Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Saturdays In August...

Runners have the most beautiful feet in the world.

Hmmmm...  Take a look at that foot.  Not only do we have a half-toenail on the second toe, we have a large, delicious blister on top of the pinky toe.

That can mean only one thing...

That's right.  It's the first 20-miler of the summer.

This past weekend, I went out for my long run with our local running group, which meets every Saturday at 6:30 am, covering distances ranging from nine, to twelve, to fifteen miles... sometimes longer.  One of my fellow runners was also scheduled for a twenty-miler.  Since the morning's longest route was a fifteen-mile jaunt through the hilly suburbs of Rochester, we decided to add an additional five miles to round it out to an even twenty.  But instead of adding the extra distance at the end of the run, we decided to meet at 5:45 and get in a quick five miles before the rest of the group showed.

I had to get up at 4:30 to make our early-morning departure on time.  After feeding the cats, I put together my usual pre-run breakfast of oatmeal with dates, walnuts, and soy milk.

Before I gave up meat and dairy, I would have never thought of eating such a high-fiber snack just an hour before a run.  I'd always eat a lone banana, or perhaps an English muffin with jelly, and then hope that my bowels would cooperate during the run.  We've all been lead to believe that eating high-fiber foods is bad before long workouts because they allegedly clog up our digestive system and give us stomach issues during runs.

However, this is not the case.  It's actually the meat and dairy products that slow down our digestion, gum up our system, and give us wretched stomach issues and uncontrollable gas and bloating.

Ever since I've given up meat and dairy, I've been able to load up on high-fiber foods within an hour of my long runs, and I feel fantastic.  Once you make plants, whole grains, and starches the bulk of your diet, your digestive system will start running so efficiently that you won't even be aware of it.

And isn't that the point?

Instead of taking huge packets of energy gel with me for longer workouts, I now stuff my pockets with dates and snack on them during my run, as needed.  Again, my innards continue to function smoothly and efficiently.

As my running partner and I were sipping coffee at the local java joint with the other group members after the run, we were pleased with our decision to tack on extra distance before the group run, rather than afterwards.

I'm scheduled to run not one, but two marathons this fall.  After I'd signed up for the first one in October, a fellow runner and friend approached me about a fund-raising opportunity for a marathon in November.  At first, I thought it was a pretty foolish idea.  I never thought I'd ever run two marathons in the same year, let alone 5 weeks apart.  But I decided that it was a worthy cause, so I agreed to help her out and join her for my second marathon of the fall.

Check back in December to find out how I'm feeling.

Anyways, I need to start penciling the loooooooooong workouts into my running log.  Not bad for my first twenty-miler in over eighteen months.  Aside from the usual tired calves that crept up at mile sixteen, I felt pretty good.

As for that blister, most normal people get blisters on the bottom of their feet.  I, on the other hand, get them on top of  my toes.

I'm about as special as they come.

I love Saturdays during the summer months.  It's a great feeling to walk in the door before 9:30am, knowing that I've already run twenty miles.

After enjoying a banana/blueberry/medjool date/soy/hemp seed recovery smoothie, it was off to the farmer's market.  Normally, my wife accompanies me, but she worked the overnight shift and was sound asleep.

After spending $3 of my $40 at the coffee shop for a drink, I had $37 to drop on fresh, local produce.  Every week when I pull my weekend cash out of the ATM, I always wonder if $40 is enough to buy a week's worth of fruits and vegetables.  Inevitably, my worries are laid to rest when I walk out of there with two overstuffed shopping bags full of bounty, and some cash to spare.

This week I scored blueberries, heirloom and Roma tomatoes, Italian flat beans, regular and green onions, cantaloupe, red and Yukon gold potatoes, orange peppers, green and yellow squash, and broccoli for $32.

Another successful trip to our local farmers' market.

The most laughable excuse I've ever heard not to try a plant-based diet is that buying fresh, local produce is much too expensive.  Anybody who makes such an absurd claim must smoking something pretty potent.

Once I returned from the market, I parked myself outside on the back deck, with camera in hand.

One of my favorite pastimes of summer is sitting back in patio chair #1, putting my feet up in patio chair #2, and watching nature go by.  As you can see by the photos down below, I'm rarely disappointed.

I did have some yard work that I was supposed to accomplish, and I did get a few things done.  Pushing the mower around for ninety minutes was actually a good way to keep my calf muscles from tightening up.  But I decided against climbing up and down the ladder to paint the second story of the back bedroom.

I decided to save that chore for next Saturday, when I'm only scheduled for fifteen miles.

After a few years, our flower garden is starting to look pretty nice.

Our woodpeckers appreciate our new hanging suet feeder,
which is not accessible to the greedy starlings.

We have a baby rabbit that's taken a liking to snacking on our chemical-free grass.

I'm not sure if this sparrow is playing airplane, or what...

I won this plant for finishing second place in my age group at a 20K road race
several weeks ago.  Clearly, this is the most beautiful plant in the world.
My wife thinks it's ridiculous.

We replaced the black oil sunflower seed with safflower seed in our primary
bird feeder.  The cardinals and other small birds love it, while
the squirrels and starlings leave it alone.

The BEEs enjoy our BEE balm.

During the last several weeks, our hummingbirds have been pigging out,
putting away the carbs in preparation for their long journey south.

We have several hawks who visit now and then, looking for
tasty morsels of chipmunk to munch on.

Our 8-legged friend works tirelessly to keep the bug population down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Pileated Woodpecker Cometh!!!

The great pterodactyl waits to pounce on its unsuspecting prey!

My wife and I are becoming bigger bird dorks by the minute.

After we moved into our house, we waited over a full year until hanging a small, squirrel-proof feeder in the dogwood tree, just outside our back door.  For a season or two, we watched with mild interest as a few chick-a-dees and finches showed up to help themselves to mixed seed, now and then.

Our feathered traffic really started to pick up when we replaced the mixed seed with black-oil sunflower seed and hung up a suet feeder in the other side of the tree.  All of a sudden, a host of new and exciting birds began swarming the dogwood, gracing our picturesque backyard with their colorful, dazzling plumage and beautiful song.

Of course, they also dropped gallons of streaky white shit all over the driveway, as well as on the hood of my wife's car.

     "You shouldn't park under the tree," I kindly advised her.

She responded with a string of unsettling expletives, followed by a detailed description of where she'd stashed the extra linens, so I could make up the guest bed for myself.

Instead of me moving down the hall, I decided it would be best to move the feeder away from the driveway and into the back yard.  So we bought a free-standing post and jammed it into the soft sandy soil, just about ten feet in front of our row of lilacs.  The previous owners had left a decrepit wooden feeder at the end of the row of lilacs, so I mounted it on top of the post.

The birds loved it, but it certainly didn't win any favors with my wife.

She finally put her foot down when I replaced the rotted-out bottom with a vomit blue-colored wooden shutter that we'd removed from the inside of our dining room window, after painting the walls.  I spent several hours carefully removing the rotted wood from the feeder, cutting new seed chutes into the side, and drilling holes into the shutter to fasten it to the post.

After carefully testing it out to ensure that it would dispense an adequate amount of seed, I triumphantly mounted the renovated feeder on top of the pole.  As an added bonus, I speared an old windshield wiper through the top of the feeder and hung the suet cage off the end.

     "See!?" I showed my wife, beaming with pride. "If fixed it.  It's beautiful, isn't it?  No need to get a new feeder now."

     "That's the ugliest piece of trash I've ever seen!" my wife barked, glaring at my handiwork.

     "What are you talking about?  This feeder has character.  And the birds will love it!"

     "We're not rednecks," she snapped.  "And neither are our birds."

     "Actually, the male cardinal and red-bellied woodpecker both have--"

     "You can leave it there through the end of this year," she interrupted.  "Then, we're getting a new one."

After a few minutes of painful, one-sided negotiating, I reluctantly agreed to replace the feeder the following Spring.

My wife ordered me to trash it.
However, my father came to our rescue several months ahead of schedule, when he and his wife came to visit us just after Christmas, along with my sister and her family.

As we helped my father unload presents and luggage from their Subaru Outback, an enormous gift-wrapped box sitting in the back of the car behind the back seat caught our eyes.  We looked on in curiosity as my father hoisted the giant package out of the back of the car and lugged it awkwardly towards our back step, where one of my nephews was waiting to hold the door.

     "Shoot," my wife muttered under her breath.

     "What's wrong?"

     "I was hoping it was a snow-blower, but it's obviously not heavy enough."

     "We don't need a snow-blower," I said, motioning towards the open garage.  "See those two shovels right there..."  As I spoke, I had already begun to recoil and cower away in preparation for a backhand, or at least another tongue-lashing.  But thankfully I received neither.   Something else had caught her interest.

     "Hey look," she said, as she strolled up to the Outback and peered inside.  "There's another big box in there."

     "So there is," I said, scratching my head.  In just another moment, my father emerged from the house, dug the second package out of the trunk, and met us at the back door.

     "This is the last one," he said, as he hauled the large package through our dinette, through the front hall, and deposited it under the Christmas tree, next to the first one.

     "Hmmmmmm...," I murmured.  "I wonder what that could be."

Actually, I knew exactly what was in both packages.  Earlier in the month when my father had come into town for the day to run some errands and meet me for lunch, he had asked me what we wanted for Christmas.  He mentioned that he was getting my sister and her family some new birding equipment that was squirrel-proof.

     "I hate to be boring," I had said, "but we could use a more durable feeder.  That contraption that's currently standing in the back yard is falling apart."

     "Well, I'm sure I can find something for you guys, too."

So I was well aware that we had a new bird feeder in our future.

Later that evening after all of the other presents had been opened up, my sister and I started to unwrap our matching gift boxes.  The treasures we found amongst the balls of wadded up newspaper included a new post with multiple hangers, a hanging thistle seed feeder, a hanging suet feeder, a post-mount feeder, and a baffle to hang up to keep the squirrels away.  There were also multiple bags of different kinds of bird seed in the box.

I was pretty excited with our bounty, but my wife was ecstatic, knowing that we could put the current feeder out of its misery.

Since we were in the midst of a mild winter and the ground hadn't frozen, I was able to put up the new feeder within the week.  My wife was right.  It was a huge improvement.  The birds must have agreed, as our feathered traffic seemed to multiply almost overnight.  Within a few days, it seemed that every bird we'd ever seen during the past few years all showed up at once to show their approval for their new dining facilities.

Every bird, that is...  except for the mighty pterodactyl.

When we had first installed the suet feeder in the dogwood, we'd had several different species of woodpeckers take an interest.  First, the downy woodpeckers showed up, followed by the red-bellied woodpecker, the flicker, and the hairy woodpecker.

And then one day, a great big pileated woodpecker paid us a visit for just a few minutes.

Maybe the pterodactyl would visit more often if I spread BBQ sauce on our maple trees.

My wife first spotted it on the trunk of one of our maple trees along the border of our back yard.  It was the coolest looking bird that I'd ever seen.  We watched quietly from the dinette window, hoping it would visit the suet feeder.  But it kept its distance from the house, choosing instead to scour the trunk of the maple tree for ants and other delicious delicacies.  It stayed for only a few minutes before it took flight and soared away.

I immediately began referring to our new visitor as the pterodactyl.

For days, we spoke about the stately pterodactyl, hoping that it would return to visit us again.  But alas, over three years passed with nary a sighting...

...until this past Saturday morning.

My wife and I were sitting on the family room couch, watching television and finishing up our first cup of coffee.

     "I'm going to get my second cup.  You coming?"

     "I'll be right in," I said.  "I still have a bit left."

As she started to get up from the couch, she froze as she glanced out the window.

     "What's...  IS THAT?  IT IS!" she screamed, as she slapped her mug on the coaster and skittered to the window.  "DAVE!  IT'S THE PTERODACTYL!"

     "WHAT!?"  I grabbed the cat, who'd been draped across my legs in a blissful snooze and flung the poor creature across the room.  Sure enough, a magnificent pileated woodpecker was clinging to the bottom of the wooden column in our flower garden.


     "QUIET!" my wife screamed.  "YOU'LL SCARE HIM AWAY!"




     "HURRY!  GET IT!  GET IT!  GET IT!"

     "I'LL GET IT!  I'M GETTING IT!" I roared, as I snatched the camera case from the shelf below the television.

After fumbling around with zippers, lenses, and wires for half a minute, I finally managed to turn the camera on.  Almost immediately, the 'low-battery' message began flashing in upper left corner of the electronic display.  The screen flickered for a few more seconds before the camera shut down on its own.



I jammed the USB cable into the bottom of the camera and plugged the other side into the nearest outlet.

     "Where is it?  Where is it?" I whispered, as I tiptoed over to the window next to my wife.

     "It's still on the wooden post," my wife replied, pointing to our flower garden.

After a few more minutes, the pterodactyl took flight and headed towards the center of the yard, landing smack dab on top of the bird feeder.

     "Wow," I whispered.  "It actually went to the feeder."

     "Does the camera have a charge?  Try the camera."

I unplugged the camera from the USB charger, removed the lens cap, and pressed the power button.  After a few seconds, the display screen came to life, and the lens extended forward.

     "Success!  We're in business!"

As we knelt by the window to get a front-row seat, I began snapping pictures of our feathered visitor.  For a few moments, the woodpecker made its way back and forth across the roof of the feeder, eying the suet that was hanging just below in the cage.  After another minute, it swooped down and grasped the ledge, pausing for another moment to locate the suet.  Finally, it hopped down and clung to the suet feeder.

I continued snapping pictures as it pecked away at the mixture of seed, berries, and animal fat.

     "That...  is so...  COOL!"

After it was satisfied with its meal, the woodpecker flew back to the maple and perched on the trunk, where it remained for a few moments.  I managed to snap one last picture before the it spread its wings and took off, soaring over the the hedge and out of sight beyond our neighbors' birch tree.

     "That...  was AWESOME!"

     "I hope it comes back," my wife said.

     "I'm sure it will, now that it knows that the food is here."

     "Now...  shall we get our second cup of coffee?"

     "You go ahead first," I said, as I went over to the chair where Indy had been sulking since I'd tossed him across the room.  "I need to apologize to the cat."

As it turned out, the great pterodactyl paid us another visit later that afternoon, just as I was getting back from Wegmans.  I was about to get out of the car when I noticed it perched on the suet, chowing down.  I sat back in the driver's seat, watching the woodpecker enjoy its second meal of the day.

Over at the family room window, I noticed that my wife was also watching through the glass.

Like I said, we're becoming bigger bird dorks by the minute.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lindsay's Double Chocolate Muffins...

Yes...  Those are monkeys in the background.

This morning, I placed a container of 8 muffins on the file cabinet by Betsy's cubicle, and I sent the following email to all 8 of my co-workers in my department:
Good morning,
There are some homemade chocolate chocolate chip muffins over by Betsy.  You are all welcome to help yourself, as there's enough for everybody.  They contain no white flour, no eggs, no butter, no oil...  but LOTS of flavor... 
Oh, wait...  I seem to remember a few days ago that Emily made some comment that chocolate chips shouldn't be in muffins.  With that in mind, we have one extra.  We'll have a drawing at the end of the day to see who gets the extra muffin... 
Help yourself!
Within minutes, I had a handful of emails in my Inbox from appreciative co-workers, thanking me for the mid-morning goodies.  And then, the floodgates opened up, as the positive feedback came roaring into my cubicle from all directions.

     "These are DELICIOUS!" said Ashley.

     "Dave, these are really good," Evan added.

     "Wow...  These ARE good...  No eggs?  No BUTTER?"  Even our supervisor Lisa was impressed.  "Let me guess...  Applesauce...  right?  That's gotta be applesauce."

     "Good guess," I said

     "Did yo' wuf make veeve?" Abby asked, with her mouth full.

     "Uh, no.  I made them.  I CAN cook, ya' know."

     "I've got to try one of these," said Emily, as she headed over to the muffins on the file cabinet.

     "Um...  Emily.  YOU don't get a muffin," Abby piped up.  "Didn't you read the email?"

     "But I was talking about chocolate chips in store-bought muffins.  I'll try ANY homemade goodie."

     "Whatevs," Abby said, rolling her eyes.

     "Of course you can have a muffin," I said.  "Help yourself.  Abby, stop being such a miserable human being."

     "It's what I do, Dave."

With that, I emailed the following update to all my co-workers:
We have an update regarding the Muffin drawing.  Unfortunately...  it's been canceled.
Emily just clarified with me that she doesn't usually care for chocolate chips in 'store-bought' items.  However, she's always glad to sample chocolate chips in homemade goodies.
So there will be no muffin drawing...  but enjoy the sunshine!
More monkeys...

My co-workers were right.  These muffins ARE delicious, and they don't contain any oil, butter, eggs, white sugar, or white flour.

The recipe comes courtesy of Lindsay Nixon over at her Happy Herbivore blog.

During my three-month hibernation, I did quite a bit of reading about the liberal use of olive oil in cooking and baking, why olive oil is not really a heart-healthy food, and how even small amounts in our food may be doing us more harm than good.  I first stumbled upon Lindsay's cooking over at Dr. McDougall's website, where several of her recipes were referenced here, in McDougall's January '12 Newsletter.  John and Mary McDougall gave Lindsay a hearty endorsement, praising her for the absence of any oil and extra added fat in most of her recipes.

I immediately headed over to her blog and decided to pick out a few random recipes to prepare.  Everything I tried was delicious, including the chocolate muffins.  Eventually, I ended up purchasing her most recent book, the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook, and my wife and I have been enjoying her simple, healthy recipes several times a week.

If you're not familiar with Lindsay, pay her a visit at Happy Herbivore.  In the meantime, go ahead and make these delicious muffins.  The recipe is as follows:

  • whole wheat pastry flour
  • unsweetened cocoa
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • unsweetened apple sauce
  • raw sugar
  • chocolate non-dairy milk
  • vanilla extract
  • vegan chocolate chips

What ya do:

Heat up a stainless steel skillet on medium heat and saute the pastry flour, unsweetened cocoa, and baking powder in the vanilla extract until tender.  Once the baking powder is translucent and flaccid, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Add the salt, unsweetened apple sauce and raw sugar to a waffle iron lined with parchment paper and puree for 60 seconds.  Add the chocolate chips one-by-one and continue to puree until evenly mixed.

Wash an unclean ice-cube tray and line it with the chocolate non-dairy milk, taking care not to...

It's the Muffin Mash...  fresh out of the waffle iron.

Ya know what?  I'm yankin' your crank.  This isn't really how to make these muffins.  I suppose I could cut and paste the actual recipe right here, but that wouldn't really be fair to Lindsay...  would it?

I give these wonderful muffins two thumbs up, and I encourage you to make them.  But to do so, you'll need to go over to Happy Herbivore and get the recipe straight from Lindsay.

Click HERE for the link to the recipe.

The cat wouldn't relinquish the computer until I promised
not to plagiarize Lindsay's recipe.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Friend Ray. Rated R...

Mmmmmmmmm...  LASAGNA!!!

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Ray called me at work, wanting to know how to spell 'sawndree'.

Apparently, he had just purchased a birthday card for his wife, Mandy.  When he called me, he was sitting in his used 2001 Toyota Corolla in the parking lot of a drug store, like a filthy, homeless bum, scribbling a desperate message of love to his beloved wife.  Problem is, he had no idea how to say or spell 'sawndry' in the first place.

     "I need you to look up a word for me," he said.  "How do you spell 'sawndrie'?  I know it starts with S-A-U-N-D-R.  But does it end in Y or I-E?"

     "You called me to look up a word for you?" I asked.  "Just do it yourself, Numb-nuts."

     "I know you're in front of a computer," he replied.  "Do it for me."

     "Why, where are you?" I asked.

     "I'm in a drug store parking lot," he said.  "I just bought a birthday card for Mandy, and I'm filling it out in the car."

     "What's the word?" I asked, shaking my head in disbelief.

     "Saundree," he said.

     "  ...Saundree?  ...  I've never heard of that word."

One of my co-workers in her mid-fifties piped up from across the room.  "Does he mean 'sundry'?"

     "I think it means 'miscellaneous' or 'various'," he replied.

     "Well, if it means 'miscellaneous' or 'various', why don't you just write 'miscellaneous' or 'various'?" I asked.

     "Tell your friend that there's no such word as 'saundrie'," my co-worker chimed in again.

     "Just look it up!" Ray barked.

I brought up on my computer and typed in S-A-U-N-D-R-Y.  The message came back - 'No Results Found'.  I typed in S-A-U-N-D-R-I-E.  Again, the message came back - 'No Results Found'.

     "Um, there's no such word as 'saundrie'," I said.  "Did you, by chance, mean to say 'sundry'?"

     "Oh...  is that how you say it?"

     "Yes," I said.  "And that means that it starts with S-U-N...  not S-A-U-N."

     "You're friend is not very smart," my co-worker called out.  I stood up from my cubicle and nodded, in silent agreement.

     "Let's look it up with the proper spelling, shall we?"  I typed S-U-N-D-R-Y into the search field on and waited for the results.  "Ah, here we go.  Sundry.  S-U-N-D-R-Y.  It's a determiner which means 'several or various; miscellaneous'.

     "That's the word I want," he said.  "So, it's S-U-N-D-R-Y?"

     "Yes," I said.  "There's no 'A'."

     "OK.  Thanks!"

     "The word also has a separate Australian definition," I continued, scanning the multiple meanings of the word on my screen.  "In cricket, it's also referred to as 'extra... or a run not scored from the bat, such as a wide, no-ball, bye, or leg bye.'"

     "Um...  thanks."

     "Why would you ever think of writing 'sundry' in a birthday card?" I asked.  "Do you think you should be using a word that you don't know how to say or spell?"

     "Tell your friend that nobody uses that word anymore," my co-worker added.

     "Will Mandy even know what the word means?" I continued.  "What if she's only familiar with the Australian definition?  That will confuse her even more."

     "Of course she'll know."

     "Who confuses 'sundry' with 'sawndree'?" I asked.  "If you can't spell it or say it, then you shouldn't be using it?  And if Mandy doesn't know what it means, that will be even more insulting to her than getting a cliché Hallmark greeting card, filled out clumsily with your third grade chicken scratch in a parking lo--"

     "Fuck off!" he barked, cutting me off.

     "Anything else I can help you with today?"

     "Nope, that is all."

     "Ya know," I said.  "I feel very used right now."

     "As well you should," he replied.  "I'll talk to you later."

     "Bye,"  I hung up the phone.

My co-worker had wandered over to my cubicle.  "Did your friend graduate from high school?" she asked, sipping her coffee.

     "Yes, he did," I said.  "He's an anesthesiologist at a local hospital."

     "NOBODY...  uses that word anymore," she said again.  "Is he trying to impress his wife?"

     "I don't know," I said.  "I don't know why Ray does a lot of the things that he does."

I probably made a bigger deal of it, being an English major and all.  But in the grand scheme of things, I shouldn't have been surprised.

After all, this is the same boy who swallowed a toothpick whole after reheating a piece of frozen lasagna.  The toothpick had been used to suspend platic wrap above and over the lasagna, while it was in storage in the freezer, to prevent it from sticking to the cheese.  When he removed a piece from the pan and reheated it in the microwave, he forgot to remove the toothpick.  As the lasagna warmed, the toothpick sank down into the lasagna, never to be seen again.

Without even being aware that he had swallowed it, he passed the whole damn thing through his entire digestive system, and managed to get it lodged sideways into his upper rectum.  At the hospital, the attending crew had to put his legs up in stirrups, while a male doctor with rubber gloves went spelunking around in his asshole with 'crevice-friendly' pliers, asking him repeatedly why he would even consider inserting a sharp object into his anus.

I guess that a made-up word isn't the end of the world.

Mmmmmmmmmmm...  LASAGNA!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spicy Black Bean Sweet Potato Chile...

Cheech 'n Chili...
What could be better?

My sister and I gave up meat at approximately the same time, in August of 2010. Actually, she's the one who inspired my wife and I to give it a try. Ever since that time, we've been sharing recipes with each other, as well as new ideas and techniques for preparing and cooking our starches, grains, and veggies.

Last week, she gave me a call to tell me about a delicious chili recipe she'd stumbled upon. Not only did she think it was delicious, but her husband and two growing boys (8 and 10) also approved. We've made it twice during the past ten days, and I'd have to agree that it's absolutely fantastic.

With that, I give you the following recipe for Spicy Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili.

I've made a few modifications to the original recipe to make it more healthy. As such, I can now call it my own, and I encourage you to make it your own, as well.

The biggest change that you may notice is the absence of any olive oil as part of the saute process. During the past few months, I've been reading up on quite a bit of research and information about why olive oil may not be the 'health elixir' that the media cracks it up to be. And I will share some of this information with you in a future post.

In the meantime, you may rest easily at night knowing that you can saute vegetables in just about any liquid, be it water, vegetable broth, white wine, balsamic vinegar... beer... anything wet, really.

As with any chili recipe, you can throw it together at the last minute, cook it for 35 to 40 minutes, and then chow down. However, your best bet is to make it several hours (or even a full day) ahead of time and let it simmer on low for a loooooooooooong time. That way, all the flavors and spices have a chance to meld together.

  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped up
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (you pick the color), chopped
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 15-oz cans of black beans, drained
  • 2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes (no sodium)
  • 2 TBS chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or a pinch to taste)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

What ya do:

Line a stock pot with a thin layer of the vegetable broth and crank heat to medium-high/high. Once the broth is steaming, add the garlic and onions and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. If all of the vegetable broth evaporates, add a bit more to prevent sticking.

Add the sweet potato, carrots, and bell peppers and continue to saute for about 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and limpid.

Add all of the spices and stir them in until all of the veggies are evenly coated.

Add the beans and diced tomatoes, along with the rest of the vegetable broth, and stir until the veggies are well-coated with the spices. Once the chili returns to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for an hour or more. If you cook it for an hour, that's just... good. If you can simmer it on a really low setting for 3-4 hours, that's... even better.
Simmering...  simmering...  simmering some more...

Or, if you simmer it down for a few hours, let it cool, and keep it in the fridge overnight to serve the next day... all of the ingredients and flavors will have a chance to engage in a low-down, dirty orgy together during their scandalous, one-night stand in the fridge. The offspring of this filthy rendezvous will be... sinfully delicious.

This chili easily stands on its own, with homemade bread, as a complete meal. However, it also works really well when dumped over brown rice. If you'd like a spicier end-product, feel free to add your favorite hot sauce to the bowl.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Son-of-a-B!T%&!!! I think a spider just bit me in the ass...

     "OUCH... That bloody HURTS!"

My wife worked the overnight shift last night. Right now, she's trying to get five or six hours of daytime slumber to get ready for another 12-hour night shift later.

She has no idea that I've just been attacked.

The day started out fairly harmlessly. After I woke up and fed the cats, I brewed coffee and prepared myself a bowl of oatmeal, topped with chia seeds, sweet potato puree, maple syrup, and almonds. I usually chunk up an apple and toss that into the simmering oatmeal, but we're out of apples at the moment.

I need to get more... The organic Pink Lady apples at Wegmans have actually been really good this month.
Mookie didn't even make it through
five minutes of the presentation.

With my bowl of oatmeal and coffee mug in hand, I adjourned to the family room to watch the Sunday Morning Show on CBS. I usually enjoy this program quite a bit, but the summary of upcoming news stories didn't seem very appealing to me on this particular morning.

Plus, the leading story about the islands of floating garbage that have piled up in several 'dead spots' within our oceans left didn't leave me very optomistic about the rest of the show.

So I turned off the television, fired up the laptop, and watched a video presentation from Dr. John McDougall's most recent advanced study weekend.

Since the mid-70s, Dr. McDougall has been healing his patients of their chronic diseases through the use of a starch-based diet, centered around starches and whole grains, supplemented with whole fruits and vegetables, and completely free of animal products.

His track record, as well as his documented results and success, speak for themselves.

In this particular video, McDougall explores the pancreatic cancer suffered by Steve Jobs, and whether or not he could have beaten the cancer and prolonged his life if he had undergone surgery nine months earlier back in 2004. While the initial consensus was that Jobs allowed the cancer to spread from his pancreas to his liver by delaying the surgery for nine months, McDougall shows that Jobs most likely first developed cancer in his pancreas during his mid-20s, and that it could have metastasized to his liver as little as three years later. And he concludes that it was most likely Jobs' vegan diet that enabled him to live with pancreatic cancer for such a long time.

The presentation was fascinating, as well as eye-opening, to say the least. You can watch the entire video right HERE, at Dr. McDougall's website.

After finishing the video, I decided to do some dishes and clean up the kitchen, before going out for an early-afternoon run. I was standing at the sink rinsing off a saute pan, when all of a sudden I felt a sharp, stinging pain on the eastern hemisphere of my backside (western hemisphere, if you're facing me).

     "OUCH!" I yelped, as I dropped the pan in the sink.

They didn't care about my injured backside.
Sleep more important...
When I reached back to investigate, I felt a massive welt on my backside.

     "SON-OF-A... ,"

I sprinted from the kitchen, past the sleeping cats, and into the bathroom, where I frantically ripped off my pajama bottoms and shook them around like a mad-man, just to make sure that the spider in question wasn't still lurking inside. After I was sure that my pajamas were safe, I turned around to examine my backside in the mirror.

     "Damn... ," I muttered, as I poked and prodded at the welt, which was the size of a nickel.

Do I know for sure that it was a spider? Not really... But we certainly don't have any mosquitoes hanging around this time of year. I guess I could try to look at it more closely to see if there are the tell-tale 'pair' of bite marks. But... I think that I'll just let it go, a this point. As long as my ass doesn't fall off, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

     "Yeah, that's definitely a spider bite," my wife said, when she later examined my eastern ass. "Maybe that will teach you not to leave your pajama bottoms in a pile on the bedroom floor."

I was about to ask her about the pile of eighty-seven sweaters on the floor by her bedside table, but I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Stay tuned... because I'll have a delicious chili recipe to post sometime during the next few days.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Yeah, I'm still here...

I guess it's been a little while hasn't it? What's with the long layoff?

A few things have contributed to my silence, I suppose. The Christmas season was pretty busy. (Yes, I said 'Christmas'... sue me!) And I had surgery in late January to repair an inguinal hernia just northwest of my man-parts. That was a hell of a lotta fun. The highlight of my 'recovery period' was when my crank turned blue and swelled up to the size of an elephant's trunk. It's a great adventure when you're not even aroused, and you still feel like you're walking around with an assault helicopter lodged in your pants.

And there are a few issues related to this blog itself that have stalled me, per se.

The biggest issue is that my poor iBook G4 is about to die. A few weeks ago, the message of death came up onscreen, letting me know that 'YOU MUST SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTER AND RESTART!' I ran a virus scan on the entire system, and everything came up clean. After some additional trial and error, I determined that the wireless card is shot. So, I went to Best Buy and bought a 6-foot long ethernet cable to plug into the modem.

How 1998 of me...

I'll probably look into a new MacBook Pro this summer, once OSX Mountain Lion is released. I have a friend who always talks down to me and my Mac habit, letting me know how much more expensive Macs are. But he's a damn fool. During the time since I bought this iBook back in 2006, he's burned through three PCs.

I guess you get what you pay for. A fool and his money are easily parted...

Anyways, the iBook still works pretty well for basic web browsing and email, but uploading photos and trying to the format the blog has been a nightmare, of late. Whenever I start writing a new entry, save my work, and preview the entry, Blogger seems to change the font, add seventy-three extra spaces between lines, and move my pictures all around the page.

I'm really not sure why this is. Maybe I'm two or three versions behind on Firefox, but I'm still running OSX Tiger, and I've downloaded to the most recent upgrade that's supported.

Also, I've been contemplating the direction that I want to take the blog.

During the past few months, I've been reading up a lot on nutrition based on plants and whole foods. It's actually quite fascinating to me, and there's quite a bit of information that I'd like to share and expand upon. As for how to do this, I'm a bit torn between overhauling this blog, or starting a new one somewhere else. (Sorry Blogger, but I might experiment with Wordpress, just to see if it's easier to work with.)

Whatever I decide to do, I'll let you know here.

In the meantime, enjoy the rapidly-approaching Spring.