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Monday, February 27, 2012

"I Am", On Finding Happiness and a Lovely Little Fruit Salad

I finally got a chance to view Tom Shadyac's documentary entitled "I Am".  I've been on the wait list for this from the library for forever and a half.  I first heard about Tom's work via a You Tube link; here he is in an interview talking about the massive changes he's made in his life following a catastrophic event:

The film is very well done, although I would love to have seen more from Lynne McTaggart, one of the experts Tom interviewed in his search for answers to these questions:  What is wrong with the world?  And what can we do about it?  I read Lynne's book "The Field" years ago while delving into quantum physics and the light that science can shed on what reality truly is.  If you've seen "What the Bleep Do We Know" or "What the Bleep, Down the Rabbit Hole" you will recognize her name.  If you haven't seen those films or read her book, I do highly recommend them, especially if you are into that sort of cosmic, philosophic kind of thing. 

Find out more about Lynne here:

In Tom's film, the concepts of who we are and how we affect the world around us, are given from various scientific and philosophic perspectives as Tom takes us through his journey as uber-successful film director (Liar, Liar, Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, etc.), to earthy, truth-seeking, activist.

I had researched Tom quite a bit and was not surprised, but a bit sad that he didn't put more of his personal changes into the film.  I guess it would have flown in the face of who he's become to list his efforts, but the man has donated a HUGE amount of money to help the global hunger and homelessness issues, and scaled down his personal consumption and lifestyle to a level that would impress most minimalists.

There was a fascinating glimpse into how our emotions affect the world around us--- food was used to illustrate----which was very similar to a scene from Ghostbusters where the gang is yelling at the 'slime' and registering the results on a meter.  In Tom's movie, they used yoghurt in a petri dish hooked up to electrodes.  The dish was in close proximity to Tom and his reactions to names of associates or to concepts (like ex-wife, agent, lawyer) were reflected in the yoghurt!  All of this occurred with no physical connection from Tom to the yoghurt.  Something is clearly going on here on a level that is much deeper.  The implications of these concepts to our everyday life are about limitless.

Besides the very strong message about our global connectiveness and our responsibility really to be aware of the affect we have on others as well as the physical universe, I was deeply moved by another message in Tom's film.

He outlined a universal truth, if-you-will---a basic law of nature.  And that is this:  nothing in nature takes more than it needs.  A massive redwood tree doesn't consume ALL the nutrients from the soil, just what it needs.  A lion doesn't kill ALL the gazelles, just one.  He goes on to say that if in nature something does happen to consume more than it needs, it quickly dies out. 

Here's the part that got me:  In the human body we have a name for something that consumes more than it needs-----CANCER.

Wow.  And in the days following my viewing of the film, I thought about that truth...a lot.  Ironically, even cancer kills itself off, eventually devouring the host that it needs to survive!

I've been on a minimalist trend and a massive effort to get our belongings pared down to a manageable level for some time now.  My husband and I have both lost parents in the last few years, and have taken on enormous amounts of items and personal belongs from our parents.  It's been a tormenting and painstakingly agonizing process to try to sort through things, decide what to keep, what to sell, what to donate, what to set aside for our kids.  I've made good progress, but always there seems to be more to deal with.  My husband said it best the other day when he caught me in a frustrated moment:  "Sometimes I feel like we are just moving things from one place to another".  Amen.  And that is no way to live.  The 'things' have taken on their own lives, and like a cancer, threaten to take ours.

Items that brought joy to my mother have accumulated and are taking up space in my home and my life, not bringing joy, but rather burden, and in some cases, rusting and collecting dust.  Someone else could be enjoying them and getting use from them.  Worse yet, if I don't handle these items, my kids will have to and that is a legacy I do not want to leave behind.

And.... I don't want to be a consume more than I clutter up my become a slave to the items that are supposed to bring me joy or at least serve a purpose.

I guess all of this makes sense and has presented itself in a timely fashion.  I will be approaching the two year mark soon of my complete commitment to my personal health.  It only makes sense that areas not yet handled in terms of 'personal environmental health' would surface.  I am reminded of the old wise saying, 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear'----thank you, Tom; you set a powerful example for us all.

For more on Tom's documentary:

A Little Fruit Salad

I got this recipe from Whole Living Magazine -  My subscription was a gift to me (thank you, R!), and I've been enjoying the magazine very much, but am still a bit ambivalent about it.  (I am soooo picky).  There are some really good things in this magazine, and recipes that work with a whole foods, vegan diet very well or can be easily adapted, but then I'll read something about needing to get our protein from lean meat and I just think, <sigh>, will the message EVER get out?

This past month's issue was visually just stunning.  The clever photographers and food gurus made a color palette of foods and devoted a page to each color of the rainbow.  The work was nothing short of artistic.  I was just mesmerized by it and was looking at the 'yellow' page and saw the recipe for this little salad and went 'HEY!  I have all that stuff!!!'  Don't you love it when that happens?

So....Little Yellow Salad is comprised of Sweet Meyer Lemons

which I had never used before but just magically happened to have in yon fridge.

And, mango, pineapple and toasted coconut.  I had some leftover unsweetened coconut, so tossed some in a dry frying pan to toast.

Wow, this is worth doing even if you don't have a recipe to use it in....the aroma is fabulous!

You just chop up the mango and pineapple, thinly slice some of the lemons (I peeled those sections I was including in the salad) and squeeze juice from the lemon over all.  Toss and top with toasted coconut*.

Lovely little yellow salad.

Even in winter (or maybe especially in winter!), this burst of citrus was really good.  There is just the right amount of sweet and just the right amount of tang.  And the yellow is pretty darn cheery on a February day.

Next post announces an exciting cookbook giveaway!

Sue, trying to consume only what I need, both in my body and my environment, in Ohio

*note:  there is a lot of conflicting information on coconut and its affect on our health.  My personal policy is to use it very sparingly.  This salad would be just as good with some lightly toasted sunflower seeds or other substitution for the coconut.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Apple-Cinnamon Tea Cake & Winner of Everyday Happy Herbivore

When I was in college, I used to make this coffee was perfect for a weekend of partying, uh, I mean studying.  I haven't made it in, literally, decades.  I thought I would attempt to re-create it, vegan-style of course, this weekend.  Since I was doing it from scratch and from memory, the odds of success were not exactly slated in my favor.  I probably should have started with a proven recipe and adapted from there, but I wanted to push my culinary comfort zone a bit.  The results were not perfect, but not bad either.  I even measured as I went, so I can tweak it later on.

The original recipe called for sour cream and had a heavy layer of streusel on top comprised of butter, cinnamon and sugar.  I opted to include apples in my new recipe just for kicks.  And since it's also now been decades since I gave up coffee, I'm calling it a "tea cake".

Apple-Cinnamon Tea Cake

1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 C flour (I always use whole wheat, but a pastry whole wheat would be an option for lighter texture)
1 t cinnamon
1/3 C maple syrup
1 1/2 large apples (I steamed these in just a bit of water and sprinkled with cinnamon---I love cinnamon!)
1 C vegan sour cream (from Lindsay Nixon's Happy Herbivore)

Topping:  coarse chopped pecans sprinkled with, (what else), cinnamon.  I used probably a cup of pecans and at least a tablespoon of cinnamon.

Mix dry ingredients.  I mashed up the apples (peeled them) and tossed them, the syrup and the sour cream into the dry mix.  Mixed gently until well blended.  The batter was very thick.  I dropped it by spoonful into this cute heart-shaped baking pan I picked up post-Valentine's clearance.

The rest of the batter I split in half and spread one half in a baking pan---sprinkled half the topping on ---then topped that with the 2nd half of the batter.  More topping on that.  I baked at 340 degrees ---heart-shaped baking pan was done in about 20 minutes.  The larger pan took about 30 minutes.

This was not a very sweet cake, but that was what I wanted.  Just a bit of a treat without sending me into sugar overload.  I debated on trying dates for the sweetener that I would blend up.  I may do that next time.  It is more of a chewy cake than a light airy cake, but does make a decent snack---and is lovely with a cup of tea, dahling.

Apple-Cinnamon Tea Cake

Winner of Lindsay Nixon's new book, Everyday Happy Herbivore is:


Congratulations, Kim!  E-mail me your shipping info:  Thanks to everyone for entering.  Watch for another giveaway later in the week!

Sue, making-it-up-as-I-go, in Ohio

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lazy-A** Syndrome & the "I Don't Wannas" + Killer Sweet Potato Soup & a Giveaway---Everyday Happy Herbivore

Dang it's cold here in Ohio.  The whole state is one humongous weather-alert color on the weather maps and the Weather Channel gurus and local guys are salivating over the influx of 'white death'.  It cracks me up when I see the split screen on the local news morph into 5 or 6 distinct squares as the news anchors explain that they have their weather alert teams out there to bring the weather news to us---pause as they zoom into one of the poor souls stuck on this 'live coverage' duty as he points out that, yep, there is snow on the ground here in Ohio.

Anyway, it's cold.  A perfect day to sink into the very legitimate excuse on why I can't get x, y and z's winter!  I can't be expected to do all my work.  I should just cuddle up with the latest Patricia Cornwell novel and happily cozy up to a good read.....I sure don't want to work!

Recently, a dear friend of mine and I were discussing via e-mail a concept that I am calling "Lazy A$$ Syndrome" or the  'I don't wannas'.  You know, when you head off towards a project, partially gung-ho, somewhat determined to get it done, open the door to the closet that needs re-organizing, the drawer that needs cleaned out, or approach the pile of clothes that needs folded and put away and you go, uhnnnn.....I ....don't.....wanna.  So, you either spank your inner child and FORCE yourself begrudgingly to do it, or justify why it's ok not to or just shrug, shut the door and move on.

In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter if we cleaned out the drawer or whatever, but I am beginning to notice the side-effects of 'giving in' and, conversely, the power of 'pushing through'.

We know we get what we focus on and we know that much of what we do are habits that are engrained.  So, if we use that knowledge we can see that every time we turn away from a task at hand THAT WE HAD COMMITTED TO OURSELVES TO DO, we reinforce the habit of, oh, what shall we call it, self-non-compliance maybe.  So that becomes more of a turn away, to give in to a non-productive impulse.  Now, this is not to say that every moment needs to be productive.  I'm realizing the utter joy of NON productiveness, which has taken me over five decades to appreciate---no I'm talking about when you SAID you were going to do it, and then you don't.  A decision NOT to do something is not the same thing.

Now, take the same scenario, some god-forsaken task like cleaning out a closet....UGH....and you open the door determined, only to shut it a few seconds later.  What did you reinforce???

I've been playing around with this for many weeks now.  I'm applying it to my personal fitness program, to working my horses (not always that much fun in Ohio winter), and to cleaning out various closets and piles of accumulated stuff that needs to go.  I can report success on all fronts to varying degrees.  What's been working for me is to first set an achievable goal.  One project is so overwhelming that I just haven't wanted to do anything with it at all.  For that one, I told myself, ok, you can spend FIVE minutes working on it.  That's all....five minutes.  I don't know how many of those five minute periods I've invested into this particular project, but it is well on its way to being completed, and it honestly feels like I've done the whole thing in only five minutes! This is a vast turn around from my usual modus operandi...I tend to be an extremist, so I gotta get the whole thing done or none at all.  Usually I get so over-whelmed, I quit several hours into it, exhausted and feeling like I failed.  Learning to perform a task in small chunks (and then live with the incompleteness of it mid-process) has been interesting and self-illuminating. 

Also interesting is that I now have engrained a bit of discipline in myself by reinforcing the habit to COMMIT to myself.  I said I was going to get this done, now just do it.  It is getting easier to do this.  Funny how that inner child only whines for a second or two before the momentum of the task at hand takes hold.  It is the starting of something that is often the most difficult.  Most things now that I set out to do, I don't even feel that initial resistance anymore (well, ok, there is one closet that still RULES me :-)....but I'll get you too, my pretty.....five minutes at a time).

I've always said that Mt. Everest could literally be moved one tablespoon at a time---usually as one of my lame philosophical blurbs to inspire someone into action, but now I really know that concept is true.  No matter how big the task, eventually, with persistence, the end of it will come.

SAH-WEET!  Sweet Potato and Spinach Soup

I ran across this recipe on the blogosphere and even though I was worried about making soup with peanut butter in it (seriously???  p.butter in soup??), I am soooo glad I tried it.  It is now one of my absolute favorites.  It ain't pretty in the bowl, but let me tell you, it is wonderful.  I also think that it would be an awesome soup to have on hand in the freezer in case illness strikes.  Please give it a try.

Scroll down on Julieanna and A.J.'s site and the recipe is in the post dated January 4th.  The recipe is from the talented Robin Robertson....I have two of her cookbooks, Vegan Planet and 1,000 Vegan Recipes and they are both wonderful books.  (While you are there on Julieanna and A.J.'s site, view some of their videos, if you haven't already.  These two wonderful women are definitely on the front lines and doing such good work to get the message of healthy eating out.  They are personal heroes of mine for sure).

I used a can of tomatoes with chilis in it, so my soup had a bit more bite to it.  Normally I don't care for spiciness but for some reason, this combination was really good.  I also took raw spanish peanuts and dry roasted them in a fry pan to sprinkle on top of the soup....serious yum.  Do try it!

Recipe is here:

Sweet Potato - Spinach Soup

Cookbook Giveaway.  I am so excited about this.  The publishers of Lindsay S. Nixon's new book Everyday Happy Herbivore have graciously made available a copy of Lindsay's book to be given away on my blog.   (Shipment can only go to USA or Canada address).  My recent interview with Lindsay and a recipe from the book can be reviewed here:  That chocolate mug cake would make a great Valentine's Day treat for yourself or your special someone.

To enter to win, leave me a comment.  Are you currently eating a plant-based diet?  If not, is this a goal you have for yourself? View Lindsay's blog here: We'll run this for a week, so get your comments in by next Saturday (the 18th). Thanks and good luck!

Sue, working---5 mins at a time, in Ohio

Romensco and The Mandelbrot Set - A Cookbook Give-Away

(Note:  I wrote this back in November, but never posted it.  I'm catching up on a few things.  Forgive the untimeliness of the content---cookbook giveaway teaser at the bottom).

Next week is my last week for pick up of our CSA (Community Share Agriculture see: ).  I'm sad to see this process come to an end, but also ready for it to end as it is one of those things that requires diligence and a bit of a drive to go and pick up the box every week.

My initial reasons for joining a CSA this year, were to expose me to different veggies and also to contribute to a local, organic farmer's effort.  Both goals were attained and then some. I gained a great affection and respect for the individuals that run our CSA and moved closer to that concept of being in a state of gratitude for those that grow the food that literally sustains our life.

I've not completely decided if I will join next year, but am leaning heavily towards not rejoining.  It's a substantial outlay of money, and while I always felt that I got that much back in return, I am sure I could save money by shopping the local markets myself, even if purchasing only organic goods.  Also, there is a practical aspect to consider, the pick up location for our CSA is a good 40 miles from my house, closer after that particular farm market closes down in September as I then pickup right at the farm, but, even that is still 20 miles.  So, time spent driving, fuel consumed in doing so, even though combined with other errands, sort of nullifies any 'green' aspect of all of this endeavor.  And I realized about mid-season, that in joining this CSA, I was spending FAR less at our own local farm market, a mere 20 mins away.  While these are not certified organic farmers, the two farmers I purchase most of my produce from, do not use chemicals, so I inadvertently 'hurt' those farmers with my lack of support, or at least didn't contribute to them.
Also, I have had such success from my own garden this year with the addition of my raised beds, that I think investing some of that time, money, etc. into another raised bed or two, would yield quite a bit and those harvests require zero fossil fuels.

But then, I see this:
I wish someone would have snapped a few pictures of my face when I pulled this out of the CSA box.  Wha?????  I am sure the caption would have read.  Jamie includes a comprehensive list of all items in the box, so I rapidly scanned the list to find out what the heck this was.  (Alien veggie??? Kohlrabi you got nuthin' on this guy).
One picture just isn't enough:

Look at the detail of the spiral structures on this thing....m.c. escher must have seen one of these, before sketching his brilliant spiraled staircases.....

The romanesco is an interesting veggie; I prepared it like a cauliflower and ate most of it just lightly steamed and some of it raw and in salads.  It had an interesting taste and I'll definitely watch for it again, if for no other reason than to gaze at it in wonder.  Seriously, is Mother Nature not just intense in her creations???

Which brings me to another looking at this romanesco, I realized it is comprised of fractals.  If you are not familiar with fractals as a concept, you certainly are in reality as nature is full of them.  For some really pretty ones, check this out:  You'll find our veggie friend, romanesco listed here too.

This past summer, I looked further into fractals and became a little bit obsessed with The Mandelbrot Set.  Maybe you had to grow up in the 60's and 70's and be a bit of a math geek (guilty on both counts) to really find this super-cool, but I was entranced and looked up everything I could find on it.  This has been called God's Thumbprint as well and stimulated theological as well as mathematic philosophical discussions.  

This is a good explanation of what the Mandelbrot Set is although the narrator speaks a little fast even for me and I wish the video was a bit slower as well; the video is stunning though as it zooms in ever deeper into the structures generated.
The concept of infinity has always made my imagination soar outwards to the stars and beyond, probably as it does everyone, but this set takes infinity on a different dimension....infinitesimally smaller.  I just think that is way cool.  Pass the romanesco please.


I have TWO vegan cookbook giveaways coming up.  I'll get the details of the first one up on my next post, which I'm going to get to right away.....I promise.

Sue, day-dreaming into infinity, in Ohio (and beyond)