December 27, 2012

Oh no. I forgot the arms!


We were on the East Coast for a week, enjoying visits with friends and family in Philly. (My last post was written before we left home and was published automatically.) We don't visit our hometown often enough, visits always seem too short, and it's hard to leave loved ones behind when we return to the PNW. We got back Monday night and are settling back into the rain and gloom routine.

The food highlight of our trip was dinner at Vedge, which I'll post about soon — still have to organize the photos and figure out what dishes they are. But today my post is about our family dinner on Dec. 25. We don't celebrate Christmas, so it wasn't a super festive holiday meal so to speak, but I thought it was pretty tasty. The appetizer, shown above, was my take on one of the spectacular dishes from Vedge, sweet potato paté, which I tried to re-create. I'll post a recipe when I write about our Vedge dining experience.

River, from Wing it Vegan, and I, sometimes have a synchronicity thing going on where we comment on each others posts at the exact same time, so I was only mildly surprised to see that we both planned almost the same dinner. Of course, her version was much more creative and clever than mine, but still.


I made beet loaf shepherd's pie and she made beet burgers in muffin tins topped with snowmen — same idea, with a little more creativity on her part. But, she inspired me to make Miss E's dinner a little bit cuter than the rest of ours — I baked her loaf in a mini tart pan and formed her mashed potatoes into a snowperson of sorts, thinking maybe she would actually be motivated to eat it. (You should check River's post to see what the snowmen should really look like!)


Miss E was quite elated with her dinner, though she didn't eat the burger part, only the potatoes. I used olive tips for eyes, a carrot for the nose, a pickle piece for the scarf and sun-dried tomatoes for the mouth and buttons. But, I forgot the arms, which River had made from parsley.


Just for the record, beets aren't the primary ingredient of the loaf, but lend a red color and delicious flavor; it's mostly beans and millet. I served it with cashew gravy made from a handful of cashews blended to creamy smoothness with the leftover bean-cooking liquid, plus sun-dried tomatoes, and assorted other ingredients. It was simmered with sautéed sliced mushrooms, and I thought it was delicious. (Because I forgot to take photos at the dinner, the shepherd's pie pics with the excepti9on of the snowman, are actually leftovers from the next day.)


For dessert I made the  oat/almond cookies that I've grown very fond of, left the chocolate chips out, pressed them as thin as possible and made them into sandwich cookies. Before flattening them, I rolled the chilled dough into same-size balls and chilled them in the fridge for 10 minutes to make them easier to flatten. I flattened the balls with my fingers.


I added the chocolate the lazy way. When the cookies were done, I removed the pan from the oven, and quickly paired the cookies for size. (I had tried to make them all the same so this was pretty easy.) Then I turned one of each pair over and covered the flat bottom of the over-turned cookie with chocolate chips. When all the cookie bottoms were covered, I carefully placed the cookie sheet back into the oven for a minute. When the minute was up, I removed the cookie sheet, covered each cookie with its mate, pressed them together with a little twist, and voila! Sandwich cookies. (The chips don't look melted when they come out of the oven, but they are.) After the cookies cool, the chocolate hardens.


Here is Miss E modeling the tutu her Philadelphia cousin Rebecca made for her and sent back with us. Miss E loves tutus. Becca also made her various hair ornaments. (Becca sells the tutus and bows, so if anyone is interested, just let me know!)

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

December 21, 2012

I love leftovers


My husband will almost never eat leftovers. Nor will he put them into something he's cooking. I, on the other hand, love leftovers, and will eat them straight up or combine them with other ingredients into something new. It makes me sad to find a small container of moldy leftover food in the back of the refrigerator knowing it could have been turned into something delicious. Here are a few uses to which I've recently put leftovers. Above you can see some leftover Thai coconut curry that was combined with a big bunch of bok choy to make a delicious side dish.


In the bowl, toasted sunflower seeds, green onions, parsley, and shredded carrots were added to leftover rice. A dressing of lemon-tahini made it into a satisfying lunch.



Could this be taco salad? A big mound of mixed greens topped with tortilla chips, leftover beans, smoked provalone (from Artisan Vegan Cheese), and salsa made a great lunch.



Are you wondering what to do with the last slice of your beet loaf? You could toast some corn tortillas on the gas burner until they are crisp (try not to burn them!), spread on the beet loaf, the last of the smoked provalone, and top it with sriracha if you happen to be out of salsa. Tasty tostadas will be your reward. These would be even better with shredded lettuce and olives, but I was clearing out the fridge before going out of town and using up what we had. Still tasted great!

December 17, 2012

I made beet loaf?


You know how recipes seem to cycle through the blogs, appearing almost simultaneously on the same day. One minute all the blogs have banana bread/banana muffins/banana cupcakes, etc., and the next they're all about peanut stew/peanut soup/peanut pie. Then, every so often, there's a run of beet burgers/beet loaf/beet balls. I've found myself contributing to the surfeit of many such confluences — but never to the ones involving beets. I don't love beets, and I don't hate them. I will eat one or two slices of baked, boiled or pickled beets if they are being served, but I almost never prepare them myself. I like borscht; I like raw beets as part of fresh juice; I like raw grated beets, but sadly, most beets that we bring into the house thinking we might use them, end up in the compost.


Last week I was home alone, and thought it would be a good idea to make a main-dish loaf of some sort that I could eat from all week — just heat and add vegetables — and not have to cook much. As I planned what would go into it, I remembered the beets languishing in the fridge, and decided I   might as well make a beet loaf once and for all. I didn't look up any recipes* because I was afraid that seeing a long list of ingredients that I had to find and measure would make me change my mind, and besides, I had my own list of ingredients that needed to be used up. For example, I had the end of an expired bag of TruRoots sprouted beans, some rather old millet, and the last five remaining mushrooms from a box on the verge of being tossed, as well as a giant jar of mushroom powder that I try to add to as many things as possible. Because I didn't use a recipe, and didn't accurately measure most of the ingredients, you should consider my recipe a guide. The loaf was so good I really couldn't believe it, and I made so much there was plenty left when my husband got home from his travels — he loved it, too. It could easily go into sandwiches or into tacos or nachos or under mashed potatoes for shepherd's pie. Or you could freeze the leftovers for a night when you don't have time to cook. Yesterday I formed some of the leftovers into a burger and sautéed it in a little oil — delicious with sriracha. You could use any beans you want — lentils would be good, and probably any grain, though I recommend trying millet for its taste and texture.


Beet loaf (guidelines) About 12 servings
  • 1 cup dry TruRoots sprouted beans, cooked and drained (or lentils or other beans) 
  • 1 cup dry millet cooked in 2 cups water for 20 minutes, then allowed to sit, covered for at least 20 minutes, fluffed with a fork
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 5 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 smallish beet, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 piece fresh ginger root, chopped,
  • 1 Rapunzel no salt added bouillon cube, mashed into hot beans
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (more if you really like liquid smoke)
  • hemp seeds (opt.)
  • sunflower seeds (opt. but adds a nice crunch)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon mushroom powder (opt.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • herbs and spices as desired (I used crushed red pepper)
  1. Sauté onion until almost soft. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Add carrots and beets and cook until wilted.
  2. In a food processor, place beans, bouillon, cocoa, garlic and ginger and buzz until well-combined.
  3. Add half the millet and half the sautéed veggies and buzz until well-combined but not puréed.
  4. Place the bean mixture into a large bowl with the remaining millet and veggies and mix. 
  5. Mix in ketchup, liquid smoke, hemp seeds (if using), sunflower seeds (if using), mushroom powder (if using), salt, pepper, herbs and spices to taste.
  6. Press into an oiled 10" x 13" baking dish. Glaze the top with a thin layer of ketchup.
  7. Bake at 350˚F for 45 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve with gravy.
* If I were going to look for recipes, I'd search here and here and also here. Try searching for beet burgers as well as beet loaf. I know I've seen recipes on all three blogs, though I've never been in the right mood to make note of them because, you know, they contained beets. Well, I was wrong. Yes, I was.

December 15, 2012

Time to reflect ...


I'm taking a day off from my usual food-related posts — took yesterday off, too — because the unspeakable happened yet, again, and I'm feeling bereft for the victims, their families and our country. I find myself at a loss for words, and I'm taking a moment to share how others have reacted to the sad, sad violence that permeates our society. Yes, we need to address gun control, but we also need to address mental health and access to mental health care.

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I am Adam Lanza's Mother — Written by Liza Long, republished from The Blue Review Friday’s horrific national tragedy -- the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut -- has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness. While every family's story of mental illness is different, and we may never know the whole of the Lanza's story, tales like this one need to be heard -- and families who live them deserve our help. 

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants. “I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises. “They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.” “They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!” “You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan -- they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me. That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18. The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?” “No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.” His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right. “Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?” “You know where we are going,” I replied. “No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!” I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.” Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer. The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork -- “Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing. For days, my son insisted that I was lying -- that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.” By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore. On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.” And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own.

Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense. I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness. According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.” I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology.

But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise -- in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population. With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill -- Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.” I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal. God help me. God help Michael. God help us all. (Originally published at The Anarchist Soccer Mom.)
 
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After my father and brother were murdered, owning a gun made me feel secure. Now it’s time to give it up

December 10, 2012

Peanut and yam stew | Sunday morning with Miss E


It's that time of year again when the damp chill in the air makes me think of soup and stew. And for some reason, feeling chilly makes me crave peanuts. When I saw a recipe for a yam and peanut stew on Gena's blog, I immediately printed out the recipe because it looked so warming. I love N. African inspired stews, and I have a recipe for a spicy version that I think is perfection, on my blog, but I'm always interested in trying different recipes. Gena's version was a hearty, thick stew that was really delicious. We had to make a couple of substitutions reflecting the ingredients we had on hand, so our stew had cauliflower instead of kale, and toasted sunflower seeds instead of peanuts, but it was still yummy and satisfying. The next day I bought kale and added it to the leftover stew, and it was a great addition that I recommend. In fact, lately I've been adding kale to every soup I make. I stir-fry it quickly and add it just before serving.

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On Sunday morning
Callie is wishing Miss E were still at our house.

My 4-1/2 year old granddaughter came to visit for several hours on Sunday morning, and here's what we did:
  1. Played Chutes and Ladders.
  2. Had a training session with Callie — sit, stay, come, fetch. (Callie was hysterical with joy!)
  3. Snacked on smoothies (banana, pineapple, mango, cranberry, hemp hearts, almond milk) and brownies (Gone Pie coconut)
  4. Playacted three stories — Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). I got to be a fairy godmother, a mother and a prince. I even got to wear my golden cape.*
  5. Drew masterpieces with colored pencils.
  6. Played hand drums for each other so we could dance.
  7. Had a picnic on a rug with carrot sticks and hummus and olives.

* Last summer at a garage sale, I came upon a shiny, sparkly gold cape that looked like the perfect costume for playing with Miss E. As I was admiring it, the home owner started telling me that she had two of them, blah, blah, blah, and suddenly my fantasizing brain realized the truth. "This is a Christmas tree skirt, isn't it?" I said. "Yes," she confirmed. No matter, I decided; I tried it on and could see it was a perfect fairy godmother cape. And it is. It also is a sumptuous dress for a four-year-old princess. Who knew a Christmas tree skirt could be so useful?


    December 05, 2012

    Vietnamese soup and a dog update


    Years ago, while we were living in Australia for six months, we visited the city of Ballarat so we could take the kids to the re-created gold mining town at Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill depicts Ballarat's first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. There are more than 60 buildings, and costumed staff who serve as townspeople-guides. Many of the buildings were operating as they would have been in the 1860s — the bakery turned out baked goods in a stone hearth, the foundry produced household wares, etc. Anyway, we were in a building with a large hearth, and someone was baking loaves of flatbread and handing them to visitors. I was starving, and the bread appeared to be very basic and vegan, so I accepted one and took a bite. It had seeds that I didn't recognize, but as I started chewing I was hit with a horrible recognition. "It's fennel," I gasped to my husband. A giant wave of nausea passed over me as I tried to figure out where to spit the bread before it was too late. I actually don't remember what I did, just the extreme fennel-panic I felt as the taste hit my tongue. Fennel has been a problem for me since childhood.

    For the past few years I've been trying to overcome certain food aversions, and fennel/anise/black licorice is one of them. I've learned that when baked, the taste of fennel root changes and I can eat it — nervously — but I do think it tastes good. I don't know that I'll ever be able to eat black licorice, but if the flavor of star anise is mild enough, I now can eat and enjoy it. But "mild" is the key, and I mean very mild.

    My husband loves pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, and there are tons of pho shops around here, many of which make vegan pho. It's a perfect, light take-out supper on nights when we don't feel like cooking. That is, it would be a perfect dinner, except that the stock is traditionally flavored with star anise. When the anise flavor is mild, I enjoy the soup, but when it's strong, I feel like gagging. My husband found a recipe for pho in the New York Times. He made the broth without star anise, so there would be no question of whether or not I'd eat it, and I loved it. I didn't miss the anise at all. :D

    The pho we get in the shops is served with rice noodles, but my husband used 100% buckwheat noodles — a nice variation. The soup was great and I recommend it! You could make it with star anise if you like the stuff and want your broth to be more authenic.

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    Callie

    I've gotten a couple of requests for a dog update, and truthfully, I've been restraining myself or I'd be publishing photos of her every day. I sat her down for a photo session and am sharing a few photos with you. She's still the cutest dog in the world, and as sweet and cuddly as can be. She barks now, but only once or twice if she feels it's really necessary. She's always by my side and follows me from room to room.


    We had a problem leaving her alone because she cried and howled when we left, but she seems much better now, though she gets into a little trouble when left by herself. Nothing serious, but she obviously entertains herself when alone.


    When we took her to the vet we learned she had ear infections in both ears, but otherwise seems in good health. Because she's a rescue dog, the vet didn't charge us for her first visit, which was a nice surprise.


    The weirdest thing is although she's about two years old, and considered full-grown, she seems bigger than when we first got her. Maybe her hair is growing, but both of us have noticed it. Probably our imagination, right?

    December 01, 2012

    Leftover love / creamy buckwheat cereal with cranberry sauce


    When I was a child, I hated when holiday dinners were hosted by people other than my parents, because there wouldn't be any leftovers, and in my opinion, a refrigerator full of tasty leftovers is one of the rewards of having a big dinner. I could never understand why anyone wouldn't want that. Even though our Thanksgiving tofu dish won't make it onto our list of holiday favorites, as leftovers it was pretty good. We cut some into cubes and had a delicious stir-fry with broccoli, along with leftover stuffing, gravy and cranberries. The next night I took the leftover tofu and stuffing and made it into tasty burgers, some of which we ate for dinner, while the rest went into the freezer. The pumpkin pie made not only an excellent dessert, it was a special treat for breakfast. (And maybe lunch!) And the last of the cranberries sauce ended up as a topping on my newest breakfast obsession — creamy buckwheat cereal.


    You may recall that I recently tested a bunch of pies, crisps and such for Laurie Sadowski, and one of the desserts had Bob's creamy buckwheat cereal in the recipe. That left me with a whole bag of buckwheat to use up, and not being one who likes to waste food, I followed the directions on the bag and made some for breakfast. I love it; it makes a very hearty breakfast that holds my hunger at bay for hours. The package says to use 1/4 cup of cereal to 3/4 cup of water but I find that 1 cup of water works better. I cook it with raisins, then add toppings before eating. Hemp hearts and pumpkin seeds or cashews are pretty standard. Sometimes that's all I add, but leftover cranberries were a special treat, and frozen blueberries are pretty good, too. Cinnamon is also a good addition, as is almond milk.

    Bob's creamy buckwheat cereal is certified gluten-free and organic. Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, not a grain, cereal or wheat product. Buckwheat is a very good source of manganese and a good source of magnesium, copper, and dietary fiber. Buckwheat contains two flavonoids with significant health-promoting actions: rutin and quercitin. The protein in buckwheat is a high quality protein, containing all eight essential amino acids, including lysine.

    Although buckwheat is native to Northern Europe as well as Asia, I always think of it as a traditional food from Russia and Poland. When I was studying macrobiotics, I learned that buckwheat is a traditional winter food, and is very warming and satisfying during cold weather. I give it two thumbs up as a perfect hot breakfast on a cold morning.

    If you can't find it at your local co-op, it can be ordered from online places like iherb. (Use the link in the sidebar to get $10 off your first $40 order of food, vitamins and herbs.) I think you could also use regular buckwheat groats that you whiz to a finer grind in a food processor.

    Buckwheat isn't just for breakfast. Here's a favorite recipe for kasha varniskes soup that you might enjoy. And here is a delicious pasta recipe using buckwheat groats. Although I show it with bow tie noodles, which I haven't been able to find GF, you can make it with any small, gluten-free pasta. Remember that if you are making the soup or pasta, use regular buckwheat groats, not the finer creamy cereal.

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