Thursday, May 27, 2010

"It tastes European"

Still trying to establish a new normal routine now that the kids are home full-time, I am obviously blogging (temporarily) less frequently. My point-and-shoot camera has gone on more than one sleepover since I last used it, "But Mom, it's the only camera I know how to share photos from on Facebook!" So I have missed a few beautiful photos of delicious meals we have eaten.

I would like to make note of one soup I made which was a big hit with the meat-eater:  Tomato and Vegetable Soup with Sweet Pearl Barley, from Little House of Veggies (  Morgan, the chef, has a lovely photo, along with the recipe for her creation.  Check it out.

As I tend to do, I followed the recipe according to what I had on hand.  I knew I didn't need to make an enormous pot of soup, since I didn't think I would have any other takers.  So the smaller can of tomatoes I had seemed fine as long as I used enough liquid to plump the barley.  Also I didn't have asparagus or zucchini, and I was out of garbanzos, so used cannelini beans instead.

The kids were having pasta with red sauce and a salad, and my husband was having a slab of barbeque chicken (eww!) I have tried serving him soups for dinner before, and he has some funky idea that soup is for lunch, and meat is for dinner, so I didn't bother sharing with him what I was doing for myself.  Imagine my surprise when he noticed, and said, "I wouldn't mind having a cup of that soup,"

From the first spoonful, my husband deemed the veggie soup delicious, and added, "It tastes European -- like something from my childhood in Germany,"

This is a high endorsement, as my husband takes great pride in his rich heritage:  long story, but he was born in Nicaragua to a Nicaraguan father and East German mother, ("not a combination either of them would recommend," he jokes).  He has warm memories from both countries and cultures, and this soup was reminiscent of his time in the Eastern block.

The flavor of the soup is at once fresh, bright, mild and comforting.  The texture of the barley is lovely.  As the soup sits in the refrigerator, it changes to more of a side-dish of grains in sauce, studded with veggie gems.  The barley continues to absorb the liquid, so that each grain is infused with the delicious flavor.  It's like this one recipe makes two different dishes.  If you want it to remain a soup, you could add more water or broth on the second day, of course, but I decided to just go with the dish's natural evolution.  This recipe's a keeper!

I regret sending this post out without an illustration, but didn't want to miss endorsing Morgan's soup.  Once my daughter wakes up I'll get the camera -- mom's turn!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Luscious Leftovers

Too many days have gone by as I am establishing a new normal routine now that school is over here in Georgia. Much of my time is taken up by meal preparation, as it always is, being the lone vegan who also prepares non-vegan food for other family members. Now there are three meals a day, though, instead of our hurriedly fending for ourselves in the a.m., and lunches at school and work. So during this establishment of new practices, I can really appreciate leftover vegan food. I purposely make large portions, knowing they will come in handy when time is short later.

I typically serve food I think others might enjoy as my own main dish and a side dish for the meat- or cheese-eaters. Then I have enough to supplement each new foray into vegan experimentation for future meals for myself. At some point I may not need to make something new at all, I have so many leftover selections to combine in different ways.

This lovely plateful is actually a breakfast I prepared for myself (yes, this is what I was craving that morning!) and is comprised of selections from three consecutive days. There is wild rice from 3 days prior which had also been featured in salads and Alicia Silverstone's Soft Rice Porridge with umeboshi plum from the Kind Diet. There is Alicia's Kombucha Squash with Azuki Beans (again, from The Kind Diet) which I had prepared for dinner 2 days prior. Then there is broccoli rabe I had sauteed in olive oil and garlic the night before as a side dish to pasta with marinara. I simply plated everything that was left in the 'fridge and ate it cold, with a tiny sprinkle of kosher sea salt. It was very fortifying and energizing.

Tonight my husband said something about grilling a steak, so, pushing that image to the side, I realize that thinking of the grill has me hankering for a Field Roast apple sage "sausage" (so amazingly good!) -- He can grill that for me (separate tongs) and I will prepare pearl barley with onion, garlic and veggie broth for all of us. Finally, I need to check the garden. I think maybe the crookneck squash is getting big enough to serve as "baby squash" sauteed with mushrooms. Also, the arugula seems to have rebounded from my last cutting of it, and it looks like some radishes are ready too. So I can prepare a salad from these, topped off with the rest of an avocado I cut yesterday and some fresh lemon and olive oil.

All this lunchtime-planning for dinner is an example of what happens when my leftovers are all used up. Instead of adding one more option, I must start from scratch and multitask.  So, respect the noble leftover!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Inspired By My Dad

Both of my parents are wonderful cooks, but all will agree that my father probably could have been a chef at some point if he had wanted to.  As it turns out, preparing and sharing wonderful food is something he enjoys doing -- his "art" so to speak, and he has said he doesn't think he would enjoy it as much if he had to do it.  So our family and friends have been the happy beneficiaries of Daddy's hobby.

One of our Dad's favorite dishes is his "Ten Boy Curry".  The number in the title of this dish has changed periodically as he has included different numbers of ingredients.  This is an Indian dish and, in the British Colonial tradition, young boy servants would present each ingredient as an option to add according to the diner's pleasure.  The best way to enjoy this is by including everything offered, as each adds a crucial element, and all together the result is sublime.  My father usually prepared rice for the base of the meal, and the optional toppings included chopped raw celery, chopped raw scallions, chopped tomato, toasted coconut, crumbled bacon, chopped boiled egg, peanuts, raisins and Major Grey's Mango Chutney.  Normally we would create a pile of the cold ingredients over the warm rice, and top it all off with chicken in a curry-cream gravy and, finally, a dollop of the chutney.  The result is very surprising.  It is a melange of flavors, spicy, warm, sweet and savory.  It induces cravings for more about an hour after consumption.  It's that good.

Last night I decided to attempt re-creation of this masterpiece in a vegan context.  There was a lot of guesswork, and I was pleased with the results.  As well as I can remember, here's how I created the curry "chicken" sauce:

1/2 a block of firm tofu, squeezed
1/2 c. organic vegetable broth
3/4 c. unsweetened soy milk
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 teasp. turmeric powder
salt and pepper
4 "gardein" fillets, rinsed and sliced in strips
6 large button mushrooms, sliced

I blended all ingredients except the gardein and the mushrooms, and then warmed the sauce slowly in a saucepan over low heat, along with the gardein and the mushrooms, which cooked ever so slightly in the sauce.

While this was cooking I prepared the bowls of other ingredients:  Organic diced tomato  chopped celery, chopped scallions, peanuts, raisins, chick peas, smart bacon, crumbled and cooked in a dry pan, and the chutney.  I had organic coconut somewhere, but, doggone it, couldn't find it, so had to go without that one.  Nevertheless, the result, served over wild rice and alongside sauteed swiss chard, was incredible and really did remind me of my Dad's wonderful creation.

I thought twice about serving this to my husband, but remembered that he had half a filet mignon left over from the other night that could fill in if he didn't approve of my vegan experiment, so serve it I did.  He looked at my beautiful plate and, raising an eyebrow, said, "What's that?"

"Chicken curry," I answered.

"But what is it?" he persisted.

"This chicken is made out of vegetables," I answered, simply and honestly.

He sighed, loaded up a small portion of everything, tried it and said, "I wish you hadn't told me what it was," --(I can't win here, I guess).

He said it tasted alright but he didn't care for the texture (I thought the texture was exactly like chicken, but it has been a while for me so maybe I am remembering it differently).  He flipped the remaining gardein pieces onto my plate, plopped his steak in the middle of all the other ingredients and pronounced it fabulous!  He then loaded up on another helping.

I kept my lips zipped about the bacon having been made of vegetables too!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mindless Eating

In the kitchen or at a party, one might find oneself nibbling on something within reach without consciously deciding to do so.  Before vegan, I usually found myself savoring a flake or two of finely shaved parmesan cheese while preparing Italian food.  Indeed, while acclimating to my new diet,  I caught myself mid-reach toward a tub of cheese on more than one occasion.  Since changing everything February 11 of this year, I have been fascinated by the chemical transformations which have occurred.

The first couple of months, the whole detox phenomenon is shocking.  Why was I such a grouch?  Why so many pimples?  I would have rethought the decision based upon these effects if the weight hadn't been falling off without effort (all while eating more food than ever!)  This was enough to keep me committed until the day I realized I was no longer grouchy, and couldn't remember when the last pimple had gone away.  I was at peace, I had energy, I could think straight.  I've been hooked on not eating animals ever since.  Personally the dairy was the most difficult to avoid, but early on I had the ironic blessing of accidentally eating a pasta salad with parmesan in the dressing.  When I wound up with intestinal distress, I realized I am lactose intolerant, but had developed a bit of a tolerance for it over years of its consumption.  Being clean of dairy for a month or so at that point, the unmasked effects of the lactose intolerance were unmistakable.  I asked my physician and she agreed this was probably the case.  She asked if I have more energy now that I have given it up.  When I said yes, she confirmed that, besides intestinal upset, the prevailing symptom of lactose intolerance is fatigue.  To think of the years I have wasted being exhausted!  Dairy is one thing I no longer crave.  Unbelievable but true!

Last night my husband and I sat on our patio with a glass of wine, talking about the day, and I had to laugh at myself as I thoughtlessly reached over to one of these little iron boy-and-girl planters, and pulled a sprig of marjoram off the plant and popped it, unwashed, into my mouth.  The whole thing took a second, and was exactly the way I used to mindlessly nibble cheese or cookies.  I honestly didn't notice until the leaves hit my tongue.  What a surprising journey this is turning out to be!

Still being mindful of which veggies need to be used up first, for lunch today I dug a zucchini out of the crisper.  Not even an organic one, this zucchini cost me $1.68!  Something strange must be going on with the zucchini crops.  Too much rain?  In any case, the expensive price for one little veggie has me looking forward to my own zucchini harvest (currently in blossom).  So I wasn't going to waste my expensive squash.  I sliced it thinly, sauteed it in olive oil, and along with jarred roasted red pepper, made a grilled "cheese" sandwich.  I used fresh multigrain sourdough bread and "Follow Your Heart" vegan mozzarella.  This veggie cheese boasts, "It melts!" which is true if you grate it, but these thick slices were such a lovely flavor, that I didn't mind them only very slightly melted on the outside edge and warm throughout.  Delicious!  Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Goodbye Little Darlings!

I love pine nuts.  They are so much more rich, buttery and luxurious than other nuts.  They add just the right smooth, fatty element to so many recipes.  They are now part of my past.  I tossed the little bowl here right after taking the photo.  Why would I be so wasteful?  Pine Mouth -- the dreaded malady which can sometimes occur after the consumption of nuts from some parts of Asia, or those which have been stored incorrectly.

Early on in my vegan journey, when I was still in a somewhat defensive stance, I was beset with a strange and maddening symptom -- a pervasive, metallic and bitter flavor in the mouth.  This may not sound like much, but it was so unpleasant that for a while I could think of nothing else.  And worse, everything I put in my mouth tasted awful!  I thought about going to the primary care physician, but realized the first question would be, "Have you made any changes in your lifestyle?" I was not in the mood to be told to cease and desist with the veggies.  So I WebMd'ed the problem, to no avail.  To make a long story short, I finally turned to Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life website, which has turned out to be, among many other wonderful things, an informational clearinghouse concerning all things vegan.  On the Forum, I just put the question out there, and on day 8 of my horrible mouth, I blessedly received the answer:  to one Kind Life follower, my symptoms sounded like "Pine Mouth" a reaction to the rancid oils of spoiled pine nuts.  She described my symptoms in such detail that I was sure it was what I had.  She explained that the nuts do not taste rancid despite the fact that they are, and that the oil actually stimulates the liver to over-produce bile, so the horrible taste is bile in the bloodstream.  She went on to say not to worry, that the symptoms should subside in 5-11 days.  Since I was on day 8, I took heart.  The whole thing was over three days later.

Grateful to understand what had happened, I tossed the remainder of the pine nuts in my pantry, and resolved to be more careful about reading labels and storage in the future.  A couple of months later, with a new batch stored in the fridge, I ventured once again into pine nut territory.  Sadly, the day after my first try with the new pine nuts, I got a touch of the telltale symptom.  I had done everything right, so I can't say exactly what the problem was this time.  It is possible that in this southern locale the nuts spoil more easily, or it could be that my system is now sensitized to the oil and will react this way whether it is rancid or not.  In any case, pine nuts and I are now history.  The price is too high.

To end on a positive note, we had our first harvest of arugula last night!  The bounty was 5 minutes from garden to belly -- bright, young, tender leaves with a lovely lightly peppery flavor, mild, delicious, and ALIVE!  We topped the leaves off with slivered almonds, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  Almonds are my friend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two Breakfasts

I've noted before how important planning is to living a vegan lifestyle.  The pantry and refrigerator must be well stocked and there are many more trips to the grocery store for fresh veggies since their shelf life is only so long.  In the past few days I have found myself without the longer chunks of time I normally have which allow for inspiration and planning of wonderful food, both for myself and for my family.  It's just a busy time of year rife with end of school year projects, among other things.

"Mom -- I need 14 more index cards!"

Then after I return from the store, "I thought we had markers -- these are all dried up,"

And finally, "I thought I could do this myself, but could you help me?" (this part is actually my pleasure, wouldn't miss it!)

There are also appointments of many kinds and a fabulous social life for which to prepare, especially for my 12 year old daughter -- birthday parties (presents, wrapping) a Bat Mitzvah (presents, wrapping, a new dress and new shoes to wear).

So this is a long way of saying that lately I have just been flying by the seat of my pants and am usually running around hungry.  How do I handle this?  This morning it was by having two breakfasts.  At 7:30 as I was flying out the door to drive my high schooler, I wolfed down a piece of Eziekiel Bread toast spread with Earth Balance and ginger preserves.  Then a quick trip to the grocery store, (I realized when I got home I had forgotten the index cards!) next I had to squeeze in some quick cardio -- half an hour briskly walking outside.  It will be very warm today so I had to do it early.  Then I piled my stinky dalmation/pointer/? mix into the back of the car to drop her at the Animal Hospital for a bath and nails (she had torn one).  When I returned from that errand I realized I was still hungry.  So I made myself a sandwich with hummus and some of my second batch of Morgan's delicious Mediterranean Kale Salad (  This batch I made with chick peas instead of pine nuts.  I needed the kind of protein punch only chick peas can provide.  The sandwich was delish and I think it will do the trick.

As I am quickly proofreading this post, I realize it sounds very ADD, and that is the way my brain is working today, out of necessity.  You may wonder on a day like today why I am taking the time to post, or to exercise.  The reason is sanity.  In times of higher stress, I find I must tend to my own needs.  I need to exercise and I need to write.  These things feed my body and soul and restore balance.  I encourage you to notice what gives you peace and balance so you can feed your body and soul as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Peony Bush Update

Despite my nearly killing my lone peony bush with eco-friendly bug spray a couple of weeks ago, the bush is now in full bloom.  The lovely, large blossom here was one that had completely wilted on its stem  when the bug spray hit it.  It was a little brown marble on a U-shaped stem, pointing in a melancholy fashion to the ground.  Instead of clipping the bud off, I stepped back and watched, knowing from experience that interference has been my folly.  My restraint was rewarded, as the lifeforce of this blossom prevailed and, alongside it's less scarred companions, it reached its full glory, albeit still pointing to the ground.  Wanting to finally look this hardy soul in the face, I cut its head off, gently washed the little ants off it with pure water (not bugspray!), and settled it into this glass salad bowl.  I feel it is much happier now, and it seems to sigh with contentment.

The rest of the bush has seemingly rebounded  from my gardening mishap, but it does bear the brown and black scars of my ignorance.  I am grateful nature can, at times, be forgiving.  We live and we learn.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Meat-Eater Likes It!

Coming to the vegan lifestyle after my family's habits have been well-established, my procedure for dinner is usually to plan my own food first, and then to make a meat dish and plenty of starchy food like potatoes or pasta for the others.  Then it all goes on the table and everyone takes what they want.  I normally need to make a simple spinach or caesar salad for the kids too since they are picky, but I want them to eat their veggies.  Fruit is also often featured for this reason.  With all this planning, you can imagine what a thrill it is whenever somebody non-vegan really loves something I have prepared for myself.  I always make a large quantity of my own food anyway since I love the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I want to share a wonderful salad with you I made last night that turned out to be a really big hit with my husband -- the meat eater!  This Mediterranean Kale Salad, from the blog Little House of Veggies ( utilizes raw kale, which at first sounded unappealing to me until I realized the dressing is actually rubbed into the leaves to soften them.  This act creates a really wonderful texture and imparts flavor throughout the greens, and the kale is sturdy enough that the result is not at all soggy.  Since these very dark greens are uncooked, their nutritional value is intact.  I love the way I feel when I get plenty of greens, energetic, light and fresh, and my clothes fit better since nothing hangs around too long in the system, if you know what I mean!  I normally eat dark leafies at least twice a day, preferably three times, so it is wonderful to have another good option in my greens arsenal.  Here's Morgan's recipe from Little House of Veggies:

8 kale leaves, stems removed
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
dash black pepper
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. raw pine nuts
small handful of sliced black olives

Roll the leaves like a cigar and cut crosswise into thin strips.  Place the sliced kale in a large bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Massage the kale with your hands to soften the leaves.  This may take a few minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.

I love how simple this recipe is.  My salad turned out a little different from Morgan's -- you might notice there are no visible pine nuts in my photo.  My 16 year old son is allergic to tree nuts of every kind (everything but peanuts) So I served the pine nuts on the side for us to add on top -- they are important to the combination of flavors, rounding it out nicely.  Also, I couldn't find the smooth kale, so mine is curly -- no neat little strips, more a jumble of curly pieces.  I used a lot more kale than is called for.  I tend to get into a meditative state when washing and de-stemming greens during the pre-dinner low-biorhythm time of day.  Once I snapped to, I had a whole large bowlful, so I upped the other ingredients until it looked like Morgan's photo.   I also added a small handful of capers because, well, I like them.  They add a tiny pickle tang, but the milder flavor without them is equally wonderful.  My husband never cared for capers or olives, so I got to top off my second helping of salad with his rejects -- yummy!

As you can tell from how loosely I tend to follow recipes, I can really appreciate one that is so simple and yet inventive.  The combination of these flavors and textures is unprecedented.  Give it a try!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

How is your Mother's Day?  Mine is turning out to be my favorite kind of day -- a nice slow start, abundant sunshine, time to catch up on the fun stuff.  I tended the garden this morning, cleaning up debris and pulling a few weeds.  A few of the plants are in bloom, so the veggies are coming!

Looking around the yard, I noticed the patches of yellow iris are growing and blooming so prolifically that the stalks around the outer edges are too tall to sustain their own weight.  So many were flat on the ground.  I clipped these and came up with a simple, lovely bouquet.  Looking at the patches of iris in the yard, one would never suspect any flowers had been removed, they are still so abundant.  I love these flowers.  They say sunshine to me.

I had been thinking of trying to make a "tofu scramble" for a while, but it seemed pretty labor intensive, so without a chunk of time lately, I hadn't made the effort.  This morning I took the lazy way out and microwaved a tofu scramble from Amy's Organics.  It was in the freezer for any potential moment of necessity.  While it was not the most beautiful dish (I'm sure it would have looked better if I had used a conventional oven) it was quite delicious and it seemed pretty simple.  The scramble contained small bits of broccoli, carrot, spinach and mushrooms, and there were hash browns and tomato slices on the side.  I am inspired to try it from scratch soon.

For Mother's Day dinner tonight we won't be braving the crowds at a restaurant, but instead will order takeout from our favorite Chinese food restaurant.  My choice is family style tofu and Garlic Baby Bok Choy.  The latter is prepared expertly, even with the delivery trip it is very lightly steamed in a simple broth with plenty of fresh garlic, also lightly steamed so it is not overpowering.  The greens come out bright and tender and full of flavor.

I hope your Mother's day is wonderful, and is whatever you need.  Feed your body, feed your soul!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I was under the weather yesterday. I had not slept well the night before due to drainage from some new tree pollen. Most of the flower pollen is waning now, but it did not make me sick this year as it always has before. I assessed my sore throat and general lack of energy yesterday with disappointment. It is not easy to be sick over the weekend in this lively household. Since going vegan, most medications affect me in an extreme manner, so I avoid using them. Yesterday afternoon I stepped away from the sewing machine, fixed myself a cup of echinacea tea and lay down for two hours. It always feels wrong not to be productive, part of my stay-at-home-Mom guilt, I guess. But I am starting to learn to listen to what my body tells me. Unbuffered by chemicals and animal fats, along with their antibiotics and hormones, it is always clear in expressing itself, and it is always right. So I did what my body wanted, muddled through the rest of the evening, had a good night's sleep and woke this morning at 5:30 a.m. feeling much better.

This healing in less than 24 hours, especially from an ear, nose or throat malady, is unprecedented for me. Since going to College in Williamsburg, Virginia (go Tribe!) I have suffered from seasonal allergies, basically tending sinus infections all season long in the springtime, and when we moved to Georgia it got worse. I have been treated medically with varying, but always temporary, degrees of success. Never before in adulthood have I avoided getting a sinus infection from pollen for most of the season as I have this year. And, once succumbing to an allergic reaction, never have I healed this quickly and easily, without any medication. I attribute these blessings 100% to my being vegan since February 11, 2010!

I wanted something healthy and energizing this morning, with plenty of protein and vitamin C. So I fixed an English muffin topped with hummus and my homemade salsa from Cinco de Mayo. My Mom made the plate and mug - a whole set of each - aren't they pretty?

I love my salsa!  Here's how I make it:
3 tomatoes
1/4 vidalia onion
1/4 poblano chile
handful of fresh cilantro
juice of one large lime
2 Tbsp. e.v. olive oil
sea salt, pepper

Since I like organic tomatoes, which tend to have thicker skins, I skin them first -- cut an x in the bottom of each and plunge them into rapidly boiling water for only 10 seconds.  The skins then slip right off.  I think it really makes a difference in the texture of the tomatoes and also in how they absorb the lime juice and olive oil.  Just dice everything and give it a stir -- sublime!  It's best unrefrigerated, but still, even cold, so much better than bottled salsa.

Those are my amazing kids in motion up there.  Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Mexico's Independence Day is a wonderful excuse for some delicious food and margaritas.  It snuck up on me this year, but my larder is well stocked with leftovers that can be served in a Mexican way.  So for lunch I served myself onion/garlic barley on a bed of spinach and arugula, topped with my veggie chili and half an avocado.  I served it all cold, as we are approaching 87 degrees on this lovely spring day!

I have a lot of sewing to catch up on today, so I am hoping the family will all agree to more Mexican takeout for dinner.  I can't ever get enough Mexican food, how about you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

See the Plants

I love to eat plants, but especially at this time of year I feel I get a different kind of nourishment from looking at them.  I am not only talking about a cursory look, but really taking a moment to SEE and feel the essence of the plant.  For me a history of the plant in question helps to round out my connection with it.

Featured here, in my front yard, is a patch of bright yellow Japanese Iris.  Seeing these bloom really lifts my spirits. About 3 years ago, a wonderful neighbor was thinning out her irises by splitting the rhisomes, and since I had admired them, she brought me a truckload, advising I choose a shady spot, and that I stay on top of them since they would multiply.  My neighbor was right.  I planted the irises in three little patches, and they are all so happy!  I don't yet feel the need to thin them out, but will be mindful of their behavior regarding my relative neglect.  If they need more tending, I expect they will show signs.

Another plant species with which I have a history is the corkscrew willow tree.  I have a small orchard of these trees in the front yard which I planted about eight years ago to soak up the swampy mess we used to have there.  These trees LOVE water!  Unbelievably, every one of these trees, and also another one in the front yard of our old home in Virginia, were cuttings from an original twig in a floral arrangement!  I am not kidding -- my mother's next door neighbor had a strange but beautiful, towering tree out back, and when I commented upon it she said it was a twig in a delivered floral arrangement that had outlived all the flowers in the vase and had grown prodigious roots. My mom's neighbor didn't have the heart to throw the sturdy twig away, so she stuck it in the ground. After telling me the story, she went out with clippers and took a branch off for me.  I planted it at my own home in Virginia, back when my sixteen-year-old was in preschool. Last year, when we drove by to take a look, the tree towered over the house, and was as thick as a telephone pole!  My mom was kind enough to bring me a few more of her neighbor's twigs for my Georgia yard, and so my southern Willow orchard was born. Feisty plants like my Irises and Willows are always a thrill for me, as their "Little Engine That Could" spirit is palpable.

On the other hand, I frustrate myself with my lack of green thumb in other areas.  My favorite flower is the peony, and I have one little peony bush which has never bloomed for me.  Last year the bush produced three plump buds.  I smiled with anticipation, and the next time I looked, the buds were being eaten by ants.  They never bloomed, drooping unopened.  This year I was thrilled to see that the bush has about twenty buds!  But the next day, once again, tiny ants were crawling all over.  Though I dislike killing, especially outside, I used my green, ecologically sound bug repellant on some of the buds.  Within hours those buds were dead!  Ugh!  When I bemoaned my horticultural cluelessness to a neighbor, she said, "Oh, no, the Peonies need the ants -- I don't know how or why, but they do need them."  So I won't be using undue force to referee between God's creatures any longer, but I do think I might move my squash and cucumbers out of the vegetable patch and into pots as they are already showing signs of being garden bullies.  I am learning as I go, so if there are any experts out there with any grains of wisdom for me, I would be most grateful if you would share them.

Speaking of grains, it's lunchtime -- today it is leftovers:  pearl barley infused with organic vegetable broth, with garlic and onion (shockingly delicious!)  I will top this with homemade veggie chili (my husband even liked it!) and some garden greens.  Have a wonderful day, and notice the plants!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What's For Dinner?

This afternoon I decided to make another batch of Umeboshi radish pickles (in The Kind Diet from Alicia Silverstone) and, after washing my radishes, marvelled at how lovely they were. Not wanting to waste a scrap, I was inspired to utilize the radish leaves, and even the long roots as the base for tonight's salad.  Eating food like this is fun -- I feel as if I've been foraging in a meadow! I also added all the thinly sliced radishes themselves that I couldn't fit into the pickle jar. To balance the crisp spiciness of the radishes and their slightly spiny leaves, I added a sliced avocado.

I will serve the salad with roasted root vegetables -- beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes and shallots.  I've also sliced watermelon and strawberries for whoever wants an alternative to my foraged salad.  I'd better get back to the kitchen, I think everyone's getting hungry!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Morning After

This morning I needed a little detox. Likely the wine last night or the yummy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet were the culprits,  probably both in such close proximity of consumption.  As a recent Vegan, I am still learning what affects my body and how.  I really have not eaten much sugar since February, as I wanted a strong, healthy foundation for my Vegan journey.

The peanut butter cups are my first foray into Vegan goodies.  I will say they are amazingly delicious, but I bet they have too much sugar, as I used chocolate graham crackers that were already in my pantry which had sugar of their own, and REFINED sugar at that!  I decided to make the treats for a Crawfish Boil in our neighborhood today.  I will be making and bringing a fabulous salad so I will have something to eat, but I thought also bringing something that is sure to be a hit (the treats) would be a good way to subtly educate others about how being Vegan does not mean depriving oneself.

So, to initiate the detox I listened to what my body wanted:  collard greens quickly sauteed with fresh garlic and olive oil.  The pan of greens in the photo is from the gorgeous Miss-America's-roses-sized armload of collards featured in the basket at the top of this blog, which, incidentally, I was lucky to purchase for only $2.48!  The armload will, happily, last me most of the week.  After eating the greens, I followed with Alicia's detox tea with the Umeboshi Plum, truly a magical product, in my opinion.

It's nice to know how to recover from a misstep, but avoiding it is, of course, preferable.  Hopefully experience and practice will make this part easier.  In the future, by avoiding missteps, will I be depriving myself after all?  Well, there will be missteps, accidental or otherwise, that's part of life, but personally, once something makes me feel bad, I find I no longer crave it.  So I will still be eating what I want -- no deprivation.  I won't be eating this batch of goodies since it no longer appeals to me.  It'll be gone in a flash at the party anyway.  At a later time, with more careful attention to the ingredients, I'm sure I will want to give the delicious treats another chance.

Have a wonderful weekend!