Friday, January 20, 2017

Activist Snippets - Where Do We Go From Here?

Okay, here we go.

Those of us in the United States, this is a wake-up call. We can make this into a positive. Often we grow complacent when someone is in office who seems to care about the environment/health/rights of all.

Now we know where we stand. We can not expect the government to take care of things like climate change for us. We never could, but now it is heartbreakingly clear.

What can we do in our every day lives to work toward a better life for all? 

If you are reading this, you might already be doing something. You might be vegan or converting to veganism. Awesome first step!

A local friend of mine is doing a year of not buying anything new (food excluded, of course) or used. Nothing. She's done a year before. I've been thinking about that, it is a great goal.

We went years without a car, but in the past couple years we've gotten lazy. We are definitely working on walking/biking/bussing more this year.

Another goal for me personally is getting more involved in my community. I've stepped away from community in the last few years and I think community-building is more important than ever.

Art is extremely dear to me and I found out that I've been totally naive when it comes to supporting local or not well known musicians. I thought watching their videos on YouTube or listening on Spotify was support, but it turns out that doesn't actually make much of a different to the specific artists. I will support them through attending more concerts, buying their songs/merchandise through sites like Band Camp, and telling others about them. I used to be on the board and have my own show on a local radio station. I haven't supported local stations lately and need to get back to it. Art looks like it is going to take a big hit the next four years.

What are you doing? I'd love to hear how you all are getting through the next four years and beyond. How are you making a difference in your daily life? I need inspiration!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Instant Pot Adventures - New England Glam Chowder

I knew I wanted to make a soup last night. There is a lot of illness going around and Dema hasn't been feeling great. Soup is always a comfort food, but also for healing, in my mind. We've also had no sun and lots of fog, rain, drizzle, which makes everyone a bit off. Soup to the rescue!

I haven't looked through a cookbook in a while so I turned to Isa Does It! for inspiration. I found her New England Glam Chowder recipe. I'd never made it before and I could see right away how I could use the Instant Pot.

I didn't really follow the recipe, but I used it as a rough guide. I sautéed red onion and minced garlic in a bit of leftover red wine in the Instant Pot. Once the wine cooked off, I added cubed white potatoes, two large carrots chopped, and one cup of vegetable broth. I didn't see a lot of herbs in Isa's recipe and I always add turmeric if I can so I added a bit of iodized salt, turmeric, black pepper, and oregano. Red lentils are a soup staple for me. I add them as much as possible since they give everything an easy nutrient boost.

After I threw in the lentils, I added three more cups of water and a better than bouillon cube. The recipe called for soaked cashews and I never soak my cashews. I was also too lazy to use the Vitamin so I added the cashews, as is (raw pieces), to the Instant Pot. I stirred it all together and pressure cooked it for ten minutes. After the Instant Pot was done, I knew I was going to puree everything that had just cooked, but I didn't want the entire soup to be smooth.
Mushrooms and veggies being added to the pureed soup base.
While the base for the soup was cooking, I put the mushrooms in my cast iron pan to cook them with more turmeric, black pepper, and za'atar. When the mushrooms were almost done, I added two diced carrots (Josie hates mushy carrots so I wanted some carrots to have some crunch left), two diced celery stalks, one diced red pepper, and one bunch of kale chopped. When the Instant Pot was finished, I pureed the ingredients with some chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, and lemon juice added. Then I dumped the mushrooms and veggies into the Instant Pot to mix them in and keep the soup warm. At the end, I tore up a nori sheet and added that to the soup.
New England Glam Chowder with chipotle seitan crumbles and a slice of Pain de Julia bread from our local bakery.
I also warmed up some chipotle seitan crumbles for an optional topping on the soup. It came together very quickly, was warming and filling, and Rob (the only person in the family to ever try real clam chowder) said it was pretty clam chowder tasting. I would skip the nori next time because I really can't stand fishy taste or I wold have it optional since the rest of the family seemed to like it. The kids prefer smooth soups and Rob prefers chunky so this was a perfect compromise and I'll definitely make it again. It was fun to modify a recipe to incorporate the Instant Pot. I feel like I'm getting more familiar with ways to use the IP. I love it for keeping soup warm because I could never just leave a soup this tick on my stove burner set at low without a lot of babysitting. I could have cooked the base for less time, but I wanted to make sure the lentils were done, the potatoes were soft, and the cashews could be pureed easily. I also wasn't in a hurry.

Going back to my How Not to Die app, I will just count everything even if when eating a bowl of soup you might not get an entire serving. This meal has a "serving" of greens, all your your "other veggies", nuts, spices, and a "serving" of beans. I had a big spinach salad for lunch with three kinds of beans, dried cranberries, quinoa, broccoli, sunflower seeds, etc. so I was already pretty well set as far as HNtD and this soup got me over the hump. Most days I'm in the 70% without even thinking about it, but I don't always get everything in daily. I love days when I reach 100% on the app!

Monday, January 16, 2017

White Bean Soup and Kung Pao Tofu

Parker playing Green Day's Troubled Times on the bass. 
Parker has been listening to a lot of Green Day's Revolution Radio since the election so he's been playing a lot of Troubled Times. Ironically, it makes me feel hopeful.
Dory, looking exceptionally small in the greyhound dog crate.
We had a couple days with sweet Dory this weekend. She is a frequent boarder and she looks like a little Gracie. She is a senior, but you would never know it from her energy. She slept with Parker this stay. She loves the kids.
White Bean Soup with roasted potatoes and vegan bacon with a swirl of tahini and hot sauce.
Parker and Dema's D and D group meets at our house over dinner time so we eat late on Sunday nights and I try to make something like soup that can keep warm in case the rest of us want to go ahead and eat and not wait for the boys. I had cooked some white beans in the Instant Pot earlier in the day so I decided to make a soup on the stove top. I used some veggie broth, red onion, garlic, thyme, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, white beans, kale, nutritional yeast, some roasted sweet and white potatoes, and vegan bacon cooked cut up into bite sized pieces.
White Bean Soup
Here is a better picture of Parker's bowl of White Bean Soup. The kids put a sprinkling of Daiya cheese in their soup. I kind of just threw it together, but I need to make more bean soups. I love using the Instant Pot to cook beans and it makes me rely a lot less on canned beans.
Kung Pao Tofu in the cast iron wok. 
Parker helped me prep this new to us recipe for Kung Pao Tofu and then Rob cooked it in the wok while Parker and ran to the store for brown rice vinegar and garlic for the sauce. It fed five hungry people (one who just finished three hours of gymnastics). We probably could have had one more serving for leftovers, but it was too good. I would make more sauce next time and maybe add some greens, but definitely a keeper.
Brown rice and Kung Pao Tofu with peanuts garnish.
I used the rest of the red peppers I bought on sale at the co-op and half a red/purple cabbage (that is what made everything look so purple...next time I wouldn't cook the cabbage). So good!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Taste of Summer Mid-Winter

We had a thin layer of ice in our part of the world yesterday morning and Dema woke up with a headache which quickly spread to me. Rob went up to Chicago with some sailing friends to attend a boat show so the kids and I had a bit of a sleepy snuggly morning. Then, as I am apt to do, I started getting stir crazy. Too dark and slightly slippery out, no place we had to be, a bit of pain, and it adds up to me getting into cleaning mode. What will getting going late and putting myself into sorting/organizing/cleaning, lunchtime went by without me noticing. The kids had made their own breakfast of croissants and fruit spread, then they snacked on apples and nuts/dried fruit so I don't think they noticed either until we were all starving.

Josie's friend and our neighbor, Leif, came by and played outside with her at the park then they played board games inside when the cold got to them. That was just what she needed. Josie was getting as stir crazy as I was, she just doesn't turn that energy into cleaning, sadly.

Lovely red peppers were on sale at our local food co-op and were sitting on the table begging to be eaten. I cooked some whole wheat angel hair pasta and some red peppers, kale, garlic, olives, nutritional yeast, and a Tofurkey sausage (also on sale this week) in my favorite cast iron pan. Dinner in less than ten minutes and it tasted like summer. Leif enjoyed some of the pasta too. Just what we all needed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Restaurant Review - Kohinoor Indian Restaurant and Lounge

The restaurant business is a brutal one and consumers are fickle. Our modest college town has not been kind to Indian restaurants in particular. It seems like we find a good Indian restaurant and then a year later it is gone. Several of our favorites have come and gone in the last 17 years we've lived here, but to be honest, none of them could compare to the Indian restaurants in Chicago or DC so we didn't frequent them often. Most of the restaurants in town serve Northern Indian food, which can be harder to find veg options. One such restaurant opened recently just a a couple blocks from Rob's office. We weren't in a hurry to try it since we expected much of the same. Then Rob's coworker came back from India and they decided to try it for lunch. They both enjoyed it quite a bit so I was curious too.

Yesterday I joined Rob downtown for lunch without the kids. One of the things I'm trying to be more mindful of this year is finding time to be a couple. This is quite hard for me since I really like having the kids around, but they can make it difficult to talk and connect as a couple. The kids each get a private lunch with Rob once a month too so everyone gets some special time.

The new restaurant is called Kohinoor and Rob's coworker/friend/lunch buddy from India explained that is the name of a diamond England stole from India. This made me like the restaurant even more. 
Shared Veg. Combo Platter appetizer, includes samosa, aloo tikki, and mixed vegetable pakoras.
We decided to get an appetizer since we know the kids will want samosas when they come with us. We shared the veg combo platter and my favorite was the aloo tikki and then the samosa. They are served with three chutneys and they are all very good. I ordered the baingan aloo (eggplant and potato curry) and it was perfectly spiced and more tomato based than other baingan I've tried, but I was pleasantly surprised. Rob ordered channa aloo (chickpea and potato curry) and we shared, but I preferred my dish and he preferred his. We finished it all, but I could have easily eaten half and taken half home for dinner. Sometimes when I eat Indian, it can be so greasy I feel bad later, but this food was not at all greasy.
Baingan Aloo with rice.
The wait staff was extremely nice, our water was never empty (something I really appreciate in a restaurant), and food came out quickly. The building used to be a Latin American eatery and I had only been there once in the decade they were open, but it doesn't look like the new owners changed much. I like the bright yellow/orange walls, it makes it feel bright and clean. The food was much better than what I was expecting, the price for lunch downtown was excellent, the portions had me full enough to skip dinner last night, and I can't wait to take the entire family!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Help Ethan Episode Six, What (Else) I'm Watching, and Instant Pot Adventures - Tomato Soup

To see the history on this web series see my original post, to see the entire series go here, and to donate go here.

Help Ethan Episode Six:

Besides watching my son, Parker, and other talented locals in Help Ethan, I have been binge watching  Call My Agent! on Netflix. I haven't spoken French in years so I have to put the English subtitles on, but it is totally worth "reading" this show. I really like all the actors, the premise, the quirkiness, and seeing an interesting often comical take on the agent side of the acting business. Let me know if you check it out, I'd like to hear what people think of it.
Rob came home from work and only had a few minutes before he was going to head out again to meet a friend for a drink at our neighborhood bar. I quickly threw tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, sun-dried tomatoes, dried red lentils, Very Veggie Juice, chickpeas (cooked in the IP on a previous day), nutritional yeast, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, za'atar, parsley, and a little iodized salt to my Instant Pot. I pressure cooked it all for seven minutes, quick released the pressure, pureed it, and tomato soup in no time. I served it with bread from our local bakery and everyone gobbled it up while we discussed World War I (Dema's current homeschooling obsession), Josie's recent film shoot, and Parker's pediatric cardiologist appointment (it all went well, but please don't let ACA go away!*), and other things from our day before our neighbor friend came to walk to the bar with Rob.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Morning Zen

We had a super busy day planned yesterday. Parker started rehearsal for another Shakespeare play with our amazing local homeschoolers, Josie had a full day of shooting for a short film, and Rob just got back from North Carolina so he had a lot of work to do. I was catching up on laundry and other day to day tasks which went neglected so I could do some organizing and purging. I dropped two bags of usable to someone, but we need it out of our house, stuff at the IDEA Store and one load of books to Orphan's Treasure Box. I have seven more bags of things to take to consignment stores or donate. I've just made a dent. 2017 is going to be my year to minimize.

After Rob leaves for work and before the kids wake up, I try to take a moment to refocus and relax. I don't need long, but I've found it really makes a huge difference in my day. I have more patience, I feel more focused, and I'm a happier person.

Yesterday's moment of morning zen was brought to me by...
Golden Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai. It was on sale at my local food co-op and I've enjoyed Blue Lotus Chai before. I was so excited to see a variety with turmeric since I usually add a bit of turmeric to my morning beverage anyway. The chai tea also contains cloves, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and other beneficial spices. Their chai tea has less caffeine than coffee which can be helpful on busy days. Sometimes coffee makes me jittery and I have a hard time focusing, this doesn't happen with chai. I sometimes add non-dairy milk, but I don't usually sweeten my chai like most cafes do. I add my homemade blend of dark cocoa powder and cinnamon instead. It is a delicious and relaxing way to start a busy day.
Blue Lotus Golden Masala Chai with a splash of unsweetened soy milk and a shake of dark cocoa powder and cinnamon.
You can see my 2017 American Greyhound calendar in the background. This is the organization we adopted Gracie from and I board a lot of the fosters and adoptees in this area. It is such a pleasure to get to know each Greyhound and their unique personalities, but also fall deeper in love with the breed. They are so gentle and sweet, love walks, most of them are huge cuddle bugs, and funny!

Reasons to eat dark unprocessed cocoa powder.


Why I add cinnamon to my cocoa powder sprinkles and why I'm happy to drink tea with cloves.


More info on cinnamon.

I've blogged about turmeric before.