Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

This is, I suppose, similar to another one I posted some time ago. This one uses fewer ingredients and is done in a large slow cooker (i.e., Crockpot®). The quantities are large because I prepared this to be served at our weekly supper at our church.

Roasting the red peppers gives the dish a slight smoky flavor. The smokiness is very subtle. Another method for obtaining this flavor and make it more overt is to use chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, but then you have to be committed to a rather hot and spicy result. If you’d rather not go to the trouble of roasting and peeling, you could just add the diced peppers with the tomatoes. Depending on how long it cooks, it could be crunchy or tender.

Serves: 10-12 as a main dish, double that as a side dish

  • 1 pkg (1 lb.) dry black beans, washed
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 - 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 pkg (1 lb.) frozen corn
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 2 jalapenos (optional), seeded (or left in, if you prefer) and diced

For adding as it is served:

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Cheese, grated
  • Sour cream (optional)
  1. Cook beans with 6 cups of water, and 1 Tbsp. salt in Crockpot until tender (was about 3 hrs. on high).
  2. Oven roast red peppers as follows. Slice off tops and bottoms. Remove stem and seeds. Slice the middle section so that it lays flat onto a baking sheet. Also lay tops and bottoms on baking sheet. Set oven rack to top rack, turn broiler on high. Broil peppers for about 4 minutes, turn baking sheet around and continue to broil another 4-5 minutes until skin is black. When cool, peel skin and dice peppers. Set aside. (See note above.)
  3. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, and corn; continue to cook (I lowered to Lo setting at this point).
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and fry until fragrant. Add onions and another tsp salt, black pepper, and cook until lightly browned. Add jalapenos and cook another minute or so. Add mixture and diced red peppers to beans, stir to mix well and continue to cook to blend flavors.
  5. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve with cilantro, cheese, sour cream.

Along the road

Today was relatively dry and I walked to run some errands. Here are just a few things that caught my eye along the way.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

More cakes

Here are the cakes I wrote about.

Peach yogurt cake. Middle layer is composed of mashed peaches with sugar and orange juice concentrate, plus a bit of gelatin. The top layer is cream and yogurt and sugar with some gelatin to help it set.

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This next one is a simple strawberry layer cream cake.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Various Updates

First, the cut on my hand is healing. There seems to be no infection. It no longer hurts, even when I apply some pressure in the area. I still keep it loosely covered much of the time because the stitches tend to hook and snag on things if I don’t have them covered.

Next, tomorrow is Pastor Brown’s (from Wrangell) last time in Petersburg. He is being replaced around the end of July or beginning of August. We will hold a little farewell service tomorrow.

Next up, an update on my strawberry preservation experiment. On Wednesday I purchased some strawberries intending to use them this weekend (i.e., today and tomorrow). With the bit of anecdotal past positive experience in regards to washing and drying each strawberry, Elise and I washed (in a light vinegar solution), trimmed, dried, and stored (in paper lined container) each berry. This afternoon I took out one of the containers to put together two cakes for tomorrow. The strawberries were still in good condition. This runs contrary to conventional advice that says no water should touch the strawberries until you’re ready to use them. Perhaps the advice doesn’t hold in every case…?

The weather has been cool and showery for much of the week. We’re back to normal Petersburg weather.

City politics and government are in a self-inflicted storm. (The city council terminated the city manager, and some citizens and city employees are angry, in spite of the fact that there is no full disclosure from either side.) I think everyone involved and every voter should read Jeanne DuPrau’s The Prophet of Yonwood. After hearing and listening to some of the juvenile reactions, I think this novel, classified as juvenile fiction, is probably at the right comprehension level. When a person hurts other people trying to do something he or she thinks is right, maybe right is wrong… Maybe there are some things more important than being “right” and defending “rightness.” Maybe one person’s perception of right can turn into wrong when more data becomes available.

This evening, Shelley and Amy went to a party at the Lighthouse Assembly of God church. There were games and ice cream… apparently. One of them was something like musical pies (my visualization from what Amy was describing). The person with the pie can smash the cream into a neighbor (and the pie smasher is out), or smash it into his/her own face (the pie smasher gets to choose who goes out). Shelley got plastered with cream pie in her face. (I saw a photo.) Multiple times, she said. It was fun, according to the reports.

Elise invited her coworkers to a party tomorrow evening. That’s what the two pies are for. I should have photos tomorrow, assuming they remain in good condition. One was a peach-yogurt cake. I used several fresh peaches, microwaved them with a bit of orange juice concentrate and sugar, then mashed them, added some gelatin and poured it over the cake. I poured a yogurt-cream mixture on top of that and arranged a few peach slices and some strawberries on top. The second cake is a strawberry cream cake, two layers, strawberry filling in the middle, strawberries and mandarin oranges arranged on top. I also cooked a number of sushi fillings that I will use to make maki sushi.

So that’s the brief rundown of news as this week comes to a close.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hand Wound

Yeah, I know you’re all eagerly awaiting the photo! :) Elise took the bandage off and I got it washed up and photographed. Oh, and she purchased fillet gloves for me to wear!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sliced hand today

I was chopping onions at the church, making cuts parallel to the cutting board, when I was momentarily distracted (my best guess) by a comment from someone watching me, “Don’t cut yourself.” Not even a second later the knife had gone too far and had sliced into my hand.

I could immediately tell this was not just a minor cut. The blood was flowing very quickly and I called for a towel to apply pressure and declared I needed to get to the the Emergency Room for some stitches. I got a ride and less than five minutes later I was there. Elise came in a few minutes later.

In less than an hour the cut was cleaned, stitched up (I think it was about five), bandaged, and one tetanus shot later was out. The most painful part was when Elise handed me a bowl with some disinfecting stuff and water and had me stick my wound in there. YOUCH! The next most painful was the first local anesthesia injection. Once that was in, I couldn’t feel anything else.

My left pinky is still numb, and typing with a numb finger is an odd sensation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Salmon Supper


This afternoon one of our church members, a commercial fisherman, unexpectedly stopped by and handed me a whole side of a king salmon. He had just returned from his first fishing trip this season. I cut off a piece, put it in a pan, cooked it, and ate it. It was good.


The muskeg is full of cottongrass.

The day started out with some sun, but as the morning progressed grey clouds spread out over most of the sky. I was going to go out, then decided not to, and then seeing no rain yet finally went out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sermon: 1 John 2:12-17

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

1 John 2:12-17

This sermon discusses genuine vs. counterfeit assurance.


The last few days have seen all kinds of weather. Today was no exception, having both rain and sun.

I was in a down, annoyed, restless, etc. mood for much of the day. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason or reasons… I felt like I ought to be doing something, being productive, or something.

I felt better while I was walking about town, going over to the church to take out the trash, purchasing some batteries and light bulbs, and returning home.

But as soon as I came home my mood went sour… Not sure why.

We all went to Tina’s Kitchen for dinner. The ladies had some burritos and I had halibut fish and chips. We returned home and discovered Shelley had left her purse. I took Shelley back. She decided to walk home. I drove back. On the way back I saw sunshowers that looked pretty nice and stopped to take some pictures.

I am feeling much better now… Not sure why.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Baking and Cooking

I think I spent a great part of the day in the kitchen today. I didn’t plan to, but it just kind of happened that way.

I finally got around to baking the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (from May/June 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated). It takes more effort than a throw-together-the-ingredients-and-mix recipe, but the end result is definitely worth it. The cookies are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside; a rich, toffee-like flavor; holds together (i.e., not crumbly) but not tough or hard; and the Ghirardelli chocolate chips are much better (not as sweet) than most other chips found in grocery stores.

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After a bit of a break, it was back to the kitchen to prepare supper. Tonight’s main dish was Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese. I also put together a green salad with more of the organic lettuce, celery, tomatoes, and a few greens from my AeroGarden.

Following supper it was time to make pie. I hadn’t planned on this at all but in today’s e-mail I found a recipe for Icebox Strawberry Pie (from Cook’s Country) that included what looked like an easy crust recipe. Instead of shortening, oil, and water the recipe uses butter and cream cheese. The filling uses frozen strawberries cooked down plus fresh ones folded in.


It is currently in the refrigerator waiting for the filling to set. We will see tomorrow how it all actually turned out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trying out Full Circle Farm

On Sunday I signed up for biweekly organic produce shipments from Full Circle Farm. We are getting the medium box (about the size of a book box) which is around $50. Before you gasp in astonishment at the cost, keep in mind everything in it is organic, it’s air shipped, and the per pound cost (I should have weighed the box) is probably not that much more than regular priced produce at the store here. The box was packed well with produce (no filler material).

There was lettuce, spinach, chard, red bell pepper, carrots (with tops!), nappa cabbage, peaches, apples, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes… I wrapped the leafy vegetables and the peppers in newspaper and then in a plastic bag before placing them in the refrigerator. They seem to last a lot longer that way. I looked at a romaine lettuce I purchased two weeks ago stored this way, and it still looks fine. I used to use paper towels, but I saw my parents using newspapers, so I started using that instead. Produce seems to last longer with the newspaper.

I used some of the spinach and lettuce this evening. It could just be all in my mind, but I thought the lettuce tasted better than the ones we usually find here… We also had a few of the strawberries. They were very, very red – almost a deep burgundy – and very sweet.

Anyway, I’m going to give this a try for a while and see how it goes.

A brief photo stop

Last evening we were driving back from our weekly supper at the church when I looked across and saw a nice photo op with the sun, clouds, slough, and the Sons of Norway Hall reflected in it. I made a turn towards Middle Harbor to see if the photo op there was worth stopping, but it wasn’t. So I made the circle back to South Harbor and back to the bridge over Hammer Slough.

The photos you see don’t quite capture what I saw. The light changed in the few minutes I made the turn and it wasn’t quite as good as when it was when I first saw it. I think there was more of a backlight against the clouds.

Storing fresh strawberries

Conventional advice for fresh strawberries is: Keep in refrigerator and wash just before use because water damages the delicate skin and speeds up spoilage.

Problem with strawberries that we get: Many are already on the verge of starting to spoil by the time we bring them home.

I first noticed something different with the strawberries I placed on my cakes. I had gently rinsed, trimmed, then carefully dried each one. After a few days, they still looked okay. The advice for other types of berries is to wash in a water and vinegar solution (3:1), spin dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towel, then store in a paper towel lined container as soon as you get the berries home.

I purchased a 4 lb. package of strawberries last Friday. I put some into and onto another cake. On Saturday night I spent some time rinsing, trimming, and drying the remaining berries. I’ve been examining their condition every day. The few that still remain today still look fairly good. My hypothesis regarding strawberry preservation based upon this experiment (though I had no control set of unwashed berries) is strengthened.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Getting rain

We’ve had rain off and on for the last three days now – back to “normal” Petersburg weather. It does help reduce the dust that’s been flying about, so I guess that’s good. It’s also cooler, and I’m happy about that.

For some reason I’ve been feeling rather tired and run down the last few days as well. Sleep patterns have been somewhat erratic. I got up at around 4:15 a.m. today after getting to bed around 9 p.m. last night. One of my lower eyelids has been twitching for two days now…

On a rather different topic, why is fruit so expensive in Japan? Take the case of cherries. I found a blog that discussed the effort that goes into growing cherries. In order to be marketable, the final result must be free of blemish, have the right colors and proper taste. In order to accomplish this the cherries are grown under shelter (to keep out the rain), with heaters during the winter, proper ventilation to control temperature, rental honeybees to pollinate, and branches bundled in threes to make sure each fruit gets the necessary exposure to sunlight. Elise purchased a bag of cherries yesterday. I looked at its contents, and I’m pretty sure 90%+ of the fruit in there wouldn’t make it to a Japanese market.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sermon: 1 John 2:3-11

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

1 John 2:3-11 (if popup doesn’t work, click HERE.)

Today’s sermon discusses knowing God and how that will change the life and attitudes of a true Christian.

Around City Creek

This afternoon, a number of us walked out Frederick Point Road to City Creek and spent a bit of time around there. You can see more photos from the area by clicking on the following photo.

Another cake (cream & yogurt topping)

I put together another cake yesterday. One of the grocery stores is having a weekend sale and I came home with a large amount of fruit. I had to use them in some way so I baked another cake and put together a whipped cream and yogurt topping for it (also from the Happy Sweet site).

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I also put together a tomato and mozzarella salad (similar to the tomato and feta salad from not too long ago).


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lupines and Columbines

Last year I found quite a few different varieties of columbine growing along the shoulder of North Nordic Drive along the Narrows, just a short walk down from our house. Last year it was mid-May when I found them. With the flowers blooming later this year, I hadn’t seen any in May. I’ve been keeping an eye out for them whenever I happened to chance by along there (quite often, in other words). Earlier this week I thought I saw at least one columbine shooting up with blossoms.

Earlier today I was debating whether to go out cycling again or go for a walk with a camera. It turns out the cyclingwear needed washing, so that kind of made the decision for me. I took along my Canon today and went down the street and onto the path along the beach. I found lupines and about half a dozen different columbines (though some were still just in buds).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Japanese-Style Fruit and Cream Cake

This was my project for today :) I got a food scale so I am able to measure ingredients by weight. I baked the cake, Elise spread the cream, I prepped the fruit, and Shelley did most of the fruit arranging.

This is cake as I think it should be :) Just a hint of sweetness, creaminess from the whipped cream, and lots of fruit. As far as cakes go, this is probably about as healthy as it can get. It’s not loaded down with fat and sugar, at least not in comparison to the Western decorated cakes.

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Here is the recipe for the cake portion, found on the happysweet.com site, translated into English. I kept the measurements in metric except for the oven temperature.

Japanese-Style Sponge Cake

Ingredients (for 1 layer)

  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 45g sugar
  • 40g cake flour
  • 20g cornstarch
  • 15g unsalted butter, melted


  1. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and set aside. Preheat oven to 355F. Prepare 8 or 9-inch round cake pan by spraying pan with nonstick spray, lining bottom with parchment paper, and spraying nonstick spray on the paper.
  2. Crack eggs into large mixing bowl. Using hand mixer, pulse to break apart yolk and roughly mix together. While continuing to pulse, slowly pour in sugar and mix.
  3. Turn mixer to high and beat egg and sugar mixture together until it is nearly white and fluffy, about (I’m guessing here because I didn’t time it) 7-10 minutes. The mixture should be fairly stiff to to where you can draw a figure-eight with the batter and it will remain on the surface for several seconds.
  4. Sift the sifted flour/cornstarch into the whipped eggs. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the flour into the eggs. Use a slicing motion to fold while slowly rotating the bowl.
  5. Once the flour has been folded and batter no longer has a powdery appearance, add the melted butter and fold by gently scooping from the bottom.
  6. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. From about a height of 2-inches, drop the pan onto a hard surface. This helps remove any large air bubbles in the batter.
  7. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until surface is golden brown (Japanese: color of a fox) and tester comes out clean.
  8. Immediately remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Japanese Dessert Recipes

As recent posts show, I’ve been venturing into dessert making over the last little bit of time. Triggered by a friend’s comment on Facebook, I did some searching about for recipes of Japanese cakes and eventually came across a site called Happy Sweet (it’s all in Japanese, btw). There are close to 150 recipes for desserts, both Japanese and Western (many with distinctly Japanese adaptations). Now I’ve got to see what strikes my fancy and for which ones I can find ingredients.

Still sunny and warm

The weather forecast wasn’t quite right, it seems. A few days ago clouds were forecast to come in today and start cooling down, but it looks like that’s been pushed out another 36-48 hours. Today, thus, remains sunny and warm, and unlike the last few days there isn’t much of a breeze. The official observation shows 70 degrees at this time (2 p.m.).

I rode out to Blind River Rapids, about 15 miles out, and then back for a total of just over 30 miles in just under 2 hours. This stretch of warm and dry weather has allowed me to put in miles on the bicycle like I used to be able to do back in Portland. I rode 22 miles last Wednesday, 16 miles on Thursday, 19 miles on Friday, and 30 miles today. I think this is the first time in 3 years that I was able to put in that many miles all within a week.

After the Wednesday ride my knee was a bit bothered, but it appears that my legs are already adjusting to the longer distance and time. After today’s ride I don’t feel any problems.

I also realized that the highway is now paved all the way to the South Ferry Terminal at around milepost 26. I haven’t actually been on that road since it was paved, so I don’t know what it’s like, but theoretically now I can go out and back for almost 60 miles – good enough for a century training if I ever feel inclined to participate in another one somewhere down south.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Wildflowers finally blooming

Since today was “rest day” I took a walk (rather than bicycle) to the Post Office to pick up the mail. Along the way I found the muskeg to be in bloom, though this year due to the lack of rain, it didn’t seem quite as green as it did last year. The muskeg pools don’t look much like pools anymore – just big mud holes.

Sermon: 1 John 1:5-2:2

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

1 John 1:5-2:2

Today’s sermon is about darkness and light, sin and salvation. I discussed definitions of sin and how that can lead to proper and improper understandings about salvation. The fact that a person recognizes sin in their own lives and desires to do something about it is actually an evidence that they are in a saving relationship with Christ.

Sermon: 1 John 1:1-7

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

1 John 1:1-7

This was the sermon from last Sabbath (May 30). The main point is that Christianity has some foundational elements founded in Jesus Christ. They must exist together or else whatever remains is no longer Christianity.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cake is much better on a not-so-full stomach

I just had another slice of yesterday’s cake.

Yesterday, I was already rather full from the Mexican food dinner and was kind of forcing myself to eat the cake. Today, I had just returned from 16 miles on the bicycle, had a bit of lunch, and then had the cake when I wasn’t already feeling full.

The cake tasted much better. It is definitely a very chocolaty, dark, bittersweet cake.

Now I’m pleasantly full, getting a little drowsy, and I want a nap…

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chocolate Cake and Birthday

Today is Shelley’s birthday. I started making a chocolate cake last night. The recipe is from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. The recipe is Giant Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache. I didn’t use the edible flower bit in the recipe for decoration/garnish because I couldn’t find any to use.

I made the ganache this morning. Since I don’t decorate cakes, Elise decorated the cake this afternoon.


We ordered burritos and enchiladas from the Mexican restaurant and had that for dinner, followed by cake and ice cream.

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Trick candles in use…


The cake turned out to be not too sweet (even with the 2 cups of sugar!), moist, and the ganache was decadently chocolaty. This is the second cake I’ve made from scratch. Yeah, from scratch costs more and takes more time than mixes, but the quality is definitely superior.

It’s hot…

The official airport station shows 68F at the moment. I was out on my bike earlier on the south side of the island and it was much warmer there, probably in the mid- to upper-70’s. It was plenty warm for just short sleeve jersey and shorts (the first time I was able to do that in over a year, I think). I went out and back for a total of 21 miles, averaging 16 mph. The trip out was tailwind so I was able to hit 31 mph going out of town and 32 mph on a descent into Twin Creeks. The return trip was stiff headwind all the way back. There were plenty of dandelions and lupines blooming alongside the road.

The weather is supposed to stay this way through Saturday, then start cooling off on Sunday with showers returning Monday evening.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Recipe: Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup

We are experiencing warm days this week, so I created a cold cucumber soup. I looked at a few similar recipes, then threw together one based on several of them.

The rest of the family’s reaction to this soup? “Startling.” It has a potent kick to it due to the tartness from both the yogurt and the lime, and also from the Serrano chili.

Serves 6


  • If you have a large blender, you may be able to combine all ingredients at once. Otherwise divide and blend in batches.


  • 3 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 2 cups water
  • 20-30 mint leaves (from about 4 sprigs)
  • 6-8 fresh cilantro sprigs, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • (optional) 1 Serrano chili, seeded and roughly chopped
  • Juice from 1 lime


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse several times to break large chunks apart, then puree for a minute or so until soup is liquefied.
  2. Let cool in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.