Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today is Brought to You by the Letter "P"

Persimmon Smoothie
Yes, it is green, I can't help but add kale* to my smoothies. This one has peeled persimmon, a couple large handfuls of frozen mango, half a bunch of kale, a cup of Coconut Milk**, three Brazil nuts, a small handful of walnuts, one peeled orange, a small handful of dried figs, about two tablespoons shredded coconut.

Puttanesca Tofu Scramble
Quickly becoming our favorite scramble, Rob made this again over the weekend and took a picture. He is usually not one to photograph his food.

PPK's Seitan Roast with Shiitakes and Leeks
I saw this seitan recipe on PPK and then one of my FFT team members, Rachel, raved about it on our show Sunday so I knew I had to make it. We had some dried shiitake mushrooms which Rachel said would work fine...they did. Parker's social studies teacher asked Parker the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to bring in some seitan after the holiday break. I usually make some sort of seitan on a weekly basis now that Parker is in public school. Seitan is versatile and easy to make into a wrap/sandwich or throw into other dishes, but I didn't want just any seitan to be Parker's teacher's first taste of seitan so I made this long seitan roast with shiitakes and leeks (I used shallots, not the same, I know, but I didn't have leeks). Parker's teacher gave it thumbs up. We all liked it too. I thought it was even better the next day than right out of the oven. Tonight I served it with mashed potatoes.

*I'm sure you've heard about the Eat More Kale controversy. It made me want to own Eat More Kale shirts. I hope it makes you want to do the same.

**I never win anything, but I won two giveaways during last month's VeganMoFo. I've already blogged about the Amande yogurt (I bought more of that too), but I also won So Delicious products. The first one I tried was the Coconut Milk. For those of you not in the plant milk know, this is not like the coconut milk in a can you put in curries. This tastes more like rice milk to me with a bright white color (the soy milk we buy is more of a beige). I hadn't tried it before now because the saturated fat content is high for a non-dessert (in my opinion), but for people who don't mind that or who want a change from soy/rice/hemp milks this has a good flavor. It doesn't really taste like much at all which makes it good for cooking too. The texture is really smooth, which is nice.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Parker woke up "sick" Monday morning a couple weeks ago. It happens almost every morning after a day off from school. It is funny since he knows he can go back to homeschooling at any point. He talks about coming back, but he wanted to wait until after the Speech competition and now he wants to wait until after a school play in December. He likes the teachers and the kids, but he complains the days are too long and he doesn't get to see us enough. He says certain things bother him about school, but it also addictive. We'll have to discuss this more because I'm not really sure to go with that one.

His Monday-itis is even worse after a three of four day weekend. Last night he was pretty sure his days at school are numbered. It didn't help that he was slapped in the face today by a girl in his Art Club (we are still trying to get to the bottom of what exactly happened, but it was unprovoked and he was completely shocked). The club is on school grounds, but after school and this particular club is not run by a teacher at his school. I wrote most of this post prior to this incident and I am almost speechless. What are 11/12 year old kids thinking these days? I don't know if the girl is bullying, joking around, or maybe she likes him...any of the above does not make hitting another person acceptable.

We had our first parent/teacher conference a couple weeks ago. It was interesting. Of course we heard what we already knew - Parker is a great person, likable, attentive in class, smart, respectful, etc. He takes his time (which is a negative in public school), but is able to multi-task (which apparently makes up for it). We saw five teachers - at his school they only make one team teacher available, but we cheated and went around to find which of his teachers could just chat for a few minutes and they were all very nice about it. Rob and I both walked away with kind of a sick feeling in our stomach and it reaffirmed many of the reason I chose to homeschool in the first place. It wasn't that we didn't like his teachers, but there are just some things which are standard in conventional schooling. A holistic approach to learning really can't be achieved in that setting. We are extremely displeased with the principal. We tried to meet with her the day of the conference and have since sent a couple emails which have been completely ignored. We live in a small town so I don't want to get into too much detail, but I have serious concerns.

The positive part of this conventional school experiment for me - Rob understands more clearly why I was passionate and insistent on homeschooling our children from the start and I can see some of the pros of conventional learning and have started to incorporate them into our homeschooling day with Dema and Josie.

Dema is currently working on "4th grade" math so I was looking into different curriculum options when I found this:

I was pretty impressed that I instinctively used all the techniques they cover so I decided to stick with what I'm making up on the fly and Rob adds a bit here and there (his undergrad degree is in math so why not use it), but really Dema has a natural acumen for arithmetic. His comfort with math might be related to his OCD, he loves the rules and structure of numbers where the rules of reading words always have exceptions so reading is more stressful for him. One of the pros of Parker attending school, he used to compare his math abilities to Dema's and with Dema being four years younger it was hard for Parker not to feel he was math challenged. In school, Parker has come into his own and math is no longer his least favorite subject. His teacher is wonderful and said he could move up to honors math, but he's happy where he is for now.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Josie would like to review a new to us product. I'm not big on buying packaged drinks, but I was looking for ways to get Açaí in our diet.

I happened across two products in our buying club catalog which I decided to give a try. One was a drink.
Sambazon Açaí Berry and Vanilla Protein Smoothie was a huge hit with all three kids. Josie took a sip and declared her new found strength and then took a picture to post on the blog. The mustache is a fun side effect too. The drink is not overly sweet (although it does have added sugar, unfortunately) and has just the right amount of vanilla. It is also filling enough to be part of Parker's school lunch. I wouldn't buy them all the time, but they make a great once in a while treat, especially on days when I don't feel like making a homemade smoothie. I'm buying the unsweetened Açaí pulp smoothie pack this month and we'll let you know what we think.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy ThanksLiving!

We had our second annual Thanksgiving Indian Feast. When Columbus bumped into an inhabited island which would later be part of what many considered the New World, he thought he had landed in India. Some say he was pretty insistent about finding "India" to his dying day. So we think Indian food is just, if not more, appropriate for Thanksgiving than what had become "tradition" in the last 150 years. We celebrate with a sense of irony, but more importantly a deep love for Indian food. This year we are thankful to have Gita and Seth with their girls, my sister and her fiance and their friends Lesley and Don, and my dear friend, Monique, who I've known since Parker was a toddler and her new beau, Ernesto, with us to celebrate. We made enough food for several parties and everyone brought delicious dishes too so I was pretty sure I wouldn't need to eat again for a week.
Rob's Baingan Bharta - when we used to frequent Indian restaurants in the DC area, baingan bharta was Rob's dish. I have grown to like the homemade version much more than what we can get when eating out.
Rob's Chana Masala - we make chana masala a lot and it is one of our kids' favorites.
Rob's Mushrooms with Peas - suggested we make this and it was good, but I would make a few changes. Parker is all about mushrooms right now for the health benefits so he was happy to see this on the table.
Rob's Bhindi Masala - I would marry Rob all over again for this bhindi. It is by far my favorite dish!
Rob's Vegetable Pulav - I suggested we make this new to us recipe from Manjula's Kitchen and now I'm sure this will be a staple at our dinner table. We made plain brown basmati rice too, but next time we will make this with the brown.
Linda's Ginger Cookies - These are from Healthy Cooking for Kids. Josie formed the dough balls for me so they aren't the prettiest. I was originally going to make Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crunch with the ginger cookies and the nuts below, but the kids liked them so well as they were that I left them.
Linda's Maple Roasted Nuts - I used to make these all the time. The recipe is from Healthy Cooking for Kids which was my first favorite cookbook after having Parker. I used cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and Brazil nuts.
I've made this before (in fact this picture is from a couple Thanksgivings ago) and the kids always ask why I don't make it more often. It is super easy so I might make it a couple more times before the end of the year.
Gita's Aloo Gobi - Aloo Gobi was my first love when it comes to Indian cuisine so I was happy to see Gita brought some.
Gita's Apple Pie - Gita is famous at our house for her pies, they never disappoint. She also brought coconut ice cream to put on top.
Ernesto's Cuban Beans and Rice with Plantains - The best beans and rice. He used frozen plantains, I have to try that. I also fell in love with his rice cooker with the clay pot. If anyone out there has one, let me know how you like it.
Karen's Seitan Parmesan - I need to loan Vegan Diner to Karen more often and have her come over for dinner.
Stuart's Fruit with Ginger - Stuart shares Josie's love of ginger.
Stuart's Colorful Salad - Josie is looking at this right now and asking for some. It was chock full of great things from Brussel spouts to purple cabbage to quinoa!
Stuart also brought some great falafel from a mix, and Lesley brought a yummy fruit crisp which I didn't get a picture of.  Gita brought her raita (the yogurt looking topping in the middle of the plate) and it is always such a treat because we never make it for ourselves. We also made some samosas and paratha from the freezer. Whew, that is a lot of food!
I bought this three in one slow cooker last year and I'm always so happy with my purchase, especially when we have parties.
Friday I avoided cleaning up from the party by cleaning out the garage. This led to Josie deciding to try her hand at a pedal bike. She loves her balance bike (we are anti-training wheels) so I didn't push the next step, but she was really awesome on the bike and spent the entire beautiful unseasonably warm November day cycling around the park. Dema learned to ride on this bike (handed down to us by a friend whose youngest son borrowed our balance bike which helped him learn to ride the pedal bike) when he was three Easter weekend. He also learned by riding around our park. A perfect way to spend the day off. We may have also eaten a bunch of leftovers, it was too good day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Soup Night

Parker asked me to pack some soup for his lunch this week. I started Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup from Vegan on the Cheap in the slow-cooker while he was eating breakfast. My slow-cooker is old and I think it runs a tad cool so I put the soup on high instead of low. I'm glad I did because the split peas were barely done when we sat down for dinner. My slow-cooker hasn't had this much action since we inherited it. I think I'm finally seeing the value of slow-cooker meals. (The beautiful artwork in the background is thanks to Amara and Indigo, they made these colorful birthday cards for me.)
I was worried we wouldn't have enough leftovers with one type of soup so I also made Peanutty Pumpkin Stew from Vegan on the Cheap on the stove top. I changed things up a bit. (Gita gave me a knitting project - and she started it for me, thank you! - and the cool Frida card - in the background - for my birthday. We've been studying Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera* in our homeschooling this year so the kids thought the card was very cool.)

I used red onion because they have more antioxidants, used sweet potatoes instead of white and roasted them with the garlic and carrots. I also used almond butter instead of peanut butter, pinto beans instead of kidney, and jarred jalapeno peppers so they weren't mild. I pureed it all before adding the beans and peas. I add two cups of cooked quinoa right before serving, but aside from all that I pretty much followed the recipe. I garnished with chopped peanuts. I served vadas to dip in either soup. The Peanutty Pumpkin Stew was the hit! The split pea soup was good, but the pumpkin soup was the one Parker had two bowls of and requested for school the next day. I can see this stew becoming a winter regular. Delicious and super nutritious!
Dessert was Gold Bar Cookies also from Vegan on the Cheap. We don't usually have dessert, they just eat some fresh or frozen fruit after dinner if they are craving something more, but I made these bars this weekend for a delicious Indian meal with lovely friends and the kids requested I make them again. Both times I made the bars with mango fruit spread. For the second batch of bars, I played around with the sweetener using a combo of date sugar and blacktrap molasses instead of brown sugar and it was much better tasting and the base stuck to together better. I also added shredded coconut to the top as Robin suggests in her recipe, but I forgot to add the nuts and golden raisins. I used walnuts both times instead of peanuts and this time I just added the nuts and raisins about five or ten minutes before it was done baking. I liked it better this way, but both are good. I thought these tasted a bit like my memory of pop tarts, but Rob didn't get that from them. Everyone agreed they were yummy.
*Some things Dema thought you should know about Frida and Diego:
"Frida Kahlo was famous for painting self-portaits and her husband Diego was famous for painting murals. Once Diego was going to paint something at Frida's school when she was young (before they were married) and he fell of the scaffold, but wasn't hurt. All he cared about was his mural. He painted about bad things like Army soldiers killing workers. Frida put soap on the stairs in her school to make Diego slip and fall. Later they married (when Frida was older) and Diego was a lot bigger than Frida and a lot older and I don't think he ever found out that she put soap on the stairs. Frida had polio as a child and always had a problem with one of her legs. She painted some creepy pictures like the one with two Fridas and it looked like there was something connecting their hearts. I think the married Frida hod blood on her dress. They lived in the Blue House which Frida's parents used to live in. Diego's twin brother died of a disease when they were babies so Diego was sent away to the mountains. Frida had to be in bed a lot when she was sick and started to paint. Frida died at the age 47. Next time I will tell you about Harriet Tubman." He talks faster than I can type so I think I might have missed a couple things, but if you are seven (or four) and want to learn more about Frida and Diego, we suggest you start with Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself and Diego. We've had these books in our home library for years and they kids have always enjoyed them.

Something Smells Fishy

Okay, I know I'm probably the only one, but...does anyone else out there get a fishy smell on their hands when they peel clementines? I didn't think so. It happens sometimes with regular oranges too. I've been peeling a lot of them since our neighbor, Vicky, brought over a bunch. The kids love them and I do too, but I have to wash my hand immediately or the algae fishy smell makes me gag. Maybe it is like the thing where some people (not anyone in our family, thankfully!) think cilantro tastes like soap.
Penne-Wise Peanutty Pasta from Vegan on the Cheap (with veggies added and almond butter used instead of peanut butter) and peeled clementines
The kids liked this pasta to spite their initial skepticism. They complain each and every time I mention serving pasta these days. It is just too boring. In the end, they enjoyed it to the point of being sad when it was all gone, but there was much groaning before they took a bite. They think I'm cutting corners when I make pasta and they want a "real meal". Hopefully, it will come back in fashion when warmer weather comes, but for now I'll give the people what the want - soups, brown rice and veggies, enchiladas, etc.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shorter of Breath and One Day Closer to Death

Okay, I mentioned that I would talk a little about my depression over the past year. It is mainly to apologize to everyone I know or have had contact with over this time because I was completely falling apart at the seams and unfortunately is was not the best time to have me as a friend. I didn't even know how bad things were on a day to day basis. I would get a suicidal thought here and there, but a lot of life was in flux and it never seemed to be seriously serious. I mean, I really wasn't ready to admit that I was a middle class white American housewife cliche. In fact I didn't even realize how long I'd been depressed until our little book club read Cutting for Stone. Thankfully, I didn't read it time for our discussion because it so effected me it would have seemed impossible to discuss it, even with the incredible women in the book club. I had a total "aha" moment about my feelings of being abandoned emotionally by my father, but I still couldn't bring myself out of the cavern of darkness. It made me more upset since I have a pretty good life. I didn't deserve to be depressed. I mean look at all the suffering in the world and how very privileged and lucky I am - have always been. I hated myself for being so selfish as to not appreciate everything and everyone I had in my life which led to more pain and guilt and depression. I think you can kind of see the cycle here.

On top of my still feeling the hole my mother left in my life when she died nine years ago and my perception of being unloved by my aging father, I had tons of guilt. Guilt really has no positive effect and should be completely abandoned, in my opinion, but old habits die hard. My grandfather (my mother father) outlived two wives, two brothers, his parents, his daughter, and countless friends and family members. He came to my house a couple weeks before his death and he was not happy. He said he was ready to die and that getting old was not all it was cracked up to be. He was in his 90's. In some ways talking to him, before I rushed to his unconscious side as he was dying a few days later, made it easier. I felt like he was ready to go, but later it just made me sad. I mean I hope I am ready to go when it is my time, but I feel like his last couple years were not happy and that makes me feel like I should have done more. My mother said while she was dying in the hospital from undiscovered cancer that growing old was not all it was cracked up to be. I will always feel like I should have done more for her. She was completely giving and loving up to the very end and I had a two year old, my first child, so taking care of my mom and Parker at the same time was a nightmare. I would be so much better at it now, but the days spent in the hospital room trying to keep Parker occupied and be there for my mom were not my best.

My mom was 57, eight years older than my husband is now. Just as bad as me turning 40, is my husband turning 50 next year. It doesn't seem possible. It just snuck up on me. 50 doesn't seem old, not really, but both our mothers died in their 50's. It seems like just yesterday my husband was 32 and he was teaching me to rock climb at Seneca Rocks and where the best vegan food could be found in DC. Where does the time go?

Aging is a two-edged sword. I'm not ready for the alternative, but I don't have a lot of role models for aging happily. I do feel better now. It was almost immediate...the day I turned 40 it was like a weight had been lifted. I was 40 now, nothing could be done, I survived, and now it was time to go on. Not just go on, but now I could do anything I wanted to do. Not that I had a whole hell of a lot of limitation the day prior mind you, but for some reason the thing I had been dreading for a year had actually been a freeing experience. I have a husband who adores me and finds me amazingly attractive - and lets me know on a more than daily basis - even when I spend end of autumn with uncombed hair and living in men's organic cotton long johns resenting the times I have to put on jeans to leave the house. Now to be fair to my husband, I don't think he's noticed that the long underwear is men's and they are not his. They were given to us unopened by a friend who thought they might fit Rob and I was desperately cold one day (have I mentioned we don't turn our heat on until my birthday each year and once we do it gets to be a balmy 60 degrees in the house). I have also mentioned that I'm tipping the scales at 20 lbs past my "cruising" weight* so my normal long underwear while not so distractingly loose in the groin area is also so tight as to be uncomfortable in other areas. Forty, for those of you not there yet, is all about comfort. I think I could get used to that part.

I am married to a lovely man who is really the best friend I've ever had - another cliche, but completely true - and have three children who force me to grow even when I don't want to and teach me more about myself and the world than I ever learned before they were born. My life really rocks.

I treated myself to reading both Seriously...I'm Kidding and Bossypants** in the last 48 hours which has affirmed my comfort with 40 even more. Nothing like putting aside all the intense reading about political and social issues around the world (I picked up Raising Elijah at the same time, but I made myself read the lighter stuff first) for some Ellen and Tina. Just what I needed. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine.

So, dear friends/family and readers I have never met, I have had my year of wallowing in depression. I survived it and I know not everyone does. It is serious and so many people suffer silently. This is another reason I wanted to mention it because it is not a personality defect, it doesn't mean I am weak, it isn't caused by what I do or don't eat or my lifestyle, and it can effect anyone no matter how many blessings they have in their life. Thankfully, all along I knew in the back of my head somewhere that I would not feel this way forever and I think that is what kept me going. I couldn't will myself out, I tried. Thanks to everyone for being so patient with me over the past year. I hope if any of you are suffering that you know I am here if you ever want to talk. I hope you all feel loved and supported, but I also know that sometimes that isn't enough. It will get better.

*This is the weight I end up at when I'm living my normal semi-active life and eating as much of anything and everything I want. The working out like I should and not going back to seconds and thirds is even lighter. My current weight is actually more than I weighed the day before I gave birth to Parker. I don't mind where I am now, but my problem knee feels better at my cruising weight and I definitely feel better when I'm exercising more and doing yoga regularly.

**My four year old saw the cover of Bossypants this morning and said, "Hey, that's Liz Lemon!" Yes, she may have seen a couple episodes of 30 Rock with us on Netflix. I figure most of the inappropriate stuff goes way over her head, but we try to watch it while she's asleep now. It might be ironic that 30 Rock is one of the things that got me through this last year. I have grown to love Alec Baldwin not just for being a vegetarian actor with unapologetic liberal views, but for an actor who is so incredibly awesome he doesn't mind poking fun at himself. I put him on my short list of actors who would be completely wonderful to have as an older brother...William Shatner is another one - also veg and so cool he doesn't have to take himself seriously.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seitan Roast

I don't like the term "meat substitute". When I eat tofu or seitan, I'm not substituting for the meat I could be eating. I'm eating tofu and seitan because I like it. I don't want to be eating muscle and body fat. I'm sure the reason I ate meat as a kid had a lot more to with spices or sauce than with the taste of the actual flesh. In fact some things remind me of meat to the point where it kind of grosses me out. From veggie patties and tofu are all foods in their own right. I don't substitute anything for meat. I just eat plants.

I've mentioned before that I was an extremely picky eater. The worst. I did what I was told, was graded very well in school, never was much of a trouble maker, didn't utter a cuss word until years after my classmates were cussing up a storm...you get the picture. Yet, looking back at my childhood I am sure that I was a complete and utter pain to my mother. She never said it, but being a mother for over 11 years now I can completely empathize with the stress my fussiness must have caused her. She attempted to feed me something that resembled a nutritious diet three times a day. The woman was a saint. I hated pretty much all vegetables, but I had a special dislike of cooked carrots - raw was great, but cooked was yuck to the point of gagging. I didn't look forward to the obligatory 70's pot roasts since they included cooked carrots. I loved cooked carrots now, but I never thought to make a roast until I noticed the seitan roast recipe in Vegan on the Cheap. I don't use my slow-cooker very often since I don't think 8 hours ahead what I'm going to make that day and I like the act of cooking, but throwing everything into a slow-cooker has its advantages. Rob and I had a mini date night last night so I thought it was a good day to make this for the kids and my sister (who is a rock star for watching the kids on a week night).
Slow-Cooker Seitan Roast from Vegan on the Cheap
 Slow-Cooker Seitan Roast take two (pre-cooking)
They all gobbled it up and Parker asked me to make more for his lunch tomorrow. I used mushrooms both times (which the recipe doesn't call for) and this time added some purple potatoes Vicky and Greg gave us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mice and Beans

Mice and Beans was one of Parker's favorite books when he was little. He loved all books and I would read hundreds of books to him a day, sometimes until midnight. Ah the joys of parenting one, how easy it was! This book has a compassionate theme and, although it uses personification to make the mice seem lovable, it is pretty cute. They do talk about cheese in this book, just in case some of vegan parents out there mind. Recipes are included at the end of the book. I know I avoided a lot of books when the kids were younger based on food they discussed or depicted. Mice and Beans also has nice messages about family and what is important (it doesn't matter if your house is too small or your napkins don't match). This is the time of year when mice try to take up residence in our old house so I try to remember they are sentient beings too as I try my best to keep them out.

We ate a lot of rice and beans (and greens) last week. In various combinations, it never gets old. My kids always go for black beans if they have a choice and it turns out, they are higher in antioxidants than other beans so - good choice!
Brown rice, black beans, garlicky kale and turnip greens, Amy's black bean and corn salsa, and tofu burritos.
An inside view because of love the little "hairs" on the turnip greens.
Beans and greens with salsa and tofu.

Monday, November 14, 2011

That is a Tasty Burger

Yes, my husband likes to quote Pulp Fiction and he did it often while eating the new to us veggie patties from Asherah's Gourmet. They were on sale this month through our buying club so I bought a case of the chipotle flavor to have on hand for nights when I'm at the gym or for Parker's school lunch. I made them tonight since I wasn't hungry (they come in four packs) and I really wanted to see if the family liked them. I served them with dried apples which I also bought from our buying club to do a little experiment to see if they end up having an effect on cholesterol. They look like chips, but they taste so much better. Great side for the veggie patties. The patties were quite tasty according to the family. I love to make my own chickpea quinoa burgers with kale, but these are very convenient with the just the right amount of kick from the chipotle and a short list of completely pronounceable ingredients. They will have to share the title with Sunshine Burgers for our favorite veggie patty.
Josie doing/being laundry. Just because.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remembering Loved Ones

Yesterday was Veteran's Day so Parker had the day off from school. We didn't get a chance to do our Day of the Dead tradition on the actual Day of the Dead since it was terribly rainy, I was recovering from an illness, and Parker was at school and he didn't want to miss our Day of the Day ritual. I figured Veteran's Day was a good day as any to remember those in our lives who are no longer with us. I didn't take my phone or camera though so you'll have to check out DotD 2010, DotD 2008, and DotD 2007. This year we went to Transitions Resale Store to donate some clothes and talked about how it benefits the Center for Women in Transition - which my mom was very involved in for many years. We made our usual stop at the Y Eatery for pad thai and talked about how my mom worked in the building and loved the tofu pad thai. This year I brought other food from Common Ground Co-op to make their lunch more of a meal. They ate raspberries, almond yogurt, and apples with their pad thai. We ran into several people we know and the kids were so eager to explain about their dead grandmother and how we remember her every year. I'm not sure anyone understood. The kids really look forward to talking about my mom and this year my grandfather too, hearing stories from my childhood, Parker talks about what he can remember from his two years with my mom still alive, etc. Each of them have their own ideas and feelings about death. I am lucky to get to share such moments with them. I adore them so much and their depth never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
I bought refrigerated silken tofu accidentally (I thought I was buying our regular firm tofu, but put the wrong number in the system) through our buying club a month or so ago. We don't use silken tofu often so I've been looking for ways to use it up. I finally finished it off last night on Vegan on the Cheap's peanut sauce. This is my first recipe to make from this cookbook. I tested some of the recipes for Robin, but I realized recently my sister had the cookbook and it was still at our house from the year she lived with us...bonus! 
Roasted beets, brown rice, garlicky kale and turnip greens, peppery tofu, and peanut sauce.
We serve some variation (this one is mustard greens and the kids used a tahini sauce) of this meal at least once a week and two of the kids named it their favorite meal in the interviews I did with them for VeganMoFo. It really is a meal we can all enjoy each time and it never gets old. I used the rest of the silken tofu (the sauce didn't call for an entire package) on a chocolate smoothie (cocoa powder, rolled oats, silken tofu, vanilla soy milk, dried cherries, dried figs, and flax seeds) which was decadent enough to be called dessert, but really full of healthful things. I based this on a Healthy Chocolate Milkshake video from Dr. Greger's site.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Know Your Drugs, Know Your Doses

We all rarely go to the doctor and then we unintentionally schedule one dentist appointment and two physicals on the same day for Rob and me. On top of that, none of the appointments are anywhere close to each other and it was a chilly rainy day. Rob's current job has an insurance company which is big into "knowing your numbers". We'll need to have yearly physicals as long as we are with this insurance company. Aside from being a huge baby about getting my blood drawn, I love to check out the numbers so it doesn't really bother me too much.

Rob's Numbers (49 years old):
  • Blood Pressure - 112/80 (he's always a bit high)
  • Pulse - 66
  • Total Cholesterol - 154
  • HDL - 38
  • TC/HDL Ratio : 4:1
  • LDL - 105
  • Triglycerides - 55
  • Glucose - 76
  • Rob didn't ask for a B12 test, he finally has come around the last several years to taking a B12 supplement on a regular basis so I'm not worried. His levels have always been within normal in the past.
Linda's Numbers (2 days before turning 40):
  • Blood Pressure - 102/68
  • Pulse - 72
  • Total Cholesterol - 167
  • HDL - 48
  • TC/HDL Ratio - 3.5:1
  • LDL -110
  • Triglycerides - 43
  • Glucose -82
  • B12 -852
My numbers have been much better, but I'm not surprised. The week of binging on vegan chocolate chips and almonds while watching The Tudors on Netflix was probably not helpful. This has been a tough twelve months starting almost a year ago when my grandfather (my mom's dad) died. I've dealt with some severe depression (more about that in a later post) which I've eluded to. I'm about 20 lbs over my "cruising weight", but still well within BMI normal...I was surprised the nurse didn't mention my weight gain, but I'm guessing she didn't compare to my old records. I don't think I've had a physical for something like eight, maybe ten, years. I've had a several blood draws over the last ten years so I'll probably look up the results.

A couple observations from our most recent experience with our health care system. Most of the health care in this country is predicated on people eating the SAD. Focusing on the numbers really makes people feel like a number. Surprise. We saw two different health care professionals and neither one of them looked at us as a person.  Sure, the information can be helpful, but only if taken as one part of a more complete complex picture. My doctor (a resident) from my last physical about ten years ago called me up personally and talked about everything we discussed in his office and the results of my blood work. He was impressed with my numbers and asked me about my lifestyle, etc. This time I receive a call from a technician and she stated that my LDL was "too high" and I should work on my "diet and exercise". I'm not denying that, but if someone really does have a health issue they need addressed (like my mother, who for years was morbidly obese and she was told the exact same thing with no help whatsoever on what eating better was or how to exercise when she had no cartilage in her knees so moving or even sitting was extremely painful) what are they to do? Of course, I believe it taking responsibility for our own health. This is one of the reasons we live the way we do. I do believe our health care system is missing the mark. We did get tetanus shots pushed at us. Of all the shots, I was surprised this one was the one they decided to promote, especially with flu season upon us.
Cuban Black Bean Soup from Viva Vegan served with brown basmati rice (she suggests long white rice, but brown basmati is the closet rice in our cupboard and I think it worked great) and cashew creme (also from Viva Vegan and a recipe suggestion) with a couple drops of chipotle hot sauce. I'd love to have my friend, Monique and her new beau over to try this one. She knows Cuban food so I'm curious if this would pass for her. It is definitely a soup we'll make again and again.

For my birthday dinner I made a huge pot of wing-it tomato soup. Tomato soup is one of my favorite comfort foods from my childhood. My mom made it "right" by adding milk to the canned (you know the brand) soup and my dad made it "wrong" by adding water to the canned soup. Ironically, this soup has no milk, not even soy milk and it is excellent, if I say so myself.
Grown-up Tomato Soup
1 large onion, diced
1 small green pepper
several roasted red peppers (I used maybe six or half a jar)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp za'atar
6 cups water with 1 tsp Better than Bouillon dissolved
1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium or 2 small white potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 - 1 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tahini (a couple tablespoons works fine too)
pepper to taste (the more the better)
salt to taste (1 tsp to start with)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
pistachios or pumpkin seeds and more za'atar for garnish (optional)

Soften the onions in a large soup pot with just enough water for the onions to not stick. Add the peppers and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook for one minute (keep adding a bit of water if everything is sticking). Add the water, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes and cook covered for 20 minutes (until the potatoes are soft). Add the nutritional yeast, tahini, salt, and pepper and heat for a minute or two. Take the soup off heat and puree it with an immersion blender. Add the lemon juice and stir. Taste for salt and pepper, add more if needed. Serve hot and garnish. Great with a nice crusty bread.