Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bean Soup for a Cold Day

I like to cook tasty, economical, organic vegan food, and that means I cook a lot of dried beans. I buy them from the bulk bin at the Food Coop, usually a little over a pound at a time (just about half a kilo), and I soak them overnight, then cook them on the stovetop until tender (between an hour and a half and two hours, depending on the type of bean). Then I use the cooked beans in a variety of recipes. Today I cooked kidney beans, and I used some of the beans to make bean soup -- I'll use the rest of the beans later in the week. You can see by the photo that the soup lives up to its name.

Beautiful Bean Soup

2 medium red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 red onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
2 cups water
4 cups cooked kidney beans, with some of the cooking liquid
2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole wheat fusilli or penne pasta
Salt and hot pepper sauce to taste

1. Heat an inch of water in a soup pot, and when it boils, add the peppers and onions. Poach the vegetables in water until they are are fork tender; add more water as needed. (NOTE: I never saute vegetables in olive oil but instead cook them in water before adding the oil. That's because olive oil retains more of its healthful properties if it's not heated above the boiling point of water. It's important, however, not to end up with a soupy mess, so don't add more water than you need to cook the veggies.)
2. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and a little more water if necessary. Cover and cook gently for five minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta. Cover the soup pot and continue to cook gently.
4. Cook the penne pasta or fusilli in a separate pot.
5. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the rest of the ingredients. (NOTE: You can cook the pasta in the soup liquid, but then the soup has a tendency to stick if you don't stir it frequently enough. That's why I like to cook the pasta separately.)

This soup is wonderful on a cold day and makes a complete meal if you serve it with nice whole grain bread. This recipe makes six generous servings.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fashion Sense Comments on Depression Chic and Other Trends

According to those in the know, one of the big new trends for Spring 2009 is Depression Chic, which has its good points (people are interested in The Grapes of Wrath) and bad points (they'll sell anything, won't they?). Another big trend is supposed to be python skin accessories, and that has no good points because of the cruelty involved. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: Liv and I went shopping together, and we saw this fringed flapper dress, and I said, "That's a fun dress, but do you think it's going to be in style for long?" and she said, "In New York people are throwing Depression parties and partying like it's 1929, and designers like Aquilano.Rimondi are inspired by what was big around the time of the crash, so yes, I think fringed flapper dresses will be in as long as we're threatened with economic collapse, which is going to be for, like, ages," and I decided to buy the dress, and then we looked at accessories for a while, and she said, "Python is also very, very big right now. Why don't you buy a pair of python shoes and a clutch bag to go with the dress?" and I said, "I can't buy reptile skin! Whatever would my tortoise say?" and she said, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping and continue to be trendsetters, so I don’t want to hear any excuses ," and I said, "Do you know how those pythons died? They were skinned alive!" and she just smirked at me and bought a big python bag, so I went right home, and then I realized I’d spent too much on the dress, but before I took it back , I decided to try it on so my tortoise could see it, and he clearly disapproves, because though the economic slowdown is something he feels he can live with, the idea of depression chic makes him very depressed.']

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pictures of Some Backyard Birds

I put out seeds every day and make sure there's always water. As a result, we're visited by a lot of native birds. The Gila Woodpeckers are very noisy and colorful, and they enjoy using the hummingbird feeder:
Goldfinches come occasionally, but house finches are more common:
Curve-billed thrashers like to eat millet that I put out for the sparrows, and this one is fearless:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Living Within Limits

I have always loved women's magazines -- the recipes, the tips for saving money and avoiding waste, etc. -- but I'm a vegetarian and very concerned about the environment, so the magazines weren't as fun as I wished they were. In this blog I intend to talk about what home means to me, whether it's cooking great vegan recipes or putting up a birdfeeder in the backyard. Today's post will be a short one and finish on a sweet note: a hummingbird at the backyard feeder (you can see a larger version of this photo by clicking on the image):

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fashion Sense Comments on the Golden Globe Awards

At last Sunday's Golden Globe Awards there was a focus on films that celebrated optimism and second chances, and Slumdog Millionaire won four awards. Fashion Sense tends toward the cynical and wonders if all this optimism makes sense. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: 'The rats and I watched the Golden Globe Awards last night, and today we had to go see my sister Chloe, who is very star-struck, and the first thing she said was, "Weren't the Golden Globes a thousand times better than last year?" and I said, "Last year they couldn't really do an awards show because the striking writers threatened to picket it," and Chloe said, "Which was very depressing, but this year the awards were all about second chances and happy endings. Mickey Rourke got best actor, even though his career was dead for more than ten years, and Heath Ledger got best supporting actor, even though HE's been dead for nearly a year," and I said, "I was disappointed that Frost/Nixon didn't win a single award," and Chloe said, "Because it was about the past and pessimism and negativity. Whereas Slumdog Millionaire won best drama because it's about hope and optimism and the future," and I said, "Steven Spielberg won a big award, but I heard one of his charities lost a lot of money in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme; maybe he should make a movie called Scumbag Millionaire to show what the future can be like when you believe in guys like Madoff," and Chloe said, "Don't be so negative,” and I said, “It's hard to be positive in hard times," and Chloe said, "Sally Hawkins won best actress for playing an eternal optimist in Happy-Go-Lucky," and I said, "WALL-EE got best animated film, and it was pretty depressing," and Chloe said, "But it did have a sort of pessimistic optimistic ending," and then suddenly she looked very downhearted, and she said, "But there were some REAL unhappy endings: Glenn Close ended up on the worst-dressed list; Leonardo DiCaprio didn't get a single award. You know I've loved him since Titanic," and before Chloe could start talking about the time she met Leo, I said, "Speaking of Titanic, the rats and I have to go. Just keep your chin up, and try to remember that optimism is the new pessimism."']

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fashion Sense Says Goodbye to President Bush

At a screening of the movie Frost/Nixon, Chris Wallace criticized other panel members for comparing Richard Nixon's impeachable offenses to George W. Bush's actions in the war on terror. He said, "Whatever George W. Bush did was after 9/11. . . and in service of trying to protect this country," yet Bush's record is so egregious, Fashion Sense wonders who can really believe this. According to a recently compiled list of Bushisms, on Aug. 5, 2004, at the signing ceremony for a defense spending bill, our soon-to-be ex-President said the following: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Truer words were never misspoken. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: 'I was out birding on New Years Day, and a hawk flew over to me and was, like, Are you by any chance a vegetarian? and I said that I was, and the hawk was, like, You know I'm getting really tired of chasing after screeching birds and pouncing on terrified rodents, and I'm thinking about making a New Years resolution to go vegetarian, and I said, "That's a nice thought, but I think that, unlike humans, hawks have to be carnivores," and the hawk was, like, Speaking of humans, I hate it that somebody who supports a senseless war is called a hawk, and somebody who opposes it is called a dove; I'm a peace-loving bird, and I said, "I admit I’ve called George W. Bush a hawk plenty of times, and I hope someday he'll be punished for his war crimes," and the hawk was, like, I heard that Chris Wallace went ballistic at a screening of the new Frost/Nixon movie when Ron Howard compared Bush's conduct in the Iraq war to Richard Nixon's crimes, and I said, "Yeah. Wallace said Nixon did what he did for personal gain, and Bush did what he did for the good of the country, but I don't think even Bush believes that. I just read a list of so-called Bushisms, and he best summed up his own term in office when he said: 'Our enemies … never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we,'" and the hawk was, like, How ironic! and then suddenly he was, like, Tasty dove! Gotta go! and a hawk's instincts being what they are, he flew off at lightning speed, so I yelled, "I guess you can't help being a hawk, but what's Bush's excuse?"']

A Fifth and Final Ekphrastic Essay About Our 2022 Road Trip: the Prairie and the Dust Bowl

  Erosion No. 2, Mother Earth Laid Bare by Alexandre Hogue When Greg and I were planning our 2022 road trip, our goal was to visit friends a...