Friday, March 30, 2012

Culinary Success: Vegan Curried Pumpkin Soup!

This soup is a little sweet, due to the apples and sugar (no, Ma, I didn't add any--I just followed the directions), and a little spicy, due to the curry powder.  It's medium-thick, and contains almond milk, so it's more filling than you'd think.  I got the recipe out of the Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook.

3 T Earth Balance
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 c (500 g) pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling) I just used one can, which was 425 g. 

1 T curry powder
1/4 c evaporated cane sugar
1 T dark brown sugar I used light brown since that's what we had in the house.
3 c vegetable stock I used 4 c because that's what came in the boxed veggie stock I use.
1/2 c dry white wine
1 1/2 c almond milk
Salt and pepper, to taste I hate "to taste" directions, so I just omitted this entirely.
2 T chopped toasted pumpkin seeds This is just garnish; I don't garnish dishes.
1.  In a large pot, add the Earth Balance and melt over medium heat.  Add the apples and onion.  Cook until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes.
2.  Add the pumpkin puree, curry, and both sugars, and cook 2 minutes.
3.  Add the stock and wine.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and cook about 20 minutes.
4.  Here's where I diverged.  The recipe says to let the soup cool and then blend in a blender, but I own an immersion blender, so I didn't cool the soup at all; I just removed it from the heat and used my immersion blender.
5.  Pour in the milk and stir until hot.
6.  Add the salt and pepper.  Garnish with the pumpkin seeds.
To be fair, Captain America hasn't tried this yet, so it's possible that he'll hate it.  But I loved it, so I'm definitely going to make it again!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Ok, I still can't figure out what happened to my HTML from goodreads. annoying!

I really like Jodi Picoult, but I didn't think this was her best work.

I like how the book is told from different perspectives, but I thought it was awkward the way a few of the perspectives were introduced after you were about halfway through the book. That made the timing a little weird. And it's a little gimmicky to have different perspectives in different fonts. I mean, we all manage with A Song of Ice and Fire series with different perspectives over several different books (AND with gaps of about 37 years between publications), and we're still all good.

Additionally, and slight spoiler alert: the son is gay. You find that out pretty early on, and it's implied that this is the source of a massive disagreement between him and his father, but the father is in a coma the entire book, so the tension is a little contrived. It would have been better if the father woke up from his coma with massive brain damage or something and he and his kids had to relearn who each other was...this would have more tension because the kids would remember things that the dad wouldn't and that would shade the conversations/interactions/etc.

I gave it four stars anyway because I couldn't put it down.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New green bent update

So I'm sure you all know about how BPAs in plastic can leech into your food when you microwave them, and how there's a Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and how some plastics are linked to cancer, blah blah blah. So I thought I'd do the super-diligent thing and weed out the beauty products I use that are made with petroleum bi-products.  Because I'm pretty sure petrolatum doesn't need to be on my face or down the drain. 

You know why more people don't do this? Because it's a giant pain in the ass!  If you google all of the chemicals in your facial soap, as an example, you'll find all sorts of information on how the chemical molecule is structured.  You'll find beauty websites that describe what the chemical does.  You'll even find beauty websites that rank the chemical on various types of toxicity.  But I can't figure out if it's made from petroleum or not! 

Good grief!  I'm trying to do my part to save the planet here, people!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Water usage!

So our water bill came, and we've increased our usage by 13.6% when compared to the same period of time last year.  Ugh.  Please note, last year it rained all winter, but this year it did not so we had to water the lawn.  There's no dormant period for the lawn here in San Diego.  Stuff grows all year round, and it's just about impossible to bring grass back from the dead.  So don't even bother to tell me we'd reduce our water usage by not watering the lawn.  That's not really an option.  Unless we want dead grass.

I tried to create a spreadsheet outlining the ebbs and flows (ha ha, I'm so punny) of our water usage, but I only found one statement from last year.  So much for my organizational prowess. 

None the less, in the last billing period, we managed to use 142 gallons, on average, per day.  One-hundred forty-two!  Doesn't that feed a family in Ethiopia for a year or something?  And that doesn't even include the water used to make the stuff we use (e.g. water used for irrigating the veggies we eat).  So I'm obviously back on my periodic environmental bents.  Mostly because I've been reading the Skinny Bitch series of books.

For those not in the know, the authors aren't really interested in making people skinny or bitches, but they thought it was a catchy title, and they really want to make people healthier, which generally also means thinner. 

Anyway, 142 gallons of water a day sounds a little excessive to me.  I'd like to get it under 100.  But that's a big decrease, so I'm going to shoot for a 10% decrease over the next two periods (which is roughly four months).  I'd aim for the end of this billing cycle, but we were in the middle of it when we received our bill, and I sort of feel that that would be unfair.  I mean, it'd be like giving a budget to someone and telling them: you've got to get this in check by December, but it's June, and we've already blown more than half of this, so good luck, buddy.

So, a 10% decrease would be 14 fewer gallons per day.  Here's what I've come up with:
  • Shorter showers.  This is really all me, because Captain America is a pretty speedy showerer.  This is actually in direct conflict with my new favorite hair product, Wen, which wants you to wait seven minutes before rinsing the stuff out.  So here's what I did yesterday: I brought the space heater into the little bathroom so I could turn off the water while washing my body etc. and not get cold, a la Jory-style. Although now that I think of it, I don't think Voracious has blogged too much about the Jory bathtime routine.  And for the record, we are so low on our electricity usage that getting solar panels on our house would pay off in about a billion years.  So I thought it was a reasonable trade-off.
  • Captain America does have a habit of leaving the water running when rinsing the dishes and loading them into the dishwasher.  And by running, I mean not actually running into another vessel, but just down the drain.  It actually drives me crazy, but I'm not a stupid woman: I'm ecstatic that my husband does the dishes.  I did, however, suggest that he be more cognizant of that.  I also suggested that we only rinse the really dirty stuff, like the spaghetti plates.  So we'll see how this works.
  • I could shower at the gym more, which wouldn't necessarily reduce my water usage per se, but it would reduce what we pay for.
  • And my creme de la creme idea: Travel more!
(And do you love how my bulleted list is not parallel?  That's to annoy my crazy copyediting teacher!  See that, crazy, I'm smart enough to know it's not in parallel, and I don't care!)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Living Dead in Dallas: a book review

I still can't figure out what happened to my html in goodreads, so I'm sorry that I have no picture of the cover for you, but, really, the cover adds nothing. 

So Tara makes an appearance in this book, albeit a small one. And Lafayette dies. I'm really not sure how HBO took this series of books and turned it into True Blood.

Am I the only one who finds Sookie mildly annoying? For example, she's 25 and she keeps pinning bows in her hair.

So here's the bottom line: the books are pretty dumb, but they're an easy read for when you just want to let your mind go. Like on airplanes, or at the beach, or after a long day at work when you really don't want to think anymore.
Here's a review with an awesome picture of Eric:
And here's a review that I think is really amusing:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Resolution update

Remember all the way back to January when I made some resolutions? No? Well, me, neither a lot of times. But as it happens, I had a set of four financial resolutions.  One was to pay off my credit card, which I did on January 13, at least for the first time.  Since then, I had a bunch of dental work done and there's a balance again (don't panic, Captain America!).  I think I'm just going to be in a perpetual state of paying off my credit card.

Anyway, one of my other financial goals was to have $20K in savings, and that was accomplished today, with a check from my mother who graciously offered to pay for part of my lasik surgery.  Of course, this means that as soon as Captain America moves the money around to pay off the credit card on which we charged the surgery, we will, in his words "be poor."  Nonetheless, I'm taking it as a victory and crossing it off my resolution list.  Because, of course, the point of a savings account is to use it for big things, like lasik, or unexpected things, like lasik.