Tuesday, December 31


i lived,
i laughed,
i loved,
i lost,
i found,
i cooked,
i ate;
i did so F*ing much my whole head hurts just recollecting about it.
i have so many overlapping pieces of this multidimensional puzzle,
i'm building upward and collapsing inward
and expanding outward and moving forward
and behaving untoward but never as a coward...
i'm afraid that's not how it happens.
this is IT.
the last one of the year.
the fond farewell and the big goodbye and a short kiss to the long goodnight,
except the lips i miss are seventy miles away,
and the night is icy and loud.
outside, there are explosions in the sky,
and inside the house, the dog is snoring,
and inside my heart, there's a cast-iron ferrous furnace blasting and beating
and bleating and bellowing and forging new resolve for the new year.
the spirit and memory of this year is sure to weigh heavily on the hammers
that'll blacksmith a whole new set of circumstances and coincidences
for twenty-twenty.
i am grateful for the people who loved me back,
and i am grateful for the time i have been given.
thanks for reading,
thanks for caring;
never quiet, never soft.....


snow day!!!
AMPERSAND TATTOO was not a hotbed of fun and excitement, 
but i was a whole helluva lot warmer there than 
at the Folk Life & Liberty Fortress
where the power kept failing over and over again,
and the dark of the day was invading all corners of the ol' haunted house.
that's cool.
a snow day means anything can happen.
like, there could be a giant bonfire of leftover christmas boxes and papers.
(and there was)
there could be shoveling mountains of  plow-packed snow from both ends 
of my J-shaped driveway.
(and there was)
there might even be a fresh hot batch of DUMPS ON MY FACE.
(and there was)
F* yes, friends. check the teleport:
that's right, b!tches-
i went all in on 21 jackpottin' powerful homemade expert vegan dumplings,
and FIVE motherF*ing SAUUUUUUUUCES!!!
the interiors of the dumplings are SO good...
charred shredded cabbage, blackened on a HOT pan, with a dab of sesame oil.
plus finely minced red onion, green onion, carrot, cilantro, and mushrooms.
AND there's a lotta microplaned garlic and grated skin-on organic ginger, too.
and you gotta get ground mustard and black pepper and sichuan red pepper
and rice vinegar and tamari and GPOP, too.
i don't measure anything for this part.
exxxtra filling is great,. because now i can make exxxtra dumplings, y'know?
the cabbage has bigger flavor when it's charred. 
i kept it in wedges throughout the process.
the mushrooms were dry-fried in a big pan before i added them to a food processor
with a quarter of a red onion, the bottom half of a bunch of scallions, 
a whole carrot, and three cloves of garlic, where i pulsed it that up to a crumbly consistency.
did i also add that trader joe's umami mushroom powder?
F* yeah i did.
then i added it all together in the hot pan, and let it sizzle until i added all those spices.
if i'm taking a hot dump to eleven, it's gotta have ALLLLL the hottness in there.
...and these do.
i made the filling the night before, 
and let it hang out with fresh cilantro and scallion in the fridge until i was ready.
the wrappers are easy, but also pretty powerful.
in my stand mixer i combined:
1 cup + 2 T king arthur ap flour;
1 T dried crushed shallot;
1 T black sesame seeds;
1/4 tsp sea salt;
1 T minced green onion;
1/3 cup + warm water-
and i beat that up with a dough hook and got it beaten up into a shiny ball of dough.
that took a minute, and a little more water, too.
y'gotta cover it with plastic and rest the dough for like half an hour at least.
then, roll it out on a well-floured surface, and cut out all the circles.
mine are 3". and like i mentioned, there were 21. that's a lot.
but also, that's what you want.
less than eleven dumps make you a loser.
fill 'em with a spoonful of that good stuff, fold 'em over, and pinch the edges together,
then crimp 'em and give 'em a crescent bend.
nobody likes an ugly dumpling.
ugly ducklings have their purpose, but unattractive dumplings are NOT invited.
i fried mine in a blend of very hot sesame and olive oil- like, a teaspoon of each.
and after arranging them in 3 rows in a 10" nonstick pan, 
i let them sizzle and sear just a baby bit, like two minutes, 
before i added a slurry of hot water and flour- 
a spoonful of flour in a few tablespoons of liquid,
and i dumped that into the screaming-hot pan, lidded it, 
and let the water absorb and disappear, 
but with the doughy thickening doing some extra bulking-up 
along the sides of my little pouches.
i gave them a flip, and i added some red chili oil, 
and gave them another 'nother couple minutes to get browned up even MORE.
i was not about to let the last dumplings of 2019 be weak ones, neighbors.
look at that crispiness!
i garnished them with fresh ripped leaves of cilantro,
and pea shoots,
and scallion sprankles.
look at the textures. look at the golden goodness. look at the extra bottom thiccc jauns.
i impressed myself.
so, you already know that too much is the right amount, right?
what about those FIVE separate sexxxy SAUCES?!
if you can't appreciate the diversity and intensity 
and the over-the-top optimization available to each bite of each dumpling
then you are probably an A*-hole.
and that's no joke.
you wanna know about each one?
okay. here we go:
heat up about half a cup of vegetable oil to like 350 degrees.
in a small ceramic bowl, combine:
black pepper;
crushed red pepper;
sichuan peppercorns;
whole dried red chili, partially crushed;
ground korean red chili flakes;
sesame seeds;
all of that, shaken in by eye,
with whatever proportions you feel might taste best.
i mean, you know what you like-
and with about half a cup of hot oil poured over the whole thing,
you will toast everything up while cooling it off fairly quickly-
then add a drop of sesame oil to kick it into high gear,
and also, maybe a touch of hot paprika for flavor and color
it's more nutty than hot, 
and it's F*ing delicious and red and awesome all at once.
this one is F*ing tiiiiiiiight AF.
i didn't need a ton, but i made more than enough-
1/3 cup of tamari;
1 T sugar;
1 T brown sugar;
a dash of fennel, dried chili, dried ginger, a pinch of peri-peri chili spice,
a drop of lime juice, black pepper and a just few sichuan peppercorns,
all slowwwww-simmered until it's thiccc.
y'all think you be knowin'- but y'all don't be knowin'.
now you do kinda know a little... but until you make it, 
you can't truly appreciate how expert it is.
a tablespoon of peanut butter;
two teaspoons of tamari;
a drop of toasted sesame oil;
a dash of white and black sesame seeds;
1/4" grated fresh ginger;
1 tsp rice vinegar;
1 tsp agave;
a dash of chili flake;
a pinch of Garlic Powder... 
it's very rich.
it's very good.
it goes great with the sweet soy,
and even better with the next sauce:
5 tsp sriracha;
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds;
1/2 tsp rice vinegar;
2 drops liquid smoke;
a shake of GPOP;
two shakes of habanero ho'sauce;
a pinch of powdered sugar;
1/2 tsp tamari;
a drop or two of sesame oil.
but not offensive or intrusive or distracting.
it's just a little zap of extra-tangy spice, and that's nicey-nice.
also, after all that, there's also the old standby.
the original.
the site-specific situationally-appropriate SAUCE that started it all.
3 T tamari;
1 T rice vinegar;
1 tsp powdered sugar;
1 tsp agave;
1/4 tsp sesame oil;
GPOP, ground mustard, black pepper.
1 clove grated garlic;
1 small bud of grated ginger;
3-4 crushed sichuan peppercorns;
a scoop of toasted sesame seeds;
a pinch of fresh green onion;
a few drops of ho'sauce-
stirred -up and allowed to marinate all damned day.
this one gets better with time.
and when it is DUMPLING TIME,
this is what you need to make it expert o'clock.
2019 is just about done.
and it's another snow day.
it's wet and cold and icy and snowy and it looks beautiful and terrible outside.
it's still coming down.
i'm thinking about this year.
i'm thinking about my whole life.
i'm thinking about love.
i'm thinking about business.
i'm thinking about the future.
i'm thinking about right now.
i'm thinking too much, and it's making me tired.
i'm grateful for all the enormous events this year provided.
i'm grateful for the old people and the new people and the newest person,
and i'm positively electrified with the prospect of a better tomorrow.
i've got more to say about all of this.
and i will write it down before we start a whole new year.
but right now i have to work off some of that dumpling feast with 
an hour or two of snow removal.
snow man, snow man, yeah that's me;

Monday, December 30


breezy got me a little mini cake pan
and it is CUTE.
i made some mini cakes in it because that is the only thing it can be used for.
they're really tasty, and also really cute.
when i flipped them out of the little mini cake cups
i immediately noticed that they do sorta look just a little teentsy weentsy
itty-bitty tiny mini baby bit like buttholes.
i'm not sayin;......i'm just sayin'.
and they're not any less cute which makes me excited.
baby bundts!!
that's adorable.
lemon walnut fluffy babies!!!
i'll brighten winter with citrus whenever i want, and none of you can tell me otherwise.
got it?
alright, then....look:

i ate way too many of them.
i don't regret it.
walnuts are good for you.
lemons are great for you.
cake is always invited.
all together, a real winner was freshly-baked and enjoyed by myself,
and eventually by a group of  hungry clients,
and also two newish vegans who were coincidentally getting tattooed at the studio,
and even dylan and nate
although one of them is mildly allergic.
that's how good they looked.
y'all ever flirt with discomfort to enjoy a fluffy sponge of joy?
that's how we do it. 
i was inspired by the cuteness of the pan, man.
i HAD to employ it in some winter morning therapy.
every time i make sense out of making up a recipe
i feel just a touch more equipped to handle the day.
and it's yesterday's tomorrow, so i at least endured it.
you wanna make some light and fluffy magic cakes?
i will tell you whatcha gotta do:
preheat your oven to 350℉
get yourself a mini-muffin tin or one of these redheaded-hottness-supplied pans
in a medium mixing bowl,
cream together:
1/2 cup sugar;
1/4 tsp salt;
1 tsp vanilla;
1/4 tsp lemon extract;
1/2 lemon zest;
1/2 lemon juice
1/4 cup (4 T) softened vegan butter.
get that all creamy and smooth, then stir in:
2 T plain vegan yogurt;
1 cup king arthur ap flour;
1 tsp baking powder;
1/2 tsp baking soda;
1/2 cup nondairy milk;
1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
whip that until it's fluffy, and spoon it evenly into the 24 compartments of your pan.
bake them for 15ish+ minutes or until a tester comes away clean,
and let 'em cool before you ice 'em.
that's just ka-powdered sugar, lemon juice, and a touch of vanilla.
did i hit 'em with a bunch of lemon zest sprankles?
what am i?
an A*-hole?
i know what's up, and it's MORE zest.
we're having a snow day in the woodsly goodness.
i wonder if my neighbors will be around.
if they're not, i'm going to upcycle a whole lot of cardboard,
and have a raging-hot short-lived fire.
those are the best when it's snowy.
i suppose i'll get the chance to tattoo some pickup-truckin' neckheads in boots today.
they love driving on bad roads.
and they love to get reg-tattz.
personally, i love dumplings.
i think i'll be sure to make some of those at some point today.
the year is ending, and i think taking some dumps to the face is in order.
so, slick roads and sick tatts and slick dumplings and sick custom red chili oil
are all where the day seems to be headed.
i already lost power twice today.
that's encouraging.
why not end the year in the dark;
never quiet, never soft.....


how many vacationers have come into the studio while we're tattooing,
because they think we're the pizza place?
.......a F*ing LOT.
and how many of them leave realllllly quickly, after making the 'OH!' noise?
and what number of those folks close the door behind them
after they realize their mistake
and do the head-down shuffle-step skedaddle twelve feet further down the porch?
that'd be almost none of them.
it isn't it winter, and obviously cold, 
and also pretty stoopid to not know to close a door?
uh huh.
i'm not saying these are bad people, 
but i am suggesting they're bad at being people.
maybe they're just so psyched about pizza 
that they don't know what to do with themselves.
i've been there, bro. i see you.
but i also know how doors work.
just sayin'.

AMPERSAND TATTOO has a sign that says 'no pizza here',
because some folks don't even recognize their mistake 
until they're all the way inside the studio and see us very clearly NOT making pizza.
that's no joke-
we have no pizza there.
and we actually love pizza but, i mean, c'mon.
there've been at least twenty people who effed that up this weekend.
if you've been by the shop, you already know that there are GIANT signs 
on the windows that say AMPERSAND TATTOO,
and there's a sign on the door, too.
so shoutouts to illiterates and pizza-obsessed no-attention-payers, i guess.
meanwhile i'm out here doing those phone-bill tattz.
like when you gotta pay that phone bill, these are the ones that make that possible.
dead guy tributes.
we do that.
how about matchy tattz for home-tatt getters out in a real studio for the first time?
we do that, too.
will i fill up a day with baby tattoos and do each one like i'm excited?
well a grand don't ever come for free, 
and those pizza pursuers don't ever accidentally order
a large tattoo with a side of garlic knots from us and forget all about the spot next door.
so until money starts falling into my wallet for talking sh!t and baking cake,
it's tatty-boi bambam time every time.
oh, and now that i consider it:
based on the amount of impact we can hear from bodies and tables colliding 
with the shared interior wall between us and the pizza joint,
those muther'uckers ARE that psyched about pizza.
they're suplexing their pepperonis together about it.
i want our clients to start bodyslamming each other into the walls about it.
after they're cleaned off and wrapped up, of course.
no need to spread that home-tat 'itis onto the framed art, man.
for realsies.
i might F* around and make a pizza and tattoo myself
then sail my whole body straight through the window of the pizza spot, 
butt-A* and face first, 
and leave their damned door open behind me on the way to the hospital.
you don't know me;

Sunday, December 29


you wanna get a hand tattoo?
i got you.
you want it to be an apocalypse gas mask?
i got you.
you want A-bomb mushroom clouds reflected in the eyes?
yo, i GOT you.

hand tattz.
eh, it's just another day at AMPERSAND TATTOO.
you need some extremities decorated?
we're extremely ready;


does food taste better if the fork says vegan on it?
potatoes, hot and crisp, out of a 460 degree oven already taste good.
now imagine you're using a vegan fork, bro.
you like it:

because i don't even care.
too much is the right amount,
and more potatoes is supposedly the key to more joy in your life.
curry powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika,
Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, salt and olive oil...
tossed together for a big ol' late-december breakfast.
i'll take some solid gold skin-on homeboyfries anyday.
on the ones- i roasted them in a single layer on parchment
and once they were fully cooked,
i drizzled a little MORE olive oil on the top of 'em to sizzle and crisp 'em up.
that's how you get 'em right.
and when they're right?
that's when the whole day veers away from the teetering totter
of a razor's edge of epic failure and back onto solid ground.
...for a few hours at least.
and when you plate 'em with scallion and cilantro sprankles,
there's almost something that tastes like hope in your heart.

they really are pretty great, though.
they were so perfectly spiced and seasoned
that i didn't even need any smoky sriracha ketchup or nothin'.
potatoes and spices and that's it.
spuds so good,
even a couple of clients yesterday brought up how good they be lookin'.
and y'all can act like they don't be lookin'.....
but they BE LOOKIN'...
that's a thing: my potatoes be lookin'.
and the folks who appreciate AMPERSAND TATTOO have noticed it.
but, like, for real-
nate's clients commented on the visual deliciousness.
i s'pose that's kind of the reason to take the picture in the first place.
they can't have any, though.
my plates aren't for just anybody.
and of course the one person i'd love to impress probably didn't get a glimpse at all.
that's how it is, man.
because you know i had somebody in mind when i made 'em,
and i was using that Xmas-gifty fork from her while i ate 'em.
that jabby-jammer does make them taste better, btw.
because there's love in each tine, and fittingly,
they're sharp and stabby just like us.
now if only i could figure out how to be so F*ing adept at anything else.
2020 is coming in hot,
and i'm still tattooing like i'm living in 1999.
sure, i can cook my A* off;
but where's the next-level mastery of interpersonal relations?
i need a SAGA.
some lightning-striking viking sh!t.
or something like that,
preferably with a side of potatoes and this sentimental stabber, too;
never quiet, never soft.....

Friday, December 27


if you don't know, you're fired.
pizza is dope.
pizza is expert.
pizza is what's up.
but if you're really-real,
and you've been naughty enough to get coal,
then you're on the right path,
because new haven-style coal-fired APIZZA
is the power and the glory and the way and the light and the truth.
...and that's a fact.

shouts to breezy for coming through with the sentimental nostalgia
and the allegiance and the dedication for this southern connecticut apizza pie guy.
that's AH-BEETZ, for those of you pronouncing it ah-peet-sah.
get it right.
there's a lotta history, and it's all right there in the book.
i come from a place where pizza is a way of life,
and i think it's sweet she provided me with a long-distance reconnect with that
rich italian-american history from my birthplace.
i want to pass on that love and that passion and that process to all the kids.
i want pizza partners, pizza pals, pizza princes and princesses.
i want white pie and sicilian and deep-dish and flatbread.
i want double dough and stuffed crust and fully-loaded extra-larges.
i LOVE pizza,
and i love christmas when it works out for everybody.
and it's F*ing awesome to get good gifts from someone who knows you.
i am grateful for the intimacy behind the items.
that means a whole lot more than just some wrapped-up stuff.
there's weather coming.
i mean, it's winter.
so that's expected.
will i make pizza tonight?
i think it's only right.
for real, i've got the shirt.
i've got the dough.
i've got the sauce.
i've got the fondness and the feelings and the hunger.
pizza is the only other redhead i even like.
and it's a whole lot crustier than the other one.
i dunno.
it's all a F*ing mess.
every day, every night, everywhere-
here and there and in-between.
a blanket of snow might at least make it quiet outside,
while it's a stormswept raging ugly sloppy typhoon in my head;


this is dope:

if you can get it customized, you usually should.
it just makes a good thing even better.
one fork is a weird present.
but one custom fork is molto expert.
and i'm gonna eat the hell outta some stuff with this one, no doubt.
when my sisters and i were little,
my dad used to ask, aloud, to the household:
"what's daddy's favorite thing to do?"
and we'd respond, in unison, as we'd been trained to: "hit kids!"
and he'd say: "and then what's he do?"
and we'd say: "LAUGH!!"
then he'd ask one more question:
"...and then what?"
and we'd recite the rehearsed line: "hit 'em some MORE!"
i'm not writing that to condemn my childhood,
i'm writing it because i LOVE krampus.
that's 100% his thing.
maybe my dad was part krampus, that's all i'm suggesting.
check it:
we out here whoopin' on them kids.
for the record-
i haven't given out any spankings in my life.
not to any disobedient children, anyway.
a naughty adult, maybe-
but all the slaps i've ever handed out were consensual, anyway.
here's the one that gave me big feelings, though:
that's me.
and my eyes are still wet about it.
you ever listen to that song landslide by fleetwood mac,
but when it was way better because smashing pumpkins covered it?
that's what my insides feel like when i look at this little ol' santaman.
how emo is that?
probably too much.
i just think about the happiest one,
the littlest one,
and about all the crazy chaos everywhere but in that little heart,
and how could papa make it better?
i don't have an answer.
i just keep humming along-
can i handle the seasons of my life?
nqns .....


too much is the right amount.
at Xmas, it needs to go to XI.
that's no joke.
rules is rules.
a little goes a long way, but a lot goes the distance.
and if you say you like chocolate?
i'm getting you fancy chocolate wherever i go,
because i'm thinking of you everywhere i am.
that's just what it is.
if you mention that you might need new socks?
well, if you're older than twelve, socks ARE an acceptable crimbo gift.
if you're little, you should ask for toys. don't be lame.
but anyway, you said might need a new pair for your feet?
then get ready for slipper socks, camp socks, ankle socks, and fancy marled winter socks.
i have a theory-
the way you give gifts is the way you'd like to receive them, too.
so, with that in mind, imagine how pleased i was to open up this:

hallowe'en!! dinosaurs! dragons! bobotrons! bunnie babies!
nature! steampunk! skulls!
and a patterned rollie-pin of bull F*ing terriers?!
they see me rollin'......they bakin'....
breezy did the thing the way you're supposed to.
a cute rolling pin was in my stocking.
and i was psyched that now i can make dinosaur sugar cookies, for sure.
that was just a little tease because a whole dang set was waiting under the tree.
i mean, for real, these laser-cuttin' woodworkers are expert.
and that wasn't the only woodgrain goodness i got, either.
i also got some additions to the triceratops collection, too-

shoutouts to a whole triceratops family.
if you like something, then more of it is usually better.
and if you give something, there should be a positive intention behind it.
there's no gift with less life and love in it than an obligation gift.
like, just skip it, if you're not into it.
on the ones,
i got good stuff.
considerate and intentional and informed gifts.
i felt very lucky on the day.
and i won't forget that;
never quiet, never soft.....

Thursday, December 26


and on christmas eve,
after returning from connecticut,
and finishing up the last bits of wrapping and writing,
and knowing that i had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call ahead of me, which i somehow
managed to wake up an hour ahead of
like every kid naturally would because who can sleep when santa's coming?
i still felt like something was missing...
and then i realized that what i was craving was a fully-loaded christmas miracle
delivered into my mutha-'ucking mouth.
so, i fired up my oven,
and i started a batch of dough,
and i caramelized some onions,
and steamed some broccoli,
and i sliced some two-tone baby sweet tomatoes,
and i dry-fried some mushrooms,
and minced my daiya mozzarella, (rules is rules)
and saturated my homemade vegan sausage with smoked paprika and black pepper,
and grabbed the crushed tomatoes and the fried garlic sprankles,
and eventually i was really feeling the holiday season all through the house.
with the help of 485 luscious fahrenheit degrees,
and a few stones,
and the accrued wisdom of thousands of pies,
i had what i wanted:

with that crispy crunchy crrrrrrrrust-
you need king arthur bread flour and you need diastatic malt powder,
and the rest is negotiable...
the table runner is a gift from harvest.
the bandana bobot napkin is from maple.
i waited no seconds to employ them in my pizza experience.
i'm a sloppy sentimental mess.
i'll admit that.
i have too many F*ing feelings about everything.
and i love my people.
ALL of 'em across all of the whole damn expanse of new england.
i'm all stoopid about it, and i'll probably make another 'nother pizza about it.
hell, breezy got me an expert APIZZA shirt.
i'm gonna wear it until it falls off.
if you know, you know,
and if you're good, you're good.
i'm all full of emotions about every aspect of my life.
luckily, i can just go clean up and rearrange AMPERSAND TATTOO,
and get stressed about that instead of everything else.
changes and changes and changes everywhere,
and pizza to hold it all together.
that's what winter after christmas feels like today;
never quiet, never soft.....


my day was great.
the gifts i received were thoughtful.
the time i spanned was beautiful.
the feelings i shared were happy and genuine.
everybody had a good time, and it was merry and bright.
Xmas is for kids,
and that was where we were the most successful
even crabtree was well-adjusted.
happy people, big and small,
and sleepy adults across the days and miles.
that's how it unfolded.
i appreciated everyone, and i felt appreciated,
and we all did alright at doing it right.
that's the best holiday spirit and memory anybody could hope for.
i'm intentionally withholding the photojournalism,
but i'm fully expressing the who-ville tripling i felt in my heart.
i am grateful for the time i was given,
and for the jammies and the joy and the christmas cheer;


...and that's a fact.
the place that makes this says they sell shirts,
but they NEVER have any-
so really, what they actually mean is, they could sell shirts,
but they DON'T sell shirts;


these carocci kids.

and these carocci kids.
shoutouts to cousin cash.
and then there's these carocci kids.
crabtree was delighted by the attention...
and of course, the realness eventually comes out-
shouts to THESE carocci kids.
that's us.
and that's connecticut for you,


maple wanted a maple-frosted cake,
so maple got a maple-frosted cake:

that's what i do.
i make and i bake and i decorate.
that's vanilla cake in there.
and it's really thick and rich and soft and super-delicious.
you wanna know how?
check it:
preheat your oven to 350℉
grease 2 8" pans
in your trusty upright stand mixer, with a paddle or whisk in place,
1 stick (8 T) softened vegan butter;
1/2 tsp salt;
2 tsp vanilla;
1/2 cup vanilla non-dairy yogurt;
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce;
1 cup sugar;
1/2 cup light brown sugar.
blend that all up all kinds of soft and thorough, then add:
2 2/3 cups king arthur ap flour;
2 tsp baking powder;
1 tsp baking soda;
1 pkg vegan vanilla puddin'. (for supreme moistness and exxxtra flavor)
1 1/4 cups vanilla non-dairy milk.
blend it up to a fluffy smooth batter,
and spread it evenly between both pans.
bake it for 30 minutes,
and let it cool completely on a rack to room temperature.
then y'gotta frost it, obvi.
3 cups of powdered sugar;
1 tsp vanilla;
1/2 tsp maple extract;
1/4 cup maple syrup;
1-2 T non-dairy milk;
8 T vegan butter;
2 T vegan creamchee'.
whisked to mega-fluffiness.
maybe add some sprankles.
those are good for making sure you know it's no ordinary cake,
but rather an expert one.
it's always my job to make the cake.
every year for all the years.
and this one was very awesome, as usual.
in fact,
by the next day it was even better.
just like the kids.
they keep getting better.
i keep baking cakes.
eventually, maybe they'll be the ones baking cakes,
and i'll be the one getting better;
never quiet, never soft.....


and now the big kids are BOTH adults.
holy sh!t.
maple star is eighteen.

it's too soon.
they were just my little bitty babies a minute ago.
look at her-

does she ever hold still in a picture?

she's sensitive.
she's thoughtful.
she's considerate.
she's smart.
and she's absolutely lovely.
i can't actually say enough nice things about her,
so let me sum it all up simply-
she's great.
and i love her very, very much.
not just because she's my daughter, but because she's a good person.
i have a hundred percent respect for her and i really admire that she's
optimistic and independent and artistic and invested in her people.
...and now she's a real grown-up.
i can't believe it.
i still remember her big bobble head only walking backwards,
just like it was yesterday.
and here we are, she's in college,
she's driving around in a new car,
she's out pursuing her own interests.
she's better than me,
and that's what i always hoped would happen.
i am grateful for all my daughters.
with all my heart, every minute of every single day;

a week later

SO much life unfolds when you aren't writing it down while
sat in front of a computer.
before i left for connecticut,
i made a galette.
and it was crispy, buttery, flaky, and sweet,
as well as rich, tart, and nutty...
basically, it was a F*ing triumph.
wanna see?
you got it-

that's expert, right?
you know it's true-
here, look again, a little closer:

that's cranberry sauce, the vanilla-cider perfection that i make from scratch.
and crushed pecans.
and dark chocolate chips.
all the righteous just-rightness of a great pastry is all right here.
in a food processor, combine:
1 stick (8 T) + 3 T COLD vegan butter;
dash of salt;
3 T vegan creamchee';
2 cups king arthur all-purpose flour;
3 T sugar;
1 T powdered sugar;
3 T non-dairy milk + more if necessary-
all pulsed together into a crumby crumbly sticks-together-when-pinched pile
of pulverized pebbly pastry pre-roll.
tightly plastic wrapped and refrigerated for at least an hour,
before getting rolled out on a well-floured surface....
do not bake pastry dough at less than 400℉ or it'll suck.
that's real.
crispy pastry needs heat.
remember that.
when you combine a bunch of stuff, and it's all good stuff,
you get even better results.
tart, sweet cranberries and dark, rich, chocolate and crunchy sharp pecans
and then smooth buttery crust.
that's everything being excellent at once,
and that's why i ate the whole F*ing thing.
sometimes, y'gotta eat the whole thing.
rules is rules, man.
and too much is the right amount.
that was over a week ago.
it's after christmas now.
in fact, in years past,
this was when harvest and maple and i celebrated XI-mas.
but today, it's just the day i go back to work.
time moves on, and things change,
and i think it's about time to stop fighting that;
never quiet, never soft.....

Thursday, December 19


gluten-free vegan dark chocolate chips,
melted with a few tablespoons of non-dairy milk,
a spoonful of vanilla,
a couple tablespoons of cacao,
plus a pressed block of silken tofu,
and a third of a cup of unsweetened flaked coconut.
do you even know what that turns into?
it turns into winter magic.
that's real.
check it out:

gluten-free oats, coconut, brown sugar, vanilla, a pinch of salt,
vegan butter, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and a little gf flour,
plus coconut milk, mashed and bashed in a food processor to make a crust.
i mean, a handful of this, a fistful of that,
a shake and a pinch and a dash, and that's what's up.
i baked it at 350℉ for fifteen minutes.
then i added the creme.
then i activated all the best bits.
MORE coconut.
MORE cacao nibs.
and chocolate frosting, friends.
that's right.
the filling is important.
the crust is negotiable.
i wanted to make sure i could make it good AND gluten-free.
that's important.
that's necessary.
that's how i show my emotions.
i dunno if that's loud communication, but i'm screaming it inside.
love and love and love.
plus chocolate and coconut.
this is a trial run and a successful one.
the next one will be even better;
never quiet, never soft.....


tuesday was a snow day.
and it snowed a bunch,
and all day long, and that was appropriate for december...
it was also a gingebread house day.
it was a homemade pizza day.
it was a nap day.
it was a teamwork day.
it was a good day.
and then yesterday,
there was a secret snow half-day.
like, it just started snowing from out of nowhere.
it was nice-ish out, until i looked behind me out the window
at AMPERSAND TATTOO at the surprise winter happening
just a few feet away.
and it snowed hard enough to warrant a weather warning for all the
wind and whiteout arctic berserker fury that was blasting the woodsly goodness.
f'real, my phone was warning me about what was happening
actually to me in real time on the roadway home.
hey, phone, i got it. i can see it. but thank you, phone.
it's way cold out.
it's crazy windy out.
it's pretty F*ing wintry, for not quite being winter just yet.
but it's close enough, for sure.
i'm feeling that heavy heaviness that comes from this time of year.
sure, the tree full of lights is great.
in fact, it's practically medicine for my weary brain.
but outside, even with a reflective blanket of stormswept white,
it's DARK almost all damned day.
and i'm over here at the Folk Life & Liberty Fortress,
wrapping presents that don't seem like enough,
and i'm waiting for post office deliveries to maybe boost those stacks.
i've got tattoos to do.
i'm thankful.
i've got the heat on.
i'm lucky.
i'm wearing extra socks.
i'm just a bigfoot sasquatch over here.
and i am thinking about all that's still left to be done.
mostly, this wind is ruining it.
it's very noisy.
it's very bitey.
and right now,
it's making the day worse.
it's for the kids.
and as they get bigger, it changes.
but the sense of joy,
or the presence of presents,
or the perception of happiness,
or the wonder of the surprise of the thing is there.
...christmastime, for me, for the last twenty years, has been about giving gifts.
and giving good gifts, at that.
i want that association with the day, with the morning, with the big reveal,
with cinnamon buns or hot cocoa or whatever the eff.
i could literally never get a present ever, and be fine;
but i do feel better seeing kids be happy under the tree,
or next to the orderly pile,
or wherever,
finding out what they've gotten from santa for being nice instead of naughty.
i'm waiting on my lump of coal.
but then again,
on a day like today, at least that'd warm me up a little;
never quiet, never soft.....

Tuesday, December 17


my very good friend ian came up to AMPERSAND TATTOO
to get a LOT of his leg tattooed yesterday,
and he came bearing tricerataco holders in every color for christmas,
from him, and chantal, and albee,
and he showed up extra early for something extra special.
y'know what is was?
even when it isn't sandwich week,
it's still a great idea to have a sandwich.
and these were especially expert ones.
check it:

homemade bread,
homemade sesame-ginger teriyaki glazed tofu
mashed avocado,
red onion,
tempeh bacon,
fried sweet potato circles,
quick-pickled peppers,
toasty sesame seeds, cilantro, and scallion sprankles,
and a slap of vegan mayo to complete the look, neighbors.
these sandwiches were 100% NO joke.

good bread makes better sandwiches and it all starts there.
a couple cups of king arthur bread flour.
a fat scoop of vegan butter,
and all the rest of the things i've listed a billion times....
i'm sayin'.
i've made a lot of banh, and they ALL meant somethin'.
that's what's so F*ing cool about 'em.
the peppery pickles were so simple-
1/2 cup hot rice wine vinegar,
1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and enough water to cover 1 cup of sliced radish, jalapeno,
sweet baby bell, and red chili peppers. i left that soaking all morning,
and by ten a.m. it was F*ing perfect.
tempeh bacon is something we always add, isn't it?
and y'know why we are always gonna keep adding it?
...because it's great.
fried sweet potatoes give me a good feeling.
i bet i would've been happy with a red onion,mashed avocado,
and sweet potato disc sandwich.
i mean it.
coconut oil and salt and a splash of water to steam 'em a little,
and you've got thin-sliced slabs of sweet spud charred just enough to give them
that added manliness on each side.
that's dope.
pickles, and cilantro and scallions all add some lively greenery
and a whole spectrum of flavors.
that's how you get layers of complexity in something you stuff between buns.
you like that.
the teriyaki was phenomenal-
1 tsp sesame oil;
1/4 cup tamari;
1 tsp non-GMO organic cornstarch;
1/2 tsp ea GPOP black pepper and cayenne;
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds;
1/2" bud of grated fresh ginger;
2 T rice vinegar;
1 T lemon juice;
2 T brown sugar;
2 tsp agave;
a dash of liquid smoke....
word up.
you ain't never ever even had nothin' so awesome.
....and when you dip your tofu in a little cornstarch and flour mixture,
with sriracha flakes and cayenne and ground coriander in there?

that's what's good, b.
and then we tattooed a bee knee,
a bouncing bunny,
and a sketchy fox,
all around and up his leg.
drawn on with marky-markers,
and tattooed over the course of several hours.
he took his lumps like a stoic soldier,
but i was so spent afterwards i forgot to take a picture of the epic one-take drawings
i made on his body.
f'real, though.
the tattforce was flowing freely yesterday,
and i didn't sketch or redraw NUTHIN'.
ol' one-take albie was in full effect.
can't wait to eat sh!t tomorrow on a day of bambams.
that's what happens, kids.
it all costs something, and for every hot fireball,
there's a cold doo-doo butterball waiting to replace it.
that's the tattoo world,
and that's what's coming my way for sure.
it's a snow day, even if i don't see any yet.
that's cool.
that means more time with special people,
and more is always what i'm all about.
and when it's all unfolding in front of me,
i'm grateful for the time i have been given;
never quiet, never soft.....

Monday, December 16

animal tattoos

nature-ish tattoos.
that's what we do the most at AMPERSAND TATTOO.
for real.
and that's fine with me.
yesterday, i took some scratchy scribbled ideas
and made them into a whole different picture.
of course, it's the same, but also it's not.
a raven and a wolf and a little extra style for good measure-
with NO background, because why would we do that?
i dunno.
anyway, i did it:

shoutouts and thanks to the tattoo spirits for keeping the decent tattoos rolling in.
because without 'em i'm just a loud old guy
in a baby-doo-doo-diarrhea colored green room-
...and that's not a good look.
but when we add in those electric art zaps the whole image improves a ton.
and that's better news for all of us.
in other news,
i'm lookin' at all the XI-mas present heaps over here, and i gotta say:
my big stress is forever gonna be shystie piles.
it's never enough.
and what's worse is that time is very nearly up.
on saturday, i'm done whether i like it or not, so if i'm not ready,
i'm properly effed up my chimney with some humbuggery.
at least i'm getting over my rigidly ordered perfectly creased metallic foil paper penchant.
i think that's a good thing.
in fact, i got this one NON-METALLIC paper for the small kiddos,
and it has PICTURES on it.
i dunno if they're elves, dwarves, santas, or just  winter-clothed old bearded weirdies,
but it's cute, and with the labels on 'em,
i think it'll be fun to see who gets what in the big haphazard jumble under the tree.
it doesn't always have to be how it was.
that's the best part about last time.
y'feel me?
it's not THIS time.
and this time is the one that matters.
i'm doing different things and so far i'm surviving the experience.
i think that's probably something i should be proud of,
even if i feel forever like the mountain of presents should be taller;
never quiet, never soft.....

Sunday, December 15

again and again

maybe i'm just supposed to get a dad belly?
is that a thing?
i mean,
it's been a good many years since i blarped all the way out
and while i enjoy the effects of a positive self-image
it turns out i may enjoy the effects of a megadope pizza pie even more.
another 'nother late night pizza showed up last night.
i was eating salad again, like always,
when a little voice that sounded just like me started whispering suggestions
about how good a little caramelized onion and kale pizza could be.
and when i agreed?
that same voice hinted that i could pretty easily batter up and bake some
super savory seitan shreds for the top, too.
and i'm gonna be honest with you guys:
that sounded like exactly what i should do.
so i did.
check the teleport:

that's the fuego all day, bro.
baby kale on the bottom,
crushed tomatoes,
minced daiya mozzarella and cashew chee',
fried garlic sprankles,
caramelized onions.....
that's all pretty delicious.
but then the seitan comes through and turns it up to eleven.
that's 1/4 cup chick pea flour,
GPOP, a lotta smoked paprika, thyme, sage, salt, pepper,
and enough non-dairy s'milk to make a thiccc batter.
i just tossed a cup of shredded homemade seitan in there,
rolled it around,
and baked it on parchment on a baking sheet while the oven was heating up.
i'm just sayin'-
pizza is usually awesome.
but this bad boi was was UNusually extra awesome.
it worked out for my mouth,
and it did yet another quarter inch of add-on to my waist.
cold, wet, dark, and dirty....that was the day-
and then hot, crisp, saucy and tight....that was the pizza.
i made another 'nother fast-action crust,
with absolutely all the flavor you could ask for.
so much so i might eff around and make another one of these before too long.
wait, is it windy?
i really dunno what this day is gonna bring,
but so far this air movement is NOT encouraging.
if (and these days that's the key word) my appointment shows up,
then the first half of today is gonna be a lotta scratchy lined animals.
that's pretty cool.
and afterwards, i gotta get into the XI-mas spirit.
i mean it.
i'm the least prepared i've ever been for this year's presentation.
i'm digging deep and i'm putting the pressure on myself to fire it up.
i'm running out of time, so the fire needs to really get hot, and quick.
all these people are important to me, and i wanna do something nice;
never quiet, never soft...

Saturday, December 14

CRȆPES redux

holy crȇpe.
i did it again.
only this time i thought using gluten would be good.
and i have to say- that was not the case.
my intention to make wheatless goodies as an inclusive gesture
has put me on the path to wheatless crȇpes from now on.
for real.
these got the job done,
but they were very simply NOT as expert as the chick pea ones.
the insides were fantastic, don't get me wrong-
but those flaps were more crap than crȇpe.
anyway, check it out:

curried exxxtra-crispy skin-on homeboy fries.
and well-seasoned exxxtra-firm tofu cubes.
and avo-F*ing-cado.
that's a good breakfast.

when you add those fried tomatoes,
and the new-new that is those maple glazed brekkie sausages??
the whole shootin' match gets turned up to eleven.
i mean... that's SO much flavor,
it almost overshadowed the bland nature of those crȇpes.

then there's cilantro and red onion sprankles, too?
and pea shoots to add extra power to each parcel?
if you need fancy breakfast,
this is for sure how you doo-doo that freaky sh!t.
the tofu, gets fried in a drip of hot oil,
and gets tossed with turmeric, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder,
sea salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast,
and when you shake a lil baby bit of smoked paprika on top,
that all does all the things to make this sh!t taste great.
you need that.
there's a splash or three of veggie broth to steam the sausages
so that they stay juicy while they brown in the pan;
and that's before the caramel magic of real maple syrup and high heat seals them shut.
the potatoes were tossed with curry powder, cayenne, olive oil, salt, pepper, GPOP,
and coriander, then roasted at 400℉ on parchment over steel on a stone in my oven
until they were visibly crisp.
and the rest was as-is raw.
and that's all you need.
i won't even bother with the crȇpes.
just use the gluten-free one.
it's way better.
for real.
the weather outside?
it's frightful.
but inside?
also frightful.
i'm sayin'-
i got low on the floor with crabtree, looked at my cabinets,
and my whole stress level shot through the roof.
i need a professional cleaning team to come through and give this place a
major thrice-over deep cleanse.
or, a flamethrower purification.
or maybe i could just get burned at the stake at this point.
that seems warmer and less overwhelming.
and while i was using stainless steel wipes on the fridge
in a really pathetic attempt to band-aid this blood-eagle evisceration,
i started to think even more about how much more money
i'll need to make'to fix all these F*ing problems in the dilapidated tomb
i'm slowly dying inside of.
is that bleak?
blame it on the rain.
you know i'm like missy elliot and ann peebles when it comes to that sh!t.
like, yes i'm supa-dupa fly,
but also,
i can't stand the rain at my window.
especially since it turned my driveway into a solid sheet of exxxtra-slippery shine ice.
can't wait to get out there and slide into the slush with my dog,
and then again with my car.
shoutouts to rain making it all a little worse;
never quiet, never soft.....

molto molto still

i decided on a late night circle.
friday the 13th isn't gonna jinx MY dinnertime reality.
i had a salad,
but that sh!t just doesn't do it for me.
i crave that crust.
i want that bread.
i need that dough.
so i fired up my slooooooow-heatin' oven,
and while it got up to 485℉,
i had my pizza base risin' up.
that's what i gotta have.
and that's what i made.
a late night circle, like i said.
with red onion;
fried garlic sprankles;
homemade cashew chee';
shredded cashew mozz';
daiya mozz'... minced, of course;
splintered sweet baby tomatoes;
crushed tomatoes;
and those gluten-free meatless balls, y'all.
y'know i made more than i needed for sandwich week,
and that made the magic happen for THIS week.

the basil is what kicks it into overdrive.
freshie-fresh leaves on top is how the hottness drops
up here at the Folk Life & Liberty Fortess.
and i know you probably already know this,
but that fast-action crust was expert.
a pinch of diastatic malt,
a scoop of white whole wheat flour,
a touch of high-intensity pure gluten,
and you've got the TRUTH staring at you from bottom of a mixing bowl.
i always oil my steel prior to baking.
i always bake on stones.
i always use king arthur flour.
i always let my upright stand mixer do its thing,
and i love the results.
i have to say, though, in the interest of true storytelling-
i didn't measure anything.
i just got lucky.
....on friday the 13th of all days, even.
imagine that.
i'm talking about food.
that's a simple subject, sorta-
and one that i'm proud to expound upon.
we all eat food.
i eat better food, for sure, and i wanna share my excitement about it.
but even then, i'm not really detailing the process, am i?
it's sort of an evangelical vagueness
where i've made something by doing a little of this and a little of that,
and i sorta show you the end results.
there's no vagary in it-
it's very predictable.
i make and eat radical vegan treats for my face.'
mostly, because i need to be more creative,
and the rigors of wintertime in the woodsly goodness,
combined with the deepest darkest nights,
and the pressure i've put upon myself to create XI-mas feelings,
and the lack of initiative in my heart and hands about after-work art,
and the absences that feed the feelings i'm burying under all this food...
you can see that it all circles back around,
and late night circles follow form and function.
like pizza.
...you get it;
never quiet, never soft.....


i actually sometimes still do tattoos.
mostly leaves and trees and nature stuff,
with a lot of words mixed in to make sure i remember
that i'm still just a tat guy.

and a snake.

and a tree with a topper.
y'know something?
i really do enjoy tattooing.
that's a fact.
but it isn't all fun ideas and cool clients.
maybe that's the best part?
for real.
without the bitter, the sweet's just not as sweet.
that's the up-north mountain-style tattoo truth, kids.
i just wanna draw all the tattoos,
and have decent conversation,
and get paid,
and use those movie checks to build a better tomorrow.
....for me and mine.
i'm not at the point where i'm changing the world,
but i'd really like to change my circumstance.
we'll worry about the bigger picture once i get those
stacks on stacks on stacks piled up from tattooing little pictures.
real talk,
i'm motivated to do more and better work every day
because i know all too well that a grand don't come for free;
never quiet, never soft.....

Wednesday, December 11


pizza party time at the Folk Life & Liberty Fortress?
it's been a while,
but now that sandwich week is over and out,
we can get back to what's really fresh in the woodsly goodness.

that's eggplant, bro.
yeah, that's right- it's an epic supercircle of stacked ingredients!!
there's spinach on the bottom,
followed by a blended cooked sauce/crushed tomato hybrid.
that's expert af.
then there's fried garlic sprankles....
you know the rules.
and that's all covered in a mixture of cashew chee' shreds
AND minced daiya mozzarella, too.
that's the correct prep method for vegan chee'.
and that's a FACT.
next up, there's tomatoes,
and then some blops of homemade cashew mozz'.
that's a lot, but that's the only way to doo-doo that freaky sh!t, son.
too much is the right amount.
and i mean that from the bottom of my heart.

breaded up eggplant, tho.
that's where it's AT.
a crust of my proprietary blend of flour, cornflakes, and rice crispies,
pulverized, with parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and basil,
as well as GPOP and black pepper and pink salt....
you need some of that in your life.
exxxtra flavor is essential.
thin slices of eggplant,
dunked in a blend of non-dairy s'milk and chia/flaxmeal  and egg replacer,.
as always the same-same...
then the breading,
the a little hard time in the hot oil-
blended veg and olive do what they do, with a flip and a drain and all the same sh!t .
i mean,
i apologize that i can't bear to detail all the process this morning,
but you get the idea, don'tcha?
i know you do.
but do not forget to add the final touch.
i'm serious.
without fresh basil, you have something excellent,
but it just ain't the same, son.
if you're lookin' to take pizza pie to eleven,
you better uprgade those jauns with the freshness for your face.
do it, and be thrilled at your intelligent designs.
the dough was some new-new, too-

2 cups of king arthur flour;
2 tsp sea salt;
1 T olive oil;
1 1/2 tsp barley malt;
1 tsp sugar;
1/2 cup king arthur white whole wheat;
1/2 cup semolina;
1 1/4 cups warm water;
1 pkg fast-actin' yeast;
1 tsp bread machine yeast.....
you need to knead it until it's a firm shiny ball,
and let it rise for a while.
i had mine in the fridge from six a.m until 5 p.m.,
and that was just right to stretch it
and let it do a little something while i made the eggplant.
i'll tel you what, neighbors-
eggplant is a process, but it pays off i the end.
and my pizza scene was vastly improved by the short absence of it in my life.
that's no joke.
my friend dylan shared the experience,
and that helped me eat more responsibly.
half a giant pizza is smarter, even if it IS less.
that's okay.
friendship is important, too;
never quiet, never soft.....


todd got a pretty cool hannya.

traditional red,
with mandatory japanese water accents and a flower.
i like todd.
he's been my friend for a while now.
and he gets cool tattoos, and reads a lot of books.
good thing i got a new phone with a better camera so i can still F* it up.
clearly, i'm the problem.
but the tattoo is cool, and was a whole bunch of fun to do.
i'd recommend that you come get some cooler tattoos
over at AMPERSAND TATTOO if that's your thing.
you can come get some bummer bammers, too, as long as you're willing to pay.
but for the record,
cool tattoos cost a little less, because of the added value of artistic fulfillment.
now you know;
never quiet, never soft.....

Monday, December 9


and as sandwich week officially ends,
i just wanna say:
too much IS the right amount.
seventeen separate sandwiches,
over eight days and nights.
is that excessive?
no way.
rules is rules.
and making a whole lotta magic in my kitchen
made the long days and longer,colder nights just barely more bearable.
for the last day, i made three different sandwiches.
and this one looks like pure elite expertism.
check the teleport:

purple cabbage, green cabbage, carrot sticks, and pea shoots,
with salt, pepper, and lemon juice on the bottom form that rainbow slaw
to crawnch around in your jaws.
and pickles are mandatory in a situation like this.
i made some hot chili oil,
which was garlic oil heated with cayenne, sriracha flakes, black peppercorns,
and dried chinese chilis, too.
spicy, yes, but underwhelming.
i'll get it right next time.
check this out, though:

mayo, yes, but with spicy jalapeno chips crushed all over the place.
that's a salty, crunchy upgrade, son.
i listed the bun recipe in the next post, btw.
so, these are sorta simple, but also, sorta F*ing rad.
three pressed patties of homemade seitan, one per sandwich,
is where you start.
you'll need a dredge, though...
1 cup non-dairy milk;
1 T nootch;
1 T chia-flaxmeal;
1 T ho'sauce;
1 T pickle brine.
and there's no point in a dredge without the seasoned breading, bruh:
1/2 cup + 2 T flour;
1 heaping T cornstarch;
sea salt and 2 tsp black pepper;
thyme, cayenne, sage, smoked paprika, GPOP;
1/2 tsp brown sugar;
a pinch of nutmeg...
one deep dunk in the wetness, followed by a firm flip-and press in the dry,
folllowed by another drizzle of the wetness,
and even MORE firmer pressing in the dry.
THAT'S how you do the thing right.
and then you gotta fry 'em, man.
i used HOT canola because i had it,
about an inch deep, in a high walled pan,
and it barely took any time at all to get crispy, crunchy, perfect patties for my face.

these'll only get better now that i'm figuring it out.
i have plans, neighbors.
i  could easily make another four or five sandwiches today.
but i won't.
and besides, while i do loooooove sandwiches,
my pizza count is WAY low right now.
it's over.
sandwich week was over the top.
now it's fully XI-mas time in the woodsly goodness.
the Folk Life & Liberty Fortress even has the tree lit up.
i credit that 100% to the redheaded sentimentalist who showed up
to care for my overall emotional wellbeing yesterday.
i'm bad at surprises.
my reaction is always dumb.
but that was a very pleasant surprise,
and i feel truly well-pleased.
looking at your XI-mas tree is good for you.
she knew it.
and now, i remember, too;
never quiet, never soft.....


on the last day of sandwich week,
i needed to get into the right frame of mind.
first things first, to prepare for the finale-
i made a great big batch of seitan on saturday night.
exxxtra-heavy-duty wheat gluten slabs, firmer than usual,
kneaded to the extreme,
and activated with a touch of vegan (and unnecessarily)
gluten-free chicken-style bouillon.
dudes, i'm telling you- i outdid myself on this batch.
a little smoked paprika, a lotta sage and thyme,
all the GPOP and nootch you could hope for,
and all the rest of the regular recipe....
but, it worked better, as if the sandwich spirits were cooperating.
ANYway, i used it to make two very different fried sandwiches.
and since i already had that amazing marinara from the meatless balls,
i went full-force into some seitan parm:

sauce on the bottom,
sauce on top,
homemade cashew mozzarella,
and a little more sauce,
with a fried, breaded, herbed-the-eff-up seitan cutlet or two in between.
that's not basil.
it's spinach, for aesthetics.

the bread was toasted in the oven with the rest of it, of course,
and that's olive oil and fire-roasted tomato sprankles all over it.
that's the move, man.
so, the bread is the awesome-
in your stand mixer, with a dough hook on it,
2 cups king arthur bread flour;
1/2 cup king arthur all-purpose flour;
1/2 cup semolina flour;
2 tsp sea salt;
1 tsp sugar;
1 tsp malted barley;
3 T vegan butter;
1 pkg active yeast;
2 tsp bread machine yeast;
1 1/2 cup + 2-3 T warm water;
you know the drill-
beat i up for 11 minutes.
i covered mine after that, and put it in the fridge overnight to rise.
it got big, i took it out and let it re-acclimate
while the oven heated to 400℉.
i shaped 4 round buns and three long rolls,
to maximize everybody's sandwich experience for the day.
and i baked them for 22ish minutes, which turned out to be just right.
so, like i said, sauce,
and cashew cheese were in the mix.
and homemade seitan.
which was prepared like this:
4 cutlets of firm seitan, sliced into halves -like semicircles.
the dredge is:
1 cup of warm salt water, bloomed with 1 T egg replacer,
and 1 T chia/flaxmeal, stirred up and thickened.
the breading is:
1/2 cup of crushed cornflakes;
1/2 cup of crushed rice crispies;
1 1/2 T nootch;
1/4 cup chick pea flour;
1 tsp sea salt;
oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, parsley, cayenne,
Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and lots of black pepper.
can you guess what happens next?
that's correct.
dip the seitan in the wetness,
then press it firmly on both sides in the crOmbles,
a few flips, should get a nice thick crunchy coating.
and fry it up in very hot neutral-flavored oil.
dry 'em off on a paper-towel lined rack to degrease 'em,
then set up your sandwiches like you see here.

bake 'em at 400℉ until the chee' is meltish and the sauce is darker,
and the oils are bubbling.
just like that, simple simple, and you're amazing,
and your sandwich is amazing,
and your day might even be amazing, too.
i've got a lotta feelings about yesterday.
gratitude is chief among them.
good people all converged on the woodsly goodness,
and that made it better than the preceding few weeks, for sure.
i even set up my XI-mas tree.
and that was a big surprise.
i mean, really, when something nice happens,
i am speechless for a bit.
i'm still thinking about the experience.
i am grateful for the time i was given;
never quiet, never soft.....