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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for December 2008

Tasty for Tempeh

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Blue Corn Crusted Tempeh with Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Blue Corn Crusted Tempeh with Shitake Mushroom Gravy

I love ordering tempeh at vegetarian restaurants but never know how to cook it at home. The substantive fermented soy cakes make a great meat substitute.

So this Blue Corn Crusted Tempeh recipe on “The Splendid Table” radio show grabbed me. And I had shitake mushrooms in the fridge, so I paired it with the savory gravy. It was somewhat involved, but about as good as a tempeh recipe can get, Dan said. Well, it still doesn’t compare to the yummy sesame tempeh here in Corvallis.

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December 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

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The Solitude of Snow

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Well, we’ve had our first couple inches of snow this season. And it’s incredibly cold for the generally more mild Pacific Northwest: the weather here won’t get above 31 degrees this week….ouch!

But I love the way snow slows everything down. I got out of going to Portland for two meetings today. There was a calm to the vacant streets and powdered landscape. But I shouldn’t have ventured out on a bike. Amen for my helmet when I hit that patch of ice!

We’re still trying to wrap our heads around Oregon’s snow chains law. You are technically required to carry chains while highway driving in the winter months. In very bad weather, ODOT signs can require you to put them on.

I’ll pick some up before we drive through the Coastal Range next week. Then apparently a lot of folks end up returning them unused to the local tire center in the spring.

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December 16, 2008 at 1:59 am

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A “Gift” from Baltimore Gas and Electric

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Being under-employed, I was grateful and surprised to receive a $128 check from Baltimore Gas and Electric in Corvallis today. I assume that’s our part of BGE’s $2 billion settlement with parent company Constellation Energy that I forget we were due. Too bad those credits were barely expected to cover the increased heating costs this year.

So far, Pacific Power here in Oregon seems slightly-more consumer friendly. At least being a Pacific Power customer entitles us to an Energy Trust home efficiency audit, which we are having performed tomorrow.

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December 16, 2008 at 1:41 am

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The Best Mexican Comida in Corvallis

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Carnitas and Lenga Tacos at Tacos Uruapan

Carnitas and Lenga Tacos at Tacos Uruapan

 

It’s not hard to exhaust the dining options in small-town Corvallis. And unfortunately many of the restaurants here are expensive (perhaps to make up for inconsistent traffic). Corvallis cuisine could also stand to gain more ethnic diversity.

So Tacos Uruapan, an inconspicuous joint on 3rd St. on the industrial outskirts of Southtown Corvallis, is a rare gem. We devoured two steaming dinner platters, of carnitas (roast pork) and lengua (beef tongue) tacos and chile relenos, plus a Pepsi, for $16.50. The pork and especially the tongue were succulent with just enough grease, cut with squeezes of salsa verde and fresh lime. I love the bare-bones simplicity of authentic Mexican tacos in soft corn tortillas: chunks of braised meat, onion or radish and cilantro, with no distracting tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream or cheese. Think outside the border, indeed.

A cute indigenous Mexican couple from Oaxaca spoke little English but said they had run the restaurant for two years. Many of the Mexicans here hail from the culinary-rich state of Oaxaca, the one place in Mexico we’ve been. The owners of Tacos Uruapan reminded us of the Indo-Trinidadian couple who ran perhaps our favorite takeout spot in Baltimore: the Trinidad Gourmet. Wife in the kitchen, husband taking the orders at the counter. But thankfully the food comes out much more quickly at Tacos Uruapan.

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December 14, 2008 at 1:52 am

Corvallis: The Safest Place in the Nation?

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the oldest still-active one in Oregon.

The Benton County Courthouse in downtown Corvallis: the oldest still-active one in Oregon.

Crazy. For the second year in a row, Corvallis has been ranked the safest place to live by Farmers Insurance Group. “Corvallis isn’t the real world,” my Bostonian friend Dorothea likes to say.

Now you see why we’re having such culture shock coming here from Baltimore, one of the deadliest American cities. And yet I still ache for the place.

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December 12, 2008 at 9:46 am

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Should More Grass Seed Farmers Grow Chickpeas?

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Chickpea Dal with Argula/Watercress

Chickpea Dal with Argula/Watercress

Yes, this region is known for its abundant farmers’ markets and vineyards. But half the tillable land in the Willamette Valley is planted with the inedible crash-crop grass seed. Linn County, which neighbors Corvallis, is known as the grass seed capital of the world.

But local food security advocates are trying to change that. Through a USDA rural business grant, they convinced six local farmers to try planting some of their grass seed fields with edible chickpeas and wheat to develop a local food supply. The local Ten Rivers Food Web group just sold the first harvest, in 5 lb. sacks (see below).

Not only are dried garbanzos affordable, but the locally grown ones tasted especially flavorful and fresh. They were a bit mud-coated, but that’s nothing a good soak and rinse couldn’t fix.

I recommend the Chickpea Dal recipe I found by Matthew Card on Culinate. Argula and watercress made a fine spicy substitute for the mustard greens. And I used less coconut milk (substituted turkey broth) and tomatoes than the recipe called for.

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December 11, 2008 at 12:16 am

NPR Announces Cuts: New Depth to Journalism’s Woes

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NPR headquarters in DC/Flickr Creative Commons/By NCinDC http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/2729739913/ )

This is really sad news, because NPR’s non-profit, listener-supported model has been seen as one of the few bright, viable models left in journalism. Some 64 people will lose their jobs and 21 open positions won’t be filled. They’re cutting shows Day to Day  and News and Notes, NPR’s one African-American focused show, led by Baltimore native Farai Chideya.

How will this affect the expensive multi-media training NPR was planning to give all it’s journalists?

It’s been a bad week for journalism. But the news about Tribune’s bankruptcy (my former employer) was far less surprising than NPR’s woes.

Will the 12.5 percent of the nation unemployed and under-employed only continue to rise?

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December 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm

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Turkey Tortilla Soup: Thankful that I Froze Thanksgiving Leftovers

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No offense, Dad, but we’re tired of the same savory turkey-vegetable-rice soup we make every year with Thanksgiving leftovers. We wanted to make a soup we would actually make in its own right this year. And I had the stock and shredded turkey meat all ready to go in the freezer. If this bird had to die, at least we are using every inch of its meat.

Then I found the perfect tortilla soup recipe that has the wearied post-Thanksgiving cook in mind. It’s from the Baltimore-based food blog Coconut & Lime. Fire-roasted tomatoes and green chiles gave the soup a smokey tang. Grated cheddar, avocado and tortilla chip toppings cooled the heat of the mildy spicy soup. Man, is this recipe a keeper! I might add black beans next time to make more of a turkey chili.

Any other notable turkey soup recipes out there?

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December 9, 2008 at 1:34 am

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EDGU: Like a Self-Chiropractic Session for Your Spine

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New EDGU DVD by Jeffrey "Page" Redman (http://edgu.org/Edgu_Spine_Health_Products.html )

 During our recent stay at Breitenbush, we learned about EDGU, a tai chi/yoga-like moving meditation that’s supposed to relieve spinal pain. In fact, yoga teacher Jeffrey “Page” Redman developed the practice right there at Breitenbush in 1987. We weren’t able to make the class at Breitenbush so I was delighted to see my yoga studio had its first-ever EDGU session on Friday. I went and would like to experience more.

I also bought the EDGU DVD for my mom, who suffers from chronic back pain, including pinched discs. I hope it makes a difference for her, that is, if she actually practices it. The DVD was a bit new agey but the movements really seem sound. The key is to keep the hips and lower body planted and facing forward (beam headlights from the hips straight ahead) while only rotating the torso, to isolate the spine. It’s harder than it looks.

Check out this YouTube video to see some of the movements:

 

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December 7, 2008 at 3:21 pm

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The Everlasting Pumpkin

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Pumpkin Sage Cream Sauce over Pastaworks Ravioli 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This huge Jarrahdale pumpkin I bought for Halloween decoration and finally roasted for Thanksgiving yielded many more cups of sugary sweet puree than I know what to do with. It’s abundance is to be appreciated in these dire economic times.

I used it make pumpkin tiramisu for Thanksgiving dessert. I froze two containers full of the orangey mush. And I still have a big bowlful of the stuff in the fridge that thankfully hasn’t gone bad yet.

So I used it to make vegan pumpkin black-bottom-like cupcakes for a holiday party for the ESL school where I’ve volunteer taught. Check out the yummy recipe (who knew tofu cream cheese would taste so real) here.

And on a whim tonight, I made a pumpkin sage cream sauce (see above). I first sauteed onions, garlic and leftover sliced leeks in olive oil, added a cup of chicken broth, freshly cut sage leaves, ample scoops of that old pumpkin puree and then stirred in some creme fraiche for creaminess just before serving. It was a perfect compliment to the fresh apple-potato-cremini mushroom ravioli I had picked up at Pastaworks in Portland.

So what should I do with the rest of the pumpkin puree? Any suggestions or recipes would be appreciated. Did I also mention the fridge full of turkey meat and stock? Not that I’m complaining. I’ll host Thanksgiving any year!

Those moist vegan pumpkin cupcakes.

Those moist vegan pumpkin cupcakes.

 

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December 7, 2008 at 12:29 am

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