Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things That can be Carried on a Bike (#584) and why I like to shop with a box...

On the bike: a gym bag full of wet clothes, and a box containing $49.99 in groceries.

So when you are on a bike and grocery shopping you have to get creative...even if it is a cargo bike. I find the best way (for me) is to strap a box or boxes on the bike, unless it is a big trip and I pull the trailer as well. But the thing I like about bringing a single box is that when I am low on cash--such as today--I can only carry so much,meaning I can only purchase so much. Today, for example, I brought the empty box in the store and placed it in a shopping cart. As I gathered things to buy I placed them in the box. When the box was full that was the end of shopping.

Urban Simplicity

Playing with light (or the light is playing with me...or the incredible view from my handlebars)...

A couple weeks ago I rode out to the tip of Bird Island Pier in the Niagara River during the daytime and during an unexpected fog (click here to see those photos). And tonight--being determined to teach myself all the manual controls of my DSLR camera--I rode back out as the sun set to snap a few more photos. It was really interesting--and a bit challenging--to play with the camera as the light played with me as the sun set and the light changed every couple of minutes. Anyhow, here are a few of the results. Click any for somewhat larger views.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Things that can be Carried on a Bike (#583)...

A book bag containing--among other things--three books, a camera bag with a dslr camera and an extra lens, a tripod, six larger interlocking terracotta tiles (geeze o' man were these things heavy), and three plastic buckets with lids.

Urban Simplicity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Really good bread...four igredients, ok five, but one is optional

 Okay, so here is something about me you likely do not know...I was once one of these people that thought making homemade bread was difficult. Well, it's not. And even after I had mastered it and became somewhat obsessed with making it I still thought it was impossible to make a really good loaf using 100% whole wheat flour. Well, surprise (again), it can be and it is really simple. Five ingredients, that's really all you need, four if you don't add the extra gluten (but this really does add a nice texture to whole wheat bread). Anyhow, bread is easy. The best place to start is now. Like anything, you get better with practice. That first loaf--or even the first dozen loaves--may not be great, but they will be yours. But soon enough people will be asking for it. Try making your own bread. You won't regret it.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups water
3 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In one bowl make a preferment by combining 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of instant yeast. Begin the autolyse in another bowl by combining 4 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons of wheat gluten, and 2 cups water. Stir each bowl just enough to combine the ingredients, taking care not to get yeast into the bowl with the autolyse. Cover both bowls and allow to rest and ferment for 30-90 minutes, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak the grain, swelling the gluten.

After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and remaining 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans (or shape them pre-form and place them on baking sheets). Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Five or Eight Quotes and a Poem from E.E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings
October 14, 1894 - September 3, 1962

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

“Unbeing dead isn't being alive.”

“Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.”

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”

“Life's not a paragraph and death I think is no parenthesis”

“I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.”

“I imagine that yes is the only living thing."

Humanity I love You

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Humanity i love you because
when you're hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you're flush pride keeps
you from the pawn shops and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house
Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it's there and sitting down on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity
i hate you

More in the Five Quotes series
Urban Simplicity

Tomorrow will worry about itself (because a little bird told me so)...

So this is interesting, or funny, or coincidental, or whatever. Without revealing too much personal information, these past few months have been difficult for me financially. And yesterday I was stressing about money (but what is money...just pieces of paper, right?) so I did what I often do and took a long walk with headphones and music. This usually helps. It did for the most part (I also stopped for a beer). Anyhow, on my way home I passed a bank that had recently closed (it seems weird to see a bank close; I didn't know they did that) and the place where there was once an ATM machine was covered with plywood and had this graffiti on it. I laughed aloud to myself; I'm sure I looked like a crazy person to passersby. Anyhow, I thought I'd share this and a bit of scripture which came to mind as well.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A tomb, a hawk, some geese, a lot of statues, nested eggs, and a few other things I saw on a Good Friday's ride (and a few words, too)...

Okay, so a couple things. Firstly, I apologize because this is probably way more pictures than you care to look at on a blog. But I just couldn't choose so I thought I'd load a bunch. Anyhow, today of course was Good Friday. And you probably gather by now that I am not a literalist when it comes to things biblical, but mostly view the message through the eyes and ears (and heart) as metaphor. Nonetheless, it is a somber day. I've also been struggling with some issues of my own so I thought I'd go for a ride on a beautiful spring day and take photos. A cemetery seemed appropriate. It may seem odd to some that I find cemeteries beautiful and peaceful but I do. And I've posted about Forest Lawn Cemetery before (click here). It really is a beautiful place (people actually have wedding photos taken here). There's a view above to illustrate this...there are, in my opinion, worse places to have your body rest. One of the places that I was glad to discover today was the tomb of George Pierce, one of Buffalo's original bicycle manufacturers. There's a picture of my bike (below) laying at the tomb paying homage. I ended up riding around taking photos mostly of the graveside statues, which I find particularly beautiful. The cemetery is also somewhat of a goose sanctuary...they are everywhere, including nesting eggs in graveside urns (two are pictured below). Anyhow, sorry again for so many photos, but this ride and photo-shoot was something I needed today...very soothing. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#582), and a few other things I often carry but don't usually mention...

On the bike...a camera bag and book bag (wrapped in a plastic bag because it had just begun raining), and 108 copies of Gourmet Magazine in hardcover bindings (on their way to a local used book store).

Something I have mentioned in the past but don't often mention these days is my bike(s) as a tool for photography. At least 90% of the photos you see on this page were taken while using my bike as transport (and carrying various pieces of equipment). Below is an image from tonight, carrying a tripod (the camera is not in the photo--obviously--because it was being used to take the photo). Anyhow, I guess what I am trying to say is that if I were not on a bike--or sometimes on foot--I would not get half the shots that I do. It's that simple. And this is what I was thinking about tonight as I rode home in fog and a light drizzle.

 Urban Simplicity.

"Buffalo-Style" Chicken-less Burgers

So first a couple things. When you are in Buffalo chicken wings are not referred to as "Buffalo Wings," they are just wings. The first time I heard the term was, I think, in 1985 while at culinary school (of all places). To read an article I wrote on wings and all things "Buffalo Style" click here. Anyhow, these burgers are a play on that recipe in that while there is no actual chicken (I should have used chickpeas) there is Frank's Hot Sauce, blue cheese. celery, and carrot. And this is really a variation on a theme of meatless burgers I've been making for staff lunch at work (for recipes of other versions of this click here, here or here). Anyhow these are really delicious. Eat them as a burger on a bun or between two slices of bread, as an entree as a sort of meatless "steak," or as I did today and crumble one over a salad. And yes--before you ask--these can be baked rather than pan-fried but they wouldn't have the same crispiness. And they can be made vegan by omitting the cheese and eggs (and cutting back on the bread crumbs) but the flavor profile would change without the blue cheese. 

Buffalo Style Chicken-less Burgers

Makes about 10 (4 ounce) burgers

2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small carrot, diced

½ small onion, diced

2 eggs

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup Frank's hot sauce

1 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)

2 cups bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)

1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped

Olive oil for cooking

Place half of the beans in a food processor and pulse for just a few seconds, until coarse but slightly mashed; transfer these beans to a large bowl. Add the garlic, celery, carrot, and onion to the bowl of the food processor and process for a few seconds, or until finely minced. Then add the remaining beans along with the eggs, turmeric, paprika, sea salt, and hot sauce to the minced vegetables and process until relatively smooth. Transfer this mixture to the bowl containing the initial course-processed beans and mix well. Add the blue cheese, breadcrumbs, and parsley and mix well. Let the mix rest for a couple minutes, then mix it again. Divide the mix into ten balls and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters or a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th inch olive oil over medium heat. Cook the burgers for about 10 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

Urban Simplicity

Sunday, April 13, 2014


So I met some family in Cowlesville, NY this evening. No I did not ride a bike, and yes I actually drove a car. Anyhow, I had stopped to take a few photos of the countryside when these beautiful animals came into view. They, of course, knew that I was there before I saw them, you can see them watching me. And this was as close as they would let me get (even with a medium zoom lens). Majestic. That's word that came to mind when I saw them. They were so graceful. And as I stood there I also thought how I really cannot believe that people actually shoot these beauties for sport. And while I am not a vegetarian, and have indeed eaten venison on more than one occasion, as I stood there watching them I wondered how I could. It really is for this reason--not the environment or health reasons--that I find myself eating less and less meat these days...because I see the beauty in the animal, and the fact that I don't need to consume meat for my own survival. Not to mention there are so many meatless dishes that I truly enjoy. Anyhow, I'm rambling. I'll stop. I hope you enjoy the photos. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A few photos from a mini-excursion (or, a few things I saw while riding my bike today)

After I left work today, and wanting to enjoy the rest of this beautiful spring day, I rode my bike to Broderick Park and Bird Island Pier. The park itself is interesting because it played a somewhat major role in the underground railroad. Situated on the shore of the Niagara River where it meets Lake Erie it was often the last stop for slaves before they made it to Canada for freedom. And off of the park is the pier which juts out at least a mile into the lake running under the Peace Bridge and parallel with the river and the Black Rock Canal serving as a sort of break-wall. Anyhow, as I stood at the end of the pier it was interesting to see a large cloud of fog roll in off the lake and shroud the city (illustrated in the two photos below). Withing about 15 minutes I could barely see my hand in front of me (no photos of that as there wouldn't have been much to see). And then as quickly as it rolled in, it receded or passed through. Anyhow, here's a few photos of what I saw. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A couple things that I saw while walking this evening...

Despite the calm look of these photos it was quite wind this evening, and I shot these just before it started to rain. I had gone out for a walk as this was by far the warmest evening of the year thus far (66F).  I of course took a camera with me, and these are a couple of the things that I say; Allen Street and Days Park.

Urban Simplicity.

Asparagus and Roquefort Soup (Mhm, that's right)

This is so easy to make and so delicious that I hope you try it. And asparagus is just coming into seasons. And before you ask, or at least wonder to yourself, here's how you can alter it to a diet specific recipe...Yes you can use milk instead of cream but it will not be as rich; simply add it at the end. If you are lactose intolerant leave out the dairy completely (use oil instead of butter in the beginning) or use soy milk. To make it vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. To make it vegan, do the same but omit the dairy or replace it with soy milk. If you have a gluten allergy omit the flour and thicken the soup with cornstarch at the end of simmering.

Cream of Asparagus and Roquefort Soup
Makes about 4 cups
1 pound asparagus
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort Cheese

Trim the asparagus of their fibrous ends and slice the remaining portion into 1/2 inch lengths; reserve the asparagus tips separately to use as a garnish in the soup. Heat the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in the flour, lower the heat, and cook the flour for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Add the sliced asparagus (not the tips), salt, thyme and pepper; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and return to high heat. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the soup for 10 minutes, skimming as necessary. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. Add the reserved asparagus tips and bring it to a simmer and stir in the Roquefort cheese. Serve while hot.

Urban Simplicity.

Things That Can be carried on a Bike (#581)

A book bag, a camera bag, and a bucket of pre-ferment.

Urban Simplicity.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A few of the things I saw while riding my bike and walking yesterday....

Yesterday was such a beautiful spring day, and it was one of those days where I had so much I wanted to accomplish that I became a bit overwhelmed and decided to go for a bike ride instead. Therapy. And you've probably figured out by now that I really love to explore my own city. All of these photos were taken at Buffalo's Outer Harbor and Times Beach Nature Preserve. What is really interesting is that this "wilderness" is located within the city limits and is only a 30 minute ride from my house. It is separated from the city by the Buffalo River which makes it seem sort of distant. But if you look at the one photo (fourth from the bottom) you can see how close it is too downtown (for those not from the area, that is City Hall pictured beyond the trees). Click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.