Tuesday, February 28, 2006


For some odd reason, I think I knew this already:

I Am Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

I take the title "mad scientist" to the extreme -with very scary things coming out of my lab.

And I've invented some pretty cool things, from a banana sharpener to a robot politician.

But while I'm busy turning gold into cottage cheese, I need to watch out for poor little Beaker!

"Oh, that's very naughty, Beaker! Now you eat these paper clips this minute."

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew was always my favorite Muppet -- well, him and Beaker.

And, according to Don, the pie turned out just fine -- he ate about a third of it for lunch, and shared a little with some of the rest of us, too. Gooey, molasses-ey goodness!

Monday, February 27, 2006

holy moses!

It's been a stinky Monday.

My coteacher, Sarah, called me last night to let me know she and her car were hit by a drunk driver earlier in the day, that she was sore but otherwise okay, but was going to need to stay home from work today to call her lawyer and insurance guy and figure out how she was going to get ahold of a car for a little while. Whew! She was still kind of in shock when she called me, so I offered to try and find a sub for her. I called everyone on the sub list last night, plus all of our part time staff, with no luck.

THEN, I got in to work this morning, only to discover a message from our assistant, Dan. He was still sick from Friday, and going in to the doctor for a throat culture. I had a major moment of panic. By 8:45 when the children arrived I had scrounged up two subs, but at 8:00, I was afraid I was going to be teaching solo! (Well, not really -- I can't, by law, be alone with more than ten children.)

By 11:00, I still hadn't found a sub for the afternoon. Sarah S. (the bosslady,) called over to the Nature Center to see if anyone was free this afternoon and could pop over to the preschool. Low and behold . . . Naturalist Pete to the rescue! The kids absolutely adore Pete, and he lead us on this amazing hike, and we went places on the property I'd never been before! (Now, I've been exploring those grounds with kids for 18 months -- thought I knew everything!) Oh, we had so, so, so much fun. It ended up being a really great day, all things considered.

On my way home from work, I detoured to the REI in Roseville and bought a pair of mud boots for Sarah for her birthday, which was Sunday. (Yes, her car was totalled on her birthday. Doesn't that just suck?) Traffic was thickening up by the time I was done at REI, so I stopped at Ann and Michelle's to wait out rush hour. Michelle and I ended up trading teaching woes and ideas until almost 7:00.

Then, I came home and made a pie. (My coworker Don's birthday is tomorrow -- Shoo-fly pie is his absolute favorite, and I wanted to make him one as a very cheap but fabulous gift.) The pie's in the oven right now, and something slightly odd happened. It's supposed to be this gooey molasses layer topped with struesel . . . but the struesel fell into the gooey layer during baking. I'm not sure how this is going to work. Hopefully it will still taste good!

Here's how to make a Shoo-Fly Pie:

(Preheat your oven to 450 right away.)
1. Make a single-crust pastry and lay it in your pie plate. Flute the edges.
2. Make the struesel topping: 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/8 tsp baking soda, and 1/8 tsp cream of tartar mixed together, with 1/4 cup nonhydrogenated shortening cut in. Reserve this.
3. Combine 1 cup blackstrap molasses, 1 cup very hot water, and 1/2 cup natural granulated sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda into the syrup -- it should foam a little bit. Pour this syrupy mixture into the pie shell, and top with the struesel.
4. Bake the pie for 12 minutes at 450, then 30 minutes at 375, then 30 minutes at 350.

Complex, I realize, but mighty tasty. The gooey part tastes like an underbaked molasses cookie. What is it with men and molasses cookies anyhow?

Between the pie tomorrow and the brownies for Will's goodbye party last week, lots of baked goods have been leaving my kitchen lately. Just as it should be? :)

I hope tomorrow will be a bit more laid-back. Whew.

(I just took the pie out of the oven . . . it doesn't look like it did when I made it last year . . . oh dear!)

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Risotto is one of those foods that I love, but rarely eat, because it's a refined grain, and it also always feels like such a HASSLE. However, I made myself a bowlful of risotto tonight that is purely decadent, with ingredients I had laying around. This one probably won't go in the cookbook, because it's NOT health food. But it's damn tasty. Here's the story:

I started by sauteeing half a small onion, chopped, and one clove of garlic, minced, in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil melted with a bit of Earth Balance margarine over medium heat. When the onion was almost soft, I added about a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary and about 2 tablespoons of pine nuts. (Pine nuts are usually WAY out of my budget, but I had some leftover from making the stuffed grape leaves for V-Day.) I stirred this about until the pine nuts were golden and toasty. I then added 1/3 cup Arborio rice (a short-grain, starchy, refined rice sometimes sold as "Risotto Rice;" duh!) and cooked the rice for a minute or two. (Don't burn your pine nuts.) I then began adding warm vegetable broth, about 1/4 cupfull at a time, and stirring until the liquid was cooked away after each addition. (I also added the juice of one lemon with the first addition of broth.) This is the time consuming part of risotto -- you have to stand and stir, scoop in a little broth, and stir some more until the rice is "al dente." You're aiming for that delicate area between crunchy and mooshy. When the rice was almost fully cooked, I added two big handfulls of fresh spinach, and let that wilt away. (I knew the spinach would release some moisture as well, so I didn't want to add it at the very end.) Once the rice was done, I poured it into a bowl and am now enjoying it thoroughly.

The tricky part of risotto is getting it cooked to al dente, and also not making too much -- risotto gets gluey when it cools and does not reheat well. This made just enough for a one-bowl supper for me. Mmmmmm.........

best . . . lunch . . . ever . . .

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. I threw together a few things I had laying about the 'fridge, and came up with a stellar lunch for myself!

I split a smallish zucchini lengthwise and scraped a cavity out of the middle of each half. I filled the cavities with a stuffing of chopped onion, minced rosemary, a little freshly grated parmesan, whole grain breadcrumbs, and a little melted leftover roasted garlic butter as a binder. (I should have used a squeeze of lemon juice, too -- oh well! Next time.)

I peeled and diced a medium orange-flesh tuber (call it a sweet potato or a yam, no matter to me,) and tossed the cubes with a little extra-virgin olive oil, pepper, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

I baked the stuffed zucchini and spiced potato cubes at 400 for 15 minutes or so, stirring the sweet potatoes a couple of times.

I plated the zucchini and potato, and finished the potato with a drizzle of honey. I added a glass of milk and a side of whole wheat pita bread with hummus.

I'm happy!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I made the Chocolate Brownie Cake recipe originally from vegkitchen tonight, (see link over on the right,) but I can't seem to find the recipe on her website any longer, so I'll fill you in on the details:

First, whisk together:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add:
1 cup vanilla low-fat dairy or soy yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat dairy or soy milk
2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk all of the ingredients together until they are well blended. Fold in:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch square pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until the cake tests done.

This is, by far, the best chocolate cake/brownie I've had made with no eggs, less sugar, and whole-wheat flour. Moist, cakey, only very slightly "nutty" tasting from the flour, and full of chocolate chips. I can down these chunks straight up, but they are especially excellent with a scoop of ice cream or vanilla Soy Delicious and a drizzle of hot fudge. Mmmmmm.........

My coworkers better enjoy this tomorrow -- it's a miracle I'm sharing it with them!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Busy day . . .

We had our all-staff retreat at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Development (home of Neighborhood House) in Saint Paul today. It was an interesting day. Ask me about it in person or over the phone. :)


Kara, Rebecca, and I submitted our presentation proposal for the NAAEE conference to be held in Saint Paul this coming October. Now that the proposal's in, I'm feeling a little nervous . . . what were we thinking, proposing to present at a national conference?????? Yikes!

Our presentation title is . . .

Take A Hike: Engaging Young Children in Nature Exploration

Wish us luck!

Back to "regularly scheduled programming" tomorrow, after a three-day weekend and day of meetings. Bah.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I made something very close to the Post Punk Kitchen's Tofu "Egg" Salad this afternoon, and let me tell you, it is remarkably like regular egg salad, although not as rich or heavy. I continue to be impressed by the PPK -- check it out, if you haven't already!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

yummy smells....

I'm roasting a whole head of garlic in my oven right now, and by golly, my whole apartment smells fantastic. Mmm.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Shame on me!

I had a bowl of cereal for dinner tonight.

Even food snobs have their moments. :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

who'da thunk it?

I'm finding it very odd, but my new lunchbox is inspiring me to eat more healthfully. (Can it be done? Yes!) Let me explain.

See, as I detailed, oh, last week or so, I have been packing my lunch at suppertime most nights now, preparing two servings of everything and plonking half into the lunchbox. What's so interesting is, there are these four nice compartments in my lunchbox: two large, that each hold about a cup, and two small, that each hold about 3/4 cup. Because I have those four holes to fill in my lunchbox each night, I am inspired each time to include one fruit and at least one veggie in both my lunch and my dinner. Let me explain with an example.

Dinner tonight began with, "hm . . . the mango's ripe . . . ." I rummaged around and found some lentil soup I had taken out of the freezer a few days ago and thought, "yes! Soup, crackers, and fruit. Yum." So, I warmed up the soup, cut up the mango, opened the crackers, and dinner and lunch were ready . . . but wait! I had an empty container in my lunchbox. The lentil soup is full of tarragon and thyme, so I went searching for a veggie that would compliment. Ta-da: frozen asparagus! Green vegetables to the rescue!

Had it not been for the lunchbox, I probably wouldn't have had a green vegetable with supper tonight. There were veggies in the soup, but one can never eat too many veggies.


In unrelated news, I continue to work on the cookbook, and spent quite a while on it this weekend. I have now rewritten the introduction several times, and have cut it down from its original 7 pages to a more manageable 3 pages. I'm also done with the following sections: "Plan of Attack," "Daily Breads," "The MOST IMPORTANT Meal of Your Day," "Sack It," and "Snack Attack." I've written the intro for, "Mom, what's for dinner?" and have started inputing recipes. I have "A treat a day keeps the therapist away?", and "Fancy food for fancy days" yet to write. And I'm still testing like crazy. And I'm starting to get really excited about this.

I don't want to jinx myself, but I really am starting to feel like I might have something exciting here. I truly believe healthy cooking for one is a nearly untapped market. (I have found one cookbook about cooking vegan food for one person, and I don't want to smear it too much, but I just didn't care for the author's tone. And it was completely in black and white, with crummy hand drawings of recipes -- not the most friendly volume.) I hope I'm right!

Well, I had a real, stinky Monday today, so I'm off to fold laundry and go to bed. (Lame.) Does anyone else feel stuck in a rut right now? Maybe it's the weather -- I think winter's really starting to get to me, in a bad way.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

woe is my laundry

So, I cleaned the apartment today -- the bathroom got a good scrub-down, I dusted a little, and I also swept and mopped the floors. Hooray! I had a little laundry to do, and I wanted to wash the rugs, (I always hate putting dirty rugs down on clean floors,) so I thought about doing some laundry.

I had to wait over two hours just to get to use the washers. Now, my feeling is, if you have tons and tons of loads to do, (i.e., more than three, meaning you'd tie up all of the washers for longer than an hour and a half,) don't use all three washers and dryers at once -- have some respect for your neighbors, who also might be trying to do laundry. I just had to pull someone's stuff out of the dryer -- all three dryers, mind you -- in order to put my loads in. This person who is down there has a damp comforter strewn across all three dryers, but I waited a couple of minutes and figured, "too bad!"

The funniest part is, this comforter looks like it belongs on a king-sized bed. I used to have trouble fitting my twin-sized quilt in the dryers in my building and getting it to dry completely in one round. How in the world is she going to get this moh-foh dry?

I wonder whether she's ever heard of a magical place called the laundromat, where they have jumbo-sized washers and dryers? Hm.

Perhaps I should try harder to do my laundry on Monday nights.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

party prep

So, Tony (I think,) Ann, Michelle, and Christine are coming over on Tuesday night for a "Too Cool for Valentine's Day" party. :) I had one last year, and we had a lot of fun. To quote Ann, during last year's party,

"Hey -- I almost forgot it was Valentine's Day for a while there!"

So, we're partying again this year. I'm making a buffet of Greek appetizers. This is what I'm going to serve:

Stuffed Grape Leaves: I made them from scratch and, let me tell you, that was no small job. I had never had stuffed grape leaves before, until I tried one of the ones I made this evening. They are pretty good! The outer part is kind of salty and briny, even after a good rinse in warm water, and the filling is a slightly sweet, spicy rice mixture with dill, currants, and pine nuts. Yum!

Spanakopita: I actually made spinach pie using bread dough instead of phyllo, because I wanted at least some whole grain in the meal. (I have had it this way at the Holy Land Deli -- very good, indeed.) I made eight half-circle pockets stuffed with spinach, lemon, dill, oregano, mint, tofu, a little crumbled feta, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. THEY ARE BLEEPING AWESOME! They are creamy and delicious, and contain almost no cheese. (I probably could have skipped the feta all together, but I had a slight moment of panic just before I started stuffing the pockets, and I added a little cheese at the last second.) They were incredibly labor intensive, however. I may have to adjust the recipe for the cookbook, because they took me the better part of two hours.

Tabouli: I haven't made this yet, because the first two things took so long. However, I have made it many times before, and other than a lot of chopping, it pulls together quite quickly. Tasty, too!

Also, I bought some hummus (!!! I usually make my own, but with everything else I'm making, I thought I'd give myself a break,) grape tomatoes, cucumbers, whole-wheat pita bread, and kalamata olives. Christine's bringing wine, and I'm serving . . .


(I made the baklava last night.) It's tasty. It's also fussy. What is it about Greek/Middle Eastern food that's so fussy? Or is it just the recipes I've chosen?

Tomorrow, I have to clean my apartment. (Well, I cleaned the kitchen today. But everything else needs a good scrub-down.) Why is it that every weekend gets filled up with chores and errands? Does anyone else have this problem?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

backup plan

Before I begin, I want to note that as a preschool teacher, I do not require or encourage the children in my classes to call me "Miss Catherine." I'm lucky if I get "Catherine," as opposed to, "teacher," "Sarah," "hey," or simply a swat on the leg.

That said, I wanted to share a transcription of a conversation I had with a child in my class earlier this week:
(Note that the "Miss Catherine" is just this child's creation -- he's just sorta goofy like that.)

Kevin: Miss Catherine, are you married?
Me: No, Kev, I'm not married.
Kevin: [long pause] Why not?
Me: Well, I haven't found the right man yet.
Kevin: [long pause] Why?
Me: Well, I guess I just haven't met anyone yet that I liked well enough to marry.
Kevin: [really long pause] Will you get married someday?
Me: I hope so.
Kevin: When?
Me: I don't know -- when I meet the right man, I suppose.
Kevin: [brief pause] Well, Miss Catherine, I just want you to know that you don't have to worry, because when I grow up, I will marry you.
Me: Thanks, Kev. It's nice to know I have a backup plan.

What a card!

One more silly comment:

I was sitting next to Oscar at group time this afternoon. He was sitting in the back, and is one of the smaller, younger children in our class. He was craning his neck and looking back and forth, trying to find a "window" between the other children's heads in order to see the pictures of the book. I scooped him up into my lap, and he pushed me away. I said, "Oscar, if you sit in my lap you'll be able to see better." His reply?
"I can see fine when I sit on my own pants."

I almost burst out laughing in the middle of the book! Sheesh.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

rainbow chili?

Chelsea came to visit me today for a short time, and we wandered over to the co-op -- I needed a couple of things anyway, (milk, bananas, peppers, Burt's Bees Almond Milk Hand Creme, Green and Black's chocolate, bread, etc.) and she was very excited to go to the co-op and check the place out. (I have a feeling the next time I ask Chelsea, "do you need anything from the city?" the answer might be "yes!")

Then, I came home and made chili.

Chili is always an experiment, because I never follow a recipe. I just chuck whatever looks good in the crock pot, add enough vegetable broth to cover, and cook it on high for 4 hours. Here's what I made today:

1 can black turtle beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black soy beans, drained and rinsed
2 14.5-oz cans no salt added diced tomatoes with liquid
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 green peppers, chopped
3 green onions, sliced with some tops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
half a small yellow onion, diced
a big handfull of cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2 rounded tablespoonfulls of chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

With all of the pretty vegetables in this one, I might have to call it "rainbow chili." Is that cheesy?

Regardless, I'll let you know how it tastes. :)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

my love note to peanut butter

So, I don't cook with peanuts or peanut butter very often, because my workplace is peanut-free, and subsequently, anything I make with peanuts or peanut butter must be consumed at home. And I'm not very good about eating up my leftovers at home, so they usually make the trip to work for lunches. Thus, anything leftover with peanuts/peanut butter in it ends up sitting in the fridge until it's time to dump it in the compost bucket.

Which is too bad, because I LOVE peanuts. One of my friends always joked about herself, "yep -- if you put peanut butter on a rock, I'd probably eat it." Har, har, har. (I've said the same thing about myself and cream cheese frosting, but that's a whole 'nother post.) What's not to like about peanut butter, as long as it doesn't send you into anaphylactic shock? Yummy, creamy goodness, protein, fiber, and healthy fat, to boot. I have, on occasion, scooped out a small spoonful of peanut butter and just eaten it "straight up" -- licked it right off the spoon. Natural, roasted, lightly-salted peanut butter, that is. (Although I should probably switch to the unsalted version.)


I have been hemming and hawing over a recipe for Ginger Peanut Soba Noodles that I printed off the Post Punk Kitchen website last weekend. It sounded so easy and so tasty, but I was worried about wasting the leftovers. So I sat on the idea for a week, with the tasty ingredients waiting for me in the fridge. Last night, as I was was thinking about having lentil soup for dinner and then realizing the rest of the lentil soup I had left was frozen, I thought, "well, why don't I make those peanutty noodles? I can munch on them all weekend -- they'll probably be gone by Monday, so no lunchbox woes." So, I made them for supper last night. Other than being a bit too salty for me, (next time, I will NOT salt the water I cook the soba noodles in, and will continue to use low-sodium soy sauce, and will probably use unsalted peanut butter, too,) they were TO DIE FOR. I topped the noodles with thin slices of green and red bell pepper, some cooked frozen broccoli, sesame seeds, raw peanuts, minced cilantro, and sliced green onion, per the recipe's directions, and also added a big squeeze of fresh lime juice, and a bit of pressed, diced tofu (my additions.) This recipe is mild, creamy, and delicious -- comfort food at it's best. It's gorgeous on the plate, and just rich enough that it was very satisfying. (Who ever knew vegan food could be considered "rich?")

Even though peanut butter and I can't get together very often, the love affair is still going strong. I suppose absence, indeed, does make the heart grow fonder.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Well, I made Macaroni Hates Cheese for supper tonight. Thank goodness I only made two servings, so I don't have to waste too much. I ate some of it for dinner tonight, and packed some for lunch tomorrow, but we'll see how that goes over. I will probably never make it again.

It's too bad -- I've been really pleased with every PPK recipe I've made to date. Perhaps I just got a lemon? Or maybe I just have to get used to the taste (and smell) of nutritional yeast.