Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Losing The Plot" of one's life, and Jonathan's Chili Soup

"In the end, only three things matter: how fully you have lived, how deeply you have loved and how well you have learned to let go of that which was not meant for you"~
~ Buddhist saying.

I love it when I have a moment where things click into place....ahhhh....I seeeee, kinda thing.

I was e-mailing a friend awhile back and we were comisserating over another fine fix I'd gotten myself into.  She's an artist and often has found her talents pulled into one project or another only to stop and think....why did I sign on for this again? ---so could relate to this most recent of conundrums I had created for myself.

I was telling her it goes something like this:  monkey is thirsty and heads off to yon water hole.  Along the way, monkey sees something shiny...oooohhh....shiny!!  Heads off on that path.  Along that path, monkey spies a banana.  BANANA!  Starts up the tree....half-way up the tree, monkey sees ANOTHER tree that looks easier to climb and has MORE bananas....gets down and heads that way.  Along the way to that tree, monkey says, hey, wait a minute....what am I doing here?  Didn't I want something shiny???  Noooo....what was it I DID want???

It's a wonder I don't die of thirst.

It's like A.D.D. on crack-cocaine.  A project comes my way and even though the little voice is screaming saying, you already have 30 hours a day of projects you are squishing into a 24 hour the math,...the OTHER voice...the BUT-BUT voice, is saying, but, but, but....these are such nice people, and oh, look it would be fun and so on.  Shiny.

Then soon after throwing myself into the project (and letting other things that are supposed to be my priority fall away, thereby suffering guilt for not attending to them), I begin to get that itchy feeling that something is just NOT.QUITE.RIGHT.


But, (and this is not the official BUT voice), I am progressing because I am seeing the light sooner and am now willing to bear the horrors of disappointment-to-others (shudder) to get back on track. 

I have found that I can go so badly off course that I completely LOSE THE PLOT of my life.

As someone who, despite being a healthy plant-based active no medical issues person, has more days behind me than I do in front of me,  I need to stay on the path of my life.  Take advantage of opportunities and be open to new things as they present themselves?  Absolutely.  But I need to take a pause and see if they align with what my true passions are.

I've charged my two closest friends with the responsibility to hit me hard and fast with two words if they see me do this again:   VISION BOARD.  As in, is X on your vision board?  And if it isn't, and you want to do it, put it on there, but remember to do the math and take something else off.

Simple.....but oh, so complicated.  Like most things.


Life is not without its balance and its consolation prizes.  And despite abandoning above-non-specified activity, through it, I met some really cool people.  One of whom is Jonathan.  Jonathan is an artist....truly an can see some of his wonderful pottery here:

Jonathan is a vegetarian....(interestingly, in a small artists' group, out of about 10 people there were two vegetarians and one vegan, me.....connection between right-brained folks and veggie-ism???).  It wasn't long before he and I started talking food.

 Turns out, Jonathan knows his way around a kitchen.  That's his kitchen....super cool on the kitchen-chic scale.  Check out the large colored lights...they go all around the kitchen.  Fun.

This was his stove the first time I visited his home; he had four different soups going (two of which were vegan).   Chili in the foreground on left and vegan veggie on right.

One of the walls in Jonathan's kitchen.....I really wanted to just take a picture of every wall and every room.  His house is basically one composite work of art.

Outside isn't a bad vista either....not a good picture, but cardinals and other birds were everywhere...

including woodpeckers...faintly visible....on this section of tree next to 'fake Jonathan'.  Great idea and Jonathan will eventually try to sit there himself and feed these beautiful birds.

Oh that's right....I was talking chili....(A.D.D.) attention span and the chili as in Awesomely Delightfully Delicious.

(NOTE:  this makes a LOT of soup.  Like you can feed Nebraska with this....not really, but seriously, it is a lot. You can half or even quarter the recipe.  But I believe it will freeze well, and you are going to want more).

Jonathan’s Vegan Chili Soup

(Note:  I’m calling this chili soup, but depending on how you make it, it could be a thicker chili too.  I love it as soup and it is just crazy good).

1.5 T oil (I will do a water sauté, so will omit this).

2 green bell peppers, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

2 C diced carrots

1 large can kidney beans (2# 8 oz.)

1 large can Brooks Chili Hot Beans (2# 8 oz.)***

2 reg. cans great northern beans

2-3 reg. cans black beans

2- 4 oz. jars fire-roasted diced green chiles

1 large can Rotel diced green chilies – 1# 12 oz.

1 large can diced tomatoes – 1# 12 oz.

1 large can crushed tomatoes – 1# 12 oz.

2-3 cans corn  15.25 oz.

1 lg. tomato juice  46 oz.

(1 beer – optional)

Salt – to taste, approx. 1 t

Pepper – a good grinding….to taste

1-2 C water (opt.  more liquid for soupier chili)

Chili powder – 1 -2 T….to taste

Hot sauce – 4 -5 dashes

1 ½ C tvp  (note: tvp is optional-  textured veg protein – adding it in will give more solidity to the chili, and without it, it is very soup like)
(***Note:  I don't use this product as it contains high fructose corn syrup.  I added extra and various beans and a dash of red pepper flakes instead.)

Get the biggest pot you have if making this quantity…..maybe two pots

Saute veggies in oil or water.  (NOTE:  I do a dry sauté on med-hi heat and carmelize my onions first---just a little extra flavor)

Add in peppers and carrots and water sauté til mostly tender.  Approx 5 minutes.

Start adding in remaining ingredients.  (Note:  Jonathan adds beans in with their juice….you could rinse beans first if salt has been added to reduce sodium).

Just keep adding all ingredients and then add spice to taste.  Cook to blend flavors over low to med heat for 20 mins or so.  Add in TVP and heat through.

(Jonathan said the chili really improves over a day or two in the frig and he prefers a good amount of tvp which can be soaked in some of the liquid prior to adding).

I see this as an incredibly versatile recipe.  I love, love, love it as a soup or plain as a chili.  We had it over whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, you could serve over quinoa, or use as a topping for potatoes or as a layer in a casserole.  Would be great to layer on top of mac not cheese recipe.

Change up the veggies and add different beans for variety as well.

Whether you call it Chili Soup, or just plain Chili, I think for sure, you will call it good.

Sue, eating well, in Ohio

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Tea Party for One, Granola Bars, Zen and the Vision Board

Sometimes it's about the little things in life....messing around with an actual fountain ink pen and enjoying the flow of ink across paper, indulging in a hot bath with extra bubbles added, splurging for the expensive dark chocolate (vegan, of course), etc. 

I was having lunch with a friend to start the new year off and we were served tea in a french press.  I was enthralled.  I'm a big tea fan and love the fancy tea cannisters and have infusers and mesh balls, but nothing like this.  The waitress patiently answered my many questions about this contraption and also gave me the info that Target has them. 

So, first opportunity.....Tar-jay it was and I am now the proud owner of a French Press.

It's a fancy way to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea on these frigid January days.

I had some very nice loose tea that I acquired using a gift certificate thoughtfully given to me by someone who shared my love of tea (and probably knew how cheap, I mean, frugal, I tend to be, and therefore likely knew I would NEVER buy tea from a place as pricey as Teavana).  I was like a kid at Christmas pulling that bag out to try in this press.

Tea goes in first and then hot water and let it steep for several minutes. The first press gives you a nice cup (you don't press all the way down as that will bruise the tea leaves).  

You fill it up with more hot water for a second go round and this time you depress the plunger all the way down.

To go with this lovely tea, I made some granola bars.  I've been steering away from Clif bars, etc. as the whopping 250 calories per bar has made is presence known around my mid-section.  Not good.

I used the recipe from a wonderful blog, Undressed Skeleton.  If you have time, give it a look.  Taralynn isn't vegan and neither are all the recipes on her blog, but this one is, and her story is both infuriating and delightful.  Her tale is the portrait of someone who has been the target of extreme bullying, taken that experience and gained strength from it and transformed her young life.  Inspirational.

(I know a thing or two about bullies, Taralynn, having had this experience as a young girl and also in my adult life.  See my original post on bullies here:  Taralynn, you go, girl...."you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here"  Max Ehrmann  Desiderata).

I changed up her basic recipe, but not much.  She uses ripe bananas, oatmeal, sweetener, coconut, mini chocolate chips, flax seed, almond milk and vanilla.

(excuse the mess.....I love all those wonderfully perfect pictures on just probably are not going to see too many of them here!)

Mix together.....I used Grandma's potato masher rather than get the mixer out.  I grind up my flax seeds in a coffee grinder that I use solely for that purpose.

I wouldn't dream of making this without adding my treasured cinnamon.  (I use non-alcohol vanilla - Trader Joe's has a nice version).  Viv, my wonderful Vitamix blender (seriously, sell all the furniture, whatever you have to do....get one....I know they are crazy expensive, but'll change your world), mixed up some almond milk for me in a jiff.  (Actually, I was out of almonds, so this would be cashew milk.  I just soak a handful of raw nuts in water right in the blender for 15 mins or so and then put it on high.   This could be strained if you want a smoother consistency, but I find it to be no problem in most recipes).

Spread on a pan and bake up for 10 mins. or so at 350.  (I did not grease the baking sheet with oil, but just spread the mixture on parchment paper with no problems). Yummy and a much healthier alternative to what is on the shelves in the store.  See Taralynn's site for exact recipe. Obviously, there is no limit to what you can create with this basic recipe...add in dried cranberries, raw sunflower seeds, raisins, chia seeds, hemp seeds, other grains, anything.  (Note: some plant-based programs recommend steering clear of coconut, so you could omit that ingredient and easily replace with lightly grounded sunflower seeds or other grain).


2013 is off to a good start for me.  I have resurrected some old goals and added some new ones.  I put them on a 'vision board'.  (Okay, it's actually a word document.....I knew I would get hung up in trying to get poster board, frame and all organized and then the creation of the vision board itself would become the goal).  I have various goals on there in different fonts and colors and I can add pictures if I want to get snaaaazzzy. 

About the time I was creating it, I ran into this wonderful post from a blog I read.  I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but most I only glance at from time to time.  This one sits in my inbox for months if I can't get to it.  I won't delete it until I at least open and scan the first bits of it.  Because I might miss a life-changing this one.

I love the fact that vegetarians are used to make the point, which hit home with me in a big way.  It is true, the power of my decision to eat a vegan diet carries me through.  The rule....of my life....and what I will eat.  I never have to question, am I going to have cheese just isn't an issue at all.  So why not have these rules for the rest of my life indeed?

Also around this time, I read another interesting post about what our true priorities are.  Ok, this is a rocket science hold on...., what are our true priorities?  It's how we are actually spending our time.  Can't argue with that one.  So, while I may SAY that decluttering my basement or upping my exercise routine or finishing writing my book is a top priority, if I am spending my time surfing the web, then that is my TRUE priority. 

Which brings me back to my rules.  Crafting them and having them align with the goals on my vision board was a great exercise.  As a companion to all of this, I have a small log that I keep daily, that has my main activities listed that will align with achieving these goals.  I just do a quick, two minute check at the end of each day, or sometimes as I go along during the day, and tick these items off noting whether I did them, check-mark, or didn't, x mark.  I've trained myself NOT to use this time as a moment to beat myself up for not doing x, y and z, but as an INFORMATIONAL time, to see what is working, what isn't getting done that I might need to move some things around for.  It's also great to watch as habits form. 

I've had to tweak my rules, and addressing time on the computer became an area I had to confront as I tend to zone into oblivion and happy states of research bliss as I scan the limitless resource of the web-o-sphere. 

I had to face the fact that 'getting really good at surfing the web' is NOT on my vision board. 

It's funny, how one good habit can lead to another, and while I have been de-cluttering and reorganizing, I had our satellite t.v. system taken out.  We are a couple of weeks into this change and I can honestly say, I don't think we have missed it for even five minutes.  I never had the t.v. on during the day, but on weekends, it would be blaring in the back ground, and I was often in the habit of having it on as I fell asleep at night.  Now, if we want to watch something, we can put a dvd in or select something we TRULY want to watch, rather than just 'seeing what is on' and then surfing from channel to channel looking for something decent feeling now the question is WHAT will you watch not IF you will watch.  I had talked about doing this for months and now that I see how much better our lives are I wish I would have done it years ago.  (Ever think about the expression 'killing time'?  Who would want to do that?  And yet, I shudder to think of all the time I have horribly murdered while planted in front of that t.v.   I did this before when our kids were young...should have remembered what a great time-creator this is---not to mention money saver....I can easily hit even Teavana again with what we are saving per month).

Now, I can quietly spend time....because there truly are a few extra moments in my day....gazing out the window, with a beautifully prepared cup of tea and a lovely little granola bar--- served on Grandma's china--- and just zone with the zen of the moment. 

Not a bad way to spend some time....

and there are no commercials.

Sue, getting the hang of this zen stuff, in Ohio