Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Bountiful Bowlful

One of my favorite things about cooking during the holidays is the leftovers! I'm a simple vegan+, really, usually subsisting on greens mixed with whatever is on hand, but a holiday dinner is special, featuring a few different dishes to go along with the old standbys. For Christmas dinner this year, to please my own culinarily motley crew along with a guest -- Wynne's friend, Yuval, here was the menu:

  • Sweet curried collards with mushrooms, carrots, onions and chick peas (inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite former blogs "{Plate+Simple}" --you may still be able to find the archives)
  • Roasted potatoes with onions, salt and pepper -- raw chopped potatoes, 450 degrees for half an hour.
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper (I've seen some lovely maple- or agave-glazed roasted sprouts recipes, but I am not crazy about sweet sprouts, and since I am the boss of veggies around here, we had 'em simple -- quickly steamed sprouts (1 minute, then rinsed in cold water), then 425 degrees for 15 minutes. I have roasted them exactly like the potatoes before, but the outsides turned out burnt and the insides, still almost raw. The short steam at the beginning, with a slightly lower temp, and a shorter roast time is my preference.
  • Sesame ginger soba noodles -- These seem to come out a little different each time I make them since I don't measure, but the important ingredients are grated ginger (about a Tbsp.) oil, a little rice vinegar, a little shoyu, a couple shakes of red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, scallions sliced on the diagonal -- lots of 'em, cooked soba noodles, a few drops of sesame oil at the end and a small handful of sesame seeds thrown in after it's all done. I like the black ones.
  • An organic chicken I roasted myself -- this was rough, I'm not gonna lie, since it did involve touching and manipulating a dead body. The worst part was that I assumed the inside of the carcass would be similar to turkeys I have roasted in the past (neat little packets of unmentionables), but it wasn't. I spent a few minutes trying to pull the neck from the cavity before realizing (!!!!!) it was still attached. Ugh. Horrible. They don't chop the necks off the organic ones (shudder). I said a prayer for the little birdy, choked back some bile and adjusted my martyr cloak. Then I poured a little Christmas martini and felt better. I had considered buying a pre-roasted rotisserie chicken, but I thought I would do something nice and take the hormones and antibiotics out of the family's poultry experience. I won't do it again.
Chicken necks aside, it was a lovely meal, and today's leftovers were amazing. The bowlful in the photo features poultry-free leftovers only! Stay tuned for the next reinvention of these delectable morsels.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Reminder For Merry Elves

You know who you are . . .

It seems silly since we all know how to take good care of ourselves, but especially for you moms out there this time of year -- remember to breathe! When I was reminded at yoga the other day, I was surprised I had forgotten. I'd been keeping my shoulders up around my ears (I must have looked lovely that way), and had been breathing only from the chin up, quick and shallow. That's barely living. Deep breaths everyone -- slowly. Only a few will make a world of difference.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Houseful

Time is short, and I keep getting this message everywhere I turn: "Simplify". Heeding it, I turn to something lovely and luscious like this polenta to put on the table. The recipe is from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this recipe. I have made it many times and still crave it. Constantly. The carnivore, vegetarian+chicken nuggets eater and macaroni eater all like it too. The kale is not in the recipe, but, you know, I don't think Kris would be opposed to it!

It's wonderful to again have the four of us here for a couple of weeks, (I know, you are thinking "why is that a houseful?") but as a family grows outward, pulling back inward can present an "outgrown shoe" sensation as new freedoms chafe in the context of a childhood home. My best strategy for a healthy, happy holiday season is to remain flexible, impose no agenda and provide something simple and healthy to eat but to remain unoffended if someone still decides to order a pizza.

In further striving to simplify, today I'll attempt to wrap up all my Elf tasks, and will forgive myself when I don't quite finish. At this stage of motherhood, as I shift from micromanager to whatever's next (still figuring that out!) I'm using new tools to keep the magic in Christmas such as repurposing the guest room. Check out my low-tech, anti-micromanaging skills:

My progeny have thus received fair warning, and will partner with me in maintaining the magic if they so choose. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sustenence + Odds-n-Ends

Just a couple of weeks out now, when fueling body, mind and spirit, it behooves us to choose wisely. This Italian preparation of one of my all time faves -- broccoli rabe -- fit the bill perfectly this morning. This was lovely with a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar (a little goes a LONG way!) but it would also be great with nutritional yeast on top. Here's my simple recipe:

Italian Broccoli Rabe

1 large bunch of broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed roughly
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 can of chick peas, rinsed (you may choose white beans instead)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. earth balance "butter"
a pinch of salt

On medium high heat, quickly saute onions and garlic in the oil, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chick peas and salt, stirring frequently for a couple more minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium high and add the tomato and the broccoli rabe, stirring constantly as the greens wilt. You may need to add the greens in batches since they take up a lot of room when raw. Don't worry, no need to remove the original batch before adding the next. The size will quickly dramatically reduce, and the next batch can be stirred right in. I use two wooden spoons to more easily keep it all in the pan. Once all the greens have begun to wilt, add the earth balance to temper the bitter greens and silken the texture. Stir for a couple more minutes and remove the pan from heat, covering so it can continue to steam  until you plate it. This would be perfect with polenta, pasta, brown rice, quinoa or amaranth.

Incidentally, my sweet Mom made that pretty plate! I have mugs to match. I don't use her homemade pottery often because I would hate to break it, but I do feel closer to her when I use it.

For the odds-n-ends portion of the post, here are a couple of photos from the last few days --

The other night we attended a "white elephant" party where you bring an anonymous gift, pick a number and either choose a gift from the pile or steal one from someone else who has already opened it. The party goer whose gift is stolen then gets the same choice, and so on. When it was my turn, I stole this blooming tea system from a very sweet lady who is married to one of Andres' coworkers. Luckily, since I was the 11th chooser, I had already witnessed the sometimes ruthless nature of the game, so I didn't feel too bad about engaging in the shenanigans, myself. I love this! Isn't it cool? You boil water, put a little dried tea pellet into the teapot and then add the water and watch the tea bloom into a lovely flower. There are about 8 other pellets of different flavors and colors, so if I bloom any more pretty ones, I will share photos. I'm not competitive by nature, but I do enjoy this game.

My brother and his family sent us this beautiful  holiday arrangement all the way from Kazakhstan! Thanks, guys! Enjoy the season.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fa La La La La, La La La La

Okay kids, how are we doing?

I've noticed a frenetic panic setting in during this shortened holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas are closer than usual this year, and Hanukkah started on Thanksgiving). Everyone is cheerful enough on the surface, but distracted and hurried. The default facial expression -- brow furrowed, focus downward -- only yields, with bewilderment, from direct eye contact and a smile. Normally this would be the perfect time for our favorite social experiment game. Wynne and I like to find the grouchiest soul in a room and change everything with a genuine, positive greeting or just a smile. It can be very entertaining -- the dramatic change in mood is usually preceded by several seconds of confusion. The payoff is akin to the karmic blast one gets from paying a stranger's toll or restaurant check.

This year, however, I've noticed that I am the one with the furrowed brow. It's my own fault, really. I've become obsessed recently with creative, crafty pursuits I had given up long ago because of their time-consuming nature. Once enmeshed, I was thrilled with the soul-soothing process, until I realized again just how time-consuming creativity is. Continually craving a quick payoff, I have started project after project, only to find that there is no quick payoff. It's time to focus on Christmas. I am watching myself procrastinate, but I just . . . can't . . . stop.

It all started on October 1 with Wynne's request that I create Arwen's cloak for her to wear on Halloween. My youngest child wanting something from me that I can actually do? -- Involving something from Lord of the Rings???? Um, yeah! Ten days, 3-7 hours per day later: the cloak was born! I'd show you a photo, but she is 16 and doesn't approve mass consumption images of herself, unless they are selfies, of course. I did a great job on the cloak, so I thought I was a master seamstress again. Wynne then wanted Haylie Williams' plaid pinafore/jumper thingy, so we went looking for the fabric and pattern. We found something I thought I could work with. I found myself something too. I am not done with either project and am not thrilled with early results. To soothe my jangled nerves from seam ripping the mistakes over and over again, I started some homemade Christmas gifts for friends and neighbors. I'm still in the early stages with these.

Still searching for the elusive sense of accomplishment, I bought piles of yarn so I can remember how to knit, and maybe teach myself to crochet -- haven't touched 'em. I'm about halfway done with Christmas decor -- tree up, no ornaments, cardboard box containing creche figures on the side table. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are still in their bubble wrap.

Still, sometimes the spirit moves me. The other night, fixing dinner in the kitchen, I spouted forth: "God rest ye' merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!"

Andres, watching something on tv in the other room, responded "shush!" Wynne and I made eye contact and had a fit of giggles.

But I can give any grinch a run for his money. Having a snack after school the other day, Wynne got a kick out of watching me go through the mail while loading the dishwasher and prepping dinner. Glasses on, brow furrowed as per usual, I read each Christmas card, bill, junk mail/coupon aloud to help it make sense to my scattered brain.

"Add some sparkle to your holiday, (a credit card solicitation) -- NO!" (ripping it in half).

The phone rang: "Why, why, why is my phone always ringing?! -- oh, hi honey,"

Thank goodness my child is there to show me myself from the outside so the two of us can laugh at me. Yes, I understand I'm avoiding getting into the thick of the season with mindless grinchery and distraction, so as of this moment I will just say no to ripping out another seam on a homemade dress that I don't need and which is not working out. After the new year and a long winter's nap, I'm sure projects will flow more smoothly.  I'm going to sit down now with this lovely soy nog (cut with unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and work on those homemade gifts. Oh, and Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let's get you out of those bubbles!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pretty Tacos!

Lovely, no?

Tacos are one of my favorite things to serve this vegan/vegetarian/carnivore/junk foodie family. I put it all out there and they can each pick and choose what they want. I made a purple cabbage slaw with the juice of a lime, a couple of tablespoons of veganaise and a couple of shakes of chipotle powder. It is as addictive as a slaw can be. I can't stop thinking about it! My pretty taco contained wild rice, black beans, avocado slices, slaw and a dab of salsa. The shell was so jammed with lusciousness that I had the peppers-n-onions on the side. These were a big hit and I'm still enjoying the leftovers.

Random recent fact: The UPS lady just informed me a big white swan was sitting on my roof just now and only flew away as she approached the front porch. What does this mean? Maybe the bird can sense I prefer avocados and purple slaw to poultry.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

When In Doubt, Add Kale

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was lovely, just the four of us this year. With Hans off at college and Wynne in high school now, it's nice to be able to rein 'em all in for a bit. Now that the day-o-cooking has passed, the annual challenge of reinventing leftovers is upon me. Roasted veggies are great  piping hot and crispy, fresh from the oven, but the next day, cold and a little soggy, they need a creative reboot.

I warmed them in a pan with olive oil, on low heat at first, then I turned up the heat to help the roots get their crispy on. A big bowl of kale was then dumped on top and I tossed the whole panful with two wooden spoons for about 3 minutes. The resulting "breakfast hash" was just what I wanted.

In other news, after a recent juicing mishap, I noticed veggies on the ceiling. I fetched the ladder and did what I could to eradicate the mess, but it looks like there'll be a permanent stain. I got a good belly laugh from my 16 year old though -- any little thing I can do to entertain that sweet girl, who revels in my veggie adventures.