rest of the rice and beans, the chorizo, the enchilada sauce, and top with the rest of the cheese.

Looks pretty good, huh?

Bake for 20 minutes and serve.

Loving: sun jar

I got this sun jar as a gift quite a while ago, but for some reason my first attempts at using it didn’t work. I was resigned to thinking I got a broken one, but when I went through the basement digging things out for our garage sale, I saw it sitting there in the box and had to try it once more.

The instructions said its reusable battery might need to be replaced occasionally, and we had just recently bought some of those. So I took the jar apart, replaced the battery, and set it in the sun to charge. Sure enough, as the sun went down it light right up. So we’ve been enjoying it ever since.

Did you know you can make one of these yourself?

The BEST oatmeal cookies

Found this recipe on Joy the Baker and thought I would try it. Wow, was it a good one.

There’s something about the way these cookies look that just seems perfect to me. Like a designer cookie. But they are very simple to make.

Plus, don’t you always feel a little less guilty when it’s an oatmeal cookie?

Strange…

The strangest thing happened today, and I just had to share it with you. Around 4 this afternoon I decided I had to spend some time outside because it was so beautiful out. So I took my book and a blanket and headed to the backyard. Normally when I go out to read I drag the blanket into the grass, but post-rain the grass was really high and, I figured, hiding lots of bugs. So I laid the blanket on a patch of patio and started reading there.

After a while I put the book aside and just looked up at the huge tree I was sitting underneath. It’s our big walnut tree, the one that drives me crazy when it starts dropping nuts. But it had just started leafing out, and against the blue, blue sky it was looking so pretty. It reminded me of living in the mountains – how blue the sky was. How much I used to savor my walks outside. It was one of those stop-and-smell-the-roses moments. Really nice.

After an hour I had to go back inside and get ready to teach my Nia class. A while later Mike came home from work. He went into the back yard to check out the garden, but he came back right away. He asked me if I had noticed that a branch was down (because it was also really windy today). I said no, but I’d heard some noises that I thought might have been banging doors or something. Well, it turns out a huge branch fell off of that tree, the one I was sitting under. It fell right where I had been sitting. If I had still been there, it probably would have hurt me.

Weird, right?

I don’t believe in signs, and I don’t even know what something like that would mean. But it’s a hell of a coincidence.

Loving: iPad

Looky what I got to play with last night. Mike brought home an iPad from work. It doesn’t have much on it, but I at least got to see how it looks, feels and works. I can’t say I feel the need for an e-reader in my life at this point, but I do find the iPad pretty cool. It seems similar in size to a lot of books, and for everyone who’s tired of pushing tiny buttons on a cell phone or PDA it’s nice to be able to really see what you’re looking at. When I have an extra $500 on hand (which is never), I’ll think about it.