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Archive for the ‘The sacred duty of home-making’ Category

A few weeks ago the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone happened to me: the local grocery store abruptly shut down.

There was no warning. One day it was open, the next there was a sign on the door that some kind of serious structural issue needed to be fixed right away and the store was closed until further notice. Rumours went through the neighbourhood. The roof had caved in. The floor had collapsed. It was a nefarious plot on the part of the parent company to tear it down and sell the very valuable land for condos. The man in the hardware store on the corner told me the parent company wanted to buy up the whole block, tear everything down, and build a huge Shoppers Drugmart.

I will be the first to say that it was a bad No Frills. It frequently made lists of “The worst No Frills in Toronto”, of which there have been a few. The quality of the produce was decent, if you knew what you were looking for, but it frequently ran out of staples, like garlic or sweet potatoes or soy milk. What kind of grocery store runs out of garlic? This one did more than once. But as bad as it was, not having it is much worse.

Here are some things I have started rationing since No Frills shut down:

  • Fresh fruit other than apples
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Greens

Here are somethings I buy more of than before:

  • Frozen fruit and veg, they keep a long time and are space-efficient 
  • Samosas. They have really good ones at one of the small groceries I go to in the neighbourhood. Not complaining.

Here are some things I have given up in buying period:

  • Whole wheat pasta (they sell name-brand white pasta at the dollar store, that’ll do)
  • Whole wheat flour (too heavy and bulky)
  • Juice (too heavy to carry from anywhere else)
  • Bulk toilet paper (too bulky to carry on transit)
  • White vinegar (too heavy, not worth it)

Here are some things I haven’t figured out how to reliably buy yet:

  • Disposable diapers and wipes
  • Baby cereal 
  • Canned beans unless it’s an emergency (too expensive to buy in local stores)
  • Olive oil (I found some reasonably-priced stuff at a fruit stand on the Dabforth but it’s hardly in my orbit or a reliable source)

It could be much worse. There are multiple small South Asian groceries in the neighbourhood, whose prices are on the high side, but carry a decent selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods, dried beans, and spices. There’s an organic grocery store for your $3 avocado and vegan marshmallow needs, and two dollar stores which carry an inconsistent but reasonable selection of dry goods. One even had baby cereal last week! (Personally I will buy name-brand food from a dollar store but not store-brand or unrecognizable brand. Call me a snob, I don’t care.) The possibly-nefarious parent company of the shuttered No Frills even runs a free shuttle bus to the closest No Frills, about 5 km away. It’s an infinitely nicer store – a friend who lives nearby refers to it as “Some Frills” – but there is no getting around the fact that what used to take 20-30 minutes out of my week now takes 2-3 hours, or that I have to think carefully about my ability to carry whatever I buy, or that I have switched to less healthy foods or rationed staples in an effort to save my sanity.

I know that even without No Frills you couldn’t call this a food desert – maybe a food semi-arid area? – and that eventually we’ll figure out a routine of food acquisition that ensures a reliable and reasonably cost-effective food supply without tearing our collective hair out. My kids will not die because I fed the more simple carbs or more frozen veg than before. But it still stinks and I would like to strongly register my disapproval of the entire situation.

In closing if you would like to buy me a giant thing of toilet paper and about 35 packets of vegan baby cereal I will not say no.

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Hello. No, I don’t really have a blog post, just a recipe. Someday I will have time to write for myself again. This is not that day.

Anyway, more experiments with okara: waffles! These are amazingly good and my two-year-old likes them, so you will too.

Carrot apple okara waffles

Ingredients:

–          ¾ C cooked wet okara*

–          1 medium carrot, shredded or chopped very fine in a food processor

–          ½ a medium apple, shredded or chopped very fine in a food processor

–          3 T brown sugar (if you substitute a liquid sweetener like brown rice syrup or agave, reduce the liquid by 2 or 3 tablespoons)

–          3 T vegetable oil or melted, cooled vegan margarine

–          1 ½ C non-dairy milk (soy is good for extra protein, but whatever you’ve got is good)

–          1 ¾ C flour – feel  free to use up to 1 C whole wheat if you’re trying to sneak whole grains as well as vegetables and protein into your family’s waffles

–          1 T baking powder

–          1 T cornstarch

–          ¼ t cinnamon, or to taste

Preheat your waffle iron. Mix the okara, carrot, apple, and non-dairy milk in a large bowl. Add the sugar and oil and beat until dissolved and slightly frothy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until no large lumps remain. Don’t over-mix – you don’t want your waffles to be tough. Oil the waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve hot with vegan margarine and maple syrup, spread with pumpkin seed butter, or just eat them standing up in the kitchen directly off the waffle maker.  Your call.

Note: As the moisture content in okara varies a lot, both from machine to machine and from batch to batch, it’s a good idea to make one test waffle on its own. If it’s a bit pale and floppy, add 2-3 T flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the batter thickens a bit. If it’s thick and undercooked, add 1-2 T non-dairy milk.

*You must use cooked okara in this recipe. If you’re using a soymilk machine, that’s what you’re getting anyway; if you’re making soymilk by hand you have to either simmer the milk before squeezing it out or cook the okara on its own. I believe if you steam it for 10-15 minutes that’ll do the trick, but don’t quote me on it. Toasted okara won’t work in this recipe, but feel free to invent your own toasted okara waffle recipe if that’s what you’ve got. Please be careful with this as uncooked soy is toxic to humans.

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Hello! Did you miss me? It’s not that I haven’t been blogging, it’s just that I’ve been blogging here, and you should all be reading that. (Check out my 3-part series on Peggy McIntosh’s “Feeling Like a Fraud”. It’s actually really good.)

I feel like I have even less time than usual to do, well, anything…and mostly that is true, because you remember me how I made one of my goals for 2013 to get another non-music job? I got another non-music job, and it met my criteria pretty much exactly (10-15 hrs/week, partly from home, more than minimum wage, not evil). I know so much about Excel spreadsheets now guys, you have no idea. Actually it’s fun, even the spreadsheets. Am I a weirdo for liking Excel? Is that like liking Calculus? I liked Calculus in school, though I can’t remember the first thing about it now.

This job started out as a 10-week contract, the main task of which was to go through 15 years worth of virtual and paper records and organize/get rid of them. Mostly get rid of them, because does anyone need agendas from meetings which happened in 2003? Not unless they’re the UN. Anyway, I got this 10-week contract and it turns out I’m rather good at triaging paper and so on, so it turned into a permanent thing. But I find, as I’m now working that extra 15 hours a week, I have less and less time to do the kind of stuff for myself that I need to do to keep stuff going.

It’s ironic. What I do at work is set up systems to make work go more smoothly (along with a rather eclectic basket of web, research, and design tasks); the time I spend doing this means I have little time to do this for myself.

It’s like, you know those mornings when you don’t have breakfast and you’re kicking yourself for not having breakfast and are like “How hard would it have been for me to get a goddamn bowl of oatmeal?” Except you need to do like 10 steps to get to the goddamn oatmeal and you don’t have time/energy to do more than 3 and getting to a point where oatmeal would be only 3 steps away would take at least 20 steps of organizing as well as weekly maintenance and you’re like “Fuck it, I’ll just eat a handful of almonds” (which is not a bad breakfast, BTW). And you haven’t washed your hair in 4 days because it takes hours to dry but looks really bad if you go to bed with it wet and you don’t have a chance to wash it during the day so if you want to wash it you have to do it right afer the baby goes to bed and who wants to take a bath at 7 PM? And you really need a haircut anyway but you don’t even have a hairdresser anymore and all your friends are yuppie Leslieville moms and keep recommending really expensive ones? And you’re not wearing pants because none of your real pants fit anymore and all of your yoga pants are in clean but at the bottom of the not-put-away-yet clean hamper so you’re wearing bright red tights and a purple skirt and a grey shirt with one squirrel mugging another squirrel on it because the colour wheel, what’s that?

I bought a bunch of air freshener-type stuff last week, because I feel like the house smells musty and while this is probably solvable by cleaning behind the piano and dusting the plate rails (I do not want to think about the dust situation on the plate rails…stupid dust-collecting plate rails), it’s also solvable with $15 worth of Glade products. I’m sure Glade is evil and I’m poisoning all of us by using a plug-in scent diffuser, but right now I just want the house to smell OK. And so far it’s working. Maybe a little too well, because this house is really small and I think these things are designed to work in larger areas. The one I have in the bedroom is frankly overpowering, if in a good way. It smells like pineapple Jolly Ranchers. It is making me dream of being a child again.

Anyway. Most of the time I am fed and clothed and leave the house looking better than Aileen Wuornos, so I figure I’m coming out on top. I feel like I need to take a week off to set up my life to run smoothly, but if I did I’d probably just sit around and watch CSI, so why bother. I’ll just buy some instant oatmeal instead.

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Remember when I bought a soy milk maker? Maybe I didn’t blog about it? Anyway, after Gus got sick I went full into Frugal mode and started making our soymilk instead of buying it. Only making soymilk by hand is a long, laborious process that creates a fair amount of dirty laundry, and I was tired of spending every third evening wringing out a hot bag of soy pulp over a glass measuring cup, so I started to look for a way out of the situation.

Being me I always try to get something for nothing, or at least for as little as possible. Once I discovered that soy milk machines existed (who knew?), I started to look for A Deal. I didn’t want to pay $120+ for something that might not work or might not make milk that I liked. Frankly I just didn’t want to pay $120+ at all.

Eventually I did find one (the Soy Sensation) going for the unbelievable price of $40, because it was discontinued. So no guarantee, no warranty, no replacement parts – but $40!

I bought it, and predictably it broke after three months (the heating element broke, rendering it useless), so I ended up spending the $120+ on a new, warranteed Soyabella (buy it here from Amazon), thus spending $40+ shipping more than I had to, but oh well.

Anyway, long story short, since I have now owned 2 soy milk machines I can do a comparative review. Which is better, the Soy Sensation or the Soyabella?

Verdict: Both make perfectly adequate soy milk, so it’s kind of up to you as to which features you want.

The Soy Sensation can only do one thing, and that’s make soy milk. It makes about 8 cups of soy milk from about 1/2 cup of soy beans. The milk is, as stated above, perfectly adequate.

Drawbacks: kind of big for a single-use appliance, tricky to clean, broke after 3 months.

The Soyabella makes soy milk OR raw nut milks OR rice paste (whatever you use that for) OR it can grind coffee. It comes with multiple little filter and grinder cups just for this purpose. I haven’t tried the nut milk setting yet, so I don’t know how it well it works, but I imagine just fine. The soy milk setting gives you about 6 cups of soy milk from about 1/2 cup of soy beans. The milk is also perfectly adequate.

Both produce as a by-product a very fine cooked okara, which you can use to make semi-edible chicken nugget substitutes or just throw away.

Drawbacks: Finished product still has about 1 tbsp okara in it, so it needs to be filtered before sweetening etc, makes less milk/bean than the Soy Sensation.

Overall I’d say I prefer the Soyabella as it hasn’t broken yet and is cleverly designed. The filter cups have a handle at the bottom that fits into a groove in the “utility cup” that comes with it (I’m not describing this well, sorry). You can stand the filter cup in the utility cup, soak the beans in it, then just take the filter cup out, rinse, and fit it onto the grinder head of the machine. You can also stand the grinder head with filter cup attached in the utility cup after the milk is done, allowing it to cool and the okara to drain. It’s also smaller, which is a big selling point here. And it came with a little tofu press, which is cool.

 

 

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Hey! Sorry I didn’t blog for forever. Life. It happens.

…Mostly I’ve been working and looking after Cecil and agonizing. That counts as life, right?

Anyway, I’m not going to give you a report on What I Did on my Blogging Vacation, but I WILL give you possibly my greatest contribution to humanity: I have figured out how to make something edible out of the byproduct of making soymilk.

It’s called okara, and if you make soymilk you will know that you wind up with a tonne of the stuff. It has lots of protein and vitamins and stuff in it, so I’ve been trying different recipes of things to do with it. I made some OK okara burgers, but it called for red wine and yeast extract (!) which rather knocked down the cost-effectiveness. So I’ve been experimenting and this is my result.

GIANT DISCLAIMER – you must use cooked okara in this recipe. If you’re using a soymilk maker, which you really should invest in if you make soymilk more often than twice a month, the okara will be cooked by the machine. If you’re making it by hand and you boil the soymilk after straining it, you need to cook your okara. I think you can steam it. If you toast it I don’t think this recipe will work, which sucks, because you will have even more massive quantities of okara on hand than I do. Sorry!

Okara nuggets

Take

3/4 C cooked fine okara (this is the amount that comes out of my soymilk maker; scale up as necessary). Press or wring as much liquid as you can out of it. This is a really important step – if you don’t get the liquid out the nuggets will be mushy.

Mix in

1/2 tsp salt – yes, this is a lot of salt. Okara has an incredible power of blandness. It needs it.
1-2 tsp of whatever spices you like – I put in some onion powder, cracked pepper, and minced garlic

Mix well. Add

1/4 c vital wheat gluten (you could probably use ground oats or rice flour just to thicken if you don’t do gluten, you just won’t get a meaty texture)

Knead until strings of gluten form. Form into nugget shapes. You should get 6-8 small nuggets. Coat in

– panko or crushed crackers

Spray with olive oil or cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, flip, spray again, and bake for 15 minutes more. Turn off the oven and leave them there. They’ll continue to firm up as they cool.

Serve warm or cool with ketchup, vegetarian tonkatsu sauce, or barbecue sauce.
I wouldn’t call these AMAZING, but they are pretty good and Cecil loves them, and you are getting not only 8 cups of milk but a decent meat substitute out of 50 cents of soybeans, so how can you go wrong?

HELPFUL HINTS: If you can’t use your okara within two days of making milk, freeze it and use it later. It goes bad pretty quickly. Also it doesn’t seem to matter if you take the hulls off the soybeans or not. I never bother. And seriously, use cooked okara. Uncooked soybeans are toxic to humans.

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Actually it’s a recipe for baby granola bars. With one caution.

Baby Granola Bars
Makes 12-15 small bars

Perfect to pack some more calories into your active skinny baby/toddler. Don’t give until the baby has a number of teeth and is good at chewing.

Start with

– 1 cup dates, PITTED. *CAUTION* – This is the important bit. Dates have pits. You may know this already, but I didn’t. The first batch I made had bits of pit all through them, which is a major choking hazard. Oops!

Put in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add

– 1/4 c maple syrup or agave nectar
– 1/4 c peanut or almond butter
– 2 tbsp canola oil

and process until relatively smooth. Add

– 1/2 c coconut
– 1/2 c oats

and process. The mixture should be crumbly but hold together when shaped. Add more oil if it doesn’t. Add

– 1/2 c puffed rice or wheat cereal. Pulse until chopped and combined, about 15 times. You don’t want to completely pulverise them.

Shape into miniature granola bars. Store between layers of wax paper in the fridge. Should last a week if your mother-in-law doesn’t feed them all to the baby in a single afternoon.

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So I made up this recipe yesterday and it was totally awesome, so I’m sharing it. Serves two, though the way I’ve been eating lately it could have easily served just me.

Preheat your oven to 350F and toss:

– 1 pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half) or grape tomatoes (left whole)

with

– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 1 tsp salt

Roast for 45 minutes or so. Put in a heatproof container and add:

– 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

You could totally use fresh herbs, but I didn’t have any. Leave in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours.

Make some pasta (I used rotini). While it’s cooking, fry over medium high heat:

– a handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

in

– 1/2 the oil from the tomatoes, plus about 1 tablespoon olive oil

until slightly browned and starting to shrivel. Add:

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes with the rest of the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until the liquid is thickened. Turn heat to low and add pasta, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with a handful of toasted walnut pieces. You *could* add Parmesan, but then what kind of vegan would you be?

Food styling? What's food styling?

Food styling? What’s food styling?

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