Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Have You Tried This?

I don't know if all of you will like this, but I do! It's just half sugar-free almond milk and half apple cider, with a little grind of nutmeg on top. I know, sounds nasty, right?  Well, don't knock it 'til you try it!  This would also be great with a banana and some chocolate peanut butter or almond butter in a blender, but I didn't have time this a.m. These two ingredients alone were great for swigging down my prescribed supplements.

I've got to cut this short today to get out into this lovely, drizzly weather. Enjoy your day, rain or shine!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ladies' Night

This vignette could be characterized as "lazy luscious leftovers and a little lady's lyrics". I'm currently short on sleep because of the Thanksgiving desserts, so my mind is punchy, hence the silly alliteration. The photo is one I came across today after my parents left, so we are going backwards chronologically here, at least until I make some fresh meals. I'm glad I had taken the photo -- it reminds me of a lovely evening. I can't remember why, but my husband and son had gone out, leaving me at home with my daughter, Wynne. This was such a wonderful ladies' night!

When people hear the words, "ladies' night," visions of loud music and two-for-one drinks may dance in their heads. But what folks may not realize is that my whole life is a bit of a party. Such is the nature of the man I married. So, when I get a little taste of life in the slow lane it can be quite luxurious. The food, leftovers I'm sure you will recognize from an earlier post, was sublime.  The drink, a top shelf martini, was on the rocks, and in a glass jar, all the better to sip slowly. The entertainment was Wynne, showing me what she had been teaching herself alone in her room over the course of two weeks, using her Dad's guitar. She had printed the lyrics to some of her favorite songs and had used some guitar books to learn how to play chords, and then used her perfect pitch to find the notes from the way the songs sounded to her. Of course I am partial to my children, but I can tell you the kid knocked my socks off. She had taught herself so much and her voice is amazing. She has become quite a little performer at the age of 13, and never proclaimed her aspirations until first having mastered a portion of the craft. For an hour or two we lingered over Wynne's new project, then called it an early night. What a restorative evening -- I could use another one like that!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Wonderful Thanksgiving

There were so many reasons to be thankful on our wonderful holiday yesterday, great and small, and even some which may not have seemed at first to be blessings can be framed as such in a greater perspective.

Of course the best blessing of all is the presence of my wonderful parents -- we just can't get enough of them and are thankful they will continue to be here a few more days. We are also thankful for the rest of our extended family, hither and yon.

We are all thankful to be in relatively good health.

We are thankful our friend, Dan, is home from Afghanistan.

We were thankful my son's migraine was mild yesterday and he was able to sit with us at the table for a little while.

I was thankful for the use of my friend Sherri's two ovens next door. We made a lot of food!

I was thankful for my gourmet chef parents' open minds and hearts. My father even retooled his famous (and my favorite from childhood) Sage Dressing to make it vegan (he used Earth Balance and veggie stock instead of his usual butter and chicken stock).

I was thankful for a chance to use Grandmommy Eula's fine china -- it made me feel close to her. See it under my wonderful vegan Thanksgiving food above?

We were thankful that, after days of grey drizzle, the sun came out just as we were sitting for dinner -- we sat on the patio afterward and basked in it!

I was thankful that our dog Ellie, the naughty, dainty princess who doesn't tolerate doing her business outdoors when the ground is wet, was at least nice enough to choose an out-of-the-way area of our hardwood floor that was easy for me to clean and sanitize. Twice. Thanks for not choosing the rug, El.

Here she is on the right, looking guilty, next to her sister, Emma.

Seriously, we are all so thankful for these amazing canine family members, whether they are naughty or nice. Their hearts are always in the right place and they add so much to our lives. Isn't this photo cute of them posing exactly like the little puppy statues behind them?

Back to the food now . . .

I am thankful for "tried and true" recipes that are not gambles in a mentally taxing cooking extravaganza like the one we undertook yesterday.  I am thankful for our vegan blogging community that has afforded me so many of these. Here is what was featured on our table:

Clockwise from top left are:  my own "Mushroom and Bean Melange" (from A Midlife Vegan), "Scarlet Roasted Root Vegetables" (from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone), "Tender Green Bean with Mushroom and Lemon" (from "The Healthseeker's Kitchen" http://healthseekerskitchen.blogspot.com) and my own mashed potatoes, inspired by Morgan's (http://littlehouseofveggies.blogspot.com) but using what I had on hand: this time vegan cream cheese, Earth Balance, and some veggie stock swirled around to clean out the dregs of my vegannaise jar.

And finally, what says Thansgiving to me:

Dad's Sage Dressing!  Daddy has never written the recipe down, but besides the Earth Balance and stock, it includes lots of mushrooms, lots of celery, an onion, several cloves of garlic, a bouquet of sage and a loaf of white bread. I wish you could have smelled it cooking! This is so good!  Thanks, Dad!

While I have not yet found a reason to be thankful for the overflowed toilet that is now dripping through the kitchen ceiling, (not naming any names) I am thankful that I am now middle-aged enough to know that like everything, this will pass and I can just roll my eyes and grab a towel without flipping out the way I might have done even, say, five years ago! See, something to look forward to, young-uns!

In conclusion, the last couple of days have been wonderful, and I am feeling very blessed indeed. This bustling household is full of love, humor and gobs of fabulous food! I look forward to another day of it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Do When I'm Starving

Part of being vegan is maintaining a vigilance, a level of organizational skills that keep us ahead of the game. Oh, who am I kidding?  Sometimes, in a bustling household on a weekend, I find myself truly operating as if I were the clown in the circus spinning plates balanced on sticks, running from plate to plate, just trying to keep track of which one needs a little spin to keep it from toppling. That's where I found myself this morning, lost in thought while writing an article, while simultaneously responding to the needs of kids, husband, telephone and dogs. Suddenly I realized I had forgotten to eat. It was way too late for oatmeal.  I needed substance.

I started boiling water before I even had a plan. When in doubt, pull out the pasta. Whole grain penne this time.  Then I began pulling food out of the fridge in a random fashion, really just a collection of things that would each be delightful to me on its own.  While the pasta was still boiling, I filled a bowl with jarred marinara sauce, great northern beans, fresh spinach leaves and capers. I popped the bowl into the microwave for a minute just to take the chill off and then mixed in the drained pasta.  To top it all off, smoky, cheesy nutritional yeast!  (What an unfortunate moniker for such a delicious food!)  Start to finish, this meal took me only 10 minutes!   It was YUM!

I love to think of myself as an artiste with food, I like to imagine that I am worth the extra effort, the time spent perusing stores and recipes, but that is not always reality.  I can't always execute a plan. But I don't have to sacrifice my vegan principles. Keeping your larder stocked with some basic staples that won't go bad is a good idea, for moments like the one I had today.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Now This Fundraiser I Like!

I'm not sure how many of you young vegans out there live in the 'burbs, but this midlife vegan does. Yes, we decided to move into a suburb on purpose, ten years ago when our kids were 6 and 2. We figured we were tired of working so hard to only be able to afford a tiny little patch of land in the city with no privacy and no yard. I love our neighborhood, but it's more because we lucked out with the wonderful people all around us than for the reasons we originally thought. In any case, we are where we are, and that means that every kid and his mother (literally) go door to door each season selling all manner of items for sports teams, orchestra, ballet, etc. We like to help the kids and wouldn't want to extinguish that entrepreneurial spark, so we normally buy something. Many of the coupon books go unused, and the cases of sports drinks or popcorn are usually no bargain. But the other day a young man showed up at my doorstep with this lovely package that I had forgotten I'd bought:

What a nice surprise! I didn't actually know the boy, but there are new neighbors moving in all the time, and I now recall that he was very polite and respectful in his sales pitch. I was happy to give him the business. I have no idea what this cost me, but I guess it's beside the point now -- sunk costs. I appreciate this beautiful citrus and I also appreciate the timing of the delivery of this boxful, right before Thanksgiving, when we will have my parents visiting for a few days. I bet we will consume most of these, but I ran out and bought a little plastic hand-juicer just in case we get any soft ones that need to be juiced instead of bitten.

I love food in it's simplest form, with little or no embellishment. Above is my refreshing breakfast of a halved grapefruit, segments sliced for scooping, with a sprinkle of organic sugar on top. I have also enjoyed these topped with brown sugar and then broiled briefly too -- but that was way too fancy for a school day.

Nutrition note -- grapefruit can interfere with the absorption of certain medications and supplements. My Integrative Medicine physician prescribes many supplements that help keep my MS silent, so I just had to wait about 45 minutes or so before taking them with some toast after I ate the fruit.  It just takes a little planning, but we can still eat every delicious thing we want!

Citrus fruit says the beginning of Christmas to me. It's ironic, actually, but I guess that's when the Florida fruit seems so "special". 'Tis the season!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

He Loved It!

Yep, you guessed it -- my carnivore husband actually LOVED this vegan stew! And it's a big deal, because he opted to try it with the optional vegan sausage bits (I had served them on the side, since I was sure he wouldn't want them). He did love this Barley Mushroom Stew, from a wonderful blog called "Foods For a Long Life" (http://foodsforlonglife.blogspot.com/), sausage and all!

My husband's reaction to this vegan creation really made my night.   He has always enjoyed the "non-freaky" vegan dishes I've made.  By "non-freaky" I mean dishes not utilizing meat- or cheese-substitutes. But in the past when I tried serving my husband a fabulous dish utilizing Gardein's "Chick'n" cutlets, he did not care for them AT ALL.  He did eat the whole plateful, all the while giving me an earful about his disapproval. So you can see why I've not been eager to foist all my choices on the man. Looking at my vegan journey from my husband's point of view, I can see that the abrupt change that has been so necessary for me must have been threatening pertaining to his own relationship with food. I suspect his dislike for my gardein experiment was due to his being "ambushed" as he saw it. When I served the meat substitute on the side, he could take it or leave it.  And he not only took it, but liked it!  So I am learning about the psychology of food for certain personalities. Very interesting . . .

"Long Life"'s delicious stew calls for a Field Roast smoked apple sage vegan sausage link, which I didn't happen to have on hand.  I did, however, have Tofurkey Italian sausage so I crisped up one of those instead.  This delicious stew was very "meaty" wholesome, filling and comforting, and it was instrumental in my learning how to better work the vegan offerings in this household.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Breakfast - The Most Important Meal of the Day

Personally, my biorhythms don't start thumping in a digestive capacity until around 10:00 a.m., at which point I have already lived four productive hours getting the kids, husband, dogs, laundry, dishes and roomba going, and maybe some groceries bought or bills paid. By 10:00 I am ready for something good, something energizing, but the exact nature of each breakfast varies according to mood.

Yesterday morning I was hopeful for a fresh start for all of us, and especially for my son, who has been beset with migraines. I was optimistic, so the above breakfast reflects that mood -- sweet, elaborate and a bit decadent, though still simple to throw together: ambrosia and toast with chocolate peanut butter. Alas, my optimistic mood yesterday was short-lived. Right after finishing the breakfast I got the call to pick up my son, who was coming down with another migraine. The doctor had not finished the county forms, so the clinic nurse could not administer his medicine despite it being in her possession. It doesn't work if he takes it more than ten minutes after his first symptom, so he missed his window to prevent or lessen this round. GRRRRR, er, I mean OM . . . . OM . . . . OM.  I will say I am getting much better at willfully controlling my own blood pressure through all this practice.

Back to the food -- the toast is Ezekiel, the choco-peanut butter is fabulous and the ambrosia is simply a chopped seedless orange topped with coconut and dried cranberries. I like it plain like this, but you could add agave syrup, maple syrup or cognac if you are making a big batch to serve others.

This morning the mood was different, and the breakfast followed suit. Hans woke with a continuation of yesterday's migraine but took the medicine right away and, having arranged to make up a test he had missed, was hoping for the best. Knowing what things make his misery worse, I kept the mood gentle and quiet as I helped him load into the car, whispering for him to close his eyes to the oncoming headlights (we go to school before sunrise down here in the deep south). We almost made it to school today, and then the retching started. I guess the medicine didn't work because this morning was a continuation of yesterday's migraine, so we were still out of the  first-ten-minutes-window -- darn county forms! I found a good place to make a U-turn, and got him right back home again. Hans stumbled into the kitchen where he promptly lost his breakfast all over the floor. I looked heavenward as I thanked all my favorite higher powers that it was the kitchen floor and not the interior of the car. I gave the dogs a warning glare not to go near the mess (and they didn't! such good puppies!), tucked the boy back into bed (fast asleep now), cleaned the kitchen, called school, e-mailed the teacher who would have been administering the test, and assessed myself to see if there was an appetite for breakfast (I'm sorry if my story has made you lose yours). No, at that point there wasn't, so I did a few more housekeeping tasks and then reassessed. Finally, I wanted something hearty, nourishing and warm, and this fit the bill:

Oats cooked with soy milk and topped with pumpkin seed organic granola, dried fruit and maple syrup will be sustaining through this uncertain day. It'll "stick to the ribs" as we used to say back in the day . . .

For those interested in our progress with the migraines, Hans was able to get three days of school under his belt last week, as well as lacrosse practice and even a game. He also got to see a friend socially Saturday night, and brought her home for us to meet. We have been careful to make sure Hans gets enough sleep. I have removed most sugar from his diet, and have been adding more vegetables. I have been able to cut down a little bit on his dairy consumption, but he is not off it altogether. I have learned that while sugar is terrible for migraines, caffeine is actually beneficial, shrinking the offending blood vessels and alleviating symptoms, so an occasional sugarless cola helps him a bit. I have been disappointed that the migraine medicine only helps him sometimes, even when taken on time. I am most grateful that we have a wonderful batch of teachers currently, who have been in touch with me throughout this saga, and who have been more than reasonable in giving Hans the time he needs to accomplish his work.

I'll keep you posted if there is any more good news. In the meantime, remember to listen to what your body wants in the morning. I do, and it sets my day in a better light. Now for a brisk walk before it starts raining again -- literally and figuratively!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Rosemary-Lavender Oven Fries!+The Best Recipe for Collards I've Found!

Friends, You've gotta try this one! A variation on roasted potatoes I've posted earlier, inspiration for this version came to me as I was walking around my yard, enjoying noticing the little changes that are apparent day by day this time of year.  I had planted a tiny rosemary seedling by our stone path several years ago and it is now somewhat of a fragrant hedge! Since my daughter's friend would be with us for dinner, I was inventing in "kid food mode" translation: potatoes and pasta!

This is the way my stream-of-consciousness-head works:  so then, "potatoes--rosemary?  mmm yeah, very rustic french countryside!" I grabbed a few twigs of rosemary. Then, "french countryside? -- lavender!" -- At this point I was thinking in visuals, gorgeous rolling hills of lavender fields off the terrace of the room my brother and I shared in the south of France when we accompanied our father on one of his business trips oh, so many years ago! (Youth is so wasted on the young, wouldn't I now love another trip like that!) So I walked around to the back patio, where I have a large pot with a lavender bush -- I grabbed a few sprigs of that as well and then went in to open a bottle of Bordeaux. Enough of my dream-sequence -- back to the business at hand! (hope you didn't just catch ADD from reading all that!)

Here's the Recipe:

Rosemary-Lavender Oven Fries
6 small-medium russet potatoes, cut into wedges (6 wedges per potato)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves pulled off the woody stems
2-3 sprigs fresh lavender, leaves pulled off the woody stems
Freshly ground pepper, several generous grinds
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. It is important that all the herbs are coated in the olive oil, otherwise the flavor will be too "charred". Arrange the wedges on a metal pan -- I put them skin-side down, since a flat surface will  sometimes stick to the pan. Do not use a glass pan -- 450 degrees is too hot even for Pyrex! Put any loose herbs and oil over the top of the potatoes. Roast for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crispy. 
Serves 4, generously, as a side dish

When these potatoes are roasting the whole house will be enveloped in aromatherapy! The flavor is very subtle and lovely, and the fries are good with, or without organic ketchup! Don't skip eating the herbs -- they fall apart in your mouth!

Along with the potatoes, I also made a main dish for myself, which wound up being another side for all the others -- Hilary's "Sweet Curried Collards" from her amazing blog {Plate+Simple} (my link works from my dashboard, but not from this post so please google {P+S}). Hilary! We are so happy about your book project, but we miss you! Please come back to the blog soon! Seriously, Midlife Vegan readers, you have got to check {Plate+Simple}! Though Hilary is on a hiatus, her old posts are such a joy!

{Plate+Simple}'s collards -- holy, holy garbanzos was this good. This just may be my favorite vegan meal! Everything's in there -- vitamins, minerals, calcium, protein, cancer prevention (turmeric and other spices in the curry). I urge every one of you to go get Hilary's recipe right now and make it.

I've shown my hand today in this post. When I am inspired and creative, I must appear to be a mess. No theme, no plan, no organizational skills, just delicious art. I realize this will rankle the nerves of those of you who have got it all together, but there it is.

Hmmm, the south of France, India . . . no theme. On second thought, here's the theme:  GLOBAL! Truthfully, this was one of the most satisfying, delicious meals I have had. Ironically, the flavors and textures of each dish were perfect compliments. I also had a little green salad on the side in a Peter Rabbit bowl (I love eating out of this relic from my kids' early childhoods!) with goddess dressing and dried cranberries, which went so well with the sweet orange of the collards. I LOVED this meal!  Hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Lovely Autumn

I don't have much time today, but I wanted to share something that gives me great joy every autumn -- this indigenous sugar maple in our back yard. The colors this year are more subdued than in years past (not enough rain) but still breathtaking. Sometimes the warm light appears to be emanating from the leaves themselves and you can practically hear the tree humming with energy. It's a stunning effect. I love the contrast of the fiery orange with the fresh light green. The photo above was taken yesterday, and the photo below was taken today:

You can see what a difference a day makes.  Don't blink -- catch the beauty in your neck of the woods!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Portia de Rossi's Story in "People"

As a vegan, today when I read the article in "People" magazine about Portia de Rossi's health story I was very interested and excited. It's an upsetting story, albeit with a happy ending, but some of the things she said really resonated.

Body image issues in our society are all too prevalent and manifest, at their worst, in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders or self-harming. In Portia's case, who weighed 82 lbs. at one point, extreme calorie restriction, binging and purging were the culprits. The article excerpts Portia's newly published book, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, where she explains her journey back to health.

"People" goes on to say, "Now a vegan, she eats three meals a day plus snacks ("I don't deny myself anything") and never steps on the scale". Recent photos of Portia show her to be slender but healthy and strong, and most notably, happy and at peace.

But the quote which resonated the most for me was Portia's, "I will never have a relapse because I will never, ever, ever, ever go on a diet. You can print all of those"

I love this because I have also never considered veganism to be a diet, though I know some non-vegans do. From comments about my 15 lb. weight loss over 9 months ("When are you going to stop this diet?") this is clearly the perception of some. But veganism is not a "diet". It is a paradigm shift -- a different way of looking at food and the world. Personally, once non-essential elements of my body were shed, the weight loss slowed and ceased and I am now at what I suppose is my ideal and healthy weight.

I've never been one for moderation or willpower, so I fortunately never fell prey to the issues Portia faced. I have always loved eating a lot of delicious food and I still do. Now, in my forties with a slower metabolism, it is so nice to be able to continue to eat as much as I want, whatever I want, with no ill effect!

Portia's story is a cautionary tale, and I'm so glad the happy ending involves something I know to  be a healthy, common sense choice -- being vegan!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Second Chance

Comfort food -- for me personally there are a couple of different types.  When I am already comfortable and at ease, a warm stew or hearty pasta dish fits the bill. But when I am stressed and tied up in knots with worry, with no appetite, I am eating only because I know I should.  In this case the comfort food is a meditation, a process, little flavorful jewels of nutrition that feed the psyche as much as the body.

If you've read my previous post you know I've been very worried about my son's migraines recently. The stress wreaks havoc with my MS, so I need to proactively do what I can to lower it. Meditation is great, but easier said than done when the monkey mind is so busy. Eating comfort food like the above meal is a wonderful way of multitasking in this vein. Using the chopsticks, slowly, in silence, in peace, mindfully savoring every morsel as the warm sunlight filters through the blinds, the monkey mind and the blood pressure slow noticeably. After I finished the lovely meal, and was calmer, I was able to see the latest crisis as just that -- one more of life's difficulties, a challenge that will pass as crises do.

When I was picking up this delicious tray of veggie brown rice sushi, I noticed the organic, raw Kombucha tea in the refrigerator case. I recalled how much I didn't care for the green version of it when I had tried it last week, and I also recalled how Lindsay at "Kiss Me, I'm Vegan" (http://kissmyvegan.blogspot.com) had urged me not to give up on the Kombucha, saying it was an acquired taste.  I smiled and grabbed a bottle of Kombucha, this time in Ginger. Here's why I gave this strange beverage a second chance:  because Lindsay is awesome, wise and cool, and I respect her opinion!  Also, I like to think of myself as open-minded.  Well, Lindsay was right!  I LOVE the ginger Kombucha!  I have always loved ginger ale, especially the kind with a strong ginger flavor, and lately I don't care for sugar anyway.  This Kombucha was just a delicious sugarless gingerale, also jam-packed with healthy nutrients and enzymes.

Soon I will open my mind even wider and give the Green flavor another go!  Thanks, Lindsay!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Healing My "Little" Boy

I believe this is the best miso soup I have ever made. Necessity being the mother of invention, I invented this soup out of necessity this morning. Miso soup is just about the only healthy food my 16 year old son eats (more on that later) and it seems to be the only calming, soothing thing for him when he suffers from migraines,  which has unfortunately turned out to be far too often lately. Hans missed school on Thursday due to a migraine and began suffering from his next one on Sunday morning. He has not recovered from Sunday's headache even now, two days later! I am doing everything I can for him, another primary care appointment, meds adjusted, neurologist referral, e-mails to teachers, a nice quiet, dark room for him to sleep around the clock for days on end. Clearly, as you can see, being a stay-at-home mom this late in the game has its advantages.

Hans' favorite brand of instant miso soup was not available the last time I shopped, so I bought another brand which he did not care for (yes, he prefers instant -- the simpler the better -- he's that kind of kid) so this morning when I optimistically woke him for school to find that he was still in misery, I had to scramble to come up with a reasonable facsimile for the soup he loves.  I did all this in a major hurry, as I was also readying my daughter to meet her bus, so I didn't measure, but here's what the soup contained:

Healing Miso Soup
a couple of cups of organic veggie broth
silken firm tofu, about an inch sliced off the end, then diced small
nori, snipped with kitchen shears, about a tsp.
1 scallion, sliced thin
a small handful of fresh baby spinach, stems removed and sliced into slivers
mild light miso paste, about a Tbsp.

I warmed the broth, tofu, and nori over medium heat for a few minutes. When the broth was almost hot, I removed a small amount to a pyrex bowl, where I mixed the miso in thoroughly. I then added the miso mixture back in, along with the scallion and spinach and let warm for a minute or two. Then I took the soup off the heat, so as not to kill the beneficial enzymes.

Hans had not much of an appetite, but managed to finish a bowlful, which instantly imparted a calm sleepiness instead of the phrenetic misery he had been enduring. He is upstairs sleeping now.

Hans with two of his aunts, Liana and Sabrina, on our summer visit to see them in Miami Beach
 Look at the sweet boy with my wonderful sisters-in-law -- all great kids, they are more like cousins than aunts and nephew. As a mom, I am here to tell you that worrying about the kids is a life sentence. They are so dear to me and if something is not quite right with them I can think of nothing else. I am working on three hours of sleep currently.

Now for the guilt part :  I was a very immature 28 year old when Hans was born, and besides a year of breastmilk, was not too careful about what I fed him. He was a very picky eater, for good reason, with multiple food allergies, and I was frankly happy to get any food into him at all. I still am, to a point.  Towering 4 inches over me, he only weighs the same as his little ole' vegan mom! But now that I am more aware of nutrition, I can guess that the sugar, white flour and dairy that make up most of Hans' diet are not doing him any favors when combined with a genetic predisposition for migraines.

So now my next challenge as a mom is becoming more clear -- I need to create close vegan replicas for most of Hans' favorite foods!  I have already managed this with the miso soup, but what will I do about the Frosted Flakes? Any suggestions any of you have would be most appreciated. The simpler, the better.  The kid doesn't even like breadcrumbs on his mac and cheese!

Thanks for indulging me today. Putting it all down in blog form does help.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Andres!

Yep, it's birthday season in the Salinas household. This time it was my husband's birthday. He's a tiny bit more middle-aged than I am now! Rather than having a party, my husband opted for a nice meal out with a few dear friends. He chose a steakhouse -- shocker.  This time Ray's Killer Creek -- a very nice restaurant on the banks of Foe Killer Creek -- it's an odd name for a creek, but dates back to the civil war, which makes more sense.

I'm getting very good at manipulating a steakhouse menu. Here's what I had this time: a baked sweet potato, no butter, sauteed mushrooms (excellent!) sauteed spinach (also good). In addition to all this good food, I started with an arugula salad with pickled pears! Very interesting and delicious. It normally comes with goat cheese too, which I opted to omit. When I was ordering my entree choices (side dishes really) the server pointed out that someone had already ordered the mushrooms and the sides are large enough to share, I told him, "I'll order it anyway because I like to eat a lot of food!" He caught on when I didn't order a chunk of cow.

I know it seems odd to some vegans that I hang around with carnivores and omnivores, but it is what it is. I would never choose to eat what they are eating, but I'm not about judgement. Because of this, my crowd of friends and loved ones have minds more open than they would be if I were more socially militant about my choice. I think they see, from how easily I navigate a mainstream menu, that being vegan doesn't mean being freaky. They also see that I LOVE the food I eat and do not feel deprived in the least.

I am learning so much now about nutrition and the food industry, and have found that most people do not want to know the details about the creatures they are eating, but then eventually some of them do. Here and there over the last few months I have gently fielded questions, trying to be sensitive and not "overplay" my hand by giving more information than is wanted. This keeps 'em coming back for more. Nobody is becoming vegan because of me, but some are learning about health consequences of food. and subtle shifts in diet have resulted in some cases. This mostly means fewer meat meals per week, avoiding cheese or opting for organic choices. I'm not creating an army of vegans here in Georgia, but maybe I'm redefining what "moderation" means. Most carnivores defend their choice with an attitude of "everything in moderation". I'd like to plant this seed -- what does "moderation" mean to you? Meat at every meal? Three times per week? Once? How much cheese is too much? Just sayin'.  In my crowd I am an unofficial vegan ambassador to open minds. That suits me just fine, for now . . .

Back to you, Andres -- Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Seemingly overnight the temperature here in Georgia has dropped. We're digging out our woolens, building fires and eating comfort food. On Halloween I sipped organic butternut squash soup with a little grind of fresh nutmeg as I was greeting the trick-or-treaters. Mulled apple cider is lovely this time of year. And sometimes I even like a little something warm with my salad!

I usually prepare my pot of wild rice with vegetable broth, but lately I've found the flavor to be too salty -- it's funny how tastes continue to change. The longer I'm vegan the less tolerant I am of sugars and salts, or maybe the natural, unadulterated flavors of foods are more appealing to me than ever before. In any case, I now use a vegan bouillon cube (Edward & Sons) instead of canned broth most of the time. It is subtly flavorful without being salty. This time I jazzed up my rice by adding a bit more water and some green lentils during the last ten minutes of cooking. The proportions were 3 cups of water, 1 cup of rice and half a cup of lentils. This rice was really quite different with the lentils  -- very satisfying!

Still warm from the pot, the rice and lentils made a delicious base for my lunchtime salad. I simply added a handful of arugula. I love the contrast of the cool, fresh, bitter greens with the warm grains. The arugula wilted slightly which may not appeal to everyone, but I've always loved greens this way. This bowlful was so flavorful I saw no need for a dressing, but I guess a little olive oil and lemon would be nice here too. Whole grain carbs, legume protein, dark green leafies -- This delicious salad was very nourishing and imparted a peaceful, comforting energy. I love eating this way!  I'm going back for another bowl!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Throw Out Those Wrinkled Tomatoes!

The old dregs of a once bountiful bowl!

Here they are again! Do you recognize them? Yes, these are the very tomatoes that appeared last month in my post about Alicia Silverstone featuring my health story on "The Kind Life". Granted, the pile is smaller since I have been eating them as they've ripened, but they are the very same ones. I actually took the original photo a few weeks prior to writing the post, so these tomatoes are very old indeed! Looking closely, you will notice the web of little wrinkles, dried-up stems and general lack of "oomph" of these nightshades who have seen better days.

What would you do with this bowlful? Well, I'll tell you what I did with them -- I made Tomato Compote! I grew up in the era of "waste not, want not" and that's who most of us are as vegans anyway,  so, knowing garlic and olive oil will heal most problems, I created this amazing flavorful topping for potatoes, pasta, bruschetta, a piece of Gardein . . . you get the idea.

See? They're looking better already!

Here's the recipe:

Tomato Compote
tomatoes, old or new, green, red or both --about 1 cupful diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
italian parsley, about a Tbsp. chopped roughly

Over medium-high heat, saute the tomatoes and garlic in the oil for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover and lower heat to low. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and add parsley. This compote can sit covered, off the heat until you are ready for it. The parsley will wilt slightly, but won't lose it's pretty color and flavor. This is also great the next day cold as a sandwich spread. It will firm up a bit in the fridge.

Now aren't you glad you didn't waste them?
My mother's era makes ours look incredibly wasteful despite my best efforts. She would reinvent and reinvent the same meal for days on end, ad nauseum, literally (a la food poisoning). To be fair, at the end of the reinvention, she would be the only one eating it, and she only food-poisoned herself once that I can remember! I digresse, but my point is that most foods that many folks consider inedible are in fact fine. We vegans don't deal with spoiled meats or dairy, but sometimes we have questions about the edibility of some of our veggies. Unless it is slimy or has an "off" color or odor, it is probably good. Of course the vitamins and minerals are best when the food is fresh, but those old wrinkled homegrown tomatoes had a headstart in vitamins, and in flavor too!  This compote is not to be missed -- seriously delish!

Food for thought . . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My A.M. Crave

I hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween -- stay tuned for a photo as soon as I figure out how to get it out of my phone and into the computer. My phone is bare-bones simple and my technical savvy is still in progress . . .

Since I've been vegan, my body tells me in no uncertain terms what it wants to eat. These crave signals are never so clear as they are in the morning. Sometimes I want some peanut butter or chocolate, but sometimes I want greens. This morning I wanted greens. Straight from dropping off at school, I went grocery shopping. Tomorrow I am fixing dinner for a dear friend who just had knee replacement surgery. I am sending love in my friend's language, not mine, as she is the one in her hour of need. So I am making her roast beef, mashed potatoes, caesar salad and cupcakes. I can let her try my vegan food once she is back on her feet again.

Since I was shopping in a more schizophrenic vein than usual, I noticed my need to segregate the items in my cart. The thought of the meat package touching any of my precious vegan food evoked a wave of nausea. As my groceries were being bagged, I heard myself asking if the meat could go in a plastic bag! (perish the thought) I struggled with this request briefly, as I am all about reusable bags and avoiding adding to the Pacific plastic soup, but my revulsion won and I got to maintain my lovely reusable bag, unsullied by the juices and fumes of the flesh.

Anyway, as I was shopping in my favorite section of the store, I decided to give in to curiosity and get some Organic Raw Kombucha Multi-Green Tea. It was $2.99, out of my comfort zone a tad since I am not a daily Starbucks type of girl, but I decided I was worth it.

I've gotta say I am not loving this tea. Maybe it's because I got a bad first impression after I shook the bottle vigorously prior to opening it, only to have it explode all over me and the kitchen!  With all those little green flecks floating in there, who would have thought it was carbonated? I don't like the taste of this tea either. Yes it tastes healthy, but that's it. I prefer my healthy to also be delectable.   Hmmmm . . . maybe next time I'll try the ginger flavor.

All was not lost this morning, however.  After I stopped my productivity to wipe down my whole darn kitchen, I cut a slice of sourdough bread and spread it thickly with hummus, and placed last night's leftover collards, onions and garlic on the side. Now THAT was delectable!  Wish I had some more.

Speaking of crave, here's a recent salad:

Red leaf lettuce, arugula, gizmoed zucchini and chick peas, all with a mustard-balsamic vinaigrette -- delish, and very nutritious! I can't get enough chick peas. 

Listen to your body -- it knows what it wants!