Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe: Spicy Mixed Vegetable Soup (Squash, Potato, Corn, Lentil, Purple Kale)

I had a bunch of things form the market this weekend and a little tickle in my throat, so I decided to make myself a soup.

1 medium-large Butternut Squash; peeled, cored and chopped
1 large Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Pepper, cored and chopped
3 medium Potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 can Lentils, divided
4 cobs Corn, de-cobbed
1 bunch Purple Kale, stemmed and chopped
12 cups Water, approximately 

 In a large stock pot, heat oil and add squash, onion, garlic and peppers. Heat until soft.
 Add spices and stir to coat. Add enough water to fill the pot up about half way (app. 12 cups) and bring to a boil.

 Add 1/2 can of lentils and reduce heat to a simmer until potatoes become soft. Put a hand blender at the bottom of the pot and blend until it becomes smooth and sort of creamy like this:

If it's too thick, add a little more water. If it seems thin, it will thicken as time goes on.

Add the rest of the lentils and the corn and cook on medium for 5-10 minutes. Add the kale and simmer until it softens up. After that, you can eat immediately or simmer to allow the flavours to mix a little better.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Record a Week: Andre Kostelanetz and his Orchestra - Carnival Tropicana


YOURS (QuiƩreme Mucho)
MEXICANA (Jarabe tapiato. Cielito Lindo, La Golandrina)

When I think of classical music, my mind usually goes European. However, this collection of Latin classical music is pretty great. Each side had at least one stretch that I instantly recognized, to the point where I was surprised I wasn't familiar with any of the titles when I looked at the cover. I couldn't tell anything that specifically set it apart from traditional classical music, but I suppose it's fairly universal in its roots and thus has similar themes wherever it originates.

The story of Andre Kostelanetz (at least according to Wikipedia) is an interesting one that had him escaping Russia during the revolution in the 20's and dying in Haiti in 1980, producing MANY records in between. His last listed one is Carmen, which I would love to hear. That's a beautiful piece and he did a great job with this one. Assuming he got himself someone wonderful to sing the aria, it would certainly be well worth a listen.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Lunch - Avocado Grilled 'Cheese'

This weeks entry is nothing innovative, particularly. However, I think if you have a vegan household with kids, this is a meal that might appeal to them. The avocado blends really well with the flavour, so it's not as much of a contrast as, say, a tomato (which I love stuffed in a grilled 'cheese').

2 slices Bread
1/2 Avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
3 slices Tofutti 'American-Style Cheddar' (or other vegan sliced 'cheese')
2 tbsp Vegan Margarine (or more as needed)
Salt + Pepper

This is a picture to help you find the cheese in your local store (I bought this at Metro, so not too exotic).

Heat up a small pan on medium. Spread margarine on the outside portions of the bread and put one piece margarine side down in the heated pan. Layer with 1 1/2 piece of 'cheese' and the sliced avocado like this:

Layer the other 1 1/2 slices on the top and then the other piece of bread, margarine side up. Fry for 2-3 minutes, until cheese starts melting and then carefully flip. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted. Cut and serve with a dollop of ketchup or whatever you like for dipping.

*I had some leftover avocado from the 1/2 avocado, so I mashed it and put it on a piece of toast topped with salt and pepper (pictured at the back of the plate)

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Record a Week: Roland Kirk - Volunteered Slavery



Well, this was an interesting listen. Definitely my first foray into any field titled 'free jazz' or 'free improvisation', though I suppose jam bands are under the free improv category. The album is a mix of studio recordings and a 1968 appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. Kirk plays several instruments on the album, including a trio of saxophones he modified to be able to play simultaneously/in quick succession and a nose flute, which he could play at the same time as his regular flute.

In fact, the highlight of this record for me was a couple of crazy flute solos where he was humming as he played the flute, which made for a unique sound. The whole sound of the record reminds me of that big horn sound of the early 1970's, a sound I wish I knew where to start with. Perhaps I should consult Mr. Greg Proops, who always fawns over this era of music on his podcast. I could nab some Ohio Players and see where things go from there.

It was interesting to listen to music from an era where seemingly everyone died at a young age. The last young musician to die was, who, Cobain? Dimebag Daryl? The Deftones bass player died, but that was from an accident and not his style of living. These days all the celebrities get a chance to make poor decisions and fade away slowly in the public eye. What a time we live in.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Brunch - English Muffins

*Altered from Alton Brown's Recipe

1/2 cup Evaporated Soy Milk
1 tbsp Crystallized Sugar (Cane, Coconut Crystals, Whatever you have on hand)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Vegetable Shortening (Earth Balance makes a good one)
1 cup Hot Water
1 pkg Dry Active Yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
Large Pinch of Sugar (1/8 tsp it calls for, but I don't have a measuring spoon for that)
1/3 cup Warm Water
2 cups Sifted Flour (All Purpose or Bread Flour)

In a large bowl, mix hot water with soy milk powder, shortening, tbsp sugar and salt until dissolved. In a separate bowl, combine yeast, 1/8 tsp sugar and warm water and set aside until it foams (nearly 10 minutes). Add yeast mixture to soy milk mixture and sift in the flour 1 cup at a time. Cover and let rise for 1/2 hour or so (until it doubles in size).

For cooking method, I tried two ways. One -  Take squash ball-sized pieces of dough and make a patty (don't overwork), fry on low in a oil-sprayed pan, covered for 7-8 minutes per side (until golden, but middle has to cook). Two - Take same sized balls and make a patty, dip each side in corn meal, bake at 250 for 20 minutes and then fry on medium in oil-sprayed pan for a few minutes per side to brown the sides. Both were good, just slightly different. Extras can be, split lengthwise and frozen in airtight container and toasted at a later date.

A Record a Week: The King's Singers - By Request

THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND (Dusty Springfield/others)
BECAUSE (Beatles)
THREE TIMES A LADY (Lionel Richie)
THE RHYTHM OF LIFE (From Sweet Charity)

SHORT PEOPLE (Randy Newman)
NINA (Noel Coward)
HUSH LITTLE BABY (John Blackwood Arrangement)
I LOVE YOU SAMANTHA (From High Society)
WHAT'S IN A TUNE (David Overton Arrangement)

Well, two questions: 1. Who is it that was requesting this? 2. How long can you listen to a (mostly) acapella album?

I can't answer the first one, but I will take a stab at the second. I listened to the whole thing, as I have promised myself I would during this review process. However, I would say I hit my a capella limit somewhere around Three Times a Lady. Despite the wonderful tones of all of the voices on this record, hearing nothing but that loses its novelty fairly quickly. A little digging tells me that this group has made MANY records, so perhaps I am in the minority as far as desire goes. I will say that I did enjoy the songs I recognized far more than those that I did not, so maybe one of their christmas albums or their all-Beatles album would be more appealing.

This is not to take away from their wonderful voices, I just can't do nearly 44 minutes of just that. Really, 44 minutes of any one thing would be too much. Isolating the guitar tracks on any given album and listening to that would not be a listening experience, it would be called engineering or producing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What Has Been Stored Away Is Found Again

I have this email account that I NEVER check. Every time I get around to sorting through it, there are 2000+ unchecked emails in there. Now, this sounds like more than it is; because every time I sign up for something online or pay for something that requires an active email, I use this account. It then sends all updates for that thing I don't care about to that address and if you don't open them enough, they'll eventually just send right to spam anyhow. Regardless, I do only check it once every 3-4 months and try and trim it back to a reasonable size. For some reason, though, every once in a while I go digging through the older emails to get a bit of the ol' nostalgia.

Today was one of those days. I dug through old emails about planning road trips, weekends at the cottage, bitchy downstairs neighbours and a whole host of other things from a previous portion of my life. The very first one I actually opened, however, was an email about a day I remember very clearly. The letter was the last of a string of emails and read like this:

OK...I'll call your cell phone - look forward to seeing you then. Have a good weekend in London town :o) 

xx Mom

My mom had been having back pains for a couple weeks and when I had seen her for lunch a few weeks before she had also had some trouble getting her food down. In the interim I had been doing a lot of background thinking worrying about what that meant and if it had any relation to the cancer she had battled several years before. I'm not claiming to be some sort of Seer here, it's just that I'm a hypochondriac and one that also projects it outward to those I care about as well.

However, this email had me in higher spirits and I went about said trip to 'London town' and headed back by train to be picked up for a lunch and some shopping with my mother (and perhaps Joe, my stepfather as well) at the station, as planned. When I got out of the station, I located their car and headed across the street. As I got closer, the door opened and out of the driver's seat came Joe and not my mom. My heart sank as Joe told me the pain was keeping her from getting out of bed and we'd have to postpone the shopping trip. That outing never happened and my mom never got up out of bed with any real meaning again.

So here I was, many years later, staring at an email I probably haven't looked at since that day. An email that marked a real turning point in my life and triggered the beginning of a long, turbulent ride. I wasn't even thinking of her before I checked my email - quite frankly I just did it out of sheer ennui, the whole family was either napping or in another room. Clicking on that one email led to opening a whole slew of emails and I quickly found myself re-living memories in a strange order, where one minute I was reading about fun things that involved my mom (or not) and the next minute I was reading condolences to do with her sickness or passing. It was very interesting and dug up several feelings and memories I hadn't thought about in a long time.

I can't decide if it's a good thing to keep these emails or not. I do find it comforting to have a hard copy of something I know she wrote herself, as long as I only visit them every so often.
I am thankful for this experience and mostly that it happened now, a time when I might not think about her as often as I once did and at the same time can view these things without it being overwhelmingly sad. Thank goodness I am some degree of an email hoarder (though not with newer emails - I do have a weird thing where I don't trust the address book and keep one email from everyone in my inbox in case I need to contact them at a later date. This add-on is way too long for brackets.)