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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Follow-up on Sustainable Gift Baskets and a delicious Hummus

An interesting thing happened over the holidays....I gave out my sustainable baskets (the kids got gift cards too....I'm not insane!)...and as I was pointing out some parts of the basket, my oldest son asked me a question:  how is that sustainable....I don't get it.  Now, you'd have to know this guy....he's bright....very frighteningly bright.  So I was caught off guard for a moment.  I realized he really didn't know! 
I realized how much I automatically assume people know.

My kids have been exposed to me living the life of sustainability (at least on some level; granted not nearly well enough).  They grew up with me baking my own bread, sewing a lot of our own things, and putting things together out of this and that, re-using, repurposing.  We shopped garage sales and they've been exposed to recycling since it was a half a day affair consisting of carting them off to the recycling plant, which was an industrialized warehouse, and then, with a toddler in tow and a little one on my hip, dragging the bags of recyclables in the one free hand over to this dumping area that looked like one needed a hard hat to was a noisy, dirty mess, but we did it.  The point being, they were raised with the mind-set that we should not waste, we should reduce, reuse, recycle, think globally, act locally.  On Earth Day, we would walk the sides of our little country road and pick up trash, get the picture.

So when my adult child honestly did not understand why this basket represented sustainability, I was stunned. 

I took the example of the cloth napkins to make my point.  "If I want to turn you and your roommates onto using cloth napkins as an alternative to paper napkins, I could go out and buy some for you (or make some with newly purchased material).  This action would still be good for the environment, but in taking something NEW from the goods offered, I am encouraging more production.  If I instead, go to the resale store, and purchase these very nice napkins (which looked like they had been used maybe once), launder them and present them to you, I have now chosen something that has already been thru the buy/sell/inventory/manufacture-produce/replace process and the act of my purchase does not then stimulate more napkins to be produced, which in turn continues the over-pollution and massive over-use of planetary resources that is occuring".  Of course he got it.

He said, "you're such a hippie".
I said, "thank you".

So there was that....conversation sparked.  I realized that I had actually put up something out there in the universe about sparking a dialogue and here it had happened.  Awareness had been raised.  Something to break up the constant drone of commercialized pressures to buy, buy, buy and our hynoptic trance of just going to the store, buying something, never thinking about where it came from and where it will end up, was lighted in that moment.

Later on in the weekend, my husband brought up the whole sustainability concept and we had a very good conversation about it and how we could work harder in 2012 to make even more changes.... we discussed alternative power sources.  Is there something we can do with solar or wind?  How can we reduce our CONSUMPTION footprint?  We discussed our committment to grow more of our own food and how fun it was to do that this year.  It was good stuff.

I got to thinking.....all I wanted to do was make a small difference....and indeed, here I had.  Mission Accomplished, Tom Cruise!  (Hey, if you haven't seen M.I.'s really good :-).

Me with my genius son

Black Bean Hummus

There are all kinds of wonderful hummus recipes out there, and I usually make the standard garbanzo bean rendition, but I had some leftover black beans and decided to sub out the garbanzos for the black beans in the name of using up what I have.  Big Goal in 2012 is not to be wasteful of food.  I tend to forget about things and then I am upset to find something coagulating into a new life form in the back of the fridge, when I could have at least put it in the freezer for later use.

So here is the black bean version....I gotta say, this was wonderful.  It's my new favorite hummus for sure:

Black beans, cooked and rinsed (I used about one half of a can)
2 T tahini (Woodstock makes a non-oil version if you can find it)
2 T fresh lemon juice
red pepper (I used about one and a half-fresh or you can find the jars of them-stores now carry them without oil, but you have to always check the label)
2 cloves garlic (I like a little extra---can cut this to one clove)
1 t ground cumin
pinch salt, black pepper

Process in food processor or high-speed blender.  Serve with veggies or crackers.  Yum.
(Note:  this also works great with cannelini beans, or the original version, with garbanzo beans)

Black Bean Hummus - large bowl one of my resale store finds  .50

Sue, making the tiniest bit of different, in Ohio

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kale Burgers and Sustainable Gift Baskets

I have some folks on my 'gift-list' this year that I want to do something different for.  Most of these gifts are for family members that I want to do something a bit 'extra' for, but nothing snazzy.

This year I wanted to go about the gifting process in a more mindful way and without a charred wake behind me the size of Texas as a carbon footprint.

In my theme of reuse and repurpose and REBEL from the commercialized pressures --see related post --- I thought I would put together some 'sustainable gift baskets'.  I shopped a local thrift store and found some beautiful baskets (average cost $1.), and picked up some mugs (cost .35 -.50 each),

some ceramic plates (cost .59 each) and some nice linen napkins (cost .30 each).

I might seriously have trouble gifting this very cool basket....

I hit the Amish bulk food store, picked up some bulk bags of raw almonds, raw cashews, raw peanuts, raisins, cranberries and dates.  I mixed these together to give in a mason jar (found a huge box of these in my basement I've been saving, also found some clearanced for $8. for a case of 12) with newly purchased lids.

In the mugs, I packaged the dry ingredients of Lindsay Nixon's Mug Cake along with instructions on how to prepare.  What a cute little gift that is and I'm doing a peppermint variation on Lindsay's recipe (added crushed peppermint candy) and including a candy cane.  There are endless variations on this Mug Cake.  Some of the ones I am gifting are:  Vanilla (omit chocolate/cacao and replace with additional flour/sugar), Chocolate-Cherry (include dried cherries in place or in addition to chocolate chips), Spice Cake (omit chocolate, increase flour/sugar and add cinnamon, pie spice, nutmeg, etc.).  Just let your imagination go wild.  All the recipient will have to do is add applesauce, a few drops of vanilla and microwave for 3 minutes.

I finished the baskets out by including some fresh fruit and a sand-art with rice mason jar. 

I did also include a jar of applesauce and also some whole-wheat pasta and sauce.  (I'll be encouraging people to make the switch to whole-wheat pasta---I'm still surprised at how many people have never tried it!).

I'm enclosing a note with these baskets, explaining the purpose behind the gift and referencing the video "The Story of Stuff". I suggest reusing the mason jars and switching to cloth napkins instead of paper.  I don't want to sound preachy but I want to convey my concern over what is happening to the planet and our need for action now.  I'm hoping that this doesn't go over as 'the stupid gift', but I think that most of the recipients will accept it in the spirit it was given---especially since these folks already know I dance to the beat of a wacky drummer.


Kale Burgers

Diana Dyer writes a blog on kale.  Yep, an entire blog on kale.  Gotta love somebody like that.  She's got quite a story, is a cancer survivor and is an inspiration.  She's not vegan but has some great recipes on her site that are very easily adaptable to a vegan this one for Kale Burgers

I subbed the eggs for my traditional egg substitute, mix ground flax seeds in water, let sit (1 T flax seeds to 3 T water per egg being subbed).

My husband hates the ground that peppers walk on, so I split this recipe in half and did 'his' half with mushrooms (which I don't care for) and 'my' half had the peppers.

I didn't get these patties to do real well in the skillet, so made up enough for us to have for dinner, then baked the rest meatloaf style in a casserole dish.  Pretty tasty!
kale 'loaf' over on left side of plate

May you have the best of holidays, in whatever ways you celebrate them.  And I wish you health and happiness in the new year.

Sue, working on sustainable, in Ohio

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kabocha, Kombucha and the Kobayashi Maru

My sister-in-law gardens...she rents a plot in their local community garden.  I've always admired her dedication to this as I know I am way too much of a lazy a*#, I mean, too efficiently-minded to ever do such a thing--i.e. toss my gardening tools in my car, drive to a community plot and tend my garden there.  But then I have acreage to garden in....she's got a nice yard, but has her beds filled with beautiful perennial flowers.  (Another thing I admire). 

She usually sends me some veggies during the season and sent home a spaghetti squash this year.  I like to reciprocate and this year was able to share a sweet potato from my garden and decided to turn her on to kabocha squash.  I remember thinking how much has changed from who I was before and who I am now, what I knew then vs. what I know now, as I confidently explained to her what variety this squash was and how it is my favorite.  Less than two years ago I had never even had butternut, acorn or any of the more 'traditional' I am touting the wonders of the beautiful, versatile kabocha, and I even know how to spell it!

I get my kabocha during the growing season from a local farmer that I am so grateful for.  I begged him to continue growing them after he did a trial of them two seasons ago and he was true to his word.  He even saves me the 'bad ones', ones with blemishes and generously gives them to me.   

The kabocha (sometimes called Japanese pumpkin) is highly adaptable to a wide range of recipes and can serve as a base in casseroles, soups, etc.  A whole-foods, plant-based diet brings the challenge of coming up with SOMEthing to provide some substance, bulk and creaminess to certain recipes, and squash is perfect.

I usually roast it by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds (which I rinse, remove most of the membrane from and roast separately----yummy snack), and placing face down on a baking sheet.  I will roast several things together, and the squash is tolerant of various oven temps.... I have roasted it at 350 or even 400 - 425.  I keep checking it by inserting a knife to see if tender.  Depending on the size and moisture content of the squash, cooking time can vary from 20-40 mins or so.

Once roasted, let cool slightly and then peel the skin off. (The skin is edible though!  I usually toss in the veggie stock bag.)  The squash is now ready to be used in a soup or casserole or cubed and frozen for later use.  {Note:  This squash is also delicious served simply sliced up alongside some rice and other veggies.}

You can also just peel, de-seed  and cube or slice and cook directly in a casserole or soup, but I like having this frozen and already on hand for when I want to throw something together quickly.

(Nutrient value of kabocha:  high in vitamin C, and Beta Carotene, also source of iron, potassium, folic acid, calcium, other trace nutrients).

Kabocha Squash Soup/Casserole  (inspired by Acorn Squash Soup from Forks Over Knives which is now on sale at Amazon for an incredible $9.  This purchase is a no-brainer...a must have for the vegan kitchen---if something has "Esselstyn" on it, there's going to be a copy of it in my house.  Amen. ---see note below for link to some recipes from this book.*)

1 kabocha squash, peeled, cubed, cooked (roasted or steamed)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloved garlic, minced
1-2 carrots, rough chopped
1-2 sweet potatoes, skin, cubed
additional veggies-suit to taste-I like whatever is threatening to become a Science experiment in the frig, celery, cauli, etc.
3-6 C veggie broth-homemade if possible-more if you like a thinner soup, less if you want to make more of a sauce.
salt/pepp to taste (few flakes of red pepper go well here)

Optional-for casserole:  wild rice/mahogany rice/brown rice blend - cooked
                                    broccoli florets
                                    black beans

Water saute onion and garlic til tender or longer if you want to carmelize for additional sweetness.  Add broth, carrots and sweet potatoes, and any additional veggies, cover and simmer until tender (Note:  if kabocha is not pre-cooked, add it as well, otherwise, add after other veggies are tender).  Puree the soup in blender in batches and return to pot.  Add seasonings and let heat.

Casserole variation:  Add less broth and after pureeing, pour sauce over veggies and rice in casserole dish and bake at 325 until veggies are tender and heated throughout approx. 20 minutes.

Kombucha, what the heck is it?

I found myself asking that the first time I came across this word.....and as I continue to browse the vegan blogosphere, I have run across it from time to time.  In Whole Foods, I had my hand on a bottle of kombucha recently and nearly was brave enough to put it in my cart, when one little word on the bottle stopped me:  fermented.    I thought, ok, mayhaps I should do a weeee bit more research on this seemingly innocuous elixir before I go pouring it into the biological temple.

So research I did.  And what I found was a bit disappointing, I do admit.  Kombucha is a fermented tea.  Now I am a tea lover...serious tea lover, so the prospect of adding another type of tea to my very limited repetoire of beverages was exciting.  The 'cha' part of kombucha means tea, and the kombu (or kambu) part refers to the originator or the one credited with its creation.

The health benefits of kombucha are widely promoted on the world-wide-web-o-sphere, but seem to be predominately anedoctal.  That's ok with me and I was frankly seduced by the idea of brewing my own kombucha at home and researched the process which involves a 'mother' and feeding it sugar and a process of fermentation that really looked like it would be fun. 
But, back in my mind was this nagging question....hey, if it is fermented, does that mean it is alcoholic???
I don't even allow alcohol in my vanilla extract....I do not drink alcohol at's a personal choice and one that serves me well, so I thought, well, better check into it.  Sadly, yes, there is an alcohol content in kombucha, albeit a very small one, estimates average .05 - 1%.  (Some research shows this content to be about what is found in orange juice; other stats show variance by a significant amount).  It's enough to put it on the no-no list for me.  So, kombucha, you will not be one of my winter projects, but if any of you are interested in its health benefits you can read about it here, on one of my favorite blogs:  Bonzai Aphrodite.

Are you a Star Trek fan?  My husband and I are/were.  We both loved William Shatner and all the old campy Star Trek episodes.

Anytime a rerun came on we rushed to pick out who was going to die....a new guy sitting in the front row on the bridge was usually an easy pick. 
Some of our day-to-day banter with each other still reflects our love of Star Trek....sometimes I will say "dammit, Jim.....I'm a horse trainer not a magician" or some such, mimicking Bones in one of his endless tirades to Captain Kirk.  Or we will say "I'm giving her all she's got" if we are doing some tractor work and I've invariably over-loaded something and our tractor is complaining....this reminiscent of Scotty, the long-suffering always pushed-to-the-limit ship's engineer.  (Yeah, we are geeks....).

And then there is the Kobayashi Maru.  Now, if you are indeed a Star Trek fan, you know of what I speak....but if not, the Kobayashi Maru refers to an exercise that Starfleet cadets were put through to test them in the face of a no-win scenario.  Kobayashi Maru is actually the name of a fictionalized star ship that sends out a distress signal and the cadet being tested has to decide, whether to risk the safety of his own crew and ship (from attack by Klingon vessels) and attempt a rescue, or save his own ship and standby helpless as the Kobayashi Maru is destroyed.

I got to thinking about how many times in our lives we are faced with a no-win scenario....if we do option one, we have to deal with bad thing number one, if we do option two, there is bad thing number two.  Usually option two equates with doing nothing, as in the case of the Kobayashi Maru, and like the lyrics from a song by my favorite band, Rush, results in "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice".  If you opt for nothing, then the ABSENCE of your actions results in negative consequence.

Now, in Hollywood, there is an option three....going OUTSIDE the situation.  In the last Star Trek movie from just two years ago, the details of Kirk's ability to win the unwinable are delineated....i.e.  he cheats.  He reprograms the computer running the simulation so that he CAN win the day, save the ship, get the girl and go on to many years of transporter-beaming and alien peace-keeping.

What about us?  Where is our option 3 in our day-to-day Kobayashi Marus?  Can we 'defeat the system'?  We know cheating the system isn't the answer, but what about this idea of going outside that infernal over-used 'box'?

When life presents us with two (seemingly) equally untenable options, we have to find a parameter against which to decide.  Maybe we pick, 'the greatest good' we figure out which option hurts the fewest people the least amount, or conversely, does the most good for the most.  In the fictional Kobayashi Maru, maybe Kirk could do some quick calculating and realize that destruction of both vessels would be the worst possible outcome....maybe.

But what about those intangibles, like courage, integrity, allegiance.....things that arguably define us more than anything tangible.  These annoying traits will cause us to throw practicality out the proverbial window.

Sometimes, we have to say, ok, how do these choices align with WHO I AM?  So, back to the case of Kirk, it didn't fit his true self to choose a losing route, i.e. failure is not an option sort of thing.   His, I-will-win-regardless moxie fit who he is.

In life, we don't have the luxury of a simulator and often the choice we make is not one that can be undone; there are no do-overs.  We have to choose, or choose not to choose.  In the end, we don't have all the information we truly need to make 'the best' choice...that is, what we really need to know is exactly what will happen when we choose A or B.  Life just doesn't work that way, and I'm sure that is by design.

Our growth depends on these little crossroads we find ourselves on....making the choices, or finding a way outside of the paths in front of us.

We may have a few mini Kobayashi Marus during this holiday season; our food choices can put us in a bit of a lose-lose scenario....some people feel pressured to eat the 'traditional foods' and thereby abandon their plant-based lifestyle, at which point, they may feel they have compromised their health just for the sake of someone else's feelings.

Obviously there is no right or wrong here; we do what aligns best with who we are at any given time, and if we don't, we learn from that, and go on, stronger.

As someone who is on a plant-based diet, I feel like I am outside of the majority 'food box' for sure but with each day that passes, I become more comfortable outside the confines of the 'majority'.  My choices speak to who I am, and I find that the more I stick to them, the more accepting others become.

One thing I know for sure....there's only one person that I am with 24 hours a day, every day.  And I like keeping her feeling good about my choices....she's got a phaser, somewhere.

Wishing you a Klingon-free holiday season, with easy choices to make.

Sue, giving 'er all she's got/phasers on stun, in Ohio

*Julieanna Hever prepares Forks Over Knives meals in this video.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Artificial Abundance and an interview with author Lindsay S. Nixon

"And let the brain-washing begin", I said to my husband a week or so ago as we rushed to find the mute button for the t.v.  The increased-volume, catchy-jingle, IN-YOUR-FACE, race is on, in full this and she'll love this to show you adore this to say you this, buy this, buy this, buy this and this and this and this.....commercial extravaganza that will plague us at full-tilt boogie for the next few weeks is on. 

I confess I have a bit of Ebeneezer in me....I have issues surrounding the holidays.....I know it.  They are deeply rooted and we won't go there right now, but, as I age, and work diligently at becoming more focused, more Zen, more relevant, more now....I am becoming keenly aware of a growing rejection for this hyper-commercialism.

Today is my birthday.  I just received a b'day wish from my beloved and much-cherished brother, apologizing for not getting me anything and promising to 'make it up to me someday'.  I appreciate the thought and I admit I really do enjoy giving others presents as much as the next guy, but, really, I asked myself, what do I want from my brother more than anything else?  Obviously.....time.  I requested that from him along with some suggestions on what we could do together and when we could do it.  My dearest loving friends (you guys know who you are, LOVE you!), give me the most precious of gifts....their time.  Long lunches with me if they are close enough, long thoughtful e-mails usually daily otherwise.  Time is their most precious commodity.  It's the one thing we really can't make more of.  And yet, can it compete with an i-Pad?  It should be able to.  At the end of our days, given the choice between an i-Pad and Time, I believe we all know unequivocally how that choice would go.  No contest.  If no contest then, why not no contest now?

Because we are mired in and trained from an early age into worshipping abundance.  I can see where this concept got convoluted....abundance in and of itself is a good thing.  Who wouldn't want more love, more peace, more intelligence, more confidence....but we somehow get wired to value an artificial abundance.  Plastic, metal, other tangibles often with little real-world practical value become senior to the simple things, the really important things.  Shania, I know what you mean...'so you got a car???.....that don't impress me much....that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night-eee-night'.

We are conditioned to hop along from holiday to holiday and from pressured purchasing days to the next opportunity (SALE!!!) to the next one and the next one, ad nauseum, keeping us in a perpetual buying-consuming mode.  Have you ever been out shopping, maybe trying to complete that 'holiday list' and found yourself sinking deep inside yourself spiraling into a no-man's land of consumerism?  Everything starts to blend together?  Maybe you wandered down the deadly 'aisle-of-pink' in the children's department to find something for a girl on your list and found yourself staring blankly with slack jaw?  I sometimes will find myself just completely stopped in a store and thinking, OMG, why do we need all this stuff???  I want to run screaming from it all at times like this.

I enjoy watching the show "Hoarders", much to the ban of my husband (although he watches Cops so has no room to criticize!), and I think one of the reasons I am so transfixed by it, is partially due to my background in Psychology and infatuation with what-makes-us-tick, but also because I see a bit of that 'hoarding-phenomenon' in myself.  I never want to be so entrenched and entrapped and even in the extreme, absolutely STOPPED in their lives by 'stuff' as those poor long-suffering souls featured on that show are.  And yet, I think, we are all somewhere on that continuum. 

I can see my goals for 2012 already lining up.  I typically like to begin setting these on my birthday, rather than with the new year....seems right and also is handy since I have a December birthday.  2012 is going to be all about the purge....all about using what I have.....all about less is more and what that really means, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  More on that later.

In the meantime, I have an opportunity here.....a new generation to start new traditions with and to set the climate of how it is going to go.  My granddaughter is one year old now and this will be one of her first 'interactive' holiday seasons.  I'm not kidding myself into thinking that I'm going to be able to just not get her anything, but I'm thinking, this is a chance for me to tone-it-down.  I stopped at a used children's clothing/toy store and found the most adorable Little Tykes tractor.  Perfect for her.  I had a moment of 'guilt' (there goes that brain-washing) of buying her something used.  It has a scuff or two on it, but nothing anyone would really notice, and I suspect she'll put a scuff or two on it herself.  It felt good to make that's more sustainable, more in line with what I am trying to say here on this blog, and in my life.  It's ok to reduce, reuse, recycle.  All that glitters is not gold.

Now I just have to control myself for another couple of weeks!  Oh yeah, and keep the mute button on during the brain-washing.

Not the most flattering picture for either of us, but I thought it was interesting, we both had the same look....what's the infatuation???  Sweet potatoes...what else?

Look at her....already a master at downward facing dog!

For a really eye-opening video on consumerism, unsustainability of the current system and the true cycle of material consumption, check this out...The Story of Stuff.
(I found this via Lori Painter's wonderful blog: )


Lindsay S. Nixon has once again embarked on a 'blog book tour' and has graciously given us some of her precious time to answer a few questions from me and is sharing a recipe from her new book "Everyday Happy Herbivore".

1.  Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, Lindsay, and congratulations on your new book.  I see that you have included quite a few extras, like the DIY section at the end and practical substitutions for 'everyday' living, e.g. the gravy section, condiments, etc.  You cover a lot of ground in these sections.  You mention your inspiration as living in the relative isolation of St. Maarten.  Did you run into any major set-backs from lack of access to ingredients?

Oh my god yes -- what was available to me was always changing. For example, I went to the store and saw they had sweet potatoes. So I bought a bag. and then I never saw sweet potatoes again. Good thing I bought that bag! I mean, a cookbook without sweet potatoes?! That also happened with a lot of other vegetables -- and we frequently ran out of some beans (black beans especially) -- which I'm thankful for, actually, because it forced me to work with other beans I normally underutilize. 

2.  What do you see is the biggest change needed to move the plant-based, whole foods movement forward?  How can we, as individuals, help?

I think its important that everyone realize that leading by example is the best way to promote this lifestyle and foster change in others. True change has to come from within. The best we can do is spark a curiosity, get them interested and kindly educate without overly advocating. Most people don't respond well to being told what to do, we want to encourage them to make a positive change for themselves. I see a lot of people sort of beating others over the head -- and I love that they're so passionate, but that's not really the best way to "convert" in my experience.

3.  What is your favorite recipe from the new book?

Asking a chef to pick their recipe is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child :-) 
                I should have rephrased that to is there a recipe you are most proud of?
 Most proud of?  Well I'm proud of all of them -- but I do think the Rum Cake is pretty amazing. I need to enter it into a contest, or something. You would NEVER guess its whole-grain, fat-free and vegan

4.  What is next on the horizon for you?  I'm sure you have another project already in mind....

I'm currently writing my third cookbook; but I have my hand in other projects too -- I've recently started meal plans on Happy Herbivore, which I'm really enjoying and want to expand on.

Thank you again, for your time and continued success to you.

Lindsay has a very active FaceBook page that you can follow her on, and blogs frequently as well. .  Watch for much, much more from Lindsay in the future.  I know her success will continue exponentially.

Thank you, Lindsay!

Chocolate Mug Cake - serves 1
Chocolate cake? check. Single-Serving? check. Made nearly instantly? Oh yeah! This whole-wheat chocolate cake goes from flour to in your mouth in under 5 minutes.

4 tbsp white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp nondairy milk
¼+ cup unsweetened applesauce
vanilla extract
dash cinnamon
2-3 tbsp vegan chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon together, set aside. For a really sweet cake, add more sugar. In another small bowl, whisk ¼ cup applesauce, nondairy milk, and a drop or two of vanilla extract together. Pour wet into dry, then add chips, stirring to combine. Add another 1-2 tbsp of applesauce, until the batter is wet and resembles regular cake batter. Pour batter into a coffee cup, and microwave for three minutes (at 1000 watts).

Per Serving: 276 Calories, 4.1g Fat, 59.3g Carbohydrates, 7.8g Fiber, 31.6g Sugar, 8.3g

This will end up being my birthday cake!  I didn't have the chocolate chips, so subbed raw cacao chips.  Chocolate is a bit of a trigger food for me and I generally don't keep it in the house, but find that I can handle cacao much better.  I used cacao powder in place of the cocoa and cut that by 1/2 T.  I also only had regular whole wheat flour, but it seemed to work fine.

Serious yum...and serious fun.  I mean, cake in a cup?  Perfect.  And fun....did I mention fun?  Oh, we will be having this around here anytime we need to celebrate.  I think Thursday is a holiday right?  Right, I just checked my calendar and it is Delmore Schwartz' birthday.  I have no idea who Delmore is, but I will have to find out and celebrate with a mug cake! 

The cacao nibs I used gave some crunch to this cake, making it almost like brownie-in-a-cup. I  could see adding some nuts or even some dried cherries....I mean this is incredibly versatile.  Great job, Lindsay!

I love those photos on other peoples' blogs where they have all their ingredients organized.  Mine never come out as nice, but I am liking getting in the habit of having everything out before starting to cook.

You probably can't see the detail on this, but this is Saigon cinnamon and the price on the lid says $.99. It's one of my finds at a scratch and dent type warehouse.  Not sure what was wrong with this---exp. date is May 2014 and the way I go through cinnamon, that won't be a problem. Besides having great prices at this warehouse, the food is donated by local large food chains rather than tossing it out---so, saving waste, and the profits go to needy families.  Win-win-win. 

Happy Birthday to me.

Sue, celebrating, in Ohio


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forgotten arts, I don't need another cookbook, but...., and a lovely potato soup

I love living out here in the country---and while we aren't out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-you-can't-get-there-from-here country, we're out far enough that I have to plan running errands, and if family wants to visit, it's pretty much an all-day affair.  The grocery store is 20-25 mins away, which isn't bad at all, but in the winter, that can become significant--again, planning required, especially since when our road gets plowed it takes approximately 3 1/2 minutes before it's drifted over again, due to its orientation to prevailing wind patterns.  It's getting close to the time of year again, where I'll have to be more diligent with my planning.

One of the true joys of living out here though has been the 'local color'.  It was something I noticed very early on....we had a postman who made the drunken wild mail carrier in the Chevy Chase movie "Funny Farm" look positively warm and fuzzy.  And, just the 'regular' people didn't exactly warm up to us, being new-comers or 'transplants' as they referred to us (I'm sure they had other names for us too that they didn't share openly).  I learned to laugh at these oddities and began to treasure them for their uniqueness.

Gradually, we became accepted (although locals still from time to time remind me that I live on the old "Rathsaddle"* place.  I was always dumbfounded by this categorization because this place was a beanfield when we bought it.  The 'place'???  Wouldn't that imply a homestead or structure???  No, not out here).

(*fictionalized rendition of the actual name).

I have come to know, over the years, a man who hauls for me (driveway stone, sand, topsoil, etc.)--gradually, we've become well-acquainted since we now have approximately half of our net-worth in driveway stone!  He's a great guy and is a many-generationed-'native'.  He always has an interesting tale to tell me about the past generations of farmers in his family, the changes that have occured and we've had more than one lively conversation about the USDA and the effects of their 'involvement' in agriculture.  Earlier this fall, he shared a story with me that really got my attention.  I am interested and drawn to the 'lost arts' whether it be crafts, cooking, animal husbandry, etc.  His story falls into the last category.  Seems he has this cow...and is real partial to her (his words), and last year she got a very bad cut.  He bandaged her up, called the vet who said, 'whatever you do, don't bandage her up'.  Uh-oh, too late.  So, the vet instructed:  'well, keep an eye on her'. 

A couple of days later and the cut was infected guy calls the vet back and says you gotta come look at her, give her a shot or whatever.  Vet says, 'nothing you can do at this point, cow will either live or die'.  Ok, so my guy is heart-broken and remembers this old, old book that his great uncle had from the 1800s about animal husbandry.  He digs it out and looks through it and sees it's in sections by animal, so he's looking under cows, says, see horses. So he goes to that section and the instructions read to make a poultice of half and half plantain and comfrey.  Well, of course we have plantain everywhere, so he gets that and then spends half a day finding a local herb gardener who has comfrey, makes up the poultice and puts it on the cow.  Two days later and the cow is healed! 

This story has inspired me, once again, to look into the nearly forgotten use of plants in the care of animals and all that nature provides us.  I'm hoping to do a winter project of researching some practical applications and this will mesh nicely with my other already-started project of researching edible weeds.

Incidentally, how this story even came up in the first place, was due to me mentioning to my friend the use of plantain for wasp/yellow jacket stings.  I had been stung badly this summer and tried plantain in place of my usual baking soda...snatch up a leaf and chew briefly then apply on the sting.  It was unbelieveable how well it worked!

For more on plantain:


I don't need another vegan cookbook.  I really don't.  But, I bought two this week.  One I had preordered.  It is Lindsay S. Nixon's 2nd cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore.  I haven't had a chance to really tear into it yet, but a quick thumb-through and I was reaching for slips of paper to bookmark recipes.  Will be putting more from that book on the blog in the near future.  You can have a peek at it over on Amazon:  It's only $13. and her original book, which I interviewed her about here, is now only $12.  Both books are easily worth that.  The best thing about Lindsay's recipes is that there is basically NO OIL in them, so I don't have to worry about how I'm going to substitute that unhealthy and fattening ingredient.  It amazes me how we all fell for the line that olive oil is healthy.  I still have to ward off this misconception from others, but I'm beginning to see a glimmer of change.  People really seem to be thinking about what they put in their bodies.

The other cookbook I got was via someone who picked it up at the library for me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that again, here was a book with no to minimal oil or processed foods of any kind!  Blissful Bites, by Christy Morgan, is a really well-put together book filled with little tid-bits of information that are wonderfully practical as well as educational. After renewing the book from the library as many times as I could, I decided I had to have it. I've only made a couple of the recipes, but the Mac 'n Cheeze recipe alone is worth getting the book for.  It is WONDERFUL. My husband really prefers it to Rip Esselstyn's Mac not Cheese, which has been a favorite of ours.  Sorry, still rule lasagna around here though!

(Also, anyone's whose favorite squash is kabocha is tops in my book!  Click on the link above to go to Christy's web-site; she has a great sampling of recipes there.)

Macro Mac n Cheeze from Christy Morgan's Blissful Bites


I absolutely have soup on the brain....I made another batch of corn bisque---had it for the first course for our Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm already craving it again. 

In an effort to use up some things in the frig and pantry, I thought I'd throw them together for a potato soup.  It came out very good, much like my earlier attempts at a hearty potato soup.  I started with some homemade veggie easy to make.  Keep your veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer, then toss them into a big pot of water, simmer for as little as a half hour, up to a couple of hours.  Strain and you are good to go.

 Veggie-scrap bag from freezer

Veggie Stock in the making
It's not pretty, but boy does it make a good, hearty veggie stock.  Soooo much better than that boxed stuff on the grocery store shelf.

Yummy Potato Soup/Stew

Large onion, chopped
Garlic cloves, 1 - 3 depending on your taste
1 head of broccoli, cut into large chunks
2 - 3 potatoes, chopped into large chunks (peeled if you prefer)
1 sweet potato, chopped into chunks
1/2 head cauliflower
Various veggies (carrots, peas, corn, etc.--clean out the frig!)
4-6 C of veggie stock
(optional:  1 can of coconut milk)

While stock water is simmering, you can get to work on the veggies for the soup, peeling and chopping. (Stick all those left-over pieces and peels into a new bag in the freezer for the next batch of veggie stock.  This really does make the soup).

In pan with small amount of water, saute chopped onion and garlic.  Let these almost carmelize. Stir up the brownish bits.   Add stock and potatoes, broccoli, cauli and carrots if using.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until veggies are tender, approximately half hour.    Now add in your other veggies that don't need to cook long, frozen corn, peas, etc., any tender greens you might want to add.  Simmer for a few minutes. 

Blend up soup in batches, puree until smooth.  You can leave some of the veggies intact if you want to have those chunks in your soup, or go for a complete puree.  Return to pot, add some seasoning to suit your taste.  Enjoy. (Note:  I made this last batch very thick, almost a stew and it was wonderful.  Even my husband commented on really liking it and how it will be great to have this a lot in the winter.  If you want a creamier, smoother soup, add in a can of coconut milk and/or more liquid.  You can blend that in the blender or just stir in for the final heating).

I whipped up some of Lindsay Nixon's whole-wheat drop biscuits to go with this.....very, very good, but I want to tweak the recipe a bit as I found it a bit salty/sodaish tasting.  I'll cut the amount of salt and baking powder to see if that helps.  Husband didn't care for these at all, so will probably stick to yeast rolls for him.

My only complaint with Lindsay's books are:  recipe amounts are a bit different than what I would expect, for example, this biscuit recipe was for 5 biscuits.  I'm not sure who would make 5 biscuits, but of course, it is easy enough to double/triple the recipe.  Which brings me to my other complaint (that I did contact her about), the font size for the ingredients measurements is very small, particularly fractional teaspoon amounts.  Even with my glasses, it is tough to read them.  So, minor complaints and still worth working around for the great recipes she comes up with.

Sue, I could live on soup, in Ohio

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beautiful Autumn and Very Veggie Soup

It's gloriously beautiful here in Ohio today....the sun is out, wind has died down, rain has stopped and the temps are rising today.  The sun is making longer shadows across the land these days, giving early morning and late afternoon a brilliant shine to the leaves, which haven't all given up their grasp on the trees just yet....but it's coming.....the dreaded "W" word and soon I'll have to dig out the Carharts and gloves and long underwear and wonder once again why we live this far north of the equator.

But for today, it's beautiful.

Our beautiful mare, Dani, enjoying the sun.

Lovely Laura


I started out the day harvesting some kale (the few plants that survived the onslaught of the cabbage moths) beet greens and spinach for my morning smoothie.  There is something so wonderfully simple and grounding about going out to your own garden, snipping a few leaves and preparing a meal with the yield. 

I'm really looking forward to expanding our very successful raised beds next year - I'm hoping to add two more, one for sweet potatoes and early/late quick crops, like lettuce, and one that I'd love to have strictly for flowers, possibly growing some edible flower varieties as well as my favorites like daisies and pansies, dahlias, cosmos, etc.

I had a craving for some vegetable soup yesterday and thought it would be a great opportunity to use up some odds and ends in the frig before they become Science experiments.  (Another great thing about being vegan is the much greater window of time before the stuff in the frig morphs into something truly nasty....). 

I've been in the habit this summer of stashing leftover bits of veggies from my food prep into large freezer bags and storing in the freezer - then I just add to them as I go along.  I mark the bags with ye ole Sharpie "Veg Stock", and now have quite the collection of these bags.  It is amazing how quickly you can fill one up with the ends of onions, carrots, tops of tomatoes, ugly butt end of celery, celery leaves, etc., etc. 

Every so often when cooking, I just empty the contents of a bag into a large pot and add water, probably 4 - 6 cups, cover and let it simmer.  An hour or more later and there is this lovely veggie stock.....strain and toss the spent veg parts onto the compost pile.  Usually I'll go ahead and freeze that veggie stock too, unless I am going to use it up in the next day or two.  It's a very simple process and I refuse to buy the high sodium stuff that is available in the store --- even if I find a brand that is low in sodium, it still just seems like a waste of money, when I can create my own with literally stuff I was going to toss out!

Very Veggie Soup

Homemade veggie stock (really try to make your own---I know not everyone can, but I really think it
      makes a huge difference in the taste)
Onions (I used some small ones I picked up at the farm market - a variety, red, yellow, white -
     about 8 of these)
Garlic - 2 cloves
Carrots (I used two from my garden - yum)
Potatoes - 4 medium
Corn - approx 1 C - (Trader Joe's roasted corn has a sweetness that is really nice in this soup)
Peas - approx 1 C
Edamame - approx 1 C
Red beans - 1 can, rinsed and drained
Anything else you would like!
Tomato sauce - approx 1 C - (I made from tomatoes from the garden - lots of flavor but could use
   canned or even a small can of tomato paste which would thicken the broth up more)
Pinch salt

In large soup pot, saute chopped onions and minced garlic in small amount of water.  Let cook about 5 mins or so until onions almost start to carmelize.  In the meantime, chop your carrots and potatoes and prep other items.  Add veg stock and carrots and potatoes.  Cook on low heat (I partially cover....lid not closed tightly) for 30 - 40 mins or so until potatoes are done.  Add in corn, peas, edamame, beans and tomato sauce and simmer til heated through.  Salt lightly if desired....I used just a pinch.

I was kind of going for something like Campbell's Chunky Vegetable with this recipe and I think this is fairly close.  The addition of the tomato sauce really gives the broth more body and flavor and it just really hit the spot for me.  I think it would be great with a combination of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.  Cannellini beans would also be great in place of the red beans or even a combination of several types of beans/lentils and you could morph this into a stew.  I'm sure my soup recipes will be getting a good workout in the cold months to come....but it'll be one more reason to be thankful for excuse to have a great, hearty soup!

Sue, greedily holding onto the warm temps, in Ohio

One of my favorite herbivores.....they know how to eat!

Excuse me while I go completely off for a minute.....

I'm embarrassed.

I posted these words on my FaceBook page not too long ago.

I went on to write the following.

I'm embarrassed to be in the same species, race and gender as someone who felt the need to forward a hateful e-mail comparing Michelle Obama to Cheetah (Tarzan and Jane).....

I'm embarrassed to be in the same group as the individual who commented 'this is the best one in a long time' what?  advertisement that you are racist, insensitive and lack any spirit of compassion whatsoever?

I'm embarrassed to find that in 2011 we are still a nation that is divisive and combative and stoops to the level of assault that was in this hateful e-mail and calls it humour.

I'm embarrassed that this individual, who also sends me God and Christian e-mail regularly, thinks that I am the kind of person who would find this remotely interesting.

'Nuff said, I'll save the rest for my blog.

So, I'm going to go off a while longer here, and I won't mind at all if you prefer to just close this window out and move on.  I'll put a nice recipe at the end for those of you who decide to read, (or just scroll down to the end and skip my tirade).

Because this morning, with a good night's sleep behind me and the dawn of a new day, I am STILL embarrassed.  ....and perplexed....and mortified....and damnit, I just don't get it!!!

The e-mail that was circulating around depicted pictures from the old Tarzan featuring Johnny Weissmuller and there were various photos and questions being asked of Tarzan with answers supposed to be in present day and down at the end it culminated in side by side pictures of Michelle Obama and Cheetah, the ape.  I was flabbergasted.  Obama supporter or not, this is just beyond any sense of decency.

And the girl that forwarded this to me is a Christian and references her god quite frequently.  I've received hateful e-mails like this before and have found it so odd that many are from Christians, although I don't appreciate them from anyone.  I asked someone I know who is a devout Christian about something similar to this once and she said "just because a person is a Christian, doesn't mean they're a good Christian.".  I thought she made an excellent point, but I'm thinking, in reference to this circumstance, how hard is it NOT to forward an e-mail???  Doesn't seem to take a huge amount of restraint, committment or fortitude.

I normally delete this garbage and move on, but in this case, I did respond to the sender and unequivocally told her not to send me this stuff any more.  I was reminded of the times in history, when with the silence of the onlookers (even in the last days of Christ himself!!!), their tacit consent was given to whatever atrocity of the day was taking place.  This is how it starts....we remain silent....we don't want to offend....we grant more respect to the perpetrator than they are giving to us and so the opportunity to affect a change is missed.    I may have hurt the sender's feelings with my reply, but I believe there will now be clarity on what my viewpoint is on this type of communication.  Possibly she may take a moment to assess, does she actually agree with the sentiment reflected in the e-mail, or is she just going along....does it reflect her Christian or humanitarian values, or is she just robotically hitting the forward button?  {Update:  Actually I grossly over-estimated my ability to affect a change....she sent me another, equally offensive e-mail just three days later <sigh>}.

Isn't this part of how we have gotten to the very sad state of affairs in this country with our school lunches, the subsidizing of farm factories, the subsidies of even tobacco until very recently?! 

My response to this e-mail became my 'line in the sand', my 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' and my pebble thrown at the Goliath that has become human indecency and lack of compassion in our modern day world.  World peace?  How are we ever going to get there when we can't even mind our manners with e-mail!?

Ok, I think I'm done now.  If you've made it this far, I thank you for reading, and for thinking, and if you are thoughtful in your life and show compassion and consideration for others, I thank you very, very much.  We need all of the positive energy we can get in this world.

Spaghetti and Vegan Meatballs
I found this recipe in the latest newsletter from Whole Foods.
I hope you are fortunate enough to have one of these wonderful stores nearby to you.  The closest one to us, is about an hour away, but I go there at least 3 times a month.  I think Whole Foods could be even more vegan-friendly than they already are, and I believe they have plans to expand their produce section even further, AND I would like to see the prices come down a bit, but they, along with Trader Joe's, make vegan and whole food cooking more doable.

(NOTE:  I altered the recipe a bit as it called for oil for sauteeing the onion/garlic and mushrooms).

1C chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 C roughly chopped cremini mushrooms
1 C packed baby spinach
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1 C black beans, rinsed and drained (divide in half)
2 t basil
1 t oregano
1 C brown riced, cooked
8 oz. spaghetti
Pasta sauce (25 oz)

Saute onion and garlic (in water) and cook til tender, about 5 mins.  Stir in mushrooms and spinach.  Cover and cook until mushrooms are tender and spinach wilts, about 5 mins.  (Add water as needed). 

Process, sunflower seeds (I just grind mine up in a coffee grinder solely used for nuts/seeds), until coarsely ground.  Add cooked vegetable mixtures, half the beans, spices.  Pulse until mixture is just coming together.  In large bowl, combine pureed mixture, remaining beans and rice,  Stir til combined.

Preheat oven 350.  Form mix into 1-2" balls and transfer to baking sheet (I use parchment paper with the eeniest bit of oil possible...we're talking drops here).  Bake veggieballs 30 mins or until heated through and crisp on the outside.  In the meantime, cook pasta and heat sauce.  Combine pasta and sauce and add veggie balls being careful not to break apart.

The squeaky wheel may not always get the grease, but the silent one never does.
Sue, squeaking, in Ohio

Monday, October 3, 2011

Garden Party and Die-and-go-to-Heaven German Chocolate Cake

I have a garden this year, a real producing, dang-I-just-made-dinner-from-my-harvest garden (ok, it was only a pasta sauce, but....still).  This, like most of what gets accomplished around here, is due in no small part to efforts from my husband.  He convinced me to try raised beds this year, undoubtedly inspired by my lack luster attempts at gardening in years past.  OMG, like my switch to denim jeans with some stretch, I will never go back.  My only complaint (of course I have to have one) is that he only put in TWO raised beds.  What was he thinking?  I filled those puppies up in no time.  Maintenance is ridiculously easy and because of the location we chose -- I walk past them probably 20 times a day--- it's hard not to care for them.

From July - I had sunflowers in the middle with young lettuce surrounding my stepping stone, tomatoes in the back and some carrots and brussel sprouts in the front.

My other bed, in July - cauliflower, broccoli in front, peppers in the middle and sweet potatoes and a few other brassicas in the back (my gardening assistant, Tonka the wonder cat, on the left)

Along about August I noticed a wee problem with my brassicas....ALL my brassicas.  The kale I had in pots, the kale I had in the side beds along-side my house, the cauliflower, the broccoli, the brussel sprouts.  Little worms, cabbage worms, were feasting and having a garden party, smorgasbord-style the likes of which hasn't been seen since we celebrated the turn of the century.  I set about picking the little suckers off and disposing of them humanely (i.e. tossing them in the tree-line).  I admit that my need to not do harm to the little vicious creatures became increasingly hard to maintain, but I didn't knowingly crush any of them, however a few died "accidentally" in the removal process.  It quickly became clear that I was losing the battle, and I tried various home-made concoctions to spray on the plants, but always the voracious buggars would be back---even tried removing the eggs....still they out-numbered me.  So, I ended up pulling out nearly all my brassicas, but have a few that I check several times a day and hopefully cooler weather will solve my worm issues.

  The culprit.

But they know a superfood when they see one!  My poor kale.

Carrots in the background and what's left of my brussel sprouts in the foreground.

They don't like peppers though....I'll be growing more of those next year and also sowing kale earlier to see if I can beat the worm season.

Not all is worm-food though; I've harvested pounds and pounds of tomatoes with plenty more on the way.  The very tall plants in back are a local heirloom variety called Calloway, an excellent producer.

         Here are the Calloways this morning, in October----doing very well....and no worm damage. 

This species of kale seems to be not the preferred worm entree.  This plant may even survive.

Spinach (La Dolce Vita) also doing well and I just sowed some more seeds in the newly vacant spots in the raised beds.  Am thinking of framing and covering one of the beds to try to extend the season and harvest spinach, beets and maybe some cool-weather kale later this year, sans worms.

Baby red lettuce (letti???) coming up along with new spinach.  I read recently that lettuce seed doesn't germinate well in hotter soil, so that could explain why I am getting better germination now.

My husband loves German Chocolate cake and I always make one for his birthday.  This past year I could not bring myself to make that fat laden, artery clogging creation, so I set upon the hunt for a vegan version.  I found one at this site:

and decided to give it a whirl.  Now, it is not exactly health food, but is definitely a better option than the traditional recipe.  I ended up just making the round pans and not stacking the cake layers and instead of using the ganache to frost the sides, I drizzled it heavily on the top.  This cake is amazing.....simply amazing.  My husband said it's the best dessert I've made in years.  We will likely have it only once or twice a year, but it is great to have this option available.  I think this would make up great as mini-cupcakes too to take to a party.

Sue, gardening, despite the worms, in Ohio
I guess my garden fairies don't mind worms.....well, they do grow up to be pretty cute butterflies/moths....even if they are complete kale hogs!!!