Thursday, August 28, 2008

Uber-Garlicky, Super-Speedy Bean Dip/Spread and Os Mutantes

This is about as garlicky as I can get. It makes a superior dip, but it's great as a spread on toasted, crusty bread, as well. The ingredients and directions are so simple you'll wish you never bought store-brand dip.

If raw garlic is too much for you, roast the garlic first to cut down on the bite.


1 can of beans (your choice; I used kidney beans), drained
3 tablespoons (or less, depending on your preference) of Annie's Goddess Dressing
2 very large cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
2-3 tablespoons water (optional)


1. In a blender or food processor, or with your immersion blender (my choice), add all the ingredients except the water and blend until smooth. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water, depending on how thick you like your dip/spread.
2. Enjoy!

Ways to enjoy this fantastic, healthy, and easy dip/spread:

1. With chips, cut veggies, and sticks of cheese as a great party dip.
2. Spread on a whole wheat pita for a quick snack.
3. Spread on toasted whole wheat pita triangles (or on any toasted bread).
4. Mixed into tuna instead of mayo (about 2 heaping tablespoons ought to do it).
5. Spread on bread and topped with lettuce and tomato for a salad sandwich.
6. Spread on crackers and topped with sliced olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, or the veggie of your choice for a great appetizer.
7. Spread on a tostada, topped with cheese and baked until the cheese bubbles.
8. Heated until hot and served with rice as a different twist on refried beans.
9. Same as above, but served with hot cornbread.
10. Used as an ingredient in chili.
11. Instead of sauce on a veggie pizza.
12. Heated in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then stirred into freshly cooked and drained, small-cut pasta. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.
13. Spread on the underside of portabella mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with cheese, then grill cheese-side up.
14. Drop by spoonfulls into a deep fryer for a different version of falafel.
15. Eat it straight off the spoon. ;)

I'm sure there are a lot of other things you could do with this dip/spread. Let me know what you think.

Os Mutantes, finally

There are a lot of us food bloggers who talk about the music we play as we cook, eat, and live our lives. I haven't done it in a while, so I thought I'd share with you the music that's been making me dance around the house (and the George St. Co-op, when I'm volunteering there).

Os Mutantes is a Brazilian group that was very active in the psychedelic 1960s with their quirky brand of Tropicalia-style music. Remember that soccer commercial with those great kids? Well, the music is from Os Mutantes. Brilliant. I can't recommend it highly enough.

So, what are you listening to?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cookbook Review: Vegan Lunch Box

It was only a matter of time until Jennifer McCann's legendary Vegan Lunch Box blog spawned an accompanying cookbook. Vegan Lunch Box (the book) is very clever. It has handy tips on a range of different topics on pages throughout the recipes as well as the front section that suggests menus for the kids. The Frugal Mom notes are especially helpful.

The book reminds me of Vegan With A Vengeance, in that the writing style is very lighthearted and fun, but at the same time carries a good message about health and vegan values. All that to say when my review copy arrived, I remembered why I used to read the blog regularly in its infancy.

The recipes, for the most part, are designed to be made in a short amount of time, with ingredients most vegans and vegetarians will already have in their pantries. When I reads the book from front to back, I had a little stack of post-it notes sitting next to me. That way, when reading through the menus, I could flip to the page for a recipe within a menu that piqued my interest, tag it, then return to the menus to find more.

One of the early recipes that caught my eye was the one for Play Pretzels. While I wish I could share the recipe with you here, I didn't get permission from the publisher (a very big surprise, and the only one yet that didn't actually encourage me to do so), so you'll just have to imagine it.

I made the pretzels according to the recipe, and they plumped up a bit more than I'd expected. If I made them larger, they probably would have made very tasty, soft, giant pretzels. However, I deliberately made them small, expecting them to be crunchy. They weren't as crunchy as I thought they should be. On the other hand, I really liked the flavor. I think next time I make these, I'll probably use barley malt instead of the agave nectar I used instead of sugar. And, I'll try making the big, soft version instead.

While I realize it takes a lot of effort to do this, if you're going to write a cookbook about health and healthy choices (especially for kids), you really should include the nutritional information (calorie count, fat, protein, serving sizes, etc.) for each recipe. It's increasingly more important given the rising numbers of obese kids and adults. I wish Ms. McCann had included this information in her recipes.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and trying a few recipes. The recipes, by the way, are well-written and easy-to-follow.

If you've tried recipes from the blog or the book, please let me know. I'd like to know how much you liked them as well.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm Ready for My Close-up

This praying mantis stopped what he was doing to pose for me. He actually looked up and turned his head toward me. Then, he lifted his front legs into this pose.

Not only did this praying mantis turn my head, but his brother did as well.

He wasn't as receptive as the fellow on the rose, though. Basically told me to go away while he hunted down a little bug in the mums. Oh well.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Travelogue: Silver Lake, Utah

Whenever I travel to states or countries I have visited before, I try to build in a hike or bike ride through a region I haven't yet seen. During our July visit to Utah, John and I hiked in the Brighton and Solitude mountains -- places usually seen covered with many feet of snow and quite a few skiers and snowboarders. In the photo above, you can see Silver Lake, which is a very short hike from the Solitude visitors' center.

Silver Lake (along with Brighton and Solitude) is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The canyon, in turn, is within the Wasatch mountain range that encircles the Salt Lake City valley. In the summer, it is the gateway to wildflower hikes, fly-fishing, and more.

Above you can see the man-made path through the marsh around the lake. As we walked around the lake, we saw some wildlife.

This young mallard was trying to attract the attention of a lovely young female (below).

She demurred.

Because there were a few fly-fishermen on the lake, John and I were interested to see if there any trout. There were.

Hiking around the lake is definitely family-friendly. There are guides and signs along the way, pointing out flora and fauna. This sign was particularly useful because I didn't know many of the wildflowers we were seeing during the hike.

These pink geraniums were tiny and fragile, like origami flowers made from tissue.

The flowers below reminded me of trails from fireworks.

After we finished our tour around the lake, we hiked up to the Twin Lakes reservoir, which is a total misnomer because it's only one lake. In the guidebooks, this is an "easy" hike. It's pretty steep and very dry, so if you try this, make sure that you wear your hiking boots and take more water than you think you will need. Remember also that the altitude is 9469 feet (a bit of a challenge for those of us who normally reside at sea level). If you are from the lowlands and are aggressive about hiking this trail, ascending and descending quickly, you will experience a headache. So, take your time (and an aspirin, just in case).

This is your reward at the top of the hike:

Oh, and the wildflowers.

Here are some helpful sites to visit if you'll be in the Salt Lake City area and would like to hike the mountains:

Go Utah

Solitude's hiking guide (click the star)

Kirkhams -- where to get your gear and maps

REI -- another option for gear and maps

Now get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!