Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Skinny" Almond-Cranberry Porridge

Hey check out my skinny little photo of Almond-Cranberry Porridge! Isn't it funky? It reminds me of the Knight Bus or the Brownstone at Grimmauld Place from the Harry Potter series. Can't you imagine it continuing to squash into whatever narrow slot necessary?

I love my technology, I really do. I actually have a love/awe relationship with it. When I got my new camera this summer, I would stare at it wide- eyed, and hold it gingerly, afraid to accidentally push a button. When it inexplicably produced a pretty photo once, I exclaimed with delight, "It works!"

Since then, I've basically used the same setting (aside from zooming in, which I've gotten pretty good at) and have had fairly satisfactory results. But every once in a while I wind up with one of these misshapen oddballs.  It's magic!

I really don't know how this happened, but realize I must have done something different with the settings of the camera. But my next question is, in what circumstance would someone choose this accidental setting on purpose? Hmmm. . .

I am also aware that this photo can be reshaped with any one of a number of photo editing softwares, and I have been able to mold other similarly-shaped photos thus, but I have been unable, as of yet, to find one that is compatible with blogger. In other words, I can fix and rename/save the new photo, but by the time I upload it to the blog, It goes back to skinny. Yes, I know, I could noodle the solution out over time, but I am not finding that many hours in my day lately.  So, as they say in preschool, "You get what you get, and don't pitch a fit!"

So, the porridge: This is another one of my endless oatmeal creations. Normally I don't work so brazenly with nuts since my son is allergic to them. He would get sick breathing around them. But since he is out of town, I boiled the oats in Almond milk and threw a handful of almonds and dried cranberries on top. This was very flavorful and gave me an amazing protein punch to start the day. It was one of my favorite oatmeals.

And now, time to figure out that new Kindle I got for Christmas . . .

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Happened Next to the M.R.C.G.S.

Hooray for leftovers! Here's what happened next to last week's M.R.C.G.S. (Mostly Raw Christmas Gizmoed Salad). I drained off the excess moisture again, then laid it on a sheet of nori, and accented it with olive tapenade (have you noticed I am eating this on everything lately? -- love it!) and canellini beans. Then I rolled it up like this:

I ate two of these for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed them! The nori and the other additions completely transformed the flavor into something new and fresh. Everything's better in a sheet of nori! -- at least everything I've tried so far. If I find an exception to this rule I will duly note it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Full Disclosure

Here is my Christmas Eve dinner! It is whole wheat linguine with olive tapenade, olive oil, steamed broccoli and cannelini beans. I also topped it with a tablespoonful of marinara and some nootch. It was really, really good. Everyone had their choice of pasta types and toppings. I also offered regular angel hair and real parmesan. This was a perfect Christmas Eve plan for myself and for Wynne, but not necessarily for the boys.  They went with the flow anyway though.  Normally we are the lucky beneficiaries of our friends, Gretchen and Sean, who invite us to enjoy their family's Christmas Eve buffet celebration with them. This year, however, my burning the candle at both ends to prepare for Christmas and our party stirred up whatever germs still lingered from my illness the week prior. I woke the day after the party with full-fledged laryngitis and a basically closed windpipe. I finally bit the bullet and went in to see the doctor where I was prescribed antibiotics (perish the thought, but they are working). Anyhoo, since I was sick again we skipped our friends' Christmas Eve and had pasta in our p.j.'s.

Things don't always go as planned, and in most cases, around here, it's because the plan is never really fully formed. My husband and I are a bit of an odd couple.  Most wives are the planners, the social ones. I do try my hand at this, and am as social as most other gals, but my social prowess pales in comparison with my mate's. He's quite gregarious -- the life of the party. As such, he's the one who normally makes our plans. If I manage to make a plan of my own, my husband, who truthfully would prefer not to be pinned into any plan, will usually tweak or alter it. So you can imagine how, through the years, I have lost much of my enthusiasm for the role of planner. Nevertheless, occasions such as holidays tend to go better with at least a loose plan, so try I did.

My husband's best friend, Dan, from Boston, returned last month from Afghanistan so my husband made a plan to meet him, along with his son and ours, for a fishing trip in Miami right after Christmas. So here's me trying to plan our Christmas festivities:

"When are you and Hans leaving for Miami?"

Him: "I don't know, right after Christmas,"

Me: "Right after opening presents or the next day?"

Him: "I haven't decided yet,"

Me: "I only ask because I need to know in advance if you would like a nice Christmas dinner since the store will be closed on Christmas,"

Him: "Won't you and Wynne need to eat dinner?"

Me: "Yes, but we don't eat turkey and ham. I'd rather not make those if you won't be here,"

Him: "Do I need to decide now?"

Me: "No, but just let me know when you do,"

I never got a decision. As our lovely, lazy Christmas day lingered, Andres said, "What have you got planned for dinner?"

We ordered Chinese takeout. It was delicious!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry and Bright

It's so peaceful and quiet this morning. Everything is blanketed in white and the dogs and I are the only ones awake. I'm enjoying this slow start to the day, lingering over my coffee and soy nog . . . mmmmmm.

You Yankees will laugh at me (I know, I used to live in the D.C. area) since what we have here in Georgia is really only a dusting of snow, but it is so uncharacteristic and magical that it is, to me, like a winter wonderland. My daughter told me yesterday that she'd heard the last time the Atlanta area had a white Christmas was 1880-something (the exact year escapes me and I'm not going to wake her to ask).

Here are some photos of what I see out the window. I tried to get a shot of the dogs in the snow as I let them out, but they are both southern wussie-girls like me and couldn't get out and back in again fast enough!

Outside my front door . . .

I love how the snow makes my front-yard jungle look like lace!

And the backyard -- I suppose it would look more lovely without the lacrosse pitchback and goal and the trampoline, but this is who we are!

Maybe this is a better angle, off to the side . . .

Looking around this morning I realize how fortunate we are to have been able to dig our roots in here for 10 years, surrounded by a community who is like family. In this moment, I am  . . . Grateful!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We had an hors d'ouvre party a few days before Christmas, and in my usual fashion, I created a big salad instead of an hors d'ouvre. I also had a few dips and chips, cookies and candies, but that is beside the point. The point is that I always like to provide plenty of nutritious food for myself and anyone else who would like to partake. I had recently seen a TV show featuring extreme diets and was intrigued by this one glowing, peaceful woman who ate a raw diet. She seemed to be quite a chef and actually taught raw cooking classes. I wasn't inspired enough to throw out my pots and pans, but I did resolve to include a bit more raw food into my already healthy repertoir. So here's the recipe:

Mostly Raw Christmas Gizmo Salad
1/4 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
8 small zucchini, gizmoed or julienned
1 small yellow squash, gizmoed or julienned
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 carrot, shaved into ribbons with a peeler until you reach the core, dice the rest if you like
3 radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 c. broccoli, small dice
4 Tbsp. vegannaise
1 Tbsp. grainy dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil

I LOVE onions and garlic, but raw onions and garlic are too strong in party salads, in my opinion, so I cooked these first. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until translucent and slightly crispy. Set the pan aside to cool. In the meantime, prepare the other ingredients and combine in a bowl. After the onions and garlic have cooled completely, they can be incorporated. Mix the dressing ingredients well, then dress and toss the salad. 
Serves 6-8

This salad went over very well at the party, and was still good the next day rolled in a sheet of nori. The water had settled a bit overnight, so I just drained it first. Delicious!

My family and I are thoroughly enjoying a cozy, lazy Christmas -- the first white Christmas in about 110 years in this part of Georgia!  The snow is gorgeous! We are so happy to count our many blessings. I'd like to acknowledge you, my readers, as you figure prominently on that list.  Thanks for reading! I hope you are having a very Merry Christmas or other holiday of your choice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sound Bite Decided + Easy Gardein

I've decided what'll work best for me the next time I'm in need of a quick sound-bite to stop a server from trying to talk me into eating "just a little bit" of cheese. First let me just say that I have received a few really good suggestions from you, my readers, and some make me blush because they are complimentary, so I won't repeat them (I have some really, really sweet friends -- non-vegans too! I'm very lucky.) While I appreciate the compliments, I'm not generally comfortable touting my well-being to perfect strangers, so what I will say next time is,

"At this point in life, I only eat what I want."

That should be good enough in the heat of the moment.  There's no need to go into why I want it unless someone is curious, then I'll be happy to elaborate. If I haven't heard from you yet, what do you say to explain your choices?  I'm still interested in knowing.

I needed to use up a couple of pieces of gardein the other day, so I quickly threw something together that turned out to taste like a gourmet meal. So easy it's not even a recipe, I just sliced a shallot and four mushrooms and sauteed them over medium-high heat in Earth Balance and olive oil for a couple of minutes. Then I threw the gardein fillets in for a couple of minutes more, squeezed half a lemon over all of it and flipped them a couple of times.  That's all.  I had this with sweet potato oven fries and a green salad.  Easy and delish!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Backwards Barley, Pea and Lentil Soup

We're in the thick of the Christmas planning season here, kids, and there doesn't seem to be much time to come up for air. Because we have been beset with illness this month, we got a late start, but truthfully I never really feel prepared or organized anyway this time of year and something invariably falls through the cracks, but when all is said and done, every year we have fond memories of the season and whatever fell through gets forgotten. This is the perspective of a mid-lifer. I understand that, while I may have lofty aspirations, none of it matters as much as good health and peace of mind.

I was craving homemade soup yesterday, and I wanted to try several protein sources in the same soup. Christmas shopping ran late for me, and by the time I made it back home everyone was hungry. So I made the soup "backwards" putting the longest-cooking parts in first, and then prepping the veggies while the barley and legumes were getting a headstart. Here's the recipe:

Backwards Barley, Pea and Lentil Soup
7 c. broth or water with bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. yellow split peas
1/2 c. pearl barley
1/2 c. green lentils
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/4 c. sherry

Bring broth, peas, barley and olive oil to a boil, then reduce heat to a rapid simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prep other ingredients (and clean up the kitchen from breakfast and lunch if you are me during this time of year -- put in a load of laundry too!) After 10 minutes, add lentils and vegetables except spinach, stir and turn heat back up to high to bring it back to a rapid simmer. Once the simmer is re-achieved, lower heat, cover and cook an additional 30 minutes. Finish soup by stirring in spinach and sherry. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Last night I found the soup to be a little salty for my taste, since I am very sensitive to salt these days, but my husband said it was perfect. I may add one less bouillon cube next time. I had used 3 bouillon cubes for 7 cups of water. But today for lunch, once the broth had been fully absorbed by the barley, the salt level was just right for me. I really loved my bowlful on this grey day, with crusty eziekiel "buttered" toast torn into pieces and dunked into the healthy soup. Mmmm!

I'm now fortified to deck my halls with boughs of holly, and prep our downstairs pub for a Christmas party tomorrow. Stay tuned for photos from the event!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Food for an Icy Morn + a "Sound-Bite" Challenge

I love oatmeal. I love the Irish oats best, cut crosswise and crunchier and nuttier in texture. But when I don't have time for that longer preparation, I still love the good old oats in the tall cannister, with a splash  of Almond milk, popped in the microwave for about three minutes.  I know there are healthier ways to fix my food, and I do pull out the pots and pans sometimes in the morning, but currently 'tis the season of being short on time.

The other morning, school was closed due to icy roads. The deep south, like many parts of the country, has recently had uncharacteristic colder temperatures for this time of year. A neighboring county, had almost 200 minor auto accidents on the morning I made this oatmeal. It was frigid!  So I wanted something tropical for a warm start. This simple oatmeal fit the bill. It's just microwaved oats with a banana and a fresh grind of nutmeg.

As the day progressed, the weather changed and by lunchtime temperatures were stretching into the 50's. I was relieved. My friends and I had a gift exchange lunch planned. By lunchtime the roads were safe. We went to Vinny's, a very nice restaurant in the Sedgewick Group, which includes my other faves, Bistro V.G. and Pure. On this "school snow day" we were surprised to find the restaurant bustling and packed, with only one table left, by the kitchen in a lane of traffic. We counted ourselves lucky and tucked our large packages under that table so they wouldn't be trampled.

I hadn't been to Vinny's in a while, mainly because it is more cavernous and loud, less intimate than the other establishments in the Sedgewick group. So I had to do a quick recon of the menu to see what was there for me. There were a couple of arugula salads -- good. Further down there was a rigatoni dish that looked promising, listing veggie after veggie, with fresh tomatoes and a carrot sauce.  Mmmm -- I'd ask about that one.

Our server was an older gentleman with a kind face, a slight limp, and a big personality. He was friendly and had a little twinkle in his eye as he elaborately explained the specials. When we were ready to order, I asked him, "This Rigatoni looks good -- is there any meat or dairy in the dish?"

"No ma'am," he replied, "This dish is completely vegetarian,"

"I'd like to order that then," I said.

The server continued taking our orders, then, as an afterthought, turned to me and said, "There may be a little cream in the carrot sauce of your rigatoni,"

"Oh," I responded, "Then I'll need to change my order -- I will just have the arugula salad without the cheese,"

At this the server's face fell a bit, "Young lady, I'm very sorry about your diet,"

Surprised and slightly stung, I could only stammer, "Oh, no, I love my diet!"

The server looked confused, smiled slightly and walked away into the bustling flow of people. I felt I had missed an opportunity to open someone's mind.

I pushed the exchange aside so I could enjoy the time with my friends, but thought it over later and realized there is the need for a "sound bite" for us -- a quick little phrase, easily understood in a loud, crowded room, that says it all, that expresses in a non-threatening way what I really wanted to say to this kindly older fellow.  The phrase should contain elements of some or all of the following:

I eat what I love to eat.

I eat what makes my body younger and healthier.

I've eaten wonderful food in countries all over the world in my decades of life, and of all these foods I have found favorites --these are what I eat today.

I never really wanted to eat animals, I only did it because of peer pressure.

You ought to see the delicacies I create in my gourmet kitchen from real plant foods.

You wouldn't eat cheese either if you saw what's in it.

I'm not judging you, please don't judge me.

I don't miss eating animals.

I am not deprived.

It's not a diet -- it's my food!

So I'm hoping this can be a fun project for us, my readers, vegan and non-vegan alike.  Please respond to me by e-mail or in the comment box with your ideas about an effective sound-bite to express the gist of what I want to get across to those nice people who just can't conceive of a vegan lifestyle as anything other than a deprivation. If I get a good response I will share the results in a future post.

Thanks and have a joyful day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Broccoli Rabe or Broccolini?

Well, I enjoy both, but if it's a contest, I will choose broccoli rabe every time. Recently, as I was browsing vegan blogs and discussion boards, I saw a discussion about broccoli rabe that identified it also as broccolini. I knew this not to be true, as I've eaten both (they taste very different) and our local Publix displays them next to one another, but I stopped myself in the moment from being a petty know-it-all since I have some recent experience with stirring hubris. I resolved to look into the matter further before addressing the topic.

I will admit that, as I began eating this wonderful vegetable several years ago, I also misidentified broccoli rabe with broccolini. The confusion is understandable. Both veggies appear in the stores I frequent sporadically, and are labelled inconsistently. I always have to help the checkout clerk with every available alias I can retrieve. I have seen broccolini also as broccoletti and asparation, and I have seen broccoli rabe as broccoli raab, broccoli rape (!) and rapini. Strangely, broccolini costs more than broccoli rabe. I believe it is because of its neater, more uniform appearance. Broccoli rabe looks like more of a shaggy mess.

Wikipedia classifies rapini as a member of the turnip family and surmises that it probably descends from a wild herb. I am sure I have never enjoyed a turnip, but because I love rapini so, I may give it another try. The vegetable grows throughout the Mediterranean region and is commonly used in Italian cuisine.

Broccolini, on the other hand, (according to Wikipedia) is a cultivar, a hybrid created from broccoli and kai-lan (Chinese broccoli). Wikipedia says broccolini is a registered trademark of Mann Packing Company, Inc.

My research on these two veggies is admittedly shallow, and if I were writing a book on the subject I would of course delve deeper, but this is only a blog post, and what I've gleaned from Wikipedia jives with what I already believe to be true from my own experience preparing and eating these delicious greens.

I have found broccolini to be a lighter, more tender version of broccoli.  It is slightly sweet and fresh, and can be easily overcooked.

Rapini, or broccoli rabe, on the other hand, has a much more complex flavor. Each element of the plant, the bud, the stalk and the leaf, has a unique texture and subtly different flavor. I find the best preparation to be a simple saute while stirring over medium-high heat, longer than one would cook a more tender vegetable, about 10-15 minutes. If it is cooked for a shorter period of time, the bitter note will be more pronounced rather than the satisfying, subtle, addictive aftertaste that the longer cooking time affords. When I fix the broccoli rabe this way, with plenty of olive oil, shallots and garlic, the stalks are crisp-tender and the buds are soft and the leaves wilted. The color is still bright and fresh. It tastes like Tuscany.

Will you look at that?  I added cooked, pillowy soft Gia Russa Whole Wheat and Sweet Potato Gnocchi to the cooked panful, and it was sublime! I hope you can see the texture of the broccoli rabe. If I took one of the wooden spoons and pressed upon a flowery bud, it would go right through it, but the stalks still resist. My plan was to eat half of this and look forward to the leftovers for lunch the next day, but, sadly, I couldn't stop eating it so I've got nothing left today.  Yep, I ate the whole panful.  I suffered no ill effects aside from an overfilled belly  for about 15 minutes.

If you are not a fan of a bitter vegetable, try the broccolini instead of the broccoli rabe. As for me, I'm all about the broccoli rabe!  Can't get enough of it!

On another subject, thanks go out to all of you who have sent me good wishes while I was sick. It was indeed my first illness since becoming vegan on February 11th of this year, and did come on the heels of my touting my excellent vegan  health. I will try to be more humble about my good fortune in the future. I will say that I believe it may have been the flu since I was absolutely fine one moment, and SICK the next: fever, chills, weakness, sinus, throat, phlegm (sorry). The whole thing lasted three days, and now I am fine. I am positive that pre-vegan, I would still be suffering.  So my assessment is that the immune system is stronger, but not invincible.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This photo has nothing to do with my current life, it is just so pretty I wanted to look at it.

Day two of first actual sickness since being vegan. I am not miserable. I can breathe now. I am just . . . so . . . sleepy. And there's a little undercurrent of panic about that Christmas photo of the kids that I never took for a Christmas card that I never made, and certainly never sent. Also, shopping only half done, hardly any wrapping done, gifts only half sent, laundry, dishes, tree ornaments, dog hair, ugh.  The sunshine is so bright and icy. Good night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beware Hubris

I was askin' for it . . . Recently I blogged about how my vegan diet had provided me with a certain level of protection from germs. Prior to being vegan I picked up every little thing the husband, kids and dogs dragged in, and I always got it so much worse than the others. That's what a chronic illness will do for you -- a weaker immune system. This month as I watched family members laid flat with a nasty cold, I looked back over the year and realized it had been a while -- a really long while -- since I'd been sick myself. I have to attribute the wellness to the vegan lifestyle, since that is the variable that has changed. So I got to feeling special and trumpeted my good fortune to the blogosphere, all the while ignoring that little voice in the back of my head, "Beware hubris!"

Well, long story short, I'm sick now. I'd love to blame it on the allergy I get to the Christmas tree every year, but the truth is it hit me all at once as I was digging into a delicious Veggie Grande Burrito (no cheese, no sour cream) at La Parrilla prior to our choosing the tree. Suddenly my vision blurred, I got dizzy and feverish and achy all over. Since we had driven two cars (only three of us can fit in my son's truck, which we had brought for the tree) I skipped the tree-choosing and went straight home for some of Alicia's Healing Tea. I felt great while drinking it, then CRAVED Hilary's Sweet Curried Collard Greens from her blog-on-hiatus, Plate+Simple. When I looked into the 'fridge to see how sad, limp and yellow my old collards were, I rallied and drove out into the blustery snow (yes, snow in Georgia!) for a new armful of collards. The first stop, Publix, only offered prewashed, bagged collards.  Nuh-uh. So I continued to Kroger for a giant gorgeous bouquet of collards for 79 cents!  I LOVE a bargain!  So I blew my savings on a Synergy Trilogy, rationalizing that it is medicinal. And actually, like the Healing tea, I did feel well while I was drinking the Synergy. Coming back in out of the cold, here's my countertop before creating my crave:

Buoyed by the health drink, I also rallied to make tuna noodle and cheese casserole for my husband. By the time I was done cooking, I was feeling pretty rotten again. so I didn't take a photo of the finished collards, but you have seen them before on the blog. They were very satisfying.

In looking back over the last couple of months, I am reminded of a much earlier time in my life. I was a very young professional, fresh out of college, working for a Museum under construction in Washington, D.C. I was a bit of a "Jill of all trades" but my main duties included speech writing and correspondence for the Chairman, events-planning and fundraising. Leading up to a major event, working with members of congress, celebrities and even foreign dignitaries, the days were long and stressful. Running on adrenaline, 12-hour workdays were not uncommon. Strangely, without fail, when an event was finished and I took a deep breath and relaxed for the first time in weeks, I would then be beset with illness, usually of an upper-respiratory variety. Why didn't I get sick in the midst of all the long days and the stress?  My best guess would be adrenaline.

I am reminded of this earlier time in my life because I am currently coming off a rather stressful chapter, with my son's migraines and my husband's and daughter's colds. Everyone seems to be well now, so I've been able to relax my mama vigilance a tad. Maybe the adrenaline dip is why I've succumbed to the latest opportunistic germ. Who knows. I do believe I have generally been much healthier this year being vegan, but I'm not Supergirl the way I had been imagining myself. I'm up in the middle of the night, now, dizzy and uncomfortable. Despite a very long list and a short timeframe, I will have to impose at least a day of rest upon myself tomorrow.  Maybe that will be enough! It's an interesting experiment -- my first vegan sinus malady.  Will keep you posted.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pre-party Mmm + How to Un-Grinch the World

Here's an example of what I might nosh upon prior to the next Christmas party (tonight). Yes, I will be bringing a vegan appetizer, which I will feature in a future post after I make it, but vegans don't live on app's alone, and a vegan should always be well-fed. No deprivation allowed -- this is a gift we give ourselves!

The above is another version of how I honor the humble leftover, reinventing it by adding some easy, fresh ingredients. I had some leftover sauteed broccolini (am craving this most of the time lately) with shallots and leeks, so I added it to some quickly boiled gnocchi and tomato-basil sauce.  I also topped this off with a generous sprinkle of nooch. I took the photo first so you could see how pretty the bowlful was pre-nooch, as delicious but visually obscuring as it is.

I already ate this the other day, but will create some kind of reasonable facsimile thereof from what I can glean from my larder for this evening. If it, too, ends up looking pretty, I will show you.

Now I am off to the post office to brave the throngs of stressed-out holiday givers. Here's a fun game I play in a crowd of people: from the energy in the room I find the angriest person, and make a point of making eye contact and smiling at him or her.  The result is always so amusing and gratifying.  For about  five seconds the person is completely shocked and befuddled, then is snapped out of the grouchy mood and smiles back. It's really fun -- try it!  You can't do this with a sarcastic or mean smile -- you have to really send good energy.  We've all been in that angry place from time to time anyway, haven't we?  So no need to judge, just fix your little corner of the world as you can, grinch by grinch.  You will be surprised at how much fun it is!  Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Amazing Parsnip Soup!

Have you ever eaten parsnips? I guess vegans are more likely to have tried them than most others. I had tried them before I was vegan, at one of our favorite restaurants. I was surprised at how creamy, sweet and buttery they were, so I figured the chef must have just used a lot of cream and butter. So imagine my delight when, fixing them myself, I found this to not necessarily be true. The parsnips are just as creamy and buttery without any cream or butter at all -- not even vegan butter! The lowly parsnip's bleached-out-carrot appearance belies the luxurious flavor and texture within.

I found a very delicious, easy recipe for Parsnip and Almond Soup on a blog/website I enjoy reading called "Of the Kitten Kind" ( The recipe is in author Sally's archives under the title, "Days Like These . . . Parsnip and Almond Soup".  I find all of Sally's recipes to be simple and inventive and I love her photos. Plus, I really enjoy stretching my cultural boundaries and knowledge. Sally lives in Australia and uses words like "beetroot" and "capsicum". I get a little thrill when I make the effort to do a tad of research to solve mysteries such as these.

Back to the parsnips:  This soup is seriously amazing -- you must try it! Subtly sweet, savoury and buttery, the texture is positively silky, thick and rich. Sally describes it best with one word -- "lush". I had to close my eyes and let each mouthful linger, not wanting the luxurious experience to end. I know I sound a bit over the top here. Try the soup yourself and then judge. You'll get it.  Thanks Sally!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yes, that's right, heavenly! See the Godly rays of sun gracing this bowlful's pretty face? Sometimes my food really feels like such a blessing, and today's lunch would be one example of that feeling.  Simple, like so much of what I eat, this salad was born from my timing being off last night as I impulsively, midway through other dinner prep, decided to make another batch of my favorite Raw Kale Mediterranean Salad from Little House of Veggies ( By the time everyone else's dinner was ready, I had only completed the first half of the salad preparation. That is, I had washed and spun the kale and removed the stems, and had massaged the leaves with olive oil, half a lemon, salt and pepper. So I put the salad on the table as it was, without the additional ingredients (red bell pepper, black olives and pine nuts), and you know what? It was wonderful anyway! I had made fish tacos for the others, and ate up some delicious vegan leftovers for myself, along with the salad.

So today for lunch, leftoverless except for the salad and the vegan avocado aioli I had made for the fish tacos, I combined the two and the result is above. The vegan avocado aioli, a recipe I came up with myself, is published in a prior post, and I did not consult it, instead recreating it from memory. I believe this version is more avocado-centric than the last, so I will note the proportions here:

Avocado Aioli
1 avocado, mashed
juice of half a lime
3 Tbsp. vegannaise
Mash all together.

That's it. Really, really good. Isn't it funny how I made vegan aioli for my family's tacos even though I wasn't having any last night?  I didn't even think about it, knowing that nobody has ever complained about the flavor of vegannaise. I just can't see using regular mayonnaise if I don't have to. Avocado aioli is great on everything!  Go make some!

When I say this salad is heavenly, of course I mean the flavor and texture -- the sharpness of the lemon and kale juxtaposed with the rich, buttery avocado-mayonnaise. But I also want to go deeper now into why I feel personally blessed to have found a way to be good to my body. Since February, but mostly more recently, I have been amazed by how strong my immune system has become. There is illness all around me, in my own home my husband and daughter have been sick with colds for days. Sneezers and coughers abound in all the grocery stores and malls. Sometimes I feel the wake of a germ giving me a glancing blow -- I feel a little tired or mucousy for an hour or two, then it is GONE! I don't even worry anymore about getting right in the face of my sweet, sick little girl. I know I am safe. I don't want to mess with hubris here, I just want to say I am thankful and grateful for my health, and grateful for this vegan lifestyle which has afforded this bounty of blessings. This is a very big deal. I have a compromised immune system because of my MS. And yet I am well. I am grateful. Heavenly.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sure It Looks Like Cat Food, But It Is Shockingly Delicious!

Right -- so this is not the dish you want to take to a non-vegan pot-luck. It would do nothing for your vegan cause. Unless the non-vegan tasted it. But you know the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," So bring something more colorful and less mystery-grainy (they don't know what they are missing, those non-vegans, do they?)

This delectable dish was created from a reinvention of my own "Vodka Sauce" ("One of My Own Recipes", Archives). This time I used "Spicy Marinara" by Barilla, which is really more of an Arrabiata sauce. I adore a spicy sauce, but nobody else around here does, so after my serving, I was still left with a large panful of my vegan Vodka Sauce, spicy version. A girl can only eat so many bowlfuls of spicy vegan vodka sauce, so I decided to risk wasting half a box of red quinoa and a can of garbanzo beans in a quest for greatness. Believe it or not, greatness I found! I did not use water or broth in the cooking of the quinoa, I only used the sauce, and simmered it at a low heat instead of boiling, and stirred periodically to avoid burning the thicker liquid. The resulting dish was a wholesome, flavorful, infused grain. The sharpness of the spice was tempered and mellowed. The flavor and texture were addictive.

In other experiments, I decided to teach myself how to cook tofu (aside from chopping it up in a blender that is). I made Vegan Yum Yum's "Crispy Tofu with Kale and Noodles". It was a good lesson. If Yum Yum hadn't said it was possible, I never would have believed I could achieve such a crispy/silky texture by cooking the tofu longer and hotter. I loved the tofu. The noodles and kale were not my favorites. I guess I really prefer to eat kale raw. (try Morgan's "Raw Kale Mediterranean Salad" at -- you will love it!) I will definitely be making the tofu again. The whole meal was lovely in a photo:

But it was not as amazingly delicious as the "cat food"!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Having My Cake and Eating It Too

I am definitely speaking metaphorically here -- remember "The Devil" in Archives. What I deal with today is the question of saving or using, keeping or letting go. I am a child of a "waste not, want not" era. My people "recycled" before there were "recycling facilities", reinventing "perfectly good" trash or leftovers. Further back, my paternal grandmother, Eula, (see the "My Vegan Story" page for a snapshot of her later life) who grew up on an 18,000 acre homestead cattle ranch in northeastern Washington state, suddenly found herself in charge of the ranch at the tender age of 13 when her grandmother died. Eula could herd cattle and defended herself from the cowboys with a buggy whip. There are so many amazing stories about her  early life . . . not enough space here, but you can imagine a scrap was never wasted by that lady. My mother's family was equally frugal. As teens she and her sister shared three blouses and two skirts between them. Again, so many stories . .

So you can see from where I've come. The world has changed so drastically for the generations that have followed my grandparents' era. We have more, we spend more, we waste more, or, alternatively, we hoard. That's what happens when "waste not want not" collides with "just buy it on credit". I find myself with one foot in the hardscrabble past and the other in a minimalist future, fighting the urge to hoard.

I have regretted losing or even using some beloved objects with sentimental value, so my decision process gets gummed up sometimes while weeding out. The mental "weight" of all the stuff is paralyzing, but I wouldn't want to get rid of or use up something that turns out to be precious. Some of my best friends with pristine homes are ruthless about not letting objects linger. I can see that their mental loads are lighter and their energy levels higher. But that's not me, nor will it ever be. The best I can do is hone my decision making about what should be used, recycled, kept, donated or tossed.

The lovely photo above is not a cake. It is a beautiful little ball of soap my parents brought me, along with many other wonderful gifts, when they visited. The soap is from the Medici Palace, where they were recently privileged to stay on a trip to Tuscany. The soap is made with olive oil and smells so nice, but the wrapping is as precious to me as the soap. Look at the little sealing medallion, the twine, the grape leaf! Even as I write this I can see how silly I am being. It's just soap. But it's also my sweet Mom's delight when choosing it during a happy time in her life. Then the image of this treasure, dust-covered, lost in some vanity drawer someday pops into my mind. The decision is made.  I will display it by my kitchen window for a couple of weeks, and then I will unwrap and use it.

Here is another "precious treasure" I've managed to choose wisely about:

This Wedgewood baby bowl is part of a set given to us by my parents when Hans was born in 1994. I hope the plate and cup that came with it are carefully wrapped somewhere in a box of baby things. I don't remember. But I am happy this little bowl has lived in a pile of mismatched everyday bowls perched atop a pile of mismatched everyday plates on my cabinet shelf. It is the one I always choose for myself, and it works because it is a little smaller than the others, and my family members care a lot more about portion size than the quality of the china. But, aside from letting it reside in a pile of chipped and unmatched brethren, I carefully tend this little bowl. When I spied my sweet Dad getting ready to pop it in the microwave with some leftovers, I gently took it from him and quickly poured his food into a bigger, more chipped, more everyday bowl, explaining that I love this bowl he had given me and that the other bowl was better for the microwave.  He smiled and understood. He comes from the same people I do!

In using this treasure, I may lose it someday. Life happens. But I won't regret having used it. It always makes me happy. And anyway, it is already immortalized in this blog post, along with my Tuscan soap!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back on Track

After the excesses, good and bad, of Thanksgiving, I am ready for simplicity again, just some unadorned, healthy food. Here's a bright fresh recipe that suited my craving well:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Tomatoes
brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved - I used a large bag from Costco
a pint of grape tomatoes
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

That's it -- just stir all ingredients, coating the veggies well. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange veggies in a roasting pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes. This cooking time is based on the fact that I had a lot of sprouts that filled the roasting pan thickly. If you have a thinner layer, you will want to check the veggies after about 17 minutes or so. They will cook more quickly if they are not as crowded.

Here's the finished product. The sprouts were still crisp-tender, and will still be good when I quickly heat the leftovers up again in the oven. The tomatoes were hot and sweet and just beginning to burst. My favorite part is the crispy, paper-like outer edges of the sprouts.  Really, really delicious, and just what I wanted to eat!

In addition to these veggies, I made a simple salad:

So minimal -- fresh spinach, half an avocado, a couple of radishes and a squeeze of lime juice. You could also add some evoo, but I felt the veggies were rich enough with all their oil. I love the combination of radishes and avocados together. They are complete opposites that compliment each other well. My omni husband loved this salad!

Next to the salad bowl, here's my whole dinner plateful:

Again simple and easy, my main dish was a couple of gardein cutlets sauteed in a little olive oil and earth balance, then brightened with a squeeze of lemon juice, and smothered in onions and peppers I had also sauteed in the oil/butter. I topped it off with capers.  Mmmm.  Andres had the same thing, but with a tilapia fillet in a separate pan. That's right, I had two pans going! But that's okay, since all the rest was identical prep. The kids, swamped with school projects and not big fans of fish, gardein or brussels sprouts, ate leftover pasta in their rooms while working. I also gave them bowls of plain spinach which they just grab with their fingers and cram in their mouths. They always used to put ranch dressing all over the spinach, but now just leafy finger food -- isn't it funny how their tastes keep changing too? I would have done more for them, but they didn't care.

Seeing these photos again makes me hungry -- maybe a little bowl of re-roasted sprouts for breakfast?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Devil

This is the devil. This and, mostly the rest of that storebought pumpkin pie that's still sitting in my 'fridge.  I'm not going to go get the pumpkin pie so I can take a photo of it. You know what a pumpkin pie looks like, don't you? Also, I'm not going near it because, . . . you guessed it: the Devil is still calling out to me.

Doggone it!  I knew better. True confessions here -- I didn't even read the labels.  I'm not going to now either. Suffice it to say, no more storebought sweets for me. Why did I go there? The fun, the comaraderie, the joy of being with my family and my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday. Meats don't tempt me, cheeses don't tempt me. Sugar doesn't even tempt me either -- usually. Since going vegan I eat sugar (vegan treats) only once in a blue moon, since I know there is that chance I will feel the pull again. Heck -- I wasn't even tempted by all the Halloween candy.  So why did I think it was okay to indulge in sweets of an unknown origin and content, not once, but one or two times a day, for 4 days straight? My system went out of whack a little on the second day of this indulgence, and has continued to get worse ever since.  No need for details -- I just don't feel good. Once I figured out what was making me feel bad I stopped it, and it has now been three days since then. It has stopped getting worse, but I'm still not right.

Turning a page, forgiving myself, I need to frame this debaucle thus: missteps are how we learn our limits. Being vegan is only ten months old for me now and everything has changed so dramatically. This is truly the first time I have tried sweets I wasn't sure were vegan, and this was also the first time I have tried so many sweets, so often. I will not repeat this mistake.  I've cleaned up my act a bit, leaning more superhero. Any suggestions for how I can feel better sooner? I'll start with a kukicha tea with ume plum and ginger. Thanks for witnessing my folly, dear readers, it'll keep me accountable next time I venture off the healthy path . . .