Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Memoriam (R.I.P. Butter)

Updating what has been going on around here, sadly, Butter, the 19 year old kitty my son and I had been taking care of this week, passed away yesterday. If you remember, I have been filling in for Hans since the doctor determined his cat allergy exacerbates his migraines. Yesterday morning at around 9:00 a.m. I was with Butter for the last time, willing her to live until the return of her owners on Friday, despite the fact she was so clearly ready to go. I had felt guilty about wanting this. As it turned out, Butter's demise occurred at about the best time possible if she wasn't going to wait for the weekend. Butter's medication schedule was to have two of her pills on Sunday and two on Wednesday, and only one on every other day. I have been unsuccessful in getting her to take her pills and have discussed this fact with the owners by phone, and so they had their daughter, who lives locally, come on Sunday to administer Butter's medicine, and the plan was for her to come again yesterday to do the same. When the daughter arrived, she found Butter in the same location I last saw her, under the kitchen table on a rug, already gone. She handled the remains and the removal of feed bowls etc. which might be hurtful for her mother upon her return, who was very attached to the kitty.

I am glad I was able to offer some comfort in the last hours of Butter's life, but regret that after a long, full life she ultimately died alone. She was a sweet kitty. R.I.P. Butter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning Languages

There's my sweet 13 year old girl, Wynne. I learn so much from her and am so fortunate and proud to be her Mom. She and her brother (of whom I'm also proud) couldn't possibly be more different, so I get to flex my Mom muscles in many different ways. I'm so grateful for both of them.

I think I've already mentioned that I am doing my son's cat-sitting job for him because it turns out his cat allergy is making his migraines awful. The home with the cats actually has six cats that are kept in groups in different rooms because of the way they interact with each other. Right now, Romeo, Hunter and Little Debbie Snack Cakes (yep, that's really her name) are in the garage. It is really a lovely,  comfortable garage, without cars, with cushy beds, toys, their own litter boxes, food, treats, etc. These cats have a pretty sweet deal actually, and the temperature is fine. Dick and Jane stay in the laundry room and are similarly comfortable. The wild card is a sweet 19 year old cat named Butter. Butter's health has declined severely since we took care of her last summer. She has the run of the first floor of the house, and is even allowed to sleep on the bed in the Master Bedroom. I have been occupied this week praying for Butter. She can barely move or meow, and will not eat, poop or take her pills for thyroid and appetite that we are supposed to give her. I can tell she would really rather leave this world, but I hope she can wait until her mom and dad get home. That's selfish on my part, right?  Deep breath . .

So, that was a long way of explaining why, at 7:00 p.m. last night, after scooping litter boxes, cleaning up a tad of vomit and attempting Reiki on Butter, I was already feeling a bit like supermom when Wynne sheepishly said, "I tried to call you . . . I need a protractor,"

Well, I was on a roll already, I thought, so I said,"A protractor -- is that the demi-lune thing with numbers on it?" My learning language is not math. I learn strictly by the written word.

Wynne, the guitarist/singer-songwriter/artist responded, "Demi-who? Do you mean the clear half-circle-thingy? Then yes."

I hopped back in the car for a protractor.

As I was driving, in my typical stream-of-consiousness fashion, I started to think about the different ways we all learn. I know that, while language and writing are my things, I absolutely cannot learn from sound alone. I must see something in it's written form. My mother-in-law, a lovely East German language teacher, tried to help me brush up on Spanish with some audio tapes. She insisted it was the best way, because that was the way she learned. The tapes did nothing for me. I am a written-words person.

My son, a physics and math whiz, learns in numbers and spatial mental pictures, and does well with everything else too, but his language of choice is complex mathematical formulae.

My husband, gifted with a photographic memory and also a head for numbers, has enough stubborn ambition to muscle through any situation. His preferred learning format is documentaries. He doesn't care for reading.

Wynne, my daughter, is such a unique, emotionally well-balanced and wise individual. She's a slob but she's an artist. She's not too interested in academics but loves reading and she's a poet. She eschews girl-drama but will step in where she sees an injustice. She's not bossy but she's a leader. She's a great talent (in my humble opinion -- she's my kid!) and I'm honored to have had anything at all to do with her being here in the world. Wynne has her own youtube channel where she plays guitar and sings covers of some of her favorite songs. She's working on some technical issues -- some of the video and audio tracks don't match, but I love the sound of her voice -- especially the lower register -- very soulful for such a little thing. Wynne's a cool chick. I want to be like her when I grow up!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Turkeys

No, you're right, those aren't turkeys. Bear with me . . . Before I was thinking of turkeys at all today, I was ruminating on how my tastebuds seem to be "off" lately. I've not enjoyed arugula or radicchio very much recently, which is disappointing, as they are normally "eye-rolling delicious" to me. As I was engaged in this rumination, and wishing for a spare loaf of Eziekiel bread to fill my confused belly, I reached into the garage freezer for something else and found . . . Eziekiel! You know how it feels when you find a $20 in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in 6 months? Yeah, that's what it felt like! Score! I moved Eziekiel to the fridge and went out on my errands.

I'm currently doing my son's cat-sitting job for him since his doctor determined the cat dander exacerbates his migraines, so I did that first. Then I drove into town to make a deposit and pick up my compounded medicine. As I was driving on North Main Street, right here in downtown Alpharetta Georgia, on the sidewalk across from the church where Wynne went to preschool was a turkey. Yes -- a turkey. Not a Butterball, not even the fat white lucky one who is pardoned by the President. This was a very out-of-context, wild Tom Turkey, lovely and brown with a bit of blue iridescence around the neck and a handsome red gobbly-thing (I'm fairly certain this is not the technical term for this part of a turkey's anatomy, but you get the picture). I'm guestimating he was about 15-20 lbs. Tom was busying himself chowing down on something that was on the sidewalk (seeds?). He looked proud and unfazed by the incredulous drivers passing by. I said a small prayer that he wouldn't venture off the sidewalk, and then I was swept along with the other traffic to complete my errands.  Driving back home, I realized I had forgotten all about the turkey when I saw him again, thankfully still in one piece, thankfully still happily munching whatever he was munching.

Why am I telling you this? I don't know! I'm sure I'd have forgotten about him altogether if not for one of my stream-of-consciuosness sessions that followed as I was attempting to find something that would satisfy my unfamiliar tastes lately. I'm not sure what is up with my tastebuds, but suspect the Spring pollen. I am, for the second Spring in a row (both vegan Springs) undaunted by seasonal allergies. By undaunted, I mean I am not flattened by a Spring sinus infection, which was my prior pattern. But that doesn't mean I am necessarily totally unaffected. Maybe the pollen is changing the way things taste to me. It's fine -- I'll take that any day over an infection!

So back to lunch -- I lazily microwaved an Amy's Black Bean Burrito, with some Spinach and Daiya on the side, and it was great, but I was still hungy for sweets!  This is WEIRD for me. I never want sweets. So I toasted some Eziekiel bread and spread it with Almond butter, fresh pear slices and slices of dried figs. So delicious, and just what I wanted! Here comes the other turkey:  as I was slicing the dried figs, I remembered the year I had overzealously (without reading the tag on the plants about space requirements) bought a couple of fig trees to fill some spaces in a flower bed up at the curb in our front yard. I was actually thinking of the potted fiddle-leaf fig trees I have indoors (the leaves do look like "fiddles" or violins) My indoor figs are ornamental and do not bear fruit and take up no horizontal space,  growing vertically.

The figs by the street were so happy with the sunny spot I chose that they quickly bullied all the other plants and spread across the bed with large scary leaves (shaped not like a fiddle, but like the one Adam wore). The effect was swamp creature-like. The bushes were flat on the ground and creeping with large luscious fruit that was most often found first by the wildlife so the intoxicating fragrance of the bitten and crushed figs drew swarms of wasps. I could often be found on my way to the bus stop to meet the kids, squatting, flailing and screaming as I tried to find a few unmolested fruits without being stung. The figs were luscious. I had inadvertently chosen two different monster fig breeds: Black Mission and Brown Turkey (there's the other turkey!) I loved both, but preferred the Black Mission. I was a bit of a laughing stock of the cul-de-sac for a while as I tried to find a way to live with my plant/beasts. I pruned severely and repeatedly, only to find the figs had otherwordly regenerative powers akin to Harry Potter's hair. Eventually I had to admit my folly and submit to the winch on my husband's jeep to pull the plants out. But I sure ate high on the Black Mission and Brown Turkey that year (I was the only one brave enough to eat the fruit of the plant/beasts).

As I savored the storebought dried figs, I enjoyed remembering this Brown Turkey Fig chapter, and sent some more good vibes to Tom Turkey of North Main Street, for his well-being.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Plan B

I hadn't made Umeboshi Radish Pickles (from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone) in a while, and I've missed the digestive enzymes so, when I found these gorgeous radishes at Walmart today I snapped them up. Alicia is right -- just a few of these little pickles calm any kind of uneasy tummy. I used my mini-mandoline to make quick work of the radishes, and, in my head, formulated a dream salad that would begin with the spiny radish leaves and a few little slices of the radishes themselves. I also had a handful of watercress in the crisper. Spicy/bitter greens+ smooth buttery avocado=LOVE so that was the plan. I began preparing everything.

Here's a funky little secret about me: I love eating stuff like this. Those wormy, hairy little radish roots are very appealing to me. Into the salad mix they went.

Concurrent with the salad prep, I did finish this pretty little jarful of ume pickles. They will sit on the counter for at least three days with the cheesecloth on top, and then I will put the lid on and keep them in the fridge.

Here is why you vegans should never, ever buy only one avocado:

The outside of the fruit was perfectly lovely. Isn't this sad?  So much for my peppery/buttery combo. I worked very hard to produce three tiny clean cubes of avocado, and that was not going to do the trick for my salad, so on to plan B: some other smooth-ish/fatty-ish texture. Hummus, in this case storebought spinach/avocado with a little bit of pepper relish on top.

I finished the salad prep with a little drizzle of oilve oil around the edge and dug in. The salad was healthy and sustaining, but would have been better with avocado. Heed my cautionary tale and remember to buy more than you think you will need!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kale Tortilla Salad With Baked Cilantro Tofu

This salad is an example of how far you can push an idea, and in many different directions. I was craving Mexican flavors today, but had some kale to use up and a package of sprouted tofu with a looming expiration date. I didn't have a jar of salsa, nor did I have tomatoes. But I did have enough other ingredients for a satisfying salad. Here's the recipe:

Kale Tortilla Salad With Baked Cilantro Tofu
1 bunch of raw kale
1 avocado, diced
1 lime
4 Tbsp. purple onion, diced
1 package of firm tofu, drained and squeezed of excess water, then diced
2 small handfuls of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
a couple shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
A few tortilla chips for serving
In a sealed storage container or a baggie, marinate the tofu with juice of half the lime, half of the cilantro, half of the onions, a pinch of salt and a few shakes of hot sauce for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and de-stem the kale and spin it dry. Squeeze the other half of the lime over the greens along with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Massage the raw greens for a few minutes to soften them. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the tofu in a single layer in a pan and bake it for about 20 minutes, or until crispy around the edges. The cilantro gets slightly crunchy.

Add the avocado and the rest of the onion to the salad and mix well. Once the tofu is baked, allow it to briefly cool, then mix it into the salad. Top individual servings with tortilla chips -- I crumbled mine  into the salad.

I didn't feel like eating corn chips, so I used these brown rice chips instead:

This salad turned out to be hearty and satisfying, but it did take seemingly forever to prepare, but maybe that's because I was already starving when I began making it. I did accomplish my goal of using up certain ingredients, but one could obviously change the ingredients list in so many ways. Instead of tofu you could use a can of rinsed black beans, you could add leftover brown rice, you could add some daiya shredded cheese, some tofutti sour cream, salsa, jalapenos instead of tabasco, you get the idea.

I first saw this treatment of kale on Morgan's "Little House of Veggies" ( where she created a Mediterranean version of the salad which was delicious. Since learning how to soften raw kale with citrus, oil and friction, I have made many different variations on this theme, utilizing artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, leftover potatoes, whatever I had on hand. I encourage you to get creative with your ingredients and make this delicious raw medium your own!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lovely Leftover Quinoa Salad

I came up with a good use for a pot of leftover quinoa yesterday that turned out to be so simple and delicious that I just have to share it with you. In the photo above, my Lovely Leftover Quinoa Salad shares plate space with another wonderful salad I had made the day prior, Morgan's "Chinese Cabbage Salad" from her wonderful Morgan's recipe makes a boatload of salad. I didn't even have a serving bowl large enough, so, needing to split it up, I saved the second half with it's own portion of dressing in a sealed jar for the next night -- the night of my quinoa salad.

Here is my recipe:

Lovely Leftover Quinoa Salad
1 c. prepared quinoa, cooled - I used red quinoa and a veggie bouillon cube in the preparation of mine
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
2 Tbsp. diced red onion
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients.
Serves 4

This little leftover recipe was surprisingly delicious, and all with no added fat except the avocado. The lime makes it, in my opinion. It was nice alongside the chinese cabbage salad for a refreshing dinner on a warm day.

Morgan's salad leftovers from the previous day were still nice and crunchy despite soaking in the dressing all night. Halfway into a big bowlful, I realized the "dressing" was much more voluminous than the day before, though less pungent, so I guess it had been drawing the juices from the veggies, particularly the organic napa cabbage I had used instead of regular cabbage. I knew that in the dressing/veg juice there were a lot of vitamins, so you know what that means -- I needed something to dunk into it! An eziekiel english muffin spread with red pepper hummus was perfect dipped over and over into the juicy goodness. Not a drop went to waste! I am a big fan of leftovers and reinventions..

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wrap It Up! (Crazy About Collards)

I hope this is not becoming tedious for you, dear readers. As I am apparently wont to do, I am on another bender of my most craved veggie -- currently collard greens! Above, the collards are filled with the brown rice rustic pasta dish leftovers you will recognize and also my colcannon leftovers from last week. It was a great way to reinvent food that I was still enjoying. Waste not, want not, and shake it up a little, even in the midst of a bender!

I definitely prefer a wrap made with a collard leaf to one made with a tortilla, and lately I like to layer two leaves like so:

All the better to overstuff my wraps, as I also tend to do. I just overlap the edge and thus lengthen the canvas for my work of art.

The enormous store-bought collards are needed for the large wraps, but look at my very own home grown collard leaves from my winter garden! Aren't they pretty? The leaves are only about 4"-5" long, plus stem. They may grow taller as I let them grow, but I noticed they were already in flower, so I had to pick some to be sure I didn't miss the mild part of the growing season. Thank goodness, these leaves are mild and fresh. Last summer, when my arugula bolted it became too bitter to eat. I'm glad this doesn't appear to be the case with the collards. My own collards are more tender than the supple storebought leaves. I found no reason to cut them off the stems, which were juicy and delicious as well. I am chopping these little homegrowns raw into everything I eat -- salads, potatoes, sandwiches, whatever.

What food can you not get enough of?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Odds -n- Ends, First Day of Spring Installment

I've always thought that March 21 was the first day of Spring, but on the morning news today they were saying we were only one day away from Spring, so who knows. In any case, take a look at my pretty cherry tree at the top of the driveway.  This sight makes me so happy. It is such a fleeting blessing every year and I drink it in as much as possible.

This little patch of my front yard, under the pear trees, appears to be sprinkled with snow, but those are the pear blossoms shedding already. They get into everything -- the newspaper, the mail, we track them in on our shoes. It makes me happy! It's Spring!

This weekend was so lovely so we spent a lot of time outside. At one point I had an uncharacteristic craving for sweets, so I whipped up another frozen banana. This batch of banana soft serve reminded me of a banana split. Yum!  It was only a frozen banana and a half, 4 organic frozen strawberries and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa. I whirled it up in the food processor because I am still afraid of breaking my healthmaster blender pitcher again. This was really good, and satiated that craving.

Finally, here's some more of what I've been eating lately. It is another version of the "Rustic Pasta" from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life. I know it seems like I just made this recently, but I still have so many fresh veggies in my crisper and I LOVE those wiggly Tinkyada noodles so much that I had to come up with another batch. With my recent tummy/liver troubles, I really wanted some healthy comfort food and this fit the bill. This batch utilized the rock hard expensive zucchini which had begun to soften finally, some fresh organic celery, some spring onions, garlic, cabbage, a little marinara, olive oil and shoyu. Mmmmmm.

When time is short and life is rolling right along, I still take photos, plan or no plan. So "Odds -n- Ends" every so often is a good way to share my photos which are random, and not fodder enough for an organized post. Lindsay Wolf of "Kiss Me I'm Vegan" ( suggested I continue this idea as a regular feature, and it works for me. Thanks Lindsay!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Healing My Liver

This will likely be one of those "too much information" personal posts, so read it with that disclaimer, if you will. This morning, after an eziekiel english muffin with earth balance, I sat on the sofa with my husband, gulping my prescribed supplements, prednisone and clarythromycin with a glass of orange juice. I opted to forgo the recommended mucinex since the trouble no longer seems to be in my head, only in my lungs now.

You may remember I've had a marvelously healthy first vegan year, with no illnesses whatsoever until I let my system get off track with the stress of dealing with my son's migraines. Never underestimate the effect of stress on one's health. I've been ill for about a month, with one problem after another. Ironically, my son's problems have stabilized, but the damage from the stress to my immune system has been done.

After taking all my pills this morning, I began to have very painful stomach cramps and the urge to sleep, so I went back to bed. An hour or so later, I woke with the telltale flavor of bile in my mouth. My liver was in revolt. Looking at my calendar, I realized I'd been on antibiotics of different kinds for 25 days. Pneumonia is no joke, so I will finish my last four days of antibiotics, and my last two pills of prednisone, since going off that without weaning gradually is not worth it, but when I tasted that bile, thank goodness I knew what to do.

I went downstairs and pulled out my large pile of collard greens and began to wash and remove the stems from about ten giant leaves, then chopped them roughly. I heated a pan with olive oil and garlic, and lightly sauteed the leaves briefly until the color was bright. Then, listening to my cravings, I pulled out the miso -- dark barley miso and mellow white. I warmed some water and, with a whisk mixed two tablespoons of white miso and one tablespoon of barley until it was all diluted. then I added a couple more cups of water and stirred the broth into the greens, along with a couple of tablespoons of plain brown rice from our last order of chinese food. I immediately took the pan off the heat, not wanting to kill the beneficial enzymes of the miso or overcook the greens. I ate two bowlfuls of this healing "soup", invented on the fly from the body's signals and a little bit of intuition, and within five minutes the pain in my belly was gone and a peaceful sense of well-being was imparted.

While I'd love to fix all my health challenges naturally, sometimes mainstream medicine is necessary. In such cases it's helpful to be able to listen to our body's signals and react accordingly. I feel so much better now. No pain, no panic, no bile flavor. Four more days of babying my liver should be no trouble if I remember to listen to the body's signals.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Colcannon

Am I too late?  It's been one of those non-stop days and I just got home and have to run back out to guitar lessons for my daughter in half an hour. But I had enough time to create something wonderous!  Happy St. Patrick's day, by the way. I've got my cool green "Kale is the New Beef" t-shirt on and my hair all spiked out so I'm lookin' like an Irish rocker chick, at least in my own mind.

Disclaimer: I've never actually eaten Colcannon, the traditional Irish cabbage and potato combination, nor did I bother today to consult "Joy of Cooking" or any other authority on the subject, being short on time as I was. I just made it the way I thought I'd enjoy eating it. For some reason my head seems to be full of knowledge of unknown origin, i.e. "I don't remember where I read/heard this, but . . ." That's the way it is with Colcannon. I know somehow that it is traditionally boiled for a long time with a slab-o-brisket. None if this goes to waste -- the Irish are economical and efficient like that. No animal products were going into my Colcannon of course, and I don't care for veggies that have been long boiled.  Here's my recipe:

My Colcannon
24 oz. new potatoes -- I like the little yukon gold ones
1 head cabbage, chopped roughly into 1/2 in ribbons-n-chunks
1/4 purple onion, slivered
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance
1 Tbsp. Vegenaise
2 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke
1 Tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Boil potatoes whole for about 16-18 minutes until a fork can easily go through one. Then put cabbage and onion on top of the boiling potatoes, cover and boil/steam an additional 3 minutes. Drain.
Mix all together in a large bowl with other ingredients, breaking potatoes a little so they can soak up the yum.

This was really, really delicious, and tasted very Irish, again, in my own mind. What did you do for St. Patty's?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Oats

I love Irish oats! Those are the kind that are chopped once cross-wise instead of completely slivered. The Irish oats retain more of the bran of the grain and are more chewy and nutty.  I love reading about how folks put a cup of oats and some water in their slow-cooker and then wake to aromatic and tender grains. I tried it and my slow cooker is not cut out for this idea. I started the oats out on low, but when I saw they were bubbling up a storm I turned the setting to "keep warm" An hour later I noticed there was not enough water and I added more. by 9:00 when I went to bed, visions of a house fire were dancing in my head so I unplugged the oats and left them in the scalding hot pot on the counter overnight. I still had ready oatmeal in the morning, albeit room-temperature at that point. Thank you, microwave! I have to say, the Irish oats do take a bit more time, but not hours. I think 30-45 minutes would be just fine. The slow cooking left them very similar to quick-cooking oats, which seems to be a waste of a good Irish oat. But my bowlful was saved and enhanced by my fabulous homemade applesauce!  Allspice and ginger and not much agave are my secret ingredients! LOVED this breakfast!

I'd get a different crock pot, but I'd rather save up for a Breville Juicer like Kris Carr uses -- I love my smoothies that I make with the high-powered blender, but the green ones turn out a bit, er, chewier than I'd like, so green juice over ice would be lovely. I know, I'm an oddball in my preferences -- I like my oats chewy, but not my juice!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh, How I Love Tinkyada!

Here's my latest enthusiastic endorsement of a packaged product -- Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta! This is my very favorite pasta of the moment. Called "fusilli", this stuff doesn't look much like the fat little spirals of "Fusilli George" fame from "Seinfeld" -- but I'm revealing my age aren't I? Instead, these noodles are like loose, very wiggly macaroni. I say very wiggly because the texture of these boogers is so shimmery and slippery -- it's like they have a life of their own. They are positively springy and light. I don't know if you are the type who enjoys the sensation of digging into a bowlful of live worms, but, shockingly, apparently I am! That being said, logically I am aware that I am actually not committing earthwormocide. It's just the wiggly sensation of the noodles that I find so enjoyable. Oh, and the mild, light flavor is also an excellent vehicle to any topping you employ. Here they are featured with a collection of healthy elements reminiscent of Alicia's "Rustic Pasta" from The Kind Life. Without re-consulting the text, I created it from memory. I sauteed half a thinly sliced cabbage, an onion and two cloves of garlic in olive oil and then added a tablespoon of Shoyu and half a jar of Barilla's Spicy Marinara. Finally I added the boiled noodles and tossed it all around and then topped it with nootch, of course. Mmmmmmm. I know I was missing the celery -- my stalks needed to be put out of their misery, unfortunately-- and probably more items, but let me tell you, I sure did enjoy this wiggly panful anyway.

Packaged products usually leave me with a dark-leafy-greens-deficit, but can definitely be appreciated for the role they play. Amy's Organics in the frozen section are much appreciated for busy days where there is a dearth of planning, but the longer I'm vegan the saltier they are to me. A giant pile of arugula on the side counters the saltiness. Similarly, I love Amy's canned lentil soup, but need to add water and a handful of kale to thoroughly enjoy it. The quinoa pasta turned out to be fine after a quick re-boil, but it pales in comparison to quinoa itself, and also, to my current Tinkyada brown rice fave. I guess packaged products to me are at their best as "short cuts" to a meal, or as vehicles for something whole and real.

What are your favorites, and how do you use them?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Riding the Learning Curve

Note to self: next time you go meddling around outside your comfort zone, choose a day when nobody else is home. I love my bustling household on a weekend, but I should have remembered how hard it is to multitask when one or more of the tasking threads is unfamiliar and in need of an uninterrupted train of thought.

Yesterday I tried my first raw food recipe aside from just eating food that is raw. I chose Lisa's Mushroom Alfredo with Zucchini Noodles from her wonderful blog: My execution of Lisa's recipe varied out of necessity. I was out of onions so I used a leek, and I only had one ripe zucchini. I know they are currently out of season, but these suckers were flippin' expensive! $6.50 for 3 squash! And then to discover that two of them were hard as rocks because they were unripe! In my experience, zucchini are not a veggie one needs to squeeze to determine ripeness like, say, an avocado. I forcibly chopped the granite zucchini into manageable chunks for my gizmo but they weren't moving through the lovely wire mesh.

["I'm starving, can you make me some organic shells-n-cheese?" my daughter said as she passed through the kitchen] -- I put on a pot of boiling water.

Not knowing what to do with my possibly-never-edible expensive squash, I put them in a baggie and into the crisper, not that they needed any crisping.

So, moving on, I realized I had a quantity problem. I had been able to utilize my new dehydrator for the first time for the mushrooms and leeks, and I had the right quantity of cashews (I'm allergic to walnuts, so that'll be a variant from Lisa's recipe as well) but I wouldn't have enough "noodles". Time to add one more new variable to my uncharted territory: quinoa macaroni -- I'd been wanting to try it for some time. I could just mix it in with the raw zucchini noodles after it cools.

["Could I get a plate?" my husband asked as he searched for the grill tongs for his barbeque chicken and my son's hot dogs.]

Okay -- back to the quinoa macaroni: "darnit why do they make the writing on these boxes so small?" I said out loud as I held the box at extreme arm's length.  I ran upstairs to the bedroom to get my glasses. By the time I came back down my daughter's water was boiling. I threw in her noodles, put her organic vermont cheddar cheese powder into a mixing bowl with some organic milk, and put on a pot of water for my own noodles.

Whew! regrouping, I pulled out the new pitcher I had ordered for my HealthMaster and gave it a good sudsing. My old one had been leaking out the bottom some very stinky, rusty goo every time I made a smoothie or a sauce, and whether it really leaked upwards into the contents of my food or not, I perceived that it did, so it had been spoiling my healthy efforts. The new pitcher fit onto my blending motor just like the old one, albeit more snugly. I began scooping the warmed, marinated mushrooms and leeks from the dehydrator tray into the blender. I found that my fingers worked better than a spoon for this task.

["Here's the dirty plate. can I get a clean one?"] I'm not sure if it is because my husband is used to a staff at his office or if I was just taking up so much room in the kitchen with all my appliances that he couldn't move around me to get the plate, but whatever.  I used my sticky, marinade-covered fingers to get him a "clean" plate.

Okay -- the water for my quinoa pasta was boiling, so I stirred in the noodles. "Do not overcook" the instructions warned. I carefully set the timer with my sticky fingers, and noticed that I had forgotten to set a timer for my daughter's noodles, but they seemed to be ready, so I drained them and mixed them into her sauce.

Whew! Focus . . . . time to blend my sauce --  I had a phobia about starting my blender with the new pitcher, as if something I was about to do would also ruin this new, as yet unsullied pitcher. I started the blending on a low speed, cringing with each catch in the regular rhythm of the blades. My daughter came in wanting something, but the sound of the blender was so loud she turned around and left the room. I raised the speed on the blender (louder still!) and finally relaxed as it appeared to be working properly. It was finished. The timer went off for my quinoa pasta.

["Isn't my macaroni ready yet?" my daughter said.] I pointed it out to her and drained my own noodles, rinsing them well with cool water so they would not "cook" my zucchini noodles.

["do you have any whole wheat hot dog buns?" my husband said, walking in with a plate-o-meat.] I pointed to the 'fridge for my husband as I popped a quinoa noodle into my mouth. It was still stiff! Ugh!

["Is there any lettuce for my sandwich?"]

If not for all the interruptions, I'd have remembered that the quinoa noodles were still an unknown entity to me and I should have tested one of them before draining the whole pot. So, no noodles today. It was time to eat.

Here's my finished product, obviously sauce-forward with the lack of sufficient zucchini:

There was enough sauce for at least two people, and barely enough zucchini for one, but I offered it to all nonetheless. I got no takers. My husband couldn't get past the color of the sauce. I may add a dash of turmeric next time for this reason. I found the meal to be delicious, but very rich and filling, and after the first several bites I realized it was too sweet for me. I am cognizant of the fact that my particular palate is not as accepting of sweet flavors as other folks', especially after being vegan for a while. I think no agave nectar at all in the marinade, and half of the balsamic vinegar would have been better for me, but that's just me.  I will be making this meal again with these minor changes.

Looking back on the whole experience I can see it as predictably comical. I had sort of a perfect storm going on-- a new way of preparing food, as yet unfamiliar to me, a house full of people and dogs, four different meals for 4 people, an unknown dehydrator, a new blender pitcher, a new type of noodle, raw, rock-hard zucchini. When it was all done, I needed a nap!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Odds -n- Ends

Lest I lose track of some of the deliciousness that has been happening around here, I thought I'd better document some of it. This is a lovely, easy salad of mixed greens and herbs, topped with my aforementioned Israeli Couscous Salad, avocado and raw skinless almonds in olive oil and sea salt. I just drizzled a little blood orange olive oil over the salad for a dressing. Yum. The couscous salad had lost its lovin' feeling to me on the fourth day, which was the day after this salad ( the raw broccoli's flavor had soured from the moisture) so I gave it to the pups. They LOVED it!

A simple sandwich -- sourdough toast with vegenaise, roasted red pepper, cucumber and arugula, salt and pepper. Crazy delicious and decadent, if you can believe it! I want another one right now!

A recent lunch out highlights two approaches for a vegan-unfriendly menu:  If you will recall, my plan was to come to the lunch toting a baggy of oil-massaged kale and almonds. So here is my house salad before:

And here it is after my alteration:

I plopped this pile of yum upon the restaurant salad when nobody was looking. I got a kick out of the server's quizzical expression each time he walked by thereafter. He knew something was different. This approach did work for me, but the bottom half of the salad was not very fresh, obscured as it was by such a lovely tangle of fresh carrots.

Finally, to continue in my random selection of photos, I was driving home the other day and saw heaven opening up above, so I hopped out of my car in the middle of the road and snapped it:

I was struck by the unfolding sky and acted impetuously. I wouldn't recommend such behavior unless you live on a cul-de-sac like I do and there's no other traffic around. I did put my car in park before hopping out. While this photo captures the most stunning portion of the sky, I wish you could have seen it in full context. The rest of the sky was dark grey with roiling storm clouds. Very humbling and awe-inspiring!  Thanks for indulging my odds and ends today.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Restaurant Meals

Remember Taco Mac? That's where we hold our kids hostage so they have to sit and talk to us instead of texting or facebooking in their own corners of the house. It's not as bad as it sounds. Once we are all together in a booth they do actually enjoy our company. It's fun. Great news for this vegan: Taco Mac has actually added a Black Bean Burger to their menu!  No, not a burger with black beans on top, a burger made out of black beans! It is wrapped up with some tortilla chips, salad ingredients and mustard. It comes with fries, but I subbed broccoli because I was craving it and felt there was plenty of empty carb content with the crunchy chips. I will be ordering this again, soon.

Here's more broccoli. I'm pretty sure this next outing was the same weekend as the Taco Mac trip. I guess my body was loving broccoli then! This giant bowlful was half of my dinner on a date with my husband at a very fancy Steak house. My husband ordered the unmentionable, and I shared part of my broccoli and mushrooms:

with him. The broccoli was perfectly clean and delicious. The mushrooms, as you can see, were swimming in butter, which I drained and blotted a bit. I'd have preferred them with my own earth balance at home, but I don't think they made me feel as bad as cheese or cream would have. I did not finish the mushrooms, but I was a member of the "clean plate club" with the broccoli (that's the carrot my parents alway dangled when I was little to get me to eat my food!) Obviously I had no protein here, which I had planned ahead for, eating quinoa and chick peas at lunch.

I am not going to stop going to restaurants just because I'm vegan. I won't eat only a lame salad now that I know how good a salad I make at home can be. So I do my best with whatever else I can find on a menu. In the case of the above restaurant meals, it is interesting that the casual restaurant was more vegan-friendly than the more upscale one. My hope is that, by spreading around the notion that some of us don't eat cheese and butter, I will somehow effect change. Strangely, folks get the idea of not eating meat a lot more easily than the notion of not eating dairy. Aside from vegans, aren't there lactose intolerant folks out there?  Maybe they are not so vocal, given the more personal nature of their malaise. Something to ponder . . .

I am going today with my girls to a fun restaurant which unfortunately puts cheese on everything. I'm craving more dark green leafies than ever, so I'm planning on walking in toting them. Yes, I'm going to rub some kale with oil, lemon, salt and pepper and put it in a plastic bag. I'll also throw some raw almonds in there. Then I will have something good to put onto the lame cheeseless salad I plan on ordering! We do what we need to do kids!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Raw!

While I am definitely inspired, and will get more into it, nothing I eat is yet 100% raw. I am in a stage of "leaning" into the raw foods lifestyle. I am not saying I will ever be 100% raw, nor do I really want to be, but a larger percentage of my vegan diet being raw would be optimal. The immediate health benefits of a mostly raw meal are palpable and surprising. The increased energy and sense of peaceful well-being are immediately apparent and are sustained for quite some time. I need to really finish equipping my kitchen for a raw foods lifestyle before I delve more deeply into it. But here's some of what I've been able to throw together with what I've got already:

Yes, you knew I'd be craving more collard-wrap action! After my morning rice porridge yesterday I was out of grains, and I knew I needed something sustaining in my fridge, so I came up with a salad to stuff the collards with. I found that layering two large leaves, overlapping except for an inch-wide strip, affords a lot more room for neat wrapping. On this one the bottom is closed off so the eating process is not so messy. It's much more burrito-like, and the fresh greens are so tender that the two layers are still very easy to bite through, easier than a tortilla, actually. Here's my salad recipe:

Mostly Raw Israeli Cous Cous Salad

1 c. whole wheat Israeli cous cous
1 1/4 c. water
1 broccoli crown, diced
half a jarred roasted red pepper, diced
half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 can of beans drained and rinsed -mine had kidney and great northern beans
2 Tbsp. vegenaise
1 Tbsp. evoo
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Prepare the cous cous according to package directions. When it is still warm, stir in the raw broccoli. This will warm the broccoli and, without really "cooking" it, will knock the waxy bloom off it, and improve the flavor. In a mixing bowl, combine all salad ingredients, mix the dressing ingredients together and incorporate the dressing into the salad. 
Serves 6

This salad gets better the longer it sits, so it's great to make ahead and refrigerate. The Israeli cous cous is fun to use because it is just much larger pearls of the same thing we are used to. This salad could obviously be altered in many ways, using a whole grain instead of the cous cous, different quantities or types of veggies, etc. I encourage you to experiment working with more raw, healthful ingredients.

Last night the above wraps were all I was eating for dinner since all vegan food groups were represented, but I presented the others with leftover oven fries and fillets of fish sauteed in earth balance and fresh lemon juice (sorry, but it is SUCH an improvement over what they used to eat!). My husband also had a collard wrap or two. As he watched me plow through my fourth, he said, "You're sure eating enough of those, aren't you?" He had forgotten that a lot more clean food can fit into our bodies than fatty, fleshy, starchy food.

He was right -- I was eating exactly enough, and not a bit more! I'm grateful my body clearly tells me what and how much to eat. I'm not offended by what he said, by the way. I know he thinks I'm fabulous, and he knows my body weight is optimal. In fact, he has been eating a lot more of my food, and a lot fewer animals. When I recently made vegan chili, he happily ate it, even knowing there was some "meat made from plants" in there. He chose tofutti sour cream over sour cream. He has been choosing earth balance over butter for as long as I can remember. When he makes himself a sandwich, he reaches for vegenaise. I still have all the other stuff too by the way. I'll keep it till it goes bad and then maybe I won't buy any more. I like my husband choosing healthier options of his own accord. Those changes will be more sustainable.

Recently he was surprised as he got dressed and held the waistband a couple of inches away from his body. I knew what was going on, but it's more fun to lead him:

"To what do you attribute that?" I asked.

"Vegenaise!" he said.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Porridge Heals

Yes, porridge heals, if only for it's comfort-food status. But I find that this porridge, in particular, is most healing. It is based on Alicia Silverstone's Rice Porridge from The Kind Diet. Alicia's recipe starts with leftover rice, which I happened to have on hand. I did not consult the recipe again this morning (I am under the weather, so extra-lazy) but instead created a reasonable facsimile with a splash of almond milk over the cold rice and a few minutes in the microwave. I then topped the rice mixture off with half an ume plum and a generous drizzle of maple syrup. The warm, fragrant comfort of this bowlful is sure to do me some good. Slowly savoring it was an excellent way for a sick chick to spend 20 minutes. The piquant, salty plum was such a lovely foil to the earthy-sweet maple, and the creamy-crunchy texture of the wild grains was soothing.

I've got an upper respiratory malady, and have taken one dose of antibiotics, which I always try to avoid, but my recent track record of health is not stellar so I'm not messing around. Yes, I know, a couple of months ago I was trumpeting my amazing vegan health, but we have really had a rough couple of months around here with my son's migraines (still in flux) and I am the type to internalize everything that happens around me. I know, there's an opportunity for growth in the handling of my stress. Maybe I need to start yoga again, or at least meditation, massage or acupuncture! I'd love to have my Chi unblocked! It's probably not only blocked but tied up like a pretzel. So I've got it figured out. My recent dubious health can be attributed to the stress level of my life. I'll work on how I handle it, since Lord knows I can't change the circumstance I'm in.

Here are a few fun prior incarnations of my pan of wild rice that ultimately produced my morning porridge:

Saturday night we had an amazing evening at home with the kids. I had my wild rice cooked with a vegan bouillon cube and with the addition of dried mung bean sprouts at the end of cooking, along with roasted beets and potatoes and a simple arugula salad with oil and lemon. Some of the others tried some of this too, but they made their own "other" food too.

Yesterday for lunch my respiratory malady was coming on, so, feeling the need for something raw in my life, I made these amazing collard wraps! I was shocked at the extreme deliciousness of these messy little creations. When I saw how pretty they were, I had a fleeting thought of serving them at some future party, but then quickly flowed through a scenario in my head of me slapping the fingers of partygoers trying to partake, as I couldn't stand to share them! So it's a good thing they are messy anyway -- they are just for me!!

Here's a shot of the assembly of the amazing collard wraps:

Upon each collard leaf-half, I placed a jarred roasted red pepper slice, some avocado slices, a spoonful of wild rice with mung bean sprouts and a sprinkle of daiya "cheese". These were amazing. I was sad I had only made six of them, but they were filling enough that it was prudent for me to have stopped at that point.

There are so many different things we can do with a potful of whole grains, as you can see. I am grateful I had some left for my morning porridge. Now it's time for a little nap, I think.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Win Some, I Lose Some

Lately I've noticed there are some benefits to being the only specimen of one's kind, i.e. a midlife vegan in the deep south. I'm exaggerating, of course. There must be others in similar circumstances, but I've not yet met them.

The other day I was shopping at Kroger for a few items that cannot be found at Walmart, and I got a couple of freebies. I like to check myself out since I have a lovely reusable shopping bag the check out clerks tend to struggle with. I can more expeditiously do it all myself.  With produce, there is a procedure for typing in the name of the item while weighing it. The last time I did this, I found no radicchio (!) and no watercress. The attendant had to come over to assist me in finding the codes.

"Well, I guess we haven't gotten around to coding these yet, so just take 'em," she said.

This didn't feel right, so I suggested she just assign a fair price.

"No, that would mess with the system too much."

Okay. I left with my free leafy veggies. Still, there was an uneasiness in the back of my mind . . .

Do you believe in karma? I find that, whenever I receive something seemingly unfairly, an unsavory result will surely follow. On a couple of occasions in my life I have found $20 bills lying on the ground, unclaimed.  When I have kept them, both times the following days were pretty rough. It could be my imagination, but the result is the same. The photo above is what happened to my free radicchio. Isn't this sad? It's supposed to look like this:

You remember my "Yoda-food" as my son calls it. It has been the stuff I dream about -- so delicious with the mild, wilted radicchio, tofu cream cheese and truffle oil. Eye-rolling good. But the free radicchio was different. I recognize there is an element here of human error. Yes, I burned the pizza. It's the occasional collateral damage of a vegan cooking for herself and also a pack of carnivores. I've sometimes got too much going on in the kitchen. But here, after I trimmed and discarded the charcoal-encrusted portions, the radicchio was bad too. I had worried as I was removing the first few slimy leaves from the little head, and rightly so. I think it was just old. Radicchio is a bitter "green" (really purple) but shouldn't be this bitter. It was thoroughly unpalatable. I am sad it has quelled my craving for Yoda-food for the time being.

Sometimes we really do get what we pay for. But other times:

Here's my free watercress. Yes, you have seen this photo before. It is what became of the other free greens, and it was lovely and delicious. I am grateful for this portion of my free bounty.

To continue to wind down this post in a more positive vein, here are some recent yummy sandwiches:

This is marinated, baked tofu from the Natural Foods Warehouse, on eziekiel toast with vegenaise, avocado and a pile of arugula. Sublime.

And here is more of the aforementioned tofu, this time in a multigrain wrap with hummus, black olives and arugula. Delish.

There, see? There's always plenty for which to be grateful.  Mistakes are bound to happen (or karma) so gather ye watercress while ye may!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mmmmm . . . Just What I Wanted + Whiplash Warning

Here's a shot of my breakfast this morning. Yum! It was so good I have to resist going back in for another serving. This is a warm bowl of my homemade applesauce topped with a new cereal I found at, of all places, Walmart. Here's the cereal:

I saw the word "Ancient" up there and had to have it. You know what ancient means. That's right . . . QUINOA, the answer to my protein dreams. I do so love the palpable protein boost of a good dose of quinoa. So yes, this cereal has quinoa, and also amaranth and teff. I don't know much about those two, but diversification is never a bad thing.  All together, my warm applesauce and cereal topping tasted like the best apple cobbler ever, vegan or not.

I was glad to see a few vegan-friendly items at Walmart, and find it ironic that the Natural Foods Warehouse no longer carries Field Roast Apple Sage Vegan Sausage. Hmmm. I did ask about it and they said something about maybe the manufacturer was not willing to lower his prices enough for them to pass the savings along to the customer, yada yada. Then they suggested I shop for it online. Ummm, I didn't want it that badly. One step forward, two steps back.

Back to the applesauce:  I've had a hankering for homemade applesauce every time I walk by a big wooden bowl of apples on my side table in the early stages of rot. My plan was to throw the apples into a crock pot and let them cook down on their own schedule, but lately my life has not even afforded me the luxury of enough time to peel and remove the bad parts of those apples, which is the only labor-intensive part of the sauce-making process. So last night, when I was creating a bit of a "hodge-podge" dinner for myself and the kids (my husband had a business dinner out) I began peeling and chopping apples for some future window of crock pot action, in between stirring, boiling and microwaving the dinners.

Here is my part of the hodge-podge dinner. I will call it "Eziekiel Pasta, Part Deux" (an hour earlier I had already eaten a lovely green salad from a tupperware while sitting in my car, waiting during my daughter's guitar lesson):

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember how I mentioned I acquired a taste for Eziekiel Bread and now love it, but didn't care for the Eziekiel Pasta. Well, with the kids choosing other random leftovers for their meals, I figured I was cooking last night just for little ole' me, so I would give the Eziekiel Pasta another go, since everything is different now that I've been vegan for a while. On the Eziekiel Fettucini I put Spicy Marinara (I am the only one who likes spicy) with mushroom slices. I topped it off with nootch, of course. The meal was very satisfying, and the flavors were delicious, better than I remember the Eziekiel pasta being, but the texture of the sprouted grain noodles necessitated a paradigm shift. They were very heavy like gritty potatoes or something. Not bad, just different. I did love the meal anyway, and I bet I will love it even more the next time.  Don't serve this to your carnivores -- I think you have to have a healthy portion of hippy in you to love this!

Once I was well into the apple-prep during the dinner prep, I realized I did not want to wait for some future crock pot date. I wanted applesauce for dessert! So, before sitting down to "Eziekiel Part Deux", I put the apples (about 10 of them) into a pot on the stove on medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of earth balance butter. I stirred and stirred, while eating my pasta,  and added ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and a drizzle of agave syrup. I am sorry I did not record the amounts. I kept tasting and adding more, in between bites of pasta. At one point the agave syrup seemed too pronounced, so I considered a squeeze of lemon juice, but finally opted to add one more fresh apple instead. Perfection!  Again, I know I am not much help in the recipe department here, but something as warm and homey as applesauce should be an individual indulgence anyway. I encourage you to taste and add whatever you want until it is yours! To be clear, I did have applesauce for dessert after dinner, and again this morning, reheated for breakfast. I am so happy I still have half a potful in the fridge!

I am cognizant of the fact that this post is very A.D.D. Sorry about that. Hope you didn't get whiplash while reading it. It matches my current lifestyle. Now, I'd better gear up to put in another load of laundry, try again to wake the sleepy teenager (still trying to figure out what's wrong there -- bloodwork taken yesterday, MRI soon) take Ellie for her shots, nails and bath, pick up my new glasses, and a few more items for the dinner I am making for my friend who is having surgery today. Hmmm, maybe at some point I should squeeze in a shower -- maybe post-dog, pre-Optometrist? Thank God for quinoa. Off we go!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Winter Garden

Garden Fairy with Cabbage and Pansies

The winter garden is not the prolific jungle it was in the heat of the summer. Its energy is more quiet, almost meditative, but softly humming with life nonetheless. The winter varieties are of a subtler energy too, less showy and slower-growing than their summer brethren. But these plants, noble dark green leafies all, are teeming with nutrition. It was a lovely day in Georgia, so I decided to take a few photos.
Sunshine in a Mexican Pot

Cabbage with Pansies

Young Broccoli

Young Cauliflower

Young Collards