Friday, July 31, 2015

Soup orders going out!

Since launching the new private chef menu for our company, Squashed, we have been busy filling orders!  Our first slew of soup orders went out this week!  We wanted to take the opportunity to share with you what an order of our most popular, Butternut Squash Soup looks like before it goes out!

This is between 2 and three servings of soup.  If you are eating the soup as a main meal, it is likely only two servings.  If you are adding a sandwich or other such food with the soup, folks will get about 3 servings from this $10 jar of soup!  Local folks, send us your orders!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coconut Rice!

Ashley recently got me a rice cooker.  I have wanted a rice cooker for a long time as I just find rice to be a pain to cook on occasion.  It meant that I often did not use rice as much as I wanted as a result.

Since getting a rice cooker, I have been cooking rice several times a week.  It has been a great appliance.  Last night I tried to cook coconut rice with it!

It was a little awkward but I got it to work well enough.  The rice might have been a little less creamy then when I do it on the stove top but I could not tell after smothering it with green peppers, tempeh, and a coconut lime sauce!

Anyone else made coconut rice in a rice cooker?  Any tips?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cooking with Kaleigh! Roasted Red Pepper Soup!

A few weeks back, we filmed episode # 19, which was falafel.  It was a great video.  In my amateur video editing, I somehow deleted the entire thing before it saved anywhere!

Needless to say, Kaleigh was not happy.  She actually said she would not film another video but I worked some magic to get her back on board!

This video is one of her favorite soups!  Roasted Red Pepper Soup.  This was a fun video to do because she loves to roast peppers.

With the soup we had some paninis.  I smeared some walnut pesto on both slices of bread and layered in roasted eggplant, and a summer squash and zucchini (both fresh from our garden!).  The soup and sandwich combo made for a great Monday night dinner!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wild Maine Blueberry Muffins!

While living in Atlanta, I made muffins on occasion.  They were a big hit with some folks at the jobby job.  I love to pack them full of fruit!

However, for whatever reason, since being in Maine, I had forgotten about muffins!  Shame.  I noticed that Ashley had gotten a container of wild Maine blueberries.  They were slightly past their prime for simply eating but perfect for muffins!

I jumped onto the task and an hour later, the girls and I, we snacking on freshly baked warm wild Maine blueberry muffins!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A year later

It has been a year since my life took a dramatic change.  Nearly one year ago today I quit my job.  I had worked the same job for over 10 years and for at least the last 5-7 years I hated it.  It was killing me inside.  I was depressed, angry, hateful, and broken.  I was desperate for a change but fear of the unknown kept me spinning in destructive circles.  I felt helpless and there was no end in sight.

There were times I wanted to die and many others when I wanted to kill.  I was embarrassed with who I had become.  Feeling of shame engulfed me when I saw how bad things had gotten and yet I still felt I could not change it.  I felt hopeless.

The last couple of years at the job were the worst.  I was on a downward spiral into nihilism and misanthropy.  I treated everyone badly, especially the people I cared about.  I was mean, lashing out at strangers and loved ones alike.  I was dying.

Shortly into 2014, Ashley and I began tossing around the idea of moving out of state.  We immediately explored Maine as our first option.  It was familiar for me and we still had family connections so it might not feel as drastic.

By this time last year, we closed on a house with over 5 acres of land in rural Maine.  The house was a mess.  In the past year we added a new roof, new siding, new septic, new windows, new drywall, new insulation, new heating, created a space for punk shows, and much more.  We live with a dog, a cat, a hive of bees, and we have seen both moose and fox in our yard.  We have cleared out about 4 acres of land.  We started a large garden, planted fruit trees and berry bushes.  We have a new life.

Thanks to smart investments, wise money management and Ashley's loving support, I have not returned to work (although I have the privilege of starting my own vegan food business).  I am a kept man.  I take care of the house and Kaleigh.  I make dinner each night, pack lunches for the girls the following day and maintain the property.

I feel like I am a new person.  I am happier, more patient, more understanding and far more relaxed.  To say I feel nicer would be an understatement.  The last couple of years in Atlanta I would lash out at strangers with fury for just trying to make small talk in a grocery line.  I rarely have those feelings anymore.

While I still have a lot to work on with myself and we have a lot to work on with our new house and land project, as well as my new vegan food business, this life change may have saved me from myself.  I have Ashley, Kaleigh, my Maine family and smart decisions to thank for it all.  This past year, despite the hurdles, has been one of the best years in a long time.

Here, Ashley and I get to watch Kaleigh grow in a safer environment, better schools, explore her imagination, and we have even found that she has a natural affinity and love for karate.  Ashley, while still working, has 3 days a week off which allows us to have some great family time and she still is home in time for dinner each night.  Ashley loves the home projects like the garden and the bees and it thrills her to see the progress.  We can all just get up and go to the beach or on a hike or swim in the lake nearly anytime we want.

We have many more amazing things to experience here in Maine and with our new lives and in our new home.  I can not wait to see what is next.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday!

BBQ seitan chickun nuggets


Buffalo seitan



Channa masala

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The bean catastrophe!

Generally, I prefer to make my beans and rice Brazilian style, with black beans.  I went to the pantry last night to get the black beans to only find one can!  Unreal!  I thought I would lose my vegan club card for only having a single can of black beans in the house!

Begrudgingly, I grabbed the only can of blacks as well as a can of pintos for dinner.  I started some rice and then the beans, adding in loads of veggies.  I even went to the garden to grab some fresh kale for the veggies.

I garnished the dish with some sugar fried peaches, red peppers and cilantro.  Despite the near bean catastrophe, it was a great dish!  Leftovers for lunch!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Strawberry Picking!

In Maine, the strawberry season starts later than in Georgia and is much shorter.  Ashley, Kaleigh and I were planning to pick a lot of berries this year to use for jams and the season nearly got away from us!

We got in on the last day that the berry farm was open!  We picked a ton of fresh berries!  A huge flat.  It was nice to be able to pick berries without being covered in sweat from the Georgia heat.

Due to the berries being at the end of the season, we had to act quickly to can them.  They were going to go bad if we did not act fast!

Kaleigh and I got right on it.  We canned 12 jars of strawberry jam (including 2 large jars) and we also did 4 jars of strawberry cherry jam!  They are so good that I doubt they will last us the entire year but we will see what we can do!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Farro and salad from our garden!

I have been wanting to make Farro recently.  Interestingly, I had a hard time finding the grain, it took weeks.  I was finally able to find it and last night, made it!

I used a risotto style cooking to make the dish.  I used a lot of mushrooms and then added the broth cup by cup until it was tender.  It was a really good rich creamy dish.

While I was cooking, Kaleigh went into the garden and picked a big bowl full of lettuce, kale, broccoli greens, and a few carrots that needed thinning.  We topped the salad off with fresh strawberries that were also planted this year.

One the side we thinned some red onions that we fried up with some freshly cut garlic scapes!  This added some a great texture to the farro.  It was a great meal and we were all really proud to eat a nice salad right from out garden!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Big Announcement for Squashed!

After a longer than anticipated time, my vegan food company has launched a new service!  For months we have been baking treats for folks in the local area with great success.  It has been a lot of fun and requests from customers have lead up to our next step.

We are now offering a (small) private chef menu.  We put some effort into making the prices very comparable to typical take out.  We also made the dishes available without typically "scary" vegan ingredients like seitan and tofu.  Our goal is to make this menu accessible to customers who may not be familiar with vegan food but would like to eat better (or more consciously) but may no be vegan.

Upon launching the new menu, we already received orders and I was making channa masala within hours of posting!  We are really excited for this new offering and hope to see even more growth!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Maine Punx Picnic!

We had our first Maine Punx Picnic on Saturday!  It was a gorgeous day for it as well.  The even got started early when my old friend Pat arrived.  He and I had been friends for more than half of our lives and he really means a lot to me.  I was thrilled I got to spend some time with him before the masses arrived to the picnic.

Folks started arriving between 4-5pm until we had about 35 people in attendance.  I was worried that there would not be much food to share but I showed self discipline (with Ashley's help) and did not go over board on what we made.  Ashley and I made a simple garlic hummus and roasted some bell peppers for dipping.

To my excitement, nearly everyone brought food to share and all but one type of chip was vegan!  There was a vegan chili, pasta salad, tofu and rice, pie, cookies, foraged salad, a pasta with foraged mushrooms, load of fruits, and chip with salsa.

After giving folks time to eat, we decided to get some music going.  Michael Spaulding lead off the afternoon.  I have seen him play multiple times of the course of the last year.  He has been steadily improving and it a lot of fun to watch.  His style is a great blend of folk and folk-punk.  He has a booming voice when he desires but also has a calming tone that works well with his lyrics.  He was a great start to the picnic!

Next up was Tuesday Morning Wrestling.  They are a 5 piece from Bangor Maine that play songs about celebrity tragedies.  They have some weird instruments and some very silly lyrics.  I have seen them a few times prior and they are always a lot of fun, the picnic was no exception.  Silly silly stuff.

While organizing this event, I came across Elliot who calls his musical name A Bird Among Men.  I honestly did not know what to expect.  I did not know how much he had played in front of other folks nor did I really know the songs we was playing.  He only knew a few people at the picnic and is a younger guy, you could tell he was a little nervous.  Honestly, this was the surprise of the day for me.  A Bird Among Men killed it.  He only had a few songs but his lyrics we poignant and true to his experiences.  His voice was perfect for his style and I really enjoyed his set.  I will be thrilled to give this guy more opportunities.  Super good guy and great songs!

Intermission kickball game!  A little more than half of the picnic wanted to play kickball so we divided up teams and played in the dirt and roots!  There was lots of falling, fouling, trash talking, runs scored, and even a little blood and limping!  Nothing better!

QQQQQ opened up back up to the music, post kickball.  They are song real young punkers from southern Maine that are not typically acoustic.  They went all in for it to play the picnic though!  They belted out their hits unplugged!  Not only is QQQQQ a great band but they are really cool folks.  They are extremely fun to watch, a ton of energy.

Uncle Spudd also offered up an acoustic set, un-practiced.  It was fun and silly until Michael Spaulding joined on to freestyle some lyrics on a musical cover of Freefallin' which will forever be know as Free-ballin'.  Mike was hilarious. occasionally illegible over the roaring laughter.  I wish I had filmed it because it was perfect!  Once again, Uncle Spudds set was incredibly memorable!  For the hardest working punk band in Maine, this was another feather in the cap, albeit an acoustic one!  We very nearly had a fire circle pit!

Lastly, was Black Market Pine.  I was getting dark and about half of the people had left.  I felt awful because I was really excited to see Black Market Pine play and really wanted everyone to see them.  It is what it is, they are going to be playing here several more times over the next few months and I will make sure I get them a good spot next time because they were the incredible!  It was just what I wanted.  Serious, political, talented, and entertaining.  This is the type of band Maine needs.  They were great, every single song, I wanted to hear more.

It turned out to be a great event.  It was a ton of fun and Ashley and I were even able to give out some awesome new shirts that Black Market Pine and us collaborated on.  There is already talk of a 2nd annual Maine Punx Picnic!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The story of a turtle

A few weeks ago, folks were clearing land around out house that had been overgrown and we wanted to use for gardens, fruit orchard, etc.  On one side of our land we have a small swampy pond.  We made sure to not cut the trees near this as to not disturb the wildlife that calls that area home.

They heeded out request.  They did cut some trees about 200 feet away and apparently, a large turtle that was living their was unhappy.  Kaleigh and I pulled in the driveway to find the turtle crawling across our lawn toward the busy street.

We see turtles dead on the side of the road often in Maine.  We figured this turtle was not going to make it.  However, I did not know what to do.  What if the turtle really is determined to make the attempt or even has a suicide wish?  Who am I to force the turtle to stay?

After some though, we decided to take the turtle back to the pond.  If we saw it come back out and head for the road again, we would let it go.  Problem solved right?  Hardly.

We thought we could just pick it up and carry it but this little turtle was not having it.  It was lunging and attempting to bit anyone who came near.  Ashley, the ever brave, finally got some gloves on, grabbed the disgruntled turtle and ran it all the way back to the pond where it slipped back into the water.  We have not see the turtle again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Finding the time

My schedule has been thrown for a loop since Kaleigh completed the 2nd grade.  With her home with me each day I have not found the time to write much.  I am determined to find a way to fit it into the daily schedule though.

It has been great having Kaleigh home though.  We get out in the garden together, we have our lunch together.  It has been a lot of fun!  We have done some really enjoyable things since she has been out.

We went to a river festival with my sister and her kids one afternoon.  They were selling french fries but Ashley. Kaleigh, and I decided not to get them and make a dish with some from home.  We got some waffle fries and regular fries and made a "loaded" fries dish for dinner.

It was delicious and super unhealthy.  We did make salads to have with it to try to get some veggies in our body.  The salad was needed to offset the deep fried french fries topped with veggie grounds, veggie bacon bits, and veggie sour cream.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The missing video

We filmed a new Cooking with Kaleigh video this past weekend.  Kaleigh made falafel.  The video actually came out pretty good and the falafel was excellent.  I was really excited that we completed a new video.

I had the video all edited and was in the process of saving it when somehow, I deleted it!  Not only did I delete the edited video, I deleted all the original video clips as well!  Kaleigh was upset and it was a real downer.

Fortunately, I have a couple of the still photos I took of the meal to share with the blog world.