Thursday, March 30, 2006

Midweek Munchies II

I'm an overachiever this week -- make this my SECOND Midweek Munchies post. I stopped at the co-op on my way home from work tonight!

one Amy's light sodium black bean and veggie enchilada things (I didn't want to have to think about supper tonight)

one quart of Silk unsweetened soymilk (never had unsweetened soymilk before . . . will I be disappointed?)

four organic bananas
two organic golden delicious apples
one organic Fuerte avocado
eleven organic button mushrooms
one organic green bell pepper
one pound bag of organic carrots

I rarely make trips to the grocery store mid-week, but I think I'm having a friend over for lunch tomorrow, (we both have the day off!) and I wanted to make Scrambled Tofu. I was planning on making scones to go with it, but I got a FREE loaf of wholegrain bread at work today (one of the parents knows someone who works at Breadsmith, and sometimes we get big bags full of whatever day-old bread they haven't been able to sell,) so, French Toast it is! Yum!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Midweek Munchies

Here's what I bought last Sunday:

Organic Black Beans (2 3/4 pounds . . . boy, they came out of the dispenser FAST!)

A peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie ('cause I was hungry, and to thank Ann, my driver -- we split it on the way back to my apartment!)

1 pint Soy Delicious Mocha Almond Fudge (coffee ice cream with a fudge ribbon and whole almonds)
1 pint Soy Delicious Cherry Nirvana (cherry ice cream with whole cherries and dark chocolate flakes!!!!)

3 quarts Plain Enriched Soy Dream
one Green and Black's organic dark chocolate bar
2 cans Muir Glen organic no salt added diced tomatoes
1 bottle Seventh Generation lavender dish soap

6 organic bananas
1 organic mango
2 organic ruby red grapefruit
1 head organic garlic
1 bunch organic kale
1 large, organic yellow onion
1 medium, organic yam
1 bag prewashed organic baby spinach

I was so very excited to see the Soy Delicious pints in fancy flavors. After reading about Leslie's midnight milkshake, in which she used Soy Delicious cookies & cream, I have had MAJOR ice cream cravings. (Unfortunately, my co-op wasn't stocking the cookies & cream variety on Sunday. Boo!) I was excited to try both of these flavors -- Cherry Garcia used to be my favorite B&J flavor, and I love coffee ice cream in all forms. The Mocha Almond Fudge is FABULOUS. Cherry Nirvana is a little too sweet for me. I looked at the nutrition facts on the labels and guess what? The Mocha Almond Fudge actually has MORE grams of sugar per serving than Cherry Nirvana. Go figure.

Visit more Midweek Munchies participants.
Thanks to Harmonia for starting it all!

experiment = success!

I made a VERY experimental dinner, and it turned out wonderfully!

First, I started a bunch of kale. (I sauteed garlic and onion in canola oil until soft, then sauteed the kale for a few minutes before adding a cup of veg broth, bringing the kale to a boil, reducing the heat, covering the pan, and simmering for 20 minutes.)

Next, I started a pot of whole wheat spaghetti. (Bionaturae is my brand of choice.)

Finally, I combined about a half a cup of leftover, homemade refried beans, about a half a cup of Muir Glen fire roasted tomato pasta sauce, a heaping teaspoon of nutritional yeast, and a big splash, (oh, let's say, a couple of tablespoons) of soy milk, and warmed and stirred this odd sauce.

When the pasta was finished cooking, I drained it and tossed it with the sauce. Then I topped the pasta with the kale.

It's not much to look at, but it tastes pretty darn good! It mostly just tastes like pasta with red sauce and greens. It looks somewhat like a "meat" sauce, and has a bit earthier flavor, obviously. Hm! I may have to remember this one for the next time I have leftover refried beans, and don't feel like a quesadilla.

sunny days, sweepin' the clouds away!

It is SOOOOOOOO beautiful outside today!

Many of you may gasp at the following comment, since it may seem pretty cold to you . . .

. . . BUT . . .

It's 45 degrees and sunny today! I didn't even wear a coat on our hike this morning! Wahoo! Spring at last, spring at last!

Monday, March 27, 2006

boo, hiss.

I officially started job searching this evening. Boo, hiss.

This has to be one of my least favorite things to do. So stressful.

Something that bugs me, too, is the sheer volume of paper that applying for jobs uses. Between a cover letter, application, resume, letters of reference, and transcripts, I usually end up sending most prospective employers upwards of 16 pages, plus a full-sized envelope. Sheesh!

Wish me luck! I'll update with progress reports, as needed. :)

Man, I am tired. Time for bed.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

the amazing shrinking Catherine

Well, Kai asked me in a comment about the weight loss I alluded to in a previous post, and I thought I'd detail that for anyone who's interested!

Let's see . . . it's kind of tough to figure out a good place to start. Well, a little about my family and history might help. I am of "hearty" stock -- my ancestors came mostly from Germany, Poland, and Ireland, and I grew up in Wisconsin, which (I believe) is one of the most unhealthy states in the country. My family cooked a lot, we were offered lots of veggies and I ate them, but we still ate a typical American diet -- meat, (mostly refined) grains, cheese, veggies, fruit, and some junk food. My mom is a super-budgeter, so some of the fruit we ate as kids was canned, and most of our veggies were frozen (sometimes frozen from our garden, but still frozen.) Note that I'm not blaming my family for being overweight, because we were eating what was "normal" for the time, but it still wasn't the healthiest diet.

When I moved off to college, I didn't gain the requisite freshman fifteen (due in large part, I think, of the sheer size of the University of Minnesota campus,) right away. Around my junior year, I started putting on weight and continued to put on weight until I was nearly finished with graduate school. I topped out at the age of twenty four at 165 pounds, and I am five feet two inches tall.

The trouble was, since I am so petite, I was only a size twelve at my largest. None of my friends ever thought I needed to lose weight, and no one ever mentioned weight loss as a possibility. I felt icky, though -- I looked at photos of myself and thought, "am I really that fat? I don't feel that fat on the inside!" It was sort of like the reverse of what happens to some people who are anorexic -- I actually believed I was skinnier than I was! Strange. According to my BMI, I think I was right on the border of obesity. Scary!

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I came to the conclusion that I was far too young to be that overweight, and researched different "diets." I chose the Reader's Digest Change One plan, and lost ten pounds. I found the "diet" easy to follow and stuck with it for several months. The "diet" actually helped me change some of my eating habits -- I got a better handle on portion control, I became a label reader, I ate more veggies, and I started eating breakfast. I kept the weight off, but I still felt like there was more I could do -- and I was still considered overweight.

A year ago last Christmas, (um, Christmas 2004,) I decided to make some major changes to my diet and lifesyle. I had read "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy" by Walter Willett, and realized I now had the tools to overhaul my eating habits and get healthy. I cut out all refined grains, cut way down on sugar, cut out most saturated fat, and virtually eliminated processed foods from my life. My goal was to lose 25 pounds by my birthday, which I nearly accomplished. During this time, my friend Lauren coined the nickname "the amazing shrinking Catherine." It was great! I dropped from a size 12 to a size 8 in five months, I felt great, and knew I was just so much healthier for it. I was eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, and was eating "whatever I wanted" (within the new food pyramid outlined by Dr. Willett,) and still lost weight!

Somewhere during this time, I virtually stopped eating meat. I considered it a "treat" for a long time, and then realized that was stupid -- I hadn't really ever cared for meat. I'm not exactly sure when I started calling myself a vegetarian, but I haven't eaten meat since this past Christmas. (And I hadn't eaten meat for months, and the few bites of chicken salad I had made me sick.) And since then, I started really exploring veganism. Although I don't consider myself a vegan, (I eat cheese and/or eggs from time to time, but only away from home,) I cook vegan at home and keep a vegan kitchen. (Well, I think I have a small piece of parmesan WAAAAAY in the back of the fridge somewhere. Come to think of it, I should probably dispose of that! I bet it's pretty old.)

Now, my new nickname is "the bottomless pit." With the near-vegan diet and the enormous amount of activity I get on a daily basis, my metabolism is such that most days, I need to eat, oh, every hour and a half or so. Inconvenient, but healthy. I have kept off all of the weight I lost, and am now a healthy, steady 130 pounds.

I tried on a pair of pants at Target today, (size small, thank you very much!) and my friend Ann who was with me said, "gosh, those pants make you look TINY!" While I'm not tiny, I'm glad I'm a healthy weight for my height.

And that, my friends, is the story of the amazing shrinking Catherine, turned bottomless pit.

I'm back!

I returned last night from my little trip to Milwaukee and Chicago, and share the following "hilights" with you:

1. I created a 69-point word while playing Scrabble with my mom on Thursday night. ("Quartz" on a triple word score.) This 69-point word helped contribute to my total score of 303! I've never had a Scrabble score of over 300 before in my life! Wahoo!
2. My Dad put more transmission fluid in my truck, and it runs MUCH better now.
3. The food at my cousin's wedding was pretty good! (A miracle, if you ask me! Wedding food usually sucks.)
4. I hung out with some friends on Friday night, and we had a great time. I wish I could see Jess and Dan more often!

I also ate out three times: once, at a Mexican place that shall remain nameless because I can't remember what the place was called and the food was horrible, once at Heinemann's, which is always great, (I love their baked oatmeal, but this time I had a veggie omelette, which was nummy!) and once at Chin's Asia Fresh, which was tasty, too! (Chin's is very veggie friendly -- they offer brown rice as a choice with their stir-fries (!!!!), offer tofu as an opion, and their menu has clearly labeled vegetarian options. It's also fast, and reasonably priced!) I had the tofu and veggie stir fry with Thai Peanut sauce. Mmmmmm!

I've noticed, however, that when I travel I just don't eat as healthfully as when I do at home. Many places are becoming more vegetarian friendly, but it's still tough, I think, to find veggie food on the road. (Or more specifically, veggie food that's not cheese-dependant.) Especially in the land of beer, cheese, and bratwurst. Alas.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Midweek Munchies

Since I will be heading out of town tomorrow for a couple of days, I decided to use up some random, less-than-fresh produce that has been hanging about in my fridge for a week now. Once I went digging, I found a zucchini, a couple handfulls worth of baby spinach, a green pepper, a couple tablespoons of canned diced tomatoes, some slightly wilty ginger, some lemons, most of a can of pumpkin that I had opened for another purpose and had not yet used, and about 2 cups of cooked pinto beans. (I don't know why I buy pinto beans. I don't really care much for them. Oh well!)

I looked at all of the produce for a few seconds, then put the green pepper and the tomatoes back in the fridge -- they just didn't "belong" with the rest of the ingredients. Then I set half a cup of dried brown basmati rice to cook, before preparing my soon-to-be Midweek Munchies stew!

Here's what I did:

1. I glugged about a tablespoon of canola oil in the bottom of my soup pot and set the heat to medium. I then chopped and dropped, in this order: 1 medium yellow onion, 5 cloves of garlic, about a 2 1/2 inch piece of peeled ginger, and 1 medium zucchini. After each ingredient, I stirred and cooked everything for about a minute, while I prepped the next ingredient.
2. I then stirred in 1 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder and 1 bay leaf, and let the spices toast for a minute.
3. I then stirred in the canned pumpkin, 4 cups of vegetable broth, the spinach, which I had roughly chopped, and the pinto beans. I brought everything to a boil, lowered the heat, and simmered the stew uncovered for about 30 minutes.
4. The rice was done at about the same time as the stew, so I stirred that in, along with the juice of one lemon. I then scooped about 3 cups of the stew out into my blender, and set it to puree. Once I stirred the pureed soup back into the pot, it became lovely, thick, and golden. (Although I did enjoy the orange and green look of the stew, pre-pureeing. But it was more of a soup consistency at that point.) I enjoyed some for lunch with wholegrain pita, and have packed up the rest to freeze for another day.

Speaking of freezing leftovers, I just dug through my freezer, mostly to reorganize and make room for today's creation. Um . . . I may not be cooking much over the next couple of weeks, because I have a LOT of goodies stashed away in there! (Miso soup, chili, chickpea noodle soup, lentil soup, marinara with tofu balls, and refried beans. There's also a frozen pizza, muffin, pancake, and biscuit mixes, and more frozen veggies than I've ever seen in my freezer before!) Whoops! I guess I felt like stockpiling a little bit this winter? Anyhow, I better hurry up and eat up all of those soups, because soup season is quickly drawing to a close.

Visit more Midweek Munchies participants.
Thanks to Harmonia for starting it all!

cruelty-free clothing???

So, I am still on the hunt for some new clothes (especially spring/summer clothes) after all of the weight I lost last year. I am having trouble finding cruelty-free clothing in my price range.

See . . . I struggle to find clothing that is produced in an environmentally-friendly manner, which also respects the workers that produce it. Does anyone have any ideas about companies I could try? (The other problem I have is budget -- I can't afford to spend an arm and a leg on clothes.) So far, I have researched both L.L. Bean and Land's End, and both have policies on their website concerning worker's rights and such. (L.L. Bean also has a policy concerning their commitment to environmental/sustainable practices, but it is mostly about their catalogues and stuff.) The trouble with both of these companies is, well, most of their clothes just aren't designed for someone my age.

Am I asking for too much? Ultimately, I'd like to find clothes that are cute and that fit, (!), that are affordable, that are produced in a sustainable way, and that are sold by a company that respects its workers. Does anyone have ideas for companies/brands/stores I could try?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

appointments, appointments, appointments

So, I took my kitty to the Kitty Klinic on Lyndale, and I have to say, I was a little nervous -- I've never had him to the vet before, and I wasn't sure how he was going to react. (Mostly, I was afraid he was going to bite someone.) However, our visit was quick and painless, (despite him having two shots!), the staff was excellent, and the vet gave Oliver a sticker (on his carrier) for being a "good patient." The vet also gave me some advice on how to get his weight down and work on socializing him a little more.

The dentist and the doctor were uneventful. The dentist always tells me I have clean, healthy teeth, and the doctor confirmed that I have migraines, and told me I could take more ibproufen than I have been, (or I could take Excedrin,) since I'm not interested in pursuing prescription medication yet. Other than dilating my eyes and then forgetting about me for half an hour, the eye doctor was uneventful, too.

I'm glad all of those appointments are over!


I have never been a fan of cooked greens. I LOVE spinach in salads and on pizzas, in lasagna, etc., but I just haven't hopped on the "greens" wagon . . .

. . . until recently. I bought a big bunch of kale at the Wedge this weekend, and loosely followed a recipe I found in one of the cookbooks I checked out from the library. (Oil, onion, garlic, kale, vegetable broth, simmer for 25 minutes. Easy.) I may not have used enough liquid, because the onion and garlic sort of scorched at the bottom of the pan, and nothing tastes quite as awful as burned garlic. I ate the kale anyway, picking around the garlic bits, and thought it was pretty good!

I bet it will be even better next time, when I DON'T burn the garlic! Sheesh.

I'm planning on an exciting Midweek Munchies post tomorrow . . . I have a bunch of stuff in my fridge that I have to use up before I go out of town, so I'm planning a big stew/soup concoction for supper tonight. I will take detailed notes, and tell you all about it!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Luck O' the Irish . . . and Chinese.

So, in the midst of all of the gunk that happened in my life at the end of last week, I somehow forgot that Friday was St. Patrick's Day! Now, while I'm not a major holiday-celebrater, one of my rituals is to make myself a loaf of Irish Soda Bread each year, to enjoy on St. Patty's day, and beyond. (And yes, I have some Irish ancestry -- about a quarter, I think.)

So, this year, I took a little belated luck, and made myself two mini-loaves of Soda Bread yesterday. I wholegrained it and veganized it and I have to say, it's really not nearly as good as the original. But it's still pretty good -- I had two slices for breakfast today, among other things. (I think that, because the bread is quite neutral/delicate tasting in its original form, the whole wheat flour overpowered the loaf.) I'll have to try making it again some other time, and continue to play with the recipe. Here's the non-vegan, less healthy version:

1. Combine 2 cups of AP flour, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cut in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
2. Combine 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons of buttermilk with 1/2 cup golden raisins. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients just until everything is combined.
3. Shape the dough into a round on a greased cookie sheet. Cut a cross shape into the top of the dough, about a quarter-inch deep, then bake the dough for 40 minutes at 375.

(I used whole wheat pastry flour, natural granulated sugar, nonhydrogenated shortening, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of soy milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to replace the buttermilk. I also used regular raisins, since I didn't have golden raisins.)

After I enjoyed a little Luck O' the Irish, I enjoyed a little Chinese good luck as well. Chelsea, Olivia, Jon, and I ate at LeeAnn Chin for lunch today, and my two fortunes were as follows:

"The only certain thing about luck is that it will change." AND,

"Your plans are going to succeed."


Saturday, March 18, 2006

stuck in a bunch of ruts

Good things I'm "stuck" on right now:

Fruit: mango

Album: Matt Nathanson's "Beneath These Fireworks"

Physical Activity: walking around Lake of the Isles

Wardrobe: a grey v-neck sweater that a friend's sister gave to me, rather than sending it off to the Goodwill (hooray for free clothes!)

Shoes: my ratty old Chucks (I really need a new pair . . . )

Tea: Ginger Yogi Tea

Protein: black beans

Coffee: fair-trade Sumatran from Spyhouse

Shopping: Electric Fetus (I just bought a Current t-shirt there tonight!) (And had a long, laughable conversation with a couple of the salesguys during which we included the word "current" as often as linguistically possible.)

Lit: "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser

Friday, March 17, 2006

Refried Black Beans

I was stupid and hid this recipe idea away in a comment, on a previous post. This is an adaptation from Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian" . . .

(This yielded about 3 1/2 cups)
1. Quick-soak 1 1/4 cups dried black beans. Drain and rinse. Return the beans to the pan and add 4 cups of water. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat, cover them partially, and cook them until tender (my beans took a little over 2 hours.) Cool the beans slightly before dumping them, cooking liquid and all, into your blender or food processor. Puree the beans and reserve.
2. Cook 5 tablespoons of minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of canola oil until soft. Add 6 dashes of Tobasco sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes, (drain them first and chop them more finely with your knife,) and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Cook this for a minute before adding the beans.
3. After you add the beans, cook them for about 10 minutes, or until they are the thickness you like. (They will thicken a little more as they cool.) Once cooled, I froze half and chilled the other half.

What is masa harina?

Thanks to Cook's Thesaurus, I have an answer to that question!

masa harina:   This is flour made from hominy, and it's used to make corn tortillas and tamales.  Look for it in large supermarkets or Hispanic markets.  It's made with either yellow or white corn; harinilla is made with blue corn.  Substitutes: masa (This is masa harina that's been reconstituted with water.) OR harinilla (blue, not yellow)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Midweek Munchies

It's my first ever Midweek Munchies post! If you are a MM-er, welcome! If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's a group of women veggie bloggers who post weekly and share grocery lists, new ingredients, recipes, ideas, and other food-related stuff. (MM was started by Harmonia.)

Since I already lost my post once and it's getting good and late, I'll keep version two short and sweet. :)

I usually do my shopping on the weekends, and I won't be headed to the store any time soon, since I'm headed out of town next week for a little while. My list, right now anyhow, consists of mostly "boring" stuff (fruits, veggies, garlic, canned tomatoes, cooking spray, peppermint tea, tofu, soy delicious . . . .) However, two things popped out at me: one question, and one idea . . . .

THE QUESTION: I am in the market for a new women's formula multivitamin, since I am almost out of my Target-brand One-A-Day knockoffs. Does anyone have a great suggestion for a multi for a healthy female near vegan who gets a lot of her nutrients from her food already?

THE IDEA: One of the ingredients on my list is masa harina -- I made tortillas earlier this week, and ran out of corn flour! Here's a link to an easy recipe that produces really fabulous tortillas. (They are especially wonderful right out of the pan. Mmmm......) Give 'em a try -- they are a snap to make, and the dough feels really smooth, like playdough! Very therapeutic.

Visit more Midweek Munchies participants.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

news and such

No food in this post today . . . sorry, everyone!

I have to say, trudging around all day in a foot of snow is exhausting! (I can't imagine how I would have felt, had I been four years old!) Needless to say, we didn't last very long outside today, but boy was it FUN! Sledding, snowball fights, shoveling a huge pile of snow for climbing, and looking out into the woods at all of the frosted trees. Beautiful! (And so sunny, too!)

I have noticed, since I started my job almost two years ago, how connected I have become to the weather and the seasons. I have started to discern different "types" of winter, snow, rain, cold, sun, etc. I have also become more able to know when the seasons were going to change, (and when we have the last, mid-March snowstorm of the season,) and stuff. It's kind of cool, being that hooked up to nature. And the weirdest thing? I think I wore my winter jacket maybe four or five times all winter long. I'm all about the layers.

Next week is spring break, and I can't WAIT! It's going to be a nice balance of relaxing and hanging out with friends:

Saturday: I actually have to work, sort of. I volunteered to flip pancakes at the Member Pancake Breakfast, but not until 11:15, so I have plenty of time to sleep in.
Sunday: Nothing, other than church
Monday; visiting Chelsea and Olivia!
Tuesday: the big party day! (doctor appointment, dentist appointment, eye doctor appointment, and vet appointment.)
Wednesday: Nothing, other than church choir rehearsal
Thursday: drive to Milwaukee, and once I get there, have dinner with my parents
Friday: hang out with my Mom (I think we're going to the zoo,) and then have dinner with my friend and former coworker, Jess! I'm so excited -- I haven't seen her since Thanksgiving!
Saturday: drive to Chicago with my parents for my cousin's wedding, then back to Milwaukee, then get in my own car and drive home (this could prove to be a busy day . . . )
Sunday: Nothing, other than church.

Whew! That week is going to FLY. But I need a week of (mostly) fun! (Not that work isn't fun . . . I just want my own kinda fun, for a change. Four-year-old fun is great . . . but I'm not four years old!)

Well, the dinner dishes from last night are shouting at me, so I better get in the kitchen and wash 'em up. Later!

Monday, March 13, 2006

my first stab at fusion cooking

I've been staring out the window, watching the snow whip around in the wind, and reading "World Vegetarian" off and on all day today, and all of these ingredients and flavors have been running amok in my head. Hence, I dove into fusion cooking.

I didn't measure anything, so I'll just list ingredients. I may make this again some other time and call it "Lentil Fusion Stew" or "Creamy Spiced Lentil Stew" or "Damn Tasty Mixed-Up Lentil Stew."

Here's what I used:
olive oil
cardamom pods
whole peppercorns
whole cloves
a bay leaf
ground cinnamon
Garam Masala
chili flakes
tomatoes (diced, out of a can)
chopped fresh spinach
cooked lentils
plain yogurt (I had a little dairy yogurt left, but I bet soy would work fine)
whole-wheat couscous

It is creamy, rich, delicious, and fragrant. Next time I will use all ground spices -- finding the whole peppercorns while eating the stew is a bit unpleasant. (Ha!)

sweet potato pie

What to do at 8:30 in the morning on a snow day? Why, make a sweet potato pie, of course!

Yes, I'm a little crazy. But I felt like baking, and that can of organic sweet potato puree that I bought on Friday night was calling me. So, I made a crustless pie.

This is my new favorite way to make pumpkin and sweet potato pies, because you save a LOT of fat by skipping the crust, and honestly, I'm not eating sweet potato or pumpkin pie for the crust. :) I veganized the recipe on the can, and this is what I did:

1. Preheat your oven to 425. Grease and flour a 9-inch pie plate or 9-inch square pyrex baking dish. (I had to use the latter -- Don still has my pie plate from when I gave him his birthday pie. I should remember to ask for it back tomorrow! I think it will work better this way, however -- squares of sweet potato pie will fit better in my lunchbox!)
2. Whisk together one tablespoon of commercial egg replacer with 1/4 cup warm water. Whisk in 3/4 cup natural granulated sugar, (that seems like a lot, and I may reduce the amount of sugar in the future, but I wanted to make the recipe as written once, just for comparison,) 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup plain soy milk. Whisk in one can (15 ounces) of sweet potato puree.
3. Dump the sweet potato custard into the prepared pan and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake at least 30 minutes longer, or until the edges and top begin to brown and the custard is thick, bubbly, and gooey. Cool the custard completely before eating, and immediately refrigerate any leftovers.

I may cook more later today . . . we'll just have to see.

not since childhood!

Guess what guess what guess what guess what?????

Just got a call from my coteacher who got a call from our boss . . . she closed school!

SNOW DAY!!! Wahoo!

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I checked out about a bazillion cookbooks from the library yesterday, and have become engrossed in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It is just what I needed! New flavors, new techniques, new ingredients . . . wahoo!

I am currently working on her recipe for refried black beans. A safe start, if you ask me, but I have made my own refried beans with poor results in the past, and want to give hers a go. I have a feeling the yield will be enormous, so I'll be freezing some for another time.

ALSO, I had brussels sprouts for the second time in my life today. I roasted them with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. They were good! I thought they tasted a lot like broccoli. Next time, I'll use more balsamic vinegar, because the flavor was not nearly present enough.

I also made hummus this weekend. It really hasn't been a very exciting weekend, cooking-wise. I was gone most of the day yesterday, however, so, I guess that explains it. It's hard to cook when you aren't home!

Five more days until spring break! (Can you tell I'm excited???)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

food links and grocery shopping

Ann and I went to the Wedge last night, and this is what happens when you go with a very small list, and you feel like doing a little impulse buying:

one loaf of Great Harvest Bread Co. multigrain sandwich bread

a pound of Peace Coffee Italian Roast Sumatra
a pound and a half of organic rolled oats

a peanut butter cookie for Ann
a vegan pumpkin cupcake for me (it was just okay)

a bag of Cascadian Farm Organic Spud Puppies (i.e., tater tots)
an Amy's roasted veggie no cheese pizza (on sale!!)

a box of Annie's organic shells and WI cheddar cheese
a bag of Garden of Eatin' sesame blue tortilla chips
a box of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal
a jar of Cascadian Farm Organic kosher dill pickles
14 ounce can natural artichoke heart quarters
2 quart-cartons of Soy Dream soy milk
15 ounce can organic pumpkin puree
15 ounce can organic sweet potato puree
two 14.5 ounce cans Muir Glen Organic no-salt added diced tomatoes
a 4-pack of Seventh Generation TP
Seventh Generation lavender laundry detergent
Seventh Generation lavender fabric softener
a canister of Republic of Tea Vanilla Almond black teabags
a box of Quilts low-sodium crackers
a 4-pack of Izze sparkling clementine juice
a bag of Pet Promise cat food

one bar of Tom's lavendar bar soap
two tubes of Tom's shaving cream
(I had a buy three Tom's products get $1 off coupon from my Blue Sky Guide)

one small organic cucumber
four organic, fair trade bananas
two organic Gala apples
one organic Mutsu apple (a variety I'd never heard before!)
one organic Haas avocado
one organic, fair trade mango
one and one third pounds of organic red grapes
six fresh brussels sprouts (to try)
one organic green bell pepper
one organic red bell pepper
one small organic zucchini
one bag of Earth Greens organic baby spinach

one package of Earth Balance buttery sticks
one four-pack of Holy Land Deli whole-wheat pita bread

Well. That post sure took a long time! I rarely buy that much prepackaged food, however -- I think it must have been time to stock up. Usually, I spend most of my grocery shopping time in the produce and bulk departments. A fluke.

No cooking projects planned yet, but I'll let you know if I decide to hit the kitchen at some point this weekend.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 10, 2006

the great cookbook search

I need to either hit the library or Magers and Quinn this weekend to search for cookbooks. I'm needing some new inspiration and new ideas. Since I have been working on my cookbook quite furiously, I have lots of my own recipes that I could make, but those are boring to me -- they are, after all, my own recipes designed just the way I like them. They are great comfort food, but right now I want to push myself a little bit, try some new ingredients and new techniquies. And although I have been cooking primarily vegan at home, I'd like to push myself a little farther -- I have just a smidge of parmesan left and a couple tablespoons of plain dairy yogurt left, and when those two things are used up, I might make the "plunge," at least at home. We'll see. Any good vegan cookbook suggestions? I've heard of many, seen few.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

food trends

Sometimes, the simplest suppers are the best.

This is what I made last night:

I cooked three handfulls of whole-wheat penne in salted water until they were done. I tossed the hot pasta with a can of no-salt added, diced tomatoes, (drained,) a can of quartered artichoke hearts, (drained,) two handfulls of leftover cooked chickpeas, and a couple of teaspoons of Earth Balance. YUM. (Oh, and I had diced mango drizzled with a little melted semi-sweet chocolate for dessert. Double yum.)

The dish even held up beautifully in leftover form for lunch today. Mmmmm.......

I've been into pasta lately. Well, I guess I'm always into pasta. It's one of my favorite foods.

Dinner tonight was veggie chili and cornbread and blueberry-apple crumble at our staff meeting. And then I came home and ate a bowl of cereal and the rest of the mango (sans chocolate this time.) Lately, I seem to be a bottomless pit.

And I've been WAY into sunbutter and banana sandwiches for breakfast. But I've run out of bananas (and bread,) so I'll have to figure out something new for tomorrow.

Segue . . .

I am so glad tomorrow is Friday, (and payday!), and we have only one more week until SPRING BREAK!!!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

succumb to ravioli

The package of Putney Pasta Butternut Squash and Vermont Maple Syrup Ravioli I bought on Saturday has been calling me for three days now . . . tonight, I caved. I tossed the hot cooked pasta with a little extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a big pinch of freshly minced parsley. Mmmm.

I also roasted peeled, diced sweet potato and some cooked chickpeas that I had tossed in a little canola oil, curry powder, and salt, and had some of that, too. It was kind of an orange and beige meal. Oh well! It tasted great.

Monday, March 06, 2006

apple-blueberry crumble

Although I baked this tonight, it will be served at Thursday's late staff meeting . . .

APPLE-BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE (adapted from Betty Crocker's Apple Crisp)
one 9X13 pan, at least 16 servings

1. Preheat your oven to 375.
2. Peel and slice 7 small Granny Smith apples. (About 8 cups total.) Chuck these in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top the apples with 2 cups (one bag) of frozen blueberries. Hang on to this.
3. Combine 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1 1/3 cups natural granulated sugar (this seems like a lot . . . I'll let you know if it's too sweet, but I didn't want to fuss with the recipe too much, since it's for a crowd,) 1/3 cup ground flaxseed, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg. Cut in 1 stick (8 tablespoons, 1/2 cup,) nonhydrogenated margarine. Stir in 1 cup rolled oats.
4. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the apples and blueberries. Bake for at least 45 minutes, or until the crumble is bubbly and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature, with your favorite vanilla frozen dessert if you'd like.

sweet & sour tofu

Tonight, I'm a bit of a cheater. I made myself some sweet and sour tofu (by marinading sliced, pressed tofu in a combination of a couple glugs of LeeAnn Chin sweet & sour sauce and a dash of soy sauce, then pan-frying,) some brown Basmati rice (that I cooked in veg. broth and a smidge of Earth Balance,) and pan-fried sliced onions, peppers, and mushrooms (gasp!), that I also added a little garlic and ginger to.

Although I used a prepared sauce, it still tasted pretty good!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

cooking projects and cookbook projects

Despite the fact that I probably walked over five miles yesterday and went to bed pretty late, I slept like crap last night, and then woke up with a "ping!" at 7 a.m. this morning. Only to be followed shortly by a haze of fatigue, which persisted the rest of the day. (It could be due to the lack of caffeine -- I did have only one cup of very weak tea, instead of my usual two cups of coffee.) I went to church, then spent much of the afternoon laying on the couch, watching "March of the Penguins" and "City of God." I love Netflix.

Before I hunkered down for the afternnoon, I made Chickpea Pocket Pies for lunch. This is a recipe I've been testing for my cookbook, and it still needs some tinkering. I think the filling is right on, although I might add more veggies and chickpeas the next time I make it -- it was a wee bit "saucy." But it tastes fabulous.

The crust, on the other hand, was a pain in my arse. I have had poor luck with whole wheat pastry crusts -- they have dried out on me a couple of times now, and it just makes me frustrated because, if I'm going to eat pastry, it better be dang tasty, because it has so much fat in it.

I may abandon the pastry altogether in favor of a bread dough crust in the future. Just as fussy, but healthier and more predictable.

After I hibernated and tackled two hours worth of dirty dishes, I worked on adapting a cookie recipe from my childhood, and created "Ginger Spice Bars." (I'm into bar cookies lately. I can get a pan of them made and in and out of the oven in under a half an hour.) They are gooey, fantastic, and addictive. So gooey, in fact, I may reduce some of the oil I used in favor of plain yogurt, just to save a little more fat per bar. And I forgot the flax. Boo!

I have to say, although this is a lot of work, this part of the cookbook writing is a lot of fun.

Hey, and how about some comments, folks? Do I have friends or family who read this thing???? Let me know!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

here a rant, there a rant

I've had a lot to rant about this weekend!

Ann, Christine, and I went out to the Saint Clair Broiler tonight for dinner, then went to see the new "Pride and Prejudice" at the cheap theatre in Roseville. The movie was great! They must have searched high and low for the actor who played Mr. Darcy, because he was just perfect. Appropriately haughty, but handsome enough that you could forgive him for it.

My rant is about dinner. Now, I've eaten at the Broiler many a time, and have had fabulous food and fabulous service there. Tonight was an exception. The food was excellent as always, but our server was sub-par at best, and it took 40 minutes for our food to arrive. The worst part was, I asked for a veggie burger, obviously, instead of the beef that normally comes with their California burger. The waitress happily obliged, and I was then charged an extra fifty cents for it.

Now, fifty cents isn't much. That's not the complaint. My issue is this: veggie burgers are cheaper than beef. Period. In fact, on another portion of their menu where they have the "build-a-burger," the veggie burger option is actually priced LESS than either the 6- or 8-ounce beef burgers. The second part of the issue is, the waitress did not inform me at the time of my order that subsituting a veggie burger would have cost more; she just charged me for it. Had I known, I probably would have ordered it anyhow, but it was a surprise when the bill arrived that my food cost more than either Ann's or Christine's, and they both ordered bacon cheeseburgers. I'm actually considering writing a letter of complaint.

I think it is just a shame that, at least some of the time, it costs so much more to eat healthfully in this country.

I read somewhere once that the US is the only country in the world whose rich people are skinny and whose poor people are fat.


this week's groceries

After my rant yesterday about people blogging about everything they've eaten that day, I wanted to clue you in to a new blogging trend I actually like -- people blogging their grocery lists/purchases. See, somehow, this is entirely different -- I see this as inspiration for myself and others. I like reading what other people have purchased to get information on ingredients and brands, and I enjoy sharing my purchases so other people can be like inspired.

So, I walked to the Wedge today, and this is what I bought:
1 3/4 pounds French green lentils
3 pounds whole wheat pastry flour
a couple tablespoons of white AP flour (for making a roux)
1 3/4 pounds natural granulated sugar
3/4 pound whole brown flaxseeds

1 package Putney Pasta brand butternut squash and Vermont maple syrup ravioli (they were on sale!!!)
10 ounce bag SnoPac organic mixed veg

organic blackstrap molasses
baking powder
two quart-boxes of WestSoy Lite Plain Soymilk (not my brand of choice, but I had a coupon)
EastWind crunchy natural peanut butter with salt
Green and Black's organic mint chocolate bar
Sungold Sunflower Butter

5 organic, fair trade bananas
1 organic, fair trade mango
1 bunch organic Italian parsley
about 5 organic button mushrooms (I know -- me, buy mushrooms? I don't really care for them, but sometimes I like them in stuff)
1 organic green bell pepper
2 smallish organic yams
a 4-pound bag of organic valencia oranges

1-quart container of plain Silk brand soy yogurt (I'm giving it a try)

With all of these yummy ingredients, I'm not sure what I'll end up cooking this week, but I know for sure I'm going to work on the Chickpea Pocket Pie recipe for my cookbook, and will also be baking an apple crisp for Thursday's late staff meeting at work.

Anybody else care to join in on this trend??

Friday, March 03, 2006

muffin madness

I had been thinking over the muffin recipes I had included in the cookbook to date, and have tested several of them with poor results. I decided to start over, and oh baby, I've come up with something fantastic!

I started by creating a dry ingredients mix (that will yield a total of six, 6-muffin batches,) off of the standard Betty Crocker blueberry muffin recipe, with several changes, of course. (Whole wheat pastry flour, natural granulated sugar, and ground flaxseed.) I then slightly adjusted the wet ingredients, and replaced the egg, too. Results are spectacular. They were not dense AT ALL, had nice loft and crumb, and tasted just right -- not too sweet, not too plain.

The batch I made tonight I made plain, but filled each of the muffins with about half a teaspoon of apricot all-fruit before baking. Yum.

I have also come up with the following variations. Comment if you have any suggestions or if your favorite kind of muffin is missing from my list!

cinnamon nut
coconut lime
cinnamon streusel
chocolate chip
carrot "cake"

chocolate cake and potato chips

I was just reading someone's blog (who shall remain nameless,) and aparently there is this new trend where people blog everything they've eaten that day. I think that is sort of strange. Why is it that many (women especially) feel the need to "confess" everything they've eaten in a day? Why do we see food as the enemy?

There's this really great quote from one of the Bridget Jones books, and I'm not going to bother looking it up so I won't quote it directly, but the general question she asked herself was when had she moved from seeing calories as essential for life, to seeing calories as the enemy?

I guess I just don't get it, really. I like to think I've always had a healthy relationship with food. I love to cook and eat, so I do "obsess" over my food shopping and preparation, and I like to eat things that taste good and make me feel healthy. But really, I'm not thinking every single time I put something in my mouth.

As an example, in addition to the banana, granola, and yogurt I had for breakfast this morning, I also had a small piece of chocolate cake, and a handfull of potato chips. Why? Because I was setting up snack for the day, and was adding a few leftover potato chips to the gorp for the morning class. (It was, by far, the weirdest snack ever. But mighty tasty. The children named it, "Crazy Snack Mix!") And the chocolate cake was sitting on the counter, leftover from someone's birthday earlier in the week. And it looked good, and tasted good, too!

Now, chocolate cake and potato chips are not normal parts of my breakfast routine, nor my daily routine, but every once in a while, it's nice to have a treat.

Probably why I'll never be a size 2. Oh well!

Sorry for the rant. It just makes me sad when people are afraid enough of their food to feel guilty about eating something.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

veggie comfort food 101

Thanks to inspiration from The Vegan Lunchbox, I had a fabulous dinner tonight and have developed a new recipe for the cookbook. I made a vegetarian version of Sloppy Joes, which I have named "Disheveled Josephs" for the time being, and think I have a winner. They taste pretty darn good, and are very close to the "real thing." Except without the beef, of course. :)

This really was so good, I can't contain myself from posting the recipe:

(This is, by the way, directly out of the cookbook. Feedback is welcome!)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
14.5 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 an empty tomato can full of water
1/2 cup lentils (any color)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

1. Combine the oil, onion, green pepper, and garlic in your large saucepan. Cook and stir the vegetables over medium heat until they are tender, but not brown. Add the Italian seasoning, and cook and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Add the tomatoes, water, and lentils to the pot. Bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat, and cover and simmer the lentils for 30 minutes.
3. Combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire, vinegar, and cornstarch, and stir it into the pan. Turn the heat up and boil and cook your lentils for 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and stir in the flaxseed, salt, and pepper.
4. Serve your lentils in whole grain pita, on toast, or on whole grain sandwich rolls.

Ooh -- and of course I packed some for lunch tomorrow.

I'm really so very glad tomorrow is Friday.