23 December 2009

Christmas at home

I finally have a tree again. In the last few years, end of semester school work and international travel plans have left me with no time for a full blown arbol. But this year, there was time. AND there was a farmer (Laura from Blue Door Farm!) willing to deliver to my door step a native, but invasive, Eastern Red Cedar. I will confess that these trees are sharp and require thick gloves and Benadryl cream. You might find that your house mate or spouse hates them. But I love them. And I love having a Christmas tree again.

A friend told me recently that I reminded him of silent film star Mildred Davis. I think I was channeling her when I topped my tree with this bow.

Self portrait

We had a heck of a time getting the tree to stand up straight. Our Christmas tree stand is woefully inadequate and the tree teetered and tottered as we ran around the apartment trying to find something to prop it up with. We finally settled on empty beer bottles.

"Beer fixes everything," said Sergio.

After Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad sent me home with lots of green and red goods from their yard - holly and something pronounced "you" that I don't know how to spell.

buffalo grass and holiday greens

on top of the piano, too

Sergio's folks brought all our stockings from Mexico - plus a new one for Lil Baby Pumpkin. Sergio adeptly hung them beautifully on our book case. They are half full already.

We're up to 9 now.

Merry Christmas

21 December 2009

Paul Mesner Puppets: "The Nativity"

All these years I've lived in here (well, only 8 years but still) and I had never seen Paul Mesner Puppets until today. Our friends were in the show this weekend; Sergio's family is here and we were looking for fun things to do; we had a Christmas fund to spend from Sergio's grandmother. So we all made our way to Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral to see the Paul Mesner Puppets troupe (at last!) in "The Nativity." They were wonderful.

Are they puppets or marionettes? We wondered. But they seem like something unto themselves to me. Greater than full size ... taller than tall ... eyes of unusual size. The arms and fabric billow. The heads bobble ever so gently. The bodies sway in the space above the audience as they walk down the aisle. And for humor the sheep poke their heads into the crowd and go "baaaaaa" and the camels lean over and spit. "Putoey!"

When not being funny, the larger than life characters are mostly surreal and other worldly towering over us like figures in a dream. A good dream. In fact if I could hire the Paul Mesner Puppets troupe to star in my dreams every night and portray the contents of my subconscious, I think I would.

16 December 2009

ThanksVegan #6

The tradition continues. Every fall for six years we have gathered with our friends Jon and Erin for a completely vegan Thanksgiving. The menu changes every year and gets better every year, too. But some things - like the mashed potatoes and the bonhomie - stay the same.

seitan roulade from Vegan Yum Yum

We were all Tofurkey-eating novices when this began in 2004. By now we've graduated from a processed & boxed main dish, to made-from-scratch roulades - a tofu roulade last year and a seitan roulade this year.

sage, thyme, garlic - for the stuffing

Each year we've been able to get more local, too - although we seem to delocalize things pretty often - driving our Missouri Brussels sprouts to Tulsa - or driving Oklahoma sage and thyme to Kansas City.

Eden Alley's Mushroom Gravy was Sergio's most stunning gravy yet

Our resources this year included the Candle Cafe cookbook, a Nigella recipe cut out of the newspaper, and the newly released Eden Alley cookbook - Stirwell to Heaven. Oh, and Erin, who is a resource in and of herself.

heirloom pumpkins; long island cheese and jarrahdale
The Nigella recipe was for stuffed, roasted pumpkin. I took two elements of my centerpiece - two heirloom pumpkins from Hun's Garden - and stuffed them with rice, cranberries, and saffron and roasted them for ages. Delicious.

steak on our Cosentino's gift cards - not vegan

What I couldn't buy at Badseed on Friday, we bought at Cosentino's on Saturday - wheat gluten, oranges and cranberries, among other things. (Very little soy, though, as this year's meal was virtually soy free.) This trip to the grocery store was funded by a generous gift card from a colleague which I have been holding on to all year. I've been saving it for a special occasion - an occasion like the Sixth Annual ThanksVegan - a very special occasion indeed.

The Full Menu
• seitan roulade (recipe from Vegan Yum Yum)
• roasted, stuffed pumpkin (recipe from Nigella Lawson; pumpkins from Hun's Garden)
• roasted broccoli and cauliflower (from the JCCC/K-State Student Farm)
• sauteed kale and chard (from Badseed and KCCUA)
• mashed potatoes (from Alice, Western Hills Produce)
• wilted spinach salad (from KCCUA)
• mushroom gravy (from Eden Alley cookbook, using Soaring Eagle Farm wheat flour)
• mushroom and wild rice soup (recipe from Candle Cafe cookbook)
• grain travel bread (from Fervere)
• cranberry orange relish (recipe from Erin's grandmother)
• easy tarte aux pommes - a.k.a. Apple Pie (from Vegan Yum Yum)

06 December 2009


Today was the KC Food Circle's annual meeting and several of us signed up to bring food. I was signed up to bring "something from Badseed." So on Friday I went to the market and bought a few things to bring. But it was mostly salad fixin's and I knew I couldn't bring salad to the meeting because we wouldn't have any forks but I didn't have time to prepare anything else and I really kind of wanted salad and so ... I went ahead and made salad. And put it on a stick.

I ran a some turnips, radishes, and cucumbers through the mandoline; I used a very mild, lettuce-like bok choi on the bottom and arugula on top; and I engineered it so the spiny part of the lettuce on the bottom and the half tomato on top held it all together. A plate full of these drizzled in dressing made for great finger food. If I do say so myself.

Post Thanksgiving Weekend in OKC (a photo essay)

left-over pumpkin pie at Mom and Dad's house - made from fresh pumpkin

Black Friday was a beautiful day to stay home and go for a walk (& scoot & ride).

We also practiced writing with our left hands, Ling's specialty.

On Saturday, Mom and I went to Mema's to plant pansies.

Here's the last rose of the season.

"Your roses may have thorns, but don't forget -- your thorns may have some roses, too."

Dad cut me a big branch of these to bring home for Christmas decoration.

I also brought home green tomatoes; Mom and Dad also cleaned out their garden before the big freeze; half of these came home with me and became green tomato chutney.

The herbs had to be harvested, too - before the freeze - and I brought half of these home as well; they're on stand-by, drying, waiting to be delicious.

01 December 2009

Thanksgiving at Home - 2009

Field Roast and Turkey - a syncretic splendid table

I spent a whole day cooking on Thursday and it was lovely. We invited Sergio's sister and her family to come over for Thanksgiving. We made it a BYOT dinner - bring your own turkey. Our "turkey" was our long-time favorite vegetarian grain meat: Field Roast. Christy and Armando brought for themselves some turkey they had slow roasted in the crock pot. And Christy made a pumpkin cake for dessert.

beets me

The rest of the meal was a vast array of vegetables in all their glory. Beets with dill and goat cheese - standard, but no less stunning. Mashed potatoes made more interesting with celeriac and rutabaga. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts (thank goodness for the CSA Thanksgiving share) as usual. And a new recipe this year from my treasured Chez Panisse Vegetables which I will be incorporating as a favorite: Fennel and Leek gratin (recipe below).

leek patterns

The color orange in this meal was brought to you by the squashes from my centerpiece in the form of this Smitten Kitchen winter squash soup recipe, a relatively easy soup to make made even easier by the new immersion blender that I finally bought.

butternut (dark) and acorn (light)

I made a Nigella Lawson Cornbread and Cranberry dressing recipe (a British chef's recipe for a southern dish). It turned out just fine (if a little pink) given that the recipe left out cook time and oven temp. (Such is the vegetarian's fate when using a "stuffing" recipe that you do not intend to stuff into anything.)

carbs and cookbooks

And even though I was already tackling a major, multi-step, advance-planned meal prep endeavor with only minimal help from sous chef Sergio, who was otherwise occupied that day, I decided that - on top of everything else, and even though I had never done so before - I would also bake cinnamon rolls.

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? This is the season of excess. So why not throw in an extra baking-from-scratch project when I'm already cooking for four (more like eight, based on the leftovers). Am I crazy? I wondered midday on Thursday when, surrounded by a mini mountain range of chopped vegetables patiently waiting to be cooked, I was rolling around a big ball of dough and asking Sergio to look up a how-to-knead video on YouTube.

this is my 11- by 15-inch "rectangle"

Remarkably, I got the dough through its two risings and into the oven on time and rapidly wrapped up everything else finally as the last two hours of the day zoomed past. Before I knew it, The Nina was running through the door, squealing, and her mom, dad, and hermanito were following just behind. After the hustle and bustle, everything settled on the table nicely and we toasted a top shelf red wine over our very fine meal, before bustling again out the door and into the cold to head down to the Plaza for the annual Christmas lighting ceremony and more celebrating.

The Nina

Fennel and Leek Gratin
from Chez Panisse Vegetables

6 small fennel bulbs
3 medium leeks
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
3 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock

Remove the tough outer layers of the fennel bulbs, split the bulbs lengthwise, and cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Peel off the outer layer of the leeks, and trim off the root ends and the dark green tops. Split the leeks lengthwise and cut the leek halves crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Plunge the slices into a big bowl of cold water to rinse off any sand. Lift the leeks out of the water, leaving the dirt to sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add half the fennel slices and cook until they are soft, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl. Cook the rest of the fennel until soft with another Tablespoon of butter and add to the bowl. Then cook the leeks the same way, in two batches with the rest of the butter, and transfer them to a bowl.
Preheat oven to 375.
Pick the leaves off the parsley and thyme sprigs and chop them. Toss the herbs together in the bowl with the fennel and leeks. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Put the vegetables into a shallow ovenproof dish and pour over just enough of the cream and the vegetable stock to barely cover them. Bake the gratin in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes or so to make sure the cream is still covering the vegetables. If the top of the gratin appears to be drying out, push the vegetables down with the back of a spoon, drizzling a little more cream over the top. The cream will bubble up around the vegetables, and the top will brown nicely. Serve hot.
Serves 6