Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Odds-n-Ends, "Working With What Is" Edition

Long time no blogpost, friends! Sorry I have been AWOL, all I can say is that I've not been the captain of my own ship lately, and we continue to sail right along, nevertheless. That's just the way it goes in a family sometimes, particularly in chapters of transition. In any case, since life lately has not exactly fit any plan I have had for it, I thought a good theme for today is "working with what is".

The tofu scramble above was fabulous. I had no plan for it, just utilizing it as a vehicle for not wasting food in my larder. The celery was beginning to get limp, so I chopped it up and threw it in there. The carrots had seen better days, so in they went. Leftover roasted potatoes? Check. Certain herbs in my garden that have already begun to bolt in this 95 degree heat? They were lovely within this melange. This tofu scramble was nothing new, but it was amazing.

These are the happiest pots on my property, mainly because they get just enough sun, but not too much, and retain their moisture since part of their day is spent in the shade.  I love the "Creeping Jenny" that persists from years past. I just stuck some fronds of it into every pot in my yard, and struggled to make it work in most of them, and then finally gave up. The Creeping Jenny only loves these three pots, so I will quit trying so hard with the other ones. This year, I added begonias and lantana. I am also attempting begonias and lantana in the windowboxes in full sun which are adjacent to these happy pots. If it doesn't work out, I will shift gears and go another route, as I've already decided to do for some other window boxes up front, under a shallow eave which never gets any rain:

Everything I've ever planted in these forgotten window boxes dies mid-season, so I decided on a selection of succulents this year. Yay for plants that thrive on neglect! I don't know the genus or species, since I picked these up for a song at Walmart, but look at how pretty they are -- I love the bluish "bloom" on the surface of this palnt. It's almost more like a little creature than a plant!

"Working with what is" to me is simply the cessation of paddling upstream. I read somewhere that to turn one's boat around in a downstream direction, one need only lift the paddles out of the water. The boat easily rights itself with no effort from the rider. What an amazing, comforting concept that may be applied to many facets of life!

Since my "odds-n-ends" posts are of a random nature, I'll shift gears now only enough to share some things that feel like blessings to me.

I finally found some Kombucha! I won't share where I found it, lest I "out" the store, subjecting it to some kind of government agency regulation. This bottle was not labelled differently as I understand  it was supposed to be. I am grateful for this contraband, this elixir of health, life, peace and energy. I think the whole hullabaloo about alcohol content is ridiciulous, by the way, From all the bottles of Kombucha I've consumed, I've gotten nary a buzz.

Happy Memorial Day! We remembered members of our Armed Forces and their families on this day, especially my grandfather, Lloyd Charles McKenzie, who perished when he was only 28 years old. I wish I had known him.

My gorgeous gardenia bush decided to bloom right on time to honor the flag. This bush was almost a goner last year and I nursed it back to health. I love the gorgeous, healthy blooms. Their sweet, heady fragrance blasts me right back to the time I spent all over Greece as a college student. Smelling these blossoms, my Greek holiday feels like yesterday!

Grape tomatoes are already on the vine in May!

This Chinese Long Bean has found the trellis with no help from me! These beans were free this year -- I just grabbed a couple of the beans I missed in their thicket last year, all dried out and white, saved them in a brown paper bag all winter, then pulled the pods apart and planted the beans within.

Look what I found this morning! This shell is the size of a thimble. This egg was not of the incredible edible variety, but rather was the former home of a precious baby bird!

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that paddling upstream is futile. I'm getting better at remembering this fact with practice. "Working with what is" feels good, wastes less and uses a lot less energy. Give it a try!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Reap What I Sow

Here's my first early harvest. These "French Breakfast (!) Radishes" grew so quickly and were positively popping out of the ground when I checked the garden this morning, so I pulled them and they became a simple lunch with some kosher salt and crusty wholegrain bread with Earth Balance. These radishes were from last year's packet of seeds which had lost none of their vigor. Every seed I planted sprouted. I like this early harvest better than last year's later harvest. These were more mild than the ones grown in the hotter part of the summer. I ate the whole radish, root first, dipped in the salt, then lay the spiny, peppery leaves on the buttered bread. It was all delicious and fresh, and still warm from the earth.

In a less literal sense, I reaped something else I had sown, not deliberately but rather by example. Today, my 13 year old daughter asked me if I could make her a kale salad rubbed with lemon and olive oil!

"Oh, and can you put those chick peas in there too?" she added.

I dropped whatever it was I was doing and got right on the task, thrilled! This might not seem like a big deal to you folks whose kids were raised from day one in this healthy lifestyle, but you know the expression: you can't teach an old dog a new trick. So I was delighted to realize some of what Wynne had been seeing was rubbing off on her. How nice not to have to cajole one of my kids into a healthier choice!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roasted Veggies!

Veggies are beautiful, aren't they?

This recipe, loosely followed here because it was entirely from memory (I didn't bother to pull the book out again), is one of my "tried and trues". The first time I made this, I did follow the recipe ("Scarlet Roasted Vegetables" from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet) and was in love with the flavor and texture combination. This time I utilized what was on hand: a potato, three beets, a few parsnips a couple of stalks of celery with some of their leaves, a couple of shallots, some dried apricots and slivered almonds. I was out of Shoyu (in my neck of the woods one has to go to a health food store to find it!) so I used Tamari. I also went out on a limb and gave the mix a couple of shakes of Bragg's salt-free seasoning, and then added a pinch of salt for good measure. A couple of glugs of olive oil and a big stir and it was all ready to go into the roasting pan.

The secret for roasting vegetables, in my opinion, is preheating, and using a high heat. 450 degrees is ideal. I like a crispy edge to my tender vegetables. If the veggies are in a single layer, 20-30 minutes should be enough, but if they are spread thickly in the pan they will need more time. Mine needed a good stir after about 20 minutes and then back into the oven they went for another 20.

Here are the luscious jewels -- their colors rendered muted and deep, but their flavors, bright and lush. These veggies were absolutely wonderful with another rubbed kale salad, this time with lemon, olive oil, olives, pimientos and avocado. I can never get enough kale!

Just my memory of Alicia's recipe was so delicious, I am inspired to open the book again and give some of the recipes I've never tried a go.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Crunchy-Chewy Baked Wild Rice and Gardein

I regret there's no recipe today -- this meal was created alongside a non-vegan version for the others, and I made it up as I went along, not knowing when everyone would alight at the dinner table on a busy weeknight. The way we do meals sometimes is not always what I would choose, but I find that a "roll-with-the-punches" attitude is best for everyone when there are many competing agendas.

So, basically, as I was assembling dinner(s), a few of my family members decided to go shoe shopping. I figured something baked slowly in the oven would provide a more flexible presentation time, so that's the method I chose. You can see from the photo that the gardein really didn't need to be cooked as long as it was, but the flavor was amazing, and I really didn't mind the chewy texture. Now, conversely, it's the very chewy, crunchy texture (think the exposed corners of a noodle casserole) of the rice that really makes that part of the meal. I loved the substantial, nutty crust over the creamy soft rice underneath.

Lets see if I can remember what I did:  I just mixed raw wild rice with broth and a couple of spoonfuls of tofutti sour cream (the amount of the liquids together equalled the water amount called for on the rice package). I added a chopped rib of celery, some salt and pepper and then baked it at 350 degrees for about an hour, then stirred in some fresh herbs from my garden (parsley, oregano and dill) and added the gardein which I had quickly sauteed in earth balance, lemon and capers. Then I put it all back in the oven and lowered the heat to 300 and waited for everyone to come home. About half an hour more went by, which is too much, so don't do that. Probably 5-10 minutes to marry the flavors would have worked.

As I said, though, I loved this dish despite/because of its chewiness! A simple rubbed kale salad with sunflower seeds was served alongside.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Avocados On Everything!

Yes, I am eating a LOT of avocados lately. My body wants them, so I am complying. It's a system that works for me. Why a season of avocados? Hmmm, the word "season" gives me a clue. Crazy Season! That's right -- we are still in it. Only 13 days left and counting until we find out if Hans passes his classes or needs to sign up for summer school.

"Just relax," some of you may be saying, "whatever will be will be,"

This is true, and it really is what I should do, but it is easier said than done. Hans has a brilliant mind and lofty ambitions, and it seems a shame if he cannot strive for them because he is in bed with migraines.

So -- The avocados and other healthy fats I have been craving lately -- my theory is that the stress of "crazy season" has left me ill-equipped in the sleep department and thus depleted. The fatty foods provide a lasting energy boost besides serving as comfort foods. Am I worried about a weight gain? Marginally. I do find that any time I go off balance, I may pick up a pound or two. But once equilibrium is again established (raw green leafies and whole grains) for a couple of days, the issue effortlessly resolves. I love being vegan!

So . . . the avocados: here they are featured atop a bowl of tinkyada brown rice pasta with marinara sauce. This was obviously very easy and SO delicious! I didn't even add nutritional yeast. I think I will make this again for lunch today!

By the way, I think I've found a way to keep avocados on hand without the disappointment of their rotting. I choose black ones that are still firm, and I keep them in the crisper. I've kept avocados this way for over a week without being disappointed.  Not exactly related, but my stream-of-consciousness mind works this way: I never put tomatoes into the fridge. It spoils their flavor. They are best kept on the counter, stem-side down (it's firmer and can withstand the gravity without getting mushy). But you probably already knew that!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Alfresco Lunch

I know, if you've seen one salad you've seen 'em all, but I know that, as a frequent salad eater, I've often enjoyed a fresh idea from a fellow blogger's page. So, in that spirit, here's what I ate for lunch today on my lovely patio. On a bed of romaine, I piled about a quarter of a cabbage, thinly sliced, a carrot, slivered, half a cucumber, half an avocado, a big handful of slivered almonds, a few ume radish pickles and some really very delicious dressing that evolved by accident. I will try to remember what's in it.

Let's see -- the dressing all started in the midst of my son's gluten- dairy- sugar-free cleanse diet. I wanted him to eat a little salad with his can of tuna fish (basically tuna and gluten free breakfast bars were all he was eating). He used to sometimes enjoy salad plain, with just ranch dressing. I attempted a dairy-free replacement for the ranch -- Organicville Herb Vinaigrette and a couple of tablespoons of Vegenaise. To my tastebuds it tasted exactly like ranch, but what do I know? Hans wouldn't have it. So I had a jar of rejected faux-ranch. That's where today's dressing started. I was craving lots of healthy fats today, hence the avocado and almonds on the salad. So I also added a heapin' helping of hummus to my faux ranch, and then a honkin' tablespoonful of tahini as well, and then shook it all up. YUM. YUM. What a delicious salad!  I feel like pouring that dressing into a bowl and eating it as a cold soup. JUST KIDDING! But seriously, the thought did cross my mind . . .

Here were my dining companions for my alfresco lunch today:

Here's Emma -- Isn't she pretty? She's just regal, patient, kind, pure love.

And here's the jelly-bean, Ellie. Smart as a whip, her intelligence and her self-control are at odds. She frequently spends long moments staring through our eye sockets into our souls, especially those of us who need it. Lately Hans has been the target of Ellie's psychic healing sessions. I actually think it helps, as a matter of fact.

I love these two girls! What great lunchtime company on this lovely day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Odds-n-Ends, Crazy Season Edition

First, let me take a moment to gaze upon this miracle, then . . . breathe in to the count of six, through the nose, hold to the count of eight, exhale to the count of ten. Do this at least three times.

"She's right, Mom, it really works. I do have a sense of well-being," my son said to me after learning this, among many tools from the Integrative Medicine physician who has kept me well for over 6 years now. Dr. Gustafson has been added to the growing cadre of experts and technicians we are gathering to attempt to heal my son of his debilitating migraines. In addition to relaxation techniques, Dr. Gus is "growing Hans a new gut" with a cleanse and replenishment diet, based upon levels of nutrients in his bloodstream. Hans is being a good sport: "I would do anything to get better," he's said. But, with his food allergies there is not much left for him to eat. It's quite a challenge for me to keep this process appealing to him. I am spending more hours in the kitchen than usual. No gluten, no sugar, no dairy. Hans used to eat mac and cheese, frosted flakes and Burger King -- crazy season for me.

We have two neurologists now. Anything that has worked before for him no longer works. For months, insurance would not approve an MRI. Now they finally will approve it, but, with a deadline at school of May 13 for all assignments due, we haven't a day to spare for any more appointments at all. The school has kindly extended Hans' deadline to May 24, but still . . . Hans has not been to school all week. We had a rough morning today trying to get him to finally push through and go to school through the pain and confusion. No dice. He's not well. He's in bed right now. Just a few more weeks, and then we can focus on healing our boy rather than trying to keep his academic dreams alive.

In the meantime, It bouys my soul to remember all my blessings. I am grateful for all my family members, whatever their state of health.

I am grateful for this kind of doggy box:

Despite all the medical bills not covered by insurance, which make buying the juicer I covet undoable right now, I am grateful I have a rockin' blender that can at least make smoothies:

This is the afternoon portion -- I make enough for two servings, and then save the second half in an old pasta sauce jar and just shake it up again. This smoothie was 4 leaves of kale, a handful of baby spinach, a frozen banana and plenty of coconut water, which I consider the elixer of life -- so energizing!

I am grateful for countless miracles all around me which I consider proof that a fresh start is always possible. We are blooming now, folks:

Ahh! They're here! Breathe in to the count of six, hold to the count of eight, breathe out to the count of ten. Repeat!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Relationship With Coffee

Hello Stalwart readers!  Sorry some time has gone by since my last post. We are in crazy season at the Salinas household (more on that in a later post).

Today I would just like to talk about my relationship with coffee. I've been reading and very much enjoying Kris Carr's Crazy, Sexy Diet. My vegan lifestyle, since February 11, 2010, is well established and easy to live at this point in my life, but Kris' perspective as someone, like me, living with a chronic illness, is valuable to me (she: an incurable, rare cancer, the name of which is very long and complicated and impossible for me to recall; me: Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed January 1996, in the good 'ole days when we were told a cure would be found within 5 years -- still no sign of a cure, only gobs of poisonous, brutal "disease modifying drugs" which produce symptoms worse than the disease, itself). Whew, sorry. Have you noticed I am prone to rants lately? I blame "crazy season" which, as I said earlier will be addressed in a later post. Back to coffee --

Yes, I crave Kris' insights from her relatively rare perspective, and I also crave her irreverent, positively jubilant attitude about her life -- "Life is too sweet to be bitter," she says. Just writing that brings tears to my eyes. Thank you, Kris, for your wisdom.  Off track again -- coffee -- from the pages of Crazy, Sexy Diet I resolved to fine tune my lifestyle even more. The coffee could go. I was only having half a cup a day anyway. The martinis, not so much. But I can have one instead of two or more. The green juice, still a work in progress. I need a juicer. We have medical bills out the ying-yang because of what we are going through with our son's migraines. But, the coffee --

As a young professional fresh out of college, making next to nothing, I was thrilled at the notion that the coffee in the office was free, and it was "all you can drink". It wasn't great coffee, but it was free -- sorta like the beer at the fraternity houses in college (for girls). I developed a pretty serious 8-cup-a-day habit. Later, as a real grown-up with kids, my habit dwindled to about 4-cups-a-day. Right before I went vegan I was still throwing back about 2-3 cups. A clean vegan body made that much coffee intolerable, but I was still sucking down 1/2-1 cup in the morning. Inspired by Kris, I gave up coffee altogether for a week. Oh, the sleep -- the blissful, restful sleep I was afforded without my morning jolt! But then I realized that life was tough. And it wasn't just because of "crazy season". It was because I was no longer smart. I'm serious. Without half a cup of java, my most cherished attribute was GONE! Paying bills: two hours, and full of errors. Reading: incomprehension resulting in re-reading the same passages over and over. Cooking dinner: panic attack-inducing. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Why is my intelligence my most cherished attribute? My background, in a nutshell:  In high school, I was NOT popular. I was "the brain". In college, at William and Mary, I was not "the brain", in fact I was less brainy than most, but I was definitely in my element! It was finally cool to be smart! Smart folks are SOOOO much more interesting! Now, I'm not bragging that I am some brainiac, but I delight in what intelligence I have. Without it, without half a cup of coffee, I don't even know who I am, and life is really just too hard and ineffective. I'm sure Kris wouldn't judge me for that. She's cool that way.

Do you like the mug? My daughter did the artwork for it. She is awesome!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Odds -n- Ends, Post-Easter Edition

I am humbled, looking at some of my fellow-bloggers' Easter meals and decor. My own Easter experience stands in stark contrast. We are in a season of crazy in our lives currently, one for which the mantra, "This, too, shall pass . . ." has been a most comforting coping mechanism. Nothing new, just our ongoing saga of attempting to keep our son's migraines at bay while maintaining some modicum of emotional balance. The life sentence of "mother's worry" is growing to a fever pitch as I watch the remaining weeks for Hans to catch up on everything dwindle to fewer than a handful. In the midst of this , new approaches are employed, with different doctors, meds, an upcoming MRI, appointments with alternative practitioners, school counselors, all ready to be cancelled at a moment's notice because of a headache or an opportunity for a make-up exam. I've taken up meditation again. Ahhhhh.

So . . . Easter at the Salinas household: There were baskets in the morning. I didn't go to the basement in search of seasonal decor. I didn't think about Easter dinner until 2:00 p.m. We all were hungry at once, without a plan. "How about Chipotle?" I asked, feeling like a loser. All agreed upon the idea. I drove to Chipotle with my list of orders, to find it closed up tight as a drum. Oh yeah . . . Easter.  I drove to Kroger to buy fixings for a reasonable facsimile of a Chipotle meal. Oh, and eggs and dye -- afterthought. By the time I returned, the hungry anticipation was palpable. The table was set with glasses of water and accoutrements for a takeout meal. You should have seen the faces as I explained the change in plan. Nobody wanted to wait for me to cook. I put the groceries away and we went out in search of a restaurant not closed for the holiday.

So I made my homemade Chipotle buffet the next day. It was a big hit. Really all I made was very fabulous guacamole (don't skimp on the lime juice or minced jalapeno), my fresh salsa and a pot of brown rice. All the other ingredients were fresh and organic though, and everyone chose their favorites. We never did get around to dying the eggs.

In other news:

Mailbox mishap -- one of our neighbors ran OVER our mailbox as he backed out of the driveway, pulling the concrete clean out of the ground. Admittedly, our driveway is a challenge. We didn't hear it since we were enjoying a concert DVD at the time, but neighbors in the cul de sac said the crash was alarmingly loud as the heavy, cast-aluminum box crashed onto the pavement. The impact knocked the paint off the pole. Like many other humorous neighborhood stories, this will go down in the annals of the history of our tight-knit community.

Because of a Homeowners' Association, popping up to Home Depot to get a replacement was not an option. A couple of days went by as we located the company which provided the mailboxes when we all moved in, over 10 years ago. They no longer manufacture this model, but we were able to find similar parts and rebuild and repaint our mailbox. It's now ship-shape, but a week passed with no mail delivered. I guess the mailman didn't want to step out of his truck to fill the box sitting on a curb. I would not have minded the break from post except for the whole Playstation 3 security breach.

Do you have gamers in your household? Long story short, my son enjoys online video gaming, and recently it was discovered that Playstation 3's online data was hacked on April 17. Sony kept this information hushed for about a week before they admitted what had happened and advised users "in an abundance of caution" to deactivate credit cards which had been used on the site. Attempting to discern exactly which of my credit cards were at risk, my son and I tried to check the Playstation site for the information. Right- Playstation online is closed for the foreseeable future as they try to lessen the impact of the breach. Plan B -- Carefully check all credit card statements for suspicious activity during the period in question -- right -- no credit card statements. I wasn't getting any mail. my mailbox had been flattened. I found myself in a perfect storm for identity theft. The mailman says he will bring all my old mail on Monday. I'll keep you "posted" no pun intended.