The Chili Pepper Apron
Where Did The CPA Go??

There are few good reasons to vanish off the face of the Earth.. Or at least the interwebs.

Pregnancy and Childbirth are pretty good and acceptable reasons in my opinion.

I am now the proud mama of a little girl! So while I haven’t been neglecting my cooking ( I have an epic key lime pie recipe that I need to post from last summer) I have been neglecting updates.

So now in addition to my other topics, parenting will be joining the mix!

One such example of this will be coming in little posts I like to call: “Things I’ve Learned From Motherhood”

Here’s the first in that series now. :)

* A fresh diaper is far superior for poop than the wet diaper that was just on two minutes ago.

* Never underestimate the relaxing powers of warm water to encourage a baby’s bodily functions. This will also be why…

* You will always need at least two of everything. Always. The moment you lack a spare is the moment when you will need it most.

* The only thing a new parent can come to expect is the unexpected. That and the sun will still come up no matter how much sleep you got the night before.

* Night time is perfect for screaming babies; how else are they supposed to see how many neighbors they can wake up?

* The cutest babies can still make the biggest stinks.

* Babies are 75% digestive system. This means that they can hold the equivalent of 75% of their body weight in waste.. I hope the diaper can too.


This is a start, I’m sure there will be more to come, but I have a baby to comfort for now!

Confessions of TCPA: I’m not a Vegetarian.. nor do I play one on T.V.

This question has come up in my day-to-day life as well as through the interwebs: Are you a vegetarian? Why not? and if you’re not, why don’t you eat more meat??

Despite the many vegetarian friendly recipes used and loved by The Chili Pepper Apron, I’m not actually a vegetarian. I just happen to enjoy a good vegetarian meal as much as any true vegetarian.  I also happen to enjoy a good steak as much as any true carnivore.  I’m stuck perfectly into the Om-nom-nomivore category of diets.  

So why the higher ratio of veggie meals to meaty meals? And for that matter, the almost non-existence of beef based meals?  It comes down primarily to Biology and Conservation.  I’m a conservation biologist by both practice and degree.  So I tend to view things from that mindset and with a scientific view point.

Biologically, eating veggies has a higher energy conversion rate than eating meat.  That’s why there are generally a lot of obligate herbivores (think wildebeest) but very few obligate carnivores (think lions).  It takes more wildebeest to feed lion than it does grass to feed wildebeest because the energy the plants obtain from the sun is lost as you go up the trophic levels.  

trophic - wikipedia   

(Shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia)

As you go up in trophic level, you lose ALL but about 10% of the energy of the previous level.  And even the plants don’t do a very good job of capturing the sun’s energy.. generally around 1% is actually captured and stored.

So if you think of it in human terms: SUN 100% -> Plant 1% -> Cow 0.10% -> Human 0.01%  Where as if you just ate the plant, you now get that full 1% all to yourself! …Okay, you actually don’t because part of that energy is used to break down the food itself.  Which is why things like celery are generally considered a “negative calorie” food.  It takes more energy to digest the stick than it gives you because it has a high cellulose/fiber content.  But you still end up with more direct energy than if you just ate the cow. You also get fewer calories because that fiber content takes up more of your stomach and takes more time to break down than that burger meat does.
 

So where’s the beef then? They’re an obligate herbivore!

If you read back through my posts, you’ll see I tend to lean toward fish (secondary consumers like salmon) or chicken (insectivore/herbivore).  This doesn’t seem to make as much sense compared to eating cattle if you base it entirely off the trophic levels talked about above.  That’s where my conservation mind comes in to play. 

Environmentally, eating cattle is less “green” than eating chicken.  That’s mostly due to the size difference.  Yes, a 400lb heifer is going to produce more waste than a 8lb chicken, but they also need more space!  Plus the beef culture has been driven to the moremoreMORE standing causing a destruction of many native species and habitats globally in order to create more grazing land for herds while at the same time moving towards unusual feeding practices of the cattle.  You generally never heard of a herd of cattle raiding the farmers corn field, more so they go after the green leafy stuff.  That’s because they are ruminants that are supposed to primarily eat tough-to-digest grasses, not easy-to-digest corn.  

You can also find humanely raised and environmentally friendly protein sources in the poultry/fish industry a lot easier than in the beef industry. Though the beef industry is starting to catch up!  Free-range chickens are relatively easy to find now at many major grocery stores and farmers markets.  Also, the backyard chicken movement (also called the Urban Chicken movement) is growing and growing fast!  On the fish front, organizations like MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), Blue Ocean, and Monterey Bay Aquarium have made it easy to figure out which fisheries are safe to harvest and eat without causing major harm to the environment or your family. 

And finally the reason I don’t do a lot of beef dishes.. beef makes my stomach hurt. :( 

So why do I even eat meat at all if I’m not going to eat a lot of it?  

Biology and personal choice.  Human dentition allows us to be omnivores.  The species as a whole would not have survived and developed the intellect we have without some animal protein in our diets.  But the key word here is: SOME. I do eat meat, but within reason.  The human body is not designed to process a piece of steak the size of your dinner plate.  Nor is it supposed to be able to eat a whole chicken every day.  Three ounces of meat or protein is the recommended amount for each meal.  That’s about the size of a deck of playing cards.  Or if you look at the palm of your hand, it’s the flat, meaty surface excluding the fingers, thumb, and wrist.  That’s it! By eating that amount, we can control our caloric intake and also our environmental impact.  Not to mention it leaves more room on the plate for those veggies.  

As for personal choice, that’s just it:  My choice and decision that I’ve made that I enjoy some meats well enough to not exclude all meats from my diet.  I have many friends that are vegetarians either by choice or necessity and while I do commend them and respect that choice, it’s not my choice and thank them for not being the type of vegetarian that tries to be pushy.  I also thank them for their excellent recipe collections and for being willing guinea pigs to try out my latest veggie friendly recipe! 

Where’s the Beef??  - Black Bean Burgers
First, the Recipe: 
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/our-homemade-quick-black-bean-burger-10000001932647/
This is the general recipe that I use, but I do make some modifications to it. (Shocking, I’m sure.)
1.) I use bread or bread crumbs instead of sacrificing a bun.
2.) If I don’t have a lime to obtain a rind from, I use lime juice or vinegar.
3.) I use two whole eggs (or the equivilent with egg substitute) instead of one egg and one egg white.
Second, I have a couple of pointers on how to keep these things from becoming a mess:  It is a very wet mixture so make sure you drain the beans really well before adding them to the food processor.  If it’s still too wet to shape, add more bread crumbs or a few tablespoons of flour to help bind it.  Quick cooking oatmeal also works.  You can also toast the breadcrumbs to dry them out so they absorb more water from the beans and eggs.  While you’re prepping the burgers, preheat your pan.  Sadly, these are not easily grillable, they fall through the grates.  So preheat your pan to the point that you’re afraid it may start to melt. When you have all the patties ready and are ready to cook, add a little oil to the pan (carefully!) and swirl to coat.  Now quickly add your patties and get your spatula ready.  They will finish cooking on one side in about 1-2 minutes, flip to the other side and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining patties.
Toppings are up to you!  These are not Beefy flavored at all, so adding strong flavored toppings will overwhelm the patty.  If you’re just using it as a protein source, then go ahead with whatever floats your bun!  
Enjoy!

Where’s the Beef??  - Black Bean Burgers

First, the Recipe: 

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/our-homemade-quick-black-bean-burger-10000001932647/

This is the general recipe that I use, but I do make some modifications to it. (Shocking, I’m sure.)

1.) I use bread or bread crumbs instead of sacrificing a bun.

2.) If I don’t have a lime to obtain a rind from, I use lime juice or vinegar.

3.) I use two whole eggs (or the equivilent with egg substitute) instead of one egg and one egg white.

Second, I have a couple of pointers on how to keep these things from becoming a mess:  It is a very wet mixture so make sure you drain the beans really well before adding them to the food processor.  If it’s still too wet to shape, add more bread crumbs or a few tablespoons of flour to help bind it.  Quick cooking oatmeal also works.  You can also toast the breadcrumbs to dry them out so they absorb more water from the beans and eggs.  While you’re prepping the burgers, preheat your pan.  Sadly, these are not easily grillable, they fall through the grates.  So preheat your pan to the point that you’re afraid it may start to melt. When you have all the patties ready and are ready to cook, add a little oil to the pan (carefully!) and swirl to coat.  Now quickly add your patties and get your spatula ready.  They will finish cooking on one side in about 1-2 minutes, flip to the other side and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining patties.

Toppings are up to you!  These are not Beefy flavored at all, so adding strong flavored toppings will overwhelm the patty.  If you’re just using it as a protein source, then go ahead with whatever floats your bun!  

Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad
This is a quick and easy recipe that can be multiplied to prepare for a large group, or modified to feed only one.  It’s also a great way to use surplus veggies from the garden.  If you have any.
The basic ingredients are: cucumber, tomato, vinegar, dill, salt. (and possibly sugar)
Pretty much in that order.
Slice the cucumber thin, but not paper thin.  Slice or dice the tomato and combine the two together in a glass or plastic bowl.  Not metal!  Acids and metals don’t play well together!
Add in enough vinegar to coat the veggies.  I like cider or red wine vinegar, but nearly any vinegar will work.  Basalmic will add a definite flavor to the mix.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and dill.  If I had fresh I would use that, but dill plants hate Florida’s heat.  Or me.  Either way I can’t grow it so dried it is! If you’re not a big fan of tart/sour flavors or you just added too much vinegar, add a sprinkle of granulated sugar to taste.  
Mix everything together until the veggies are well coated. (I like to use a plastic bowl with a lid that I can just shake to mix everything.)  Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill at least 30 minutes before serving.  Mix one more time before serving to ensure the dressing is well distributed. 
Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad

This is a quick and easy recipe that can be multiplied to prepare for a large group, or modified to feed only one.  It’s also a great way to use surplus veggies from the garden.  If you have any.

The basic ingredients are: cucumber, tomato, vinegar, dill, salt. (and possibly sugar)

Pretty much in that order.

Slice the cucumber thin, but not paper thin.  Slice or dice the tomato and combine the two together in a glass or plastic bowl.  Not metal!  Acids and metals don’t play well together!

Add in enough vinegar to coat the veggies.  I like cider or red wine vinegar, but nearly any vinegar will work.  Basalmic will add a definite flavor to the mix.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and dill.  If I had fresh I would use that, but dill plants hate Florida’s heat.  Or me.  Either way I can’t grow it so dried it is! If you’re not a big fan of tart/sour flavors or you just added too much vinegar, add a sprinkle of granulated sugar to taste.  

Mix everything together until the veggies are well coated. (I like to use a plastic bowl with a lid that I can just shake to mix everything.)  Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill at least 30 minutes before serving.  Mix one more time before serving to ensure the dressing is well distributed. 

Enjoy!

The Chili Pepper Apron.. Goes to Camp

I swear I haven’t died yet.  Though the heat we’ve been having recently certainly has drawn that into question at times.

Nope, I’m not dead, I’m just at camp.  

This just happens to be my favorite part of my job.  As well as being the most exhausting and time consuming, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time for frivolous activities.. like Tumblr.  

I do have several posts that I’ll be working on today and queuing up for the near future, but even those will be sparse compared to the number of updates I could do. 

So in light of how little I have posted recently, here’s a photo of a very wiggly otter eating a shrimp:

otter

Homemade Key Lime Pie #nofilter #yum (Taken with Instagram)

Homemade Key Lime Pie #nofilter #yum (Taken with Instagram)

Giant cucumber from the garden! This is actually our 2nd cucumber.. but the 1st was eaten too quickly to get a photo. (Taken with instagram)

Giant cucumber from the garden! This is actually our 2nd cucumber.. but the 1st was eaten too quickly to get a photo. (Taken with instagram)

Chicken Parmesan (Taken with instagram)

Chicken Parmesan (Taken with instagram)

Attention: We Have Lost The Wild

If found, please return to the hearts and minds of the modern human race.  

Look outside for a moment if you will.  Chances are, somewhere among the buildings, lampposts, mailboxes, and vehicles, you’re going to see one or all of the following:  The sky, a cloud, the sun, a plant, an insect, and/or an animal.  This is known to most of us as the Outside.  

outside

(ex. The Outside)

Growing up, many of us probably heard this word used in many connotations; such as “You’re driving me crazy, go outside.”, “It’s raining outside.”, “Someone is outside waiting for you.”, and my favorite “I’m going outside!”. 

At one time, The Outside could be considered a very scary and very large place.  That was where the Wild things were.  The bears, the lions, the snakes, the witches, the monsters, any and all creatures that our imagination could create that would both terrify and intrigue the most primitive parts of our brain.  During this time, the Outside was also in direct connection with The Wild.

But somewhere, at sometime, something odd began to happen.  We became more familiar with those creatures and creeps that lived in the Wild.  They stopped being scary, and eventually just became the Outside.  No more wild things to terrify us, though we occasionally still want to create this idea that the Outside is scary by placing the frightening characteristics on each other rather than on, say, a bear.  

It became silly to be afraid of some vague idea known as The Wild.  I mean, come on, when was the last time you heard of someone being attacked by a bear, or turned into a toad by a witch?!  Obviously the Outside was still scary, but it was scary because of the people that lived there now, not the animals.  Outside became the cool kid at school and no longer associated with its old pal The Wild.  

So far this doesn’t sound so bad, right?  No reason to fear the Outside nor those cute little woodland creatures that call it home!  Now one can venture out of their house (wearing bug spray, long pants, hiking boots, a sun hat, SPF 70+, a 1 liter bottle of water, a cell phone, and a flashlight.. just in case) and have a cute little squirrel come running right up to them to beg for food!  Or they can canoe down a water way and play with the adorable otters, fish, and alligators that live along the  banks! 

…Wait a minute here.. play with the alligator?  Unfortunately, yes.  This is were losing the Wild has become a problem.  We no longer fear that which we should.  Alligators? Why, I touched one of those at the zoo!  I swam with dolphins while on vacation!  I bet you can even find a place where you can pet a tiger and maybe give it a morsel of meat!  What’s so scary about those “wild” animals?  I see them all the time.. at the zoo, at the rescue park, at the hotel.  

But what many have forgotten is that those animals are trained to work with people.  What you don’t see is the keeper behind the scenes making sure that animal is interested in going out to visit people.  These animals are no longer Wild.  Nor are they domesticated (by any stretch of the imagination).  They are comfortable with the idea that a human is going to provide them with food, and so long as that human that they feel most comfortable with is near them, they’ll let a strange person come over and touch them, feed them, or ride on them.  

That alligator is the river is not.  That dolphin with her calf doesn’t know you.  That tiger, that bear, that lion does not see you bringing it food.. they see that you are food.  

you're food

(This picture’s not nearly as cute without the glass there.)

Losing the wild is a terrible thing.  Not only does it mean we’ve lost that fear which has helped our species to survive for so long, but we’ve lost the magic that made the Wild an exciting and wonderful place to be.  

So how do we find it? Is it lost forever?  No.. I don’t think so.  It’s there still.  You can find it everyday.  You find that fear and wonder whenever you see a spider in your bathtub.  That thrill of danger when a snake slithers across your path.  And that moment of magic when you finally spot that bear, that deer, that.. was that a troll? over there just beyond the trees. 

The Wild is still outside and it’s still waiting for us to make it cool again.  When we venture out into the forest with only our tent and our sleeping bag, our flashlight and camp fire, and our ghost stories and s’mores, that is when we find the Wild, right where we left it: Outside under the stars, in the trees, hiding in the shadows.  And we welcome that thrill that tells us we are not in charge out here, but rather, we are the followers to see what happens next.  

The Chili Pepper Apron.. Goes on Vacation

Posts are going to be Random with little explanation for a while since I’m currently in my home state.  You’ll probably be seeing a lot of Instagram photos since they’re something I can quickly and easily take and post to Tumblr.  So just deal with me for a while and normal (?) posting will resume when I get back to the Alligator State!