Friday, April 23, 2010

oil, shrimp & cauliflower soup

Coastal marsh at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area near Port Arthur, Texas. This type of marsh in Louisiana is going to be impacted severely by the oil spill, and right now is prime nesting season for shorebirds, ducks, and other critters.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

Wanted to do a quick update. Have been researching the heck out of the tragic oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf. I'm in Houston and the trajectory has it going to New Orleans and Louisiana and Mississippi's fragile coastline, but the whole thing is not a good situation. I reported a piece for Adventures in Climate Change that you can read here: Shrimp & Oil Really Do Mix?

I'm leaving Thursday for the Writing Away Retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado - and I absolutely can't wait! I will be meeting with book editors, agents, and other writer-authors. I am very much looking forward to it. And Doug gets back from 10 weeks offshore either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on weather, so it's going to be a busy week!

Meanwhile, here are some pics of a yummy soup recipe I made - Curried Cauliflower Soup.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 clove garlic, sliced (1 tsp.)
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp. honey or agave nectar
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft and golden. Stir in apple, curry powder, and garlic, and cook 2 minutes more, or until curry powder turns deep yellow.

2. Add cauliflower and vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes, then blend in food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in honey and vinegar, and season with salt, if desired.

Chopping up the Cauliflower. The soup also has agave nectar, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar. I didn't have any rice wine vinegar, so I used another type. Honestly I don't remember if I used balsamic or apple cider vinegar but those are the two types I have.
Next, you boil the cauliflower in the vegetable broth. After this, you blend it or in my case I used my Cuisinhart food processor to blend it all up. The finished product! It was tastier than it may look in the photo - ha ha! It's hard to get a good photo of a pureed soup. I topped wiht freshly ground pepper.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a picnic with myself.

Marine iguanas and Sally lightfoot crabs (the orange things in the crack of the rock and around - if you click the photo you will see a larger version), on the edge of Española Island, in the Galapagos archipelago.
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Yesterday I had the most delightful day! I chose to turn off my ever-present laptop and take myself and a blanket to this nice little spot by a lake. I laid out my afghan in the gorgeous sun, and read Eating Animals. I fell asleep in the sun at one point, and then awoke, and read some more. I only left because I had a sort of strange encounter. This particular place I was is located near a bridge, near some homes. A young man came over, using a walker, and started talking to me. I am normally a friendly person but I was really enjoying my peace and quiet. My antenna prickled. I tend to be cautious and try to trust my intuition. However he started to mention God, and then turns out he went to the same church as me but didn't anymore. So I try to be open to God and fate and the universe and all, but there's also this thing of personal safety. Maybe I am too cautious, I don't know. He seemed very kind and sweet, really, but I think that perhaps the car accident (which he told me about) had affected a part of his brain that controls that kind of thing. Anyway other than that encounter the several hours I spent outside were divine - and some Blackberry photos of my time are below.

I've had another person crossing boundaries with me recently that I find a wee bit disturbing. Besides the above, I have this one guy who I initially emailed collegially who will NOT stop emailing me. I ignore him and that just makes him email more. I try to say something short and curt, to give the hint I'm not able to correspond. But nothing works. I feel like I am being cyberstalked. He's telling me all kinds of things about what he thinks my silence means, and judging my journalism skills and this that and the other thing and frankly, I am not sure what to do. He's halfway across the world, and there are no threats there, but it's still a very odd situation. Have any of you dear readers ever experienced anything like this? And why do strange things seem to all happen at once?

Other than that, I'm researching a story, editing my book, sending a query a day, working out at the gym daily, and looking forward to seeing Doug when he returns May 3rd! I also had a really nice lunch with a new friend today! I love friends!

This is the view from the blanket - the grass and the lake.

A snapshot of my water bottle sticker which says "My poo grows trees." The bird is a cassowary. Last year, wrote an article about these giant flightless birds, which live in the Australian rainforest.
My book, Eating Animals. The book I am reading that is. All I will say is, after a lifetime of being on-again off-again vegetarian (and in the past 15 years mostly NOT) it is a game changer. Everyone should read this book, to know the facts about what goes into the production of meat. If enough were known by enough people, it would change. There's simply no way we would allow what happens to happen if we collectively knew. I've never been a big animal rights person. I did research on lab animals. I ate meat. But the more I learn, the more I know I am complicit in the system if I vote with my dollars to continue the environmental degradation, animal abuse and cruelty that systematically goes on - particularly with pork, chicken, and turkey (less problems with cattle, though there is still some). It's very well researched and there are numerous citations to the original studies, just fyi. There are some lights in the darkness, a very few family farms who give their animals a decent life and a humane death...Here's the bottom line. Animal welfare laws do not apply to meat production. They apply to lab animals, your pets, shelters, wildlife but not to animals raised as meat. So what if birds suffocate, pregnant sows are confined to so little space these intelligent mammals get psychological problems, and everything walks in its own poo. So what if hundreds of animals on each farm die a day due to the very conditions they're kept in? So what if chickens are genetically engineered to produce giant breasts for our eating enjoyment, but they can't walk properly and their bones don't support their weight anymore (hence the bones break regularly)? It's all heavily documented. Eye-opening stuff. My kids are thrilled, Doug is thrilled (not). But let me tell ya. I am going to try to find a local rancher/butcher but I still don't know if I want to eat meat again. I've been a 95% vegetarian for the past couple months and this book is really fascinating! And that is just the start. There's also the whole environmental degradation issue I didn't even get into.
My foot and the partly cloudy sky!
A self portrait that I "Watercolor"-filtered with Photoshop. Just for fun.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

taxes, writing & more yummy veg recipes

A butterfly rests on a wildflower at Glacier National Park. My friend and colleague and butterfly enthusiast Alana told me it's a Milbert's Tortoiseshell.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

It's 11pm and I'm sipping the curried cauliflower soup I made for dinner, which I just finished making. Topped it with some freshly ground black pepper. Yum! It has the perfect amount of curry to make it a bit spicy, which I like, but doesn't overwhelm the cauliflower flavor (I will upload pics and post the recipe in a later post - but have some other recent experiments below).

I didn't get home from the gym until nearly 9pm, and as I tend to do, I multi-task-cooked. I was writing my Monday Animal Planet blog post, checking Facebook, chopping cauliflower, drinking coffee and eating a yummy Swiss easter cookie my friend Amalia gave me at the gym! Hey, I earned it since today I did two exercise classes in a row - body pump (weight lifting to music) and spin. I never do that, so it was awesome! Then Amalia and I went to the steam room, chilled and chatted, then after a shower I headed home finally!

And... I finished my ^&$#@ taxes today, finally. Being self-employed they are a royal pain in the patootie. I actually sat down on my couch, and attempted to get them done one weekend in January, and the file folder full of receipts and such sat there on my coffee table until... 3 days ago. Ha! But I finally tackled the beast, and everything is all filed and done. Next on my agenda is writing some Animal Planet blog posts, giving feedback to my writing students, researching a story I'm writing (not due until June), and pitching some new ideas to magazines. I've been sending out lots of queries! I had slacked a bit late last year, but have lots of new story ideas. I also have to spend a bit of time editing my book chapters before the writing retreat which is only a few short weeks away. And ... Doug will be back in a few weeks too, just before I leave for 5 days. But at least I will see him for a couple days, and then he can get moved into his new apartment and then we can spend some good quality time together when I return.

The only other thing is that I decided I'm going to spend my 40th birthday in Oregon with family and friends out there! I'm so excited! And that's why I'm querying like mad, so I can get some new work!! Doug is going to come with me, though whether we can go on the same flight - or whether he can go at all - and all depends on when he gets assigned to go on his next "hitch" offshore. So with that said, here are some pics of some of my latest recipes I've tried. If you try one, let me know what you think!
Enchiladas verdes. It looks nice, but this recipe was actually not a favorite. It was decent but not fantastic.
This is one of my fave things to make: veggie quesadillas. I don't have a recipe but in this case I used the Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain tortilla (fyi Ezekiel 4:9 is a bible passage that says "Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself"). I've also used rice tortillas which are really good. To make the quesadillas, I put a tiny bit of olive oil in the pan, and place the tortilla in there, filling with already roasted or sauteed veggies (I had mushrooms, red peppers, and onions), and a bit of mozzarella as a low-fat cheese. I serve it with salsa and it's sooo good!
I made Tempeh Cutlets Provençal, which turned out great but the tempeh was a little dry. This is my first time cooking tempeh, and only my second time eating it (the first was at the Laughing Planet Restaurant in Portland). Any suggestions for how to cook it without drying it out are appreciated! It's served with a sauce made of red peppers (I used yellow), onion, capers, and here has a garnish of rosemary.
This is the brand I bought, and what it looks like if you've never seen it before... I bought it at Whole Foods.
Here's a pic of the tempeh coming out of the oven. Looking at the photo of the recipe on the Vegetarian Times website, the cutlets look wider and thinner. I knew that I'd cut mine smaller but maybe making them thinner would make it less dry? I'd also recommend doubling the sauce, as the recipe did not make very much!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

San Antonio - Hill Country adventure

Here are photos from my recent trip with my kiddos to the Hill Country and San Antonio. Most are taken by Savie, actually, but I took a couple! :) She always is taking my camera so I rarely had time to shoot my own!
Bluebonnets at the Dahlstrom Ranch near Buda Texas which the landowners just entered into a conservation easement, which permanently preserves the ranch and prevents it from being sold to development or rock quarries, etc (though there is already one quarry on site). Usually conservation easements are done voluntarily by the landowner, but since the property is in the Edwards aquifer "recharge zone," Austin has a program to pay in some money to make it more worthwhile. It's a very cool property as you'll see in the next photos.
Julie Jenkins from the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District shows us one of the "karst features" on the property - basically a hole in the limestone that takes water in, bringing it down to the Edwards aquifer below. The recharge zone is a very porous part of the Hill Country where there are tons of caves, sinkholes, etc and so it's very important to keep yukky stuff out - like lawn chemicals, oil from roads etc. If you can protect properties in the recharge zone, it helps to keep the aquifer water pure. I took this pic.
A prickly pear cactus.
Me and Jack Dahlstrom, Jr., who manages the ranch currently. It had rained the day before and the mud, oh the mud! It was caked like 6 inches thick on the bottom of my hiking boots!
I think this is called Christmas cactus or something. Anyone know?
This is Sam holding a "devil's toenail" fossil - a little clam that there were thousands of in the ground. This part of the Hill Country used to be the ocean shore!
Possumhaw sinkhole, also on the Dahlstrom Ranch.
Sam at Hobbit Hole cave.
After the Ranch we headed to San Antonio. Here's the Torch of Friendship sculpture.
The San Antonio Riverwalk is a really neat place. We ate dinner the first night at Paesano's, an Italian restaurant right here. The redbuds were in full purply bud!
Another shot of the riverwalk.
The kiddos on the Riverwalk, with the riverboat in the background. There are shops and restaurants all along the riverwalk. Obviously I took this pic. :)
The Tower of the Americas. We took the elevator to the tip top and looked around, got a bag of candy... and then at the bottom did the 4D theater which was very cool. We'd gotten a passport to the city, courtesy of the San Antonio Visitors Center and Convention Bureau - I love being a writer! A famous Texas Jackalope. I took this shot.
I love these night-time shots of the Alamo. I took these two.
Another view, also by me.
We also went to Natural Bridge Caverns, where we met my friend Laurie her hubby Doug and her grandson. This is a shot inside the caverns (obviously) :)
Sam looking at a formation on the cavern wall.
Another view. There were giant rooms of stalagmites and stalactites that looked so Lord of the Rings!! So very cool. The photos do not do the place justice. I highly recommend it if you're in San Antonio or the Hill Country!
The kiddos and me in the caverns.
Afterwards Sam climbed a tree on the property...
Laurie sitting outside the caverns. I love her laugh!!
Me & Laurie at the caverns. I don't like this pic of me, but it's the best one we got!
On the Riverwalk I had to try Boudro's Texas Bistro which was recommended by a couple of my friends who live in S.A. It was well worth it! Yummo!
We splurged on 2 desserts for the 3 of us. The double decker brownie was so decadent and delicious (though the brownies were a bit hard). The other thing was fruit and whip cream in a sopapilla.
Me and Savie inside a ginormous tire at the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum. Doug and I had also visited the one in Gatlinburg Tennessee on our road trip, remember?
Last but not least, our visit to Government Canyon State Natural Area (for my article on aquifer recharge zone protection) included a trip in a helicopter!!
A view inside through the window.
Sam and Savannah before we took off.
Another shot of the helicopter in the sky (this was after we got out, shooting him leaving so we had a few pics of it!)
Sam in the helicopter.
A view of Government Canyon from above, in the helicopter. It was amazing!
On the ground, we did a short hike of the Joe Johnston Route in Government Canyon St Natural Area. This is Wendee on the job... interviewing Deridre Heisler, Superintendent.
Me on the hike, taking notes!