rants & recipes

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Plant ID

Posted by trktos on 10-April-2010

Lately, I’ve taken a few shots of some plants I’m hoping someone can help me ID.

First, this bush, with these downward-hanging, globular little flowers. They remind me more of grapes or something. Faintly sweet aroma. (I just found out today, at the nursery to pick up orchid food – this first shrub is Pieris Japonica, most likely Brouwer’s Beauty strain.)

Then, these little flowers … fairly small, almost like a ground-cover plant but on closer inspection, they look a little bit like irises, inside? They come in differing shades of purple and white/purple-veined. I didn’t get very good photos, nor one for size but the flowers are a little bigger than a buttercup flower.

And then, these gorgeous bushes with dark red leaves and pale pink flowers with red centers, all along and fairly close to the branches. They were at their peak earlier this week, but I didn’t get out to snap any photos until today.

I tried to search online for this one but I don’t think it’s either barberry or loropetalum. 16-MAY-2010 Update, on a walk today we found that one bush still had a tag – these are Prunus cistena, purple leaf sand cherry.


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Sheese and Vegan Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Posted by trktos on 23-November-2009

I was a bit surprised, a couple of days ago, to see a few flavors of Sheese at my local Whole Foods. Although I’m pretty much over dairy cheese, I decided to buy a block since we’d never tried it and it’s nice to “support” stores’ carrying of vegan products.

So I picked out the medium cheddar. It was $6.49 / 8 ounces. Quite pricy, but cheaper than the $9+ I seen it priced at previously.


(And yes, it does re-seal fairly well. The label was a little worse-for-wear, here, from already being opened.)

I’d read reviews of Sheese a few years ago, about how great it was – good enough, in fact, to have, sliced, with crackers, wine and cheese, etc. So I was quite surprised to taste this only to find it tasted AWFUL. It started out with a rather sharp, Cheddar flavor but ended with some weird flowery, vanilla, almost sweet after-taste. I was shocked.

So, then the question became – what the heck do I do with this stuff? And the hope was that, once melted, it may be edible. Thanks to maryam for suggesting biscuits (and confirming that, yes, this was not very good raw). I was willing to waste a little flour on something that might have to be tossed.

Being a little perturbed from seeing the Facebook fan page for Cheddar Biscuits from Red Boiled-Alive-Lobster, I decided I’d give a copy-cat recipe a try.

Shredded Sheese:

Compared to Follow Your Heart, Sheese is very hard, very dry and almost difficult to shred. It was a bit crumbly.

However, in these biscuits, it was great! No hint of that funny after-taste, not even after the biscuits had cooled off some (I fully expected the after-taste to return.) My biscuits spread a little more than I would have liked. But that’s ok, I have enough Sheese to try another recipe or adjust this one!

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick (300 grams – and yes, it really is vegan. Not even any questionable ‘mono – and diglycerides’)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Better than Milk powder
  • 1 heaping cup of Medium Cheddar Sheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance, melted
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix together 1st 4 dry ingredients.
  3. Fold in cheese.
  4. In another bowl, combine last 3 ingredients to brush over biscuits.
  5. Add 2 tbsp melted Earth Balance and water to Bisquick mix. Stir until well combined.
  6. Drop about 1/4 cup’s worth per biscuit onto a cookie sheet. I made 10 biscuits.
  7. Brush biscuits with Earth Balance/garlic/parsley mix.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

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Vegan Pizza

Posted by trktos on 25-October-2009


Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. And no, we haven’t been fasting for a week. Just a little busy. And more than a little tired of blogging. Today, I’m going to attempt to catch up. And may even post about my awful apple pie from last night. Ugh.

Anyway, Friday, we made pizza. I’d been wanting to use my italian sausage crumbles on pizza for months. Finally got around to it. And, to be honest, I was a little disappointed – they lost a little flavor (I guess 20 minutes at 450 degrees and 5+ minutes under the broiler will do that.) Anyway, the pizza turned out otherwise-ok.

Crumbles on the stove-top:


Follow Your Heart (FYH) / Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella Cheese … see, it shreds just fine, straight out of the package. I’m a little miffed, lately, on behalf of this vegan cheese. When it first came out, people were crazy for it. Now there’s a few newer vegan cheeses and FYH seems to get dumped on all the time. I haven’t tried Daiya but I tried Teese – I went all the way to MD, paid more than for FYH, and to be honest, it was very plasticy and processed. These new vegan cheeses contain palm oil, too. FYH doesn’t. (Edit: Just looked up Daiya and they currently do not list palm oil in their ingredient list, online at least.) Anyway, we eat maybe 1 block of FYH every 2 months. I’ll continue to pick it up right down the road and pay a reasonable price for it.

Shredded cheese:


Pizza sauce – we like this brand from Don Pepino. Mostly because the ingredients are tomatoes, corn oil, salt, spices and powdered garlic.


Sauce, going onto crust:


Toppings – onions, bell peppers and mushrooms:


Sausages join the party:


And finally, FYH cheese. I don’t know what other vegans do with their FYH, but it does melt. For pizza, it helps if it goes on last. This time, I also brushed with a little canola oil. FYH is much lower in fat than dairy cheese, so this may play a factor in its melt-ability. (Next time, I’ll coat with a touch of oil BEFORE putting the shredded cheese on the pizza!)


Pizzas in the oven:


See, I told you the cheese melts:


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Blog Action Day and Vegan Mofo

Posted by trktos on 15-October-2009


The topic for this year’s Blog Action Day is Climate Change. What’s this have to do with a primarily-food-blog, you may wonder? Well, in one sense – not a lot. I’ll admit my veganism has very little to do with climate change and environmental issues – as far as personal reasons for choosing not to exploit animals. Animals are the reasons I don’t exploit them. However, veganism has this wonderful side effect of being one of the best things anyone can do – right now! – to help the environment. Our food choices are so mundane that we often overlook them entirely, don’t think too much about them or the power we have to be compassionate AND reduce our carbon footprint with every bite of food we eat.

I follow Vienna Teng on Twitter. She has recently tweeted a few questions about “what’s worse for the environment – chicken or cheese?” and made some references to trying to go vegetarian for environmental reasons, as an effort to reduce her carbon footprint. It’s funny, how, even as we get closer to caring about an important issue, like climate change and our environment, it’s still so easy to overlook the primary players – I’d answer that the cheese is worse for the dairy cow, chicken is worse for the chicken and neither are good for our environment. The great thing is, by going vegan, everyone’s stake is considered! And it’s a mistake to think of veganism as a list of things you can not eat – although, don’t get me wrong – I’m not going all flexitarian-Peter-Singer or anything. But I mean that a vegan diet is not in the least depraved and no more difficult than trying to cook and eat a healthy diet. You’ll learn about lots of delicious foods you’d likely never encounter otherwise. Is it a little more effort than bellying up to the drive through? Well, yes. But that’s a good thing – good for your health, good for the animals AND good for the environment.

Besides, climate change and warmer oceans cause sea snot, and who wants that?

So, on to the Vegan MoFo part of this post …

veganmofo2009Today, I picked up a new-to-me product from WholeFoods – So Delicious Coconut Milk. I have the hardest time getting a truly plain, truly unsweetened, no-hint-of-vanilla-at-all soy milk. And nothing sucks more than not realizing you have even-slightly-vanilla-flavored ‘milk until *after* adding it to mashed potatoes or some other savory dish.

So, this ‘milk was on sale today and I picked up a carton. I tried it with some cornflakes and a tad of splenda because that’s a pretty good test for ‘milk, in my opinion. And, to be honest, this ‘milk had a really weird, hard-to-describe after-taste. It was “open” and “fresh” taste, and not in a good way. Almost chemical-like … I mulled over it, for a while, wondering what was wrong. And then I realized what it needed – salt! And sure enough, salt isn’t listed on the ingredient list, although I think it’s added to most commercial soy milks? Just the tiniest pinch cut the weird taste out completely.  (It should be noted that I have a super-strong sense of smell and this weird taste may not be detectable to anyone else everyone.) This ‘milk hould be great for cooking with. And for cereal, too, once a pinch of salt is added.


For dinner, I was craving something simple and familiar. And something that used some of our newly arrived 10 pounds of sun-dried organic tomatoes (from the best-ever store for sun-dried tomatoes and other tasty stuff). And yes, in case you’re wondering, we can eat 10 pounds of sun-dried tomatoes long before they go bad.

We had eggplant, onions, tomatoes, tofu and rice.


Eggplant may very well be one of my favorite vegetables. Old folks frequently ask me what I’m going to do with eggplants, when they see me buying them. Or if I’m going to fry it. Perhaps it’s because I’m usually buying so many, maybe they think I’m doing my own Close Encounters re-enactment or something.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about cooking tofu, be sure to check out this page about dry cooking. I typically dry-cook my cubed tofu until no more liquid comes out when pressed. Then I fry a little more with added oil, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powders. Yum.

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Bike Ride, 1-NOV-08

Posted by trktos on 1-November-2008

We got out on the bike trail today, headed west and rode about 17 miles total. It was almost 70 degrees out, not bad of the first of November. Finally, the leaves here have some vibrant color – almost all through October, they were just brown and dying and falling off too early. I’m glad some held on long enough to change … saw lots of brilliant yellows, reds and oranges today. Unfortunately, there weren’t many leaves on the trail yet, so I didn’t get to watch them blur by as I rode over them, looking down with unfocused eyes … I should really try to take a photo but I’m afraid that would end up in a tangle of bike and Jill and camera.

We didn’t see much wildlife today … a few squirrels and one very persistent lady bug, who kept landing on me, flying away, and returning while we sat on a trail-side bench … I think she was attracted to my sunscreen?

I did get a chance to watch a deer for a little while … Evin had rode on ahead and missed out. I suppose she was a doe – no antlers and it wouldn’t be hunting season if deer didn’t have antlers now, would it? – but she was kinda big. As I rode by, I saw her, off the trail, and down in a little valley by a stream. I stopped my bike, got off and walked back, pretending not to be looking at her. At first, she couldn’t decide if I was a threat or not and kept turning to look at me with those big, brown eyes. She was only, maybe, 40 feet away. I could see her swallowing (the food she had grazed before I came along, I guess.) While she was looking directly at me, I tried not to look directly back at her, so she wouldn’t run off. At one point, she lifted her nose high in the air, slightly bobbing her head, to get a better scent from me. Those big ears forward, listening. She eventually decided I wasn’t going to bother her, and went on about her deer business, which was eating leaves off the little scrubby trees along the embankment. After a few minutes, she slowly moved behind some bushes, and I couldn’t see her anymore.

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