Vegetarian Reuben Sandwiches: dressing “recipe”

We eat so many reuben sandwiches around here, it’s not even funny.

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I grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota, a small town with a strong Bohemian/German sort of heritage. Church dinners were awesome – pork roast, sauerkraut, massive lead balls/potato dumplings, schmierkuchen. Yum, yum, yum! Fast forward a few years: kraut is my comfort food.

So when I make a reuben sandwich, it’s all about the kraut. For me, the meat and cheese on a reuben sandwich is only there to keep the bread from getting soggy. I don’t eat meat these days, so I substitute a slice or two of homemade mustard seitan. I’ll post that later.

My sandwich must have something creamy though, because I like creamy things, and creamy things act as a barrier to the bread so it doesn’t get too soggy.

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My favorite sandwich dressing

Lots of people use thousand island salad dressing in a reuben. I like that, but sometimes I think it’s too spicy or something and it takes away from the main focus of the sandwich, which is the sauerkraut. This is the dressing I like to use. You can call it a recipe if you like, but it’s not much of a recipe.

Ingredients:

3-4 T roasted pepper spread

1 cup light mayo

Mix them together.

See? Not much of a recipe. So I’ll show you the pepper spread I use.

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I buy this stuff at Big Lots and it runs about $3 a jar.

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ingredients: peppers, eggplant, onions, tomato paste, sunflower oil, salt, garlic, parsley, acetic acid, natural capsicum flavoring or flavouring or whatever

It says to eat it within three days of opening, but it usually takes us a couple of weeks and we haven’t gotten food poisoning or anything like that. If I were a better person, I would freeze little portions in an ice cube tray, but I’m pretty lazy.

My daughter is vegan, so she does not eat regular mayo. She doesn’t eat vegan mayo either because she doesn’t like it. I made sandwiches for her one time using silken tofu and a little olive oil instead of mayo, but she wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole. She really doesn’t like most vegetables, or anything that reminds her of meat, or anything “weird.” What can I say? She has lots of smoothies! OK, I’m all off topic here.

Next time I make the seitan, I’ll take some photos and give you the recipe.

How to refill a non-refillable pepper mill

I got a pepper mill at the dollar store.  I was thrilled because I’m a tightwad, but I have fancy, expensive tastes.  Fresh pepper, ooo fancy!

But look at the back!

Really??
Really??

Logic would dictate a screw top to make the pepper mill refillable.  I hate inefficient stuff like this!  I know there are real problems in this world and annoying pepper mills are not that big of a deal, but what can I say?  It bugs me.

“Do not refill??”  Challenge accepted!

You will need:

a poorly-designed supposedly non-refillable pepper mill

a mug

an inch or so of hot water (or cold water and a microwave)

a towel

some peppercorns or whatever you would like to grind in your pepper mill

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I used a microwave, and I heated the water for 33 seconds.  That’s because I like to be efficient, and looking for the 3, and then looking for the 0, and then pressing start is more complicated than looking for the 3, pressing it twice, and then pressing start.  If your microwave has a 30 seconds button, that would be even better.  I thought about getting a microwave like that, but they were more expensive, and when I calculated the cost per use versus the amount of time saved pressing buttons, I realized it would be even more inefficient than calculating the time cost of pressing buttons for every microwave I was looking at.  So I got the microwave where you have to push more buttons.

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Tip your emptyish pepper mill into the cup upside down and leave it there a minute or so.  You are waiting for the plastic cap to expand a little bit more than the glass jar.  So don’t leave it for five minutes because your water might cool and then it won’t work right.

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I spent the time fooling with my phone camera because I wanted to make these instructions for you, but you could use the time to open a can of mixed vegetables and dump it into the crock pot (without draining it).  If you’re quick with the can opener, you could also dump a little leftover spaghetti sauce or salsa in there too.  And some water and rice.

Now take your pepper mill out, wrap it in the towel (because it’s a little slippery), and snap the plastic top off.

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It’s a little messy, but that’s OK.

Try to remember how the pieces go together.

Then drop the plastic top in the cup of hot water to rinse it off.  Use the towel to dry each piece of the pepper mill.

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Fill up the bottle, and then put it back together the way it was.

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You’ll have to press on it a bit.  Use the towel if it hurts your hand.  When I did this, it made two snapping sounds when I got it back together.  Once to get it on crooked, and once more to straighten it out.

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Dump the cup in the crock pot.  Now you’ve got a full pepper mill, plus some yummy vegetable soup!

All you math geniuses are going to quiz me on how much money this actually saves.  The answer is “not much.”  The pepper mill is from Dollar Tree, so that’s $1 for 1.4 ounces, or 0.714 per ounce.  I used some very fancy peppercorns, which are a little more expensive than regular peppercorns.  Say it, melange.  See? Fancier.  These go for about $5 at Walmart for 7.5 ounces, which is 0.667 per ounce.  (I got it for less at a discount store, because I’m a tightwad.)  Regular black peppercorns are $5 for 9 ounces at Walmart, or 0.555 per ounce.

So if you like black pepper just fine, and you know your dollar store is going to carry these pepper mills forever, and you have a way to recycle the lid and jar, and you’re going there anyway, and you don’t want to waste any more time than you’ve already wasted reading this blog post, you should probably just buy a new pepper mill.  But if you want to grind up fancy pepper or maybe cinnamon or something else, or if you just like doing things yourself, I hope my little tutorial has made your life a bit more fun.

Thanks for checking in!

Yummy!

Really, it tasted way better than it looked.

My daughter has been vegetarian for years (since she was six) and has recently decided to upgrade to vegan.  She doesn’t like vegetables, so this may be a bit of a challenge for her.  She’s pretty amazing though.  She says it will be good for the animals and good for her too.  We’ve been frequenting the grocery store salad bar so that she can try bits of new veggies without committing to a whole serving.  Of course, her main concern was not veggies, but pizza and chocolate.  She is thirteen, after all!

We found a recipe for vegan chocolate at CCK.  We tried it, and it was awesome.  So we made up some cookies.  Yes, that blob up there is a dozen cookies.  We should have stayed with Katie for the whole deal, but following directions doesn’t exactly fit our lifestyle.

The cookie recipe was my idea, and not a very smart one.  Lots of times, we’ve made cookies and just skipped the eggs (or subbed a dribble of coffee or water or whatever) but we had a little extra garbanzo bean juice and decided to dump that in.  The dough was incredible, but it baked up a little funny-looking.  🙂  Next time, we’ll just eat the dough!

Mom, don’t read this.

Sorry guys, my mom checks my blog and I don’t want to spoil her surprise.  Well, it’s probably not much of a surprise anymore, but anyway…

Everyone besides my mom, there’s still time, and you would feel very happy if you made time for this little project.

When my youngest was in first grade, he announced that he doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day.  I was puzzled, because I could not understand the rejection of chocolate.  He said he didn’t like it because it was a made-up holiday that forces people to spend money, and that it probably made his grandma (my mom) feel lonely and left out.  My dad died in 2000, and my mom has recovered.  She has a fulfilling life.  She has lots of friends and family, and we love her.  But my son is right.  Single people, people not in a romantic relationship, widows and widowers can easily feel lonely on a day like Valentine’s Day.

We’ve started making stuff for people who might feel left out, because that just stinks!

Here’s a sneak peek at this year’s goodies:

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We made some of it ourselves, and some of it is from Dollar Tree.

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Chocolate candy and red rose soap thingies come in heart-shaped boxes, so of course my kids wanted these.

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We make memory wire bracelets by the zillions around here.  I like them for gifts because they expand to fit just about any size of wrist.  Plus, making them is fun!

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Banana muffin, mmmmmmm!

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A little origami here.  We made some baskets with red heart bookmarks and some with cranes.

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And last, a sweet little card.

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Then we popped everything into a Dollar Tree basket and used a little plastic wrap to hold it all together.  These little baskets fit into a priority mail 7x7x6 box, and weigh just around a pound, so shipping is pretty low.  We’ll be dropping off the local baskets in person today.

My poor son thinks he’s being all un-romantic and rebellious by rejecting contrived romance in favor of authentic love.  Of course, he is doing just the opposite.  It turns all of us to mush!  He’s a little teddy bear, and all the girls know it, to his great chagrin.

Please take a peek around your life and see if you know anyone who might feel left out on Saturday.  It doesn’t have to be a gift basket – just a card or phone call or invitation to coffee or a walk is nice.  We could all use a little love!

Birthday, birthday, birthday!

My youngest turned eleven today.  He had a pretty terrific day.  School lunch today was pizza.  Then they had a positive behavior reward party and he won a little statue with a duck on it.  Then we had pizza for dinner because that’s his favorite.  And (of course) birthday cake.  We made a chocolate cake and decorated it with Sly Cooper, his favorite video game.

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I rolled out some fondant and then cut it to look like the video game logo.  He requested chocolate birthday cake with icing, plus cool whip, and ice cream too.  He forgot to ask for sprinkles, so I didn’t mention it.

He got some very nice gifts.  One of them was homemade (by me) so I’ll show you that one.

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The gift is the red snuggle robe he is wearing.  I made it out of a blanket.  He is snuggling with his brother’s teddy bear on the giant beanbag chair with a couple of regular blankets, plus a quilt made by his grandmother and a tie-dye pillowcase made by his cousins.  He has always been such a cuddler!  Any time you see him, he’s buried in blankets.

It only took about a hundred tries to get a halfway decent photo.  I don’t know why, but he really loves photobombing himself.  (That’s what he calls it.)

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Oh good, I got him to pose nicely at bed time.

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Awesome!  But it looks like I need to clip a few threads.  And maybe sweep up the playroom!

Porky’s “Bite me!” Birthday Cake

We have a couple of pets at our house.  You can see Lucky the duck all over the place around here.  But today we are celebrating our other little bird’s birthday.

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Porky came to live with us thirteen years ago today.  It played out like this:  Some kind people called our local SPCA to tell them there was a bird on her neighbor’s garage roof that had been hanging out up there screaming for at least three days.  She was worried about him.  They went to check out the situation and saw that he was a conure.  Conures are pretty tough little birds, but they definitely should not be living outdoors around here in the fall and winter.  There are no wild conures around here, so this little green sweetie must have gotten loose and lost or something like that.

They took him back to the SPCA and cared for him there while they tried to find his family.  They normally care for only dogs and cats at this SPCA and they weren’t sure exactly what a bird needed.  One of the workers there happened to be a student of my husband’s, and so she asked him about it.  One thing led to another, and now Porky lives with us!  We love him like crazy, and we are very glad to have him as part of our family.

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That being said, Porky is a bit of a problem child.  🙂  When he first came to live with us, he liked everybody and so we let him fly around the house all he wanted.  He was friendly.  But then over time, he came to prefer my husband.  Then one day, I made the foolish mistake of kissing my husband in front of the bird.  Uh-oh!  He decided to defend his relationship with my husband by fighting off the intruder.  But hey!  I live here!

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Ideally, I would have increased my time with Porky to make sure that he bonded with both of us.  But his behavior got worse and most of the time I was hanging around the house, I was also caring for one or more babies, so it seemed safest to let my husband handle the social concerns of Porky.  And over the years, our children have grown up with Porky and loved him like nobody else.  I love him too.  But…Porky hates me.  Every chance he gets, it’s bite, bite, bite.  He gets hold of my neck and goes for the blood.  It’s quite shocking, really.  Around me, he’s four ounces of perky green fury.  It’s become one of our family jokes.

Porky does most of his living now in my daughter’s bedroom.  He gets to fly around and socialize with anyone who dares to enter.  He sleeps in his cage at night.  And when he needs to come downstairs and be with others (like me), he has a travel kennel.  That’s his little Hannibal Lecter setup, just like in the movies.

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A couple of years ago, I couldn’t decide how to decorate Porky’s birthday cake, so I just wrote “Bite me!” on it and threw a bunch of sprinkles all around.  The cake was a huge hit, so we have continued the tradition.  This year, my daughter did the honors.  I baked the cake, then gave her full access to the cake-decorating area.  She went to town, as you can see.

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Porky’s beak is normally a pinkish-tan color.  She made it red from the “blood.”  I like how she made Porky say “Bite me!” as he contemplates the blood – my blood – dripping down his chin.  Aww, how sweet.

Porky came downstairs for the party and we all had a blast.  Happy birthday, Porky!