Monday, March 21, 2011

Birdhouse Mania and Into the Garden

I must have a secret love of birdhouses that even I didn't know about, because while rummaging through the gardening tools recently, I came across three birdhouses..."Where did these come from?" was what crossed my mind.

Most likely, they came from impulse purchases at the garden center, which I put away upon getting home and promptly forgot about. Anyway,  a stash like that shouldn't go to waste, so I hung them out.

The northwest corner of my garden seemed like a good place; the houses are facing south/southeast, so they'll get the first rays of light in the morning, and when the leaves come on the trees, that corner of the garden is shady throughout the afternoon.

You can just barely make them out; it'll be fun to see whether there'll be any takers:

I think I'm probably a little late for this nesting season though. Some chickadees already have their nest well underway in the neighbor's nest box.

As for the rest of the garden, I had a nice surprise when I removed the row cover from the main bed. The greens I planted last autumn overwintered pretty well and have started growing again over the last few weeks:

There are some turnip greens, some parsley, a few kale plants, a few collards and a little bit of chard and mustard, as well as a few rows of beets...

and some raddichio.

They've been under 2 layers of row cover and a poly tunnel all winter, and along with the fact that we didn't get a lot of really cold weather, they faired pretty well. I got a pretty good harvest, and should get a couple more before I start spring planting in another 10 days or so. 

The garlic is doing its thing. This is a hard neck variety, and I'm looking forward to garlic scapes, come June:

If you're wondering what all the drinking straws are about, most of them have fallen over, but I stuck them in the soil upright when I planted the garlic to deter the cats from digging there. They seem to love smooth, freshly worked soil, but once there's an obstacle course of straws or sticks, they lose interest. As the plants grow, they become their own obstacle course...if that makes any sense. 

As I mentioned, I'm waiting another 10 - 14 days to plant the bulk of my spring crops, but I've put in peas, favas, and potatoes already. 

I haven't had much success with potatoes in the past.

Two years ago, I built a potato cage, which was fun and rather spectacular, I had high, high hopes, but I got a small harvest.

Last year I switched to these "grow bags", which are containers made out of a thick black cloth that allows some air and moisture circulation. I got a very small harvest.

But, I'm trying again...who knows maybe third time's a charm. Anyone have any potato-growing tips?

The good thing about the grow bags it that they save on real estate in the garden beds.

Hanging bird houses and planting spuds is hungry work. This was a a yummy lunch of curried tofu salad (tofu, curry powder, lemon juice, celery, red onion, green olives, Bragg's aminos, nutritional yeast, 1/2 an avocado and some hot sauce):

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Panko Crusted Seitan, Country Bob and More...

A good week or so ago, Michelle of Lovinlivinvegan blog hosted a giveaway for some Country Bob's All Purpose sauce, an item that makes regular appearances on her blog...and I got lucky and won! Thanks Michelle!

This post was a long time in coming; I received the sauce a week ago, but I wanted to use it a few times before I posted about it. So, this is the official Country (-ountry, -ountry, -ountry) Bob's (-ob's, -ob's, -ob's) Mega (-ega, -ega, -ega) Post (-ost, -ost, -ost).  (BlessedMama: I couldn't resist :D

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce:

Country Bob:

The sauce is made from tomato paste, molasses, and tamarind pulp and a blend of onion, garlic and other spices. It makes a sweet, deep, slightly tangy condiment for savory dishes. 

The first thing we tried it with was some panko-breaded seitan and shredded cabbage:

A a squeeze of fresh lemon, some Country Bob's, and some daikon radish on the side, made this really tasty, crispy, and satisfying. 

Here's the seitan recipe I made:

Panko-Breaded Seitan 

1.5  cups Vital Wheat Gluten + 2 Tbs chickpea flour
1/4 tsp Garlic Granules (or to taste)
1/4 tsp Onion Powder (or to taste)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from woody stem
1 cup Seitenbacher veggie broth (or 1 cup no-salt veggie broth + 1/4 cup nutritional yeast) 
1 cup cooked white beans, like cannelini
1 Tbs Soy Sauce or Bragg's Aminos
1 Tbs Vegan Worchestershire Sauce

Combine the wheat gluten, onion powder, garlic powder and thyme in  a large bowl. Pulse the beans in a food processor so they're finely chopped, or coursely mash them with a fork or potato masher, and add to the mixture.  Pour in veggie broth/nut yeast, soy sauce, and worchestershire sauce and mix to combine. 

Shape the seitan into a large roll, wrap tightly in tin foil and steam for 1 - 1.5 hours, turning occasionally until it feels firm to the touch.

Allow the seitan roll to cool and cut into 1/2-inch cutlets. I cut mine length-wise, and I got 4, 6-inch peices.

For the Panko Breading

Combine 1 Tbs egg replacer ( I used Ener-G brand) and 1/3 cup non-dairy milk and whisk until smooth and frothy. (You may have to add a little more liquid to adjust the consistency; it should be loose enough to dip in, but thick enough to stick to the seitan.) Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and garlic powder to taste and whisk. You'll need about 1 - 2 cups of panko bread crumbs, depending on how many cutlets you have.

Dip the seitan in the egg replacer mixture  and then dredge in the panko crumbs unitl coated, then repeat the process, so the cutlets are dipped and coated twice.

Heat about 3/4-inch of high-heat oil in a pan over medium-high until some crumbs dropped in sizzle upon hitting the surface and fry the seitan until golden brown,  ~ 1 minute on each side. 

This seitan also went well with some steamed cabbage, mashed potato with spring onion, and cooked apple. I made this last week, but come to think of it, this would be a fab St. Paddy's Day meal...we may just have this again tomorrow:

The third time we broke out the Country Bob's with was some of Melody of MeloMeals blog 3-ingredient veggie burgers on rosemary focaccia with two-bean chili and homemade oven fries (the chili is underneath the burger):

I can't say enough good things about these burgers. The three ingredients are rolled oats, hot cooked beans, and onion soup mix. The beans have to be hot, so the oatmeal plumps up as the beans are mashed in and the mixture binds. I didn't have any onion soup mix, so I made up my own spice profile with garlic powder, onion powder, some oregano, etc. The possibilities are endless with these I think; you could add in any spice combo for different flavors: curry, southwestern flavors etc. I could also see adding in finely chopped veggies, sun dried tomatoes, or other additional goodies. 

So, if you're on the lookout for a good veggie burger, head over to Melody's blog, because I highly recommend these. In fact, all her recipes are wonderful in my opinion. 

Speaking of which, here's another one of Melody's recipes: Lentil Loaf, (of course adorned with CB's sauce):

I had some leftover brown rice pilaf and braised lentils and decided a lentil loaf would be good way to use them up. This loaf is super tasty. I added a little horseradish to the loaf mix too, which was good. Melody's recipe calls for a cranberry glaze, but  I didn't have any cranberries on hand, so used some Spicy Garlic Apple Jam for the glaze. 

These Country Bob meals have been the dinner highlights of the past 7 days or so. Outside of that, we've been eating mostly beans and salad, which is good, but not necessarily that exciting to blog about. 

Thanks again to Michelle for hosting the giveaway and for the yummy sauce!

And, Happy Paddy's Day to everyone! 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bookmark Swap Fabulousness!

Last month, Cassie of Vegan Fox in the Snow hosted a vegan bookmark swap and I jumped in to participate. It is such a good idea: swappers exchanged homemade bookmarks with a vegan or animal theme.

I received my bookmark yesterday, from Michelle and Lilly of DirtyDuck blog. And it's extra-special because Lilly generously contributed some of her errant feathers...anyone who reads Michelle's blog is smitten with Lilly and the rest of the household over at Michelle's place, and so I'm sure can understand how special and fun this is. The feathers are attached with beautiful white ribbon and pretty beads:

This is a deluxe bookmark; the three ribbons allow you to mark your place in the book on three separate pages, and you can even adjust the lengths by pulling on the beads at the top:

And, it's attached to a special dealy-bob so you can use it as a bookmark or a hair pin! It's fabulous! Thanks Michelle and Lilly, you're a clever and creative pair.

I forgot to take a picture of the bookmark I sent, but you can see it over at Molly's blog as well as her fab bookmark creation too.

Thanks again to Cassie for hosting this fun swap! 
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