Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my birthday. How old am I? I don't want to talk about it.

Last night, Nick and Amy threw me an Anti-Consumerism birthday party. Everyone brought food they made from things they already had at home, and gave gifts of things they had but didn't want. No spending money was allowed! It was so much fun and I ate delicious food and received some lovely things--a velvet shawl with ruffled trim that once belonged to a friend's mother, a pretty picture frame with a jeweled dragonfly on it, warm gloves, yarn for knitting, a mug that says boys are stinky (well they are!), a beautiful sequined top, three Kasey Chambers CDs, a glass hurricane lamp, a watch, and was awesome.

I made and brought vegan nori rolls from the Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook, but added extra chili oil and some red pepper flakes to spice it up. They were fantastic and everyone devoured them, even the meat eaters. Amy made me this amazing amaretto cake she had made and I had admired on Christmas Eve (she remembered). That was devoured, too. All those who stayed after midnight got copies of a few of my latest books, as a thank-you for making it to my actual birthday. These included the Shakespeare Poetry of Love boxed set and the Beer book. We finally left about 1:00 a.m. It was great--thanks Amy and Nick, I love you!!

I realized after people had basically fallen on the food and left nothing in their wake that I didn't take any food pictures! I'm posting some people pictures instead.

My parents took us out to Atlas for a birthday lunch. I had the Veg Heaven burrito, which was beautiful, but again, I forgot to take a picture of it. We had a great time--thanks Mom and Dad!

Everyone was so full from lunch that we all warmed up individual leftovers later, as we got hungry, rather than having a formal dinner. The bet ends in three days! But we also decided to continue it for the rest of the year, in a modified form, so we can save money to spend Christmas in Oaxaca together. We are still working on the exact terms. A grand total seems not to reflect the efforts we want to make, to buy local, avoid products made in China, buy quality things that will last, not waste money on junk, etc.

In the meantime, our few trips out this weekend, using the excuse of my birthday, have catapulted us way over budget. Nick and Amy better be thinking about where they want us to take them out for dinner on February 1...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pasta Dinner

Ah, pasta. Inexpensive and so delicious. Tonight I made up this comfort-food casserole:

1 pound pasta (I used rotini--you can also use brown rice pasta, to make this gluten-free)
1 tablespoon canola oil (or use evo, but I'm out right now)
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper (I used frozen from my garden this summer)
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 can (about 15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup peas (I used leftover, or use frozen or canned)
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, and thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 slices vegetarian "ham" cut into strips (or substitute strips of marinated tofu, or a handful of shredded cheese, or leave it all out--if you leave it out, you can add another can of white beans)
1/2 cup crumbled corn chips

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

2. Heat the oil in a medium saute pan and cook the onion until soft. Add the jalapeno pepper and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes more. Stir in the pasta, the white beans, the peas, the veggie ham or tofu (or not). Turn into a casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Top with the crumbled chips.

3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through.

This probably serves about eight.

Emmett decided he needed to take dessert matters into his own hands. He defrosted three chocolate chip cookies in the microwave, then decorated them with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

He didn't share.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another day, another dollar

I spent much of yesterday catching up from being out of town but I need to get some serious work done today. To energize myself, I went to the gym, then headed home through the frigid cold. I warmed up half of a pumpkin waffle (the ones I made a few weeks ago and stored in the freezer), made from the recipe out of Vegan With a Vengeance, except I added chocolate chips. I spread tahini on the warmed waffles, then topped them with banana rings and drizzled the whole mess with blackstrap molasses. Paired with a hot cup of coffee with soy milk, this breakfast has got me feeling almost energized enough to go to Amy's spin class this afternoon. (Almost.) At least I feel energized enough to get some work done today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Home again

I'm back from Pennsylvania, and thought I would have gained five pounds from all the delicious-but-fatty food. But I didn't. Maybe because I love to travel and travelling stokes my inner digestive fire so I burn up everything I eat. This leads me to believe I should travel more, if for no other reason than my health.

This morning I had organic oats that I bought in Pennsylvania, in bulk, cheap, at the grocery store. Topped with a teaspoon of raw sugar, a handful of raisins, a sprinkle of walnuts, and a dash of soy milk, they tasted delicious, and perfect for this morning's 0-degree temps. Then I went to the gym for yoga class. I am less and less able to do these kind of yoga classes that throw people into these difficult poses without the kind of instruction I get from Iyengar yoga. Fortunately, I was able to cue myself to make the poses work, but what about all those other poor people who looked like they were in pain and hating life? That's not how yoga is supposed to work. It was a tough strength-training workout, though, so I'm glad I had the oatmeal.

On the way home, I went to the grocery store and spent $66 on food for the week, including a huge motherload of citrus, which is in-season and super-cheap right now. We'll be eating lots of grapefruits, tangelos, oranges, and clementines this week. I had a tangelo--a tangerine/orange hybrid--for my mid-morning snack.

I think I've over-spent on this bet...I suspect we will lose to Nick and Amy. But that's o.k., it just means we take them out for dinner and let them make fun of us for awhile. I know, the month isn't over, but I can feel my resolve wavering. I want to go out for dinner! I want to buy a huge bottle of olive oil, and agave syrup, and pure maple syrup, and veggie burgers!!! O.K., O.K., I'll try to be patient. I've got lots of travel coming up, and I have to be financially prudent.

For dinner, I cooked a roasted chicken for all the boys and grilled myself some marinated tofu, which I put on a sub roll (the last one) topped with soy mayo, pickle relish, and leafy greens. I also finished off the polenta with the rest of the black beans, and made some peas. The boys also had biscuits. I had a glass of soy milk and three small vegan cookies I baked last week, out of the freezer, for dessert. Emmett ate after everyone else because he had Cub Scouts, and the meal just happened to be ready right after he had to be there (bad timing).

Tomorrow, the kids go to their dad's for dinner so Ben and I will have to be creative about what to eat at home. Our budget for this week won't allow for any restaurants.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

See my travel blog...

I'm headed to Pennsylvania, to write about the Golden Gateway Golden Retriever rescue facility in Reinholds, Pennsylvania. When I travel, I record my experiences in my travel blog, so to learn about my food adventures in Dutch Amish Country, see Eccentric Planet:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spaghetti Lust

I felt a deep-inside hungry need for pasta today, so I made this mushroom-onion spaghetti, served with greens left from the University luncheon. I sauteed 8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped (I would have used baby bellas but they didn't fit into the budget this month); one medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped; and two cloves garlic, peeled and minced; in a little peanut oil (the olive oil is all gone...). I added some tomato sauce, Italian herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, all dried), and lots of salt and pepper. Served over thin spaghetti. Oh yes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cleaning Out the Fridge Day (plus Mediterranean musings)

Before I leave for Pennsylvania tomorrow, we need to eat up leftovers...and I think I'll be able to save significantly on the grocery budget because Ben doesn't eat much and the kids will be gone this weekend at their dad's house. My meals are paid for since it's a business trip. In the meantime, I'm looking at what I don't want to leave all weekend in the fridge. For lunch today, I toasted another wholegrain sub roll and topped it with the remaining veggie-burger-that-didn't-hold-together mix (TVP, mushrooms, carrots, lots of spices, etc.) for a vegetarian Sloppy Joe. Topped with a little Dijon mustard and the last remaining pickle spear, I sided it with some spring mix and kiwi fruit.

Yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of College of Education staff for their lunchtime enrichment series about the Mediterranean diet, and I began the talk by talking about the anti-consumerism wager, and how it has, inadvertently, nudged me into a much more authentic Mediterranean way of eating. I make food from scratch, I don't buy anything packaged. I cook. I use my leftovers. And I have very little to spend. I talked about how the traditional Mediterranean diet was one of the healthiest on the planet, and yet, the people eating it wished they had more meat. They felt deprived. How do we, in America, with so much food, benefit from a diet of deprivation? By making the conscious choice (we have the luxury to do this) to choose real food. The fact that real food is getting to be more expensive than packaged food (what Michael Pollan calls "food-like substances") makes us, as the wealthiest nation in the world, ironically able to follow this diet, by choice, not necessity. I also talked about how the Mediterranean diet is more than food--it's about spending time outside in the fresh air, physical labor, close ties with family, sitting down together to eat a meal, and having an extended network of friends and community. Look up from the computer screen and go outside. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Slow down and breathe.

They sent me home with the big box of salad greens. Lunch there (included, I didn't have to pay--one more meal for free) was salad greens with toppings everybody brings. I topped mine with an artichoke pasta salad mixed with a homemade vinagrette, some quinoa salad, and some cubed baked tofu. On the side: some wheat crackers and half a whole-wheat pita. It was an admirably Mediterranean sort of lunch.

I'll be interested to see what I will find to eat in Pennsylvania. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Iyengar yoga

This morning, I went to a make-up yoga class because I will be out of town during my normal slot on Friday (I have to travel to Pennysylvania to write an article about a Golden Retriever rescue farm, but more on that later). It was a Level 1 class, so it was good to review some basics. It got me thinking about ego.

When you do yoga, ego comes to the forefront a lot, both when you indulge in it, and when you recognize it, step back, and say, "Hmm. Interesting that I should be so full of ego about not panting and gasping in shoulderstand, like that person next to me." Of course, recognizing ego is part of the realization that happens when you do yoga on a regular basis. But where does it come from? Is it bad? Is it good? I suspect it just is.

These are some of the things I discovered myself thinking this morning:
  • This must be Level 1, I am so beyond this.
  • Wait a minute, this is just Level 1, why am I falling over in tree pose?
  • An exercise to prepare for headstand? Oh come on, I can already do headstand, I don't need to do this.
  • That person next to me needs a lot more props than I need. Ha!
  • Hey, this forward bend is really hard today, what's wrong with me?
See what I mean? Ego, ego, ego. But instead of fighting my ego, which tends to make it rear up, get bigger, and get an attitude, I decided to step back and look at it. Ah, ego. I know you. What are you doing here today? At this point, this kind of thinking hasn 't necessarily changed anything in a dramatic way, but I believe it to be just one more baby step towards ascension into a broader sense of self and other. When ego looks like one little dot on a giant map, I'll know I'm getting somewhere. (And then, I'm likely to think, Wow, I am so cool, I have totally transcended ego. I bet that person next to me hasn't...)

Now that I'm home, I am a hungry yogi, but I have to wait because I am speaking to a group of University employees about the Mediterranean diet, for an employee enrichment lunch sort of thing, and they will be feeding me.

Well...maybe just a snack...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tofu Subs

The Schwan's man came to my door today. He came three times. He rang the doorbell. He knocked. He yelled, "Hello?" You see, I usually buy quite a lot from the Schwan's man, and whenever I don't, he looks so crestfallen that I feel guilty.

I wasn't sure how to explain about the January anti-consumerism bet, and how Schwan's food just, well...doesn't really fit in. But he finally caught me on his third visit, because my friend Mariah was walking out the door as he was walking up the driveway. I turned him away two weeks ago and just didn't have the heart to do it again. So, I compromised. I bought frozen corn, frozen peas, three-for-two-dollars-off cheap frozen pizzas the kids like, and a package of their delicious multi-grain rolls. Ben wanted the strawberry sorbet, but apparently that's a seasonal item. Sorry, Ben.

But the multi-grain rolls gave me the idea for dinner. I toasted the rolls in the oven, then I made salmon salad sub rolls for Angus and Ben, using a can of salmon I've had in the cupboard for months, mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish. Emmett got a leftover turkey hotdog on his--Emmett's journey towards healthy eating has consisted of baby steps (usually he has to eat what we eat, but this was easy).

Mine was the best of all. I marinated two slices of tofu in soy sauce and sesame oil, then grilled them in my panini maker. I put Asian hot sauce (I know, again, I love the stuff) on the sub roll, then some lettuce and two big kosher dill pickle spears, topped off with the tofu. Add some baby carrots, and it was dinner.

Leftovers Lunch

It's getting past noon and I'm getting hungry. The small bowl of cereal from this morning seems to be digested and gone. But I won't be going out for lunch, nope. I warmed up the last of the Black Bean and Butternut Squash Stew from Friday, then fried a hunk of the polenta from last night in a little peanut oil and put it on top of the stew. It's really good. I'll have a clementine or two for dessert, since they are in season and we have a big bowl of them on the counter. Garnishes: Leftover chopped lettuce from last night, and a drizzle of Asian chili sauce, for a kick.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Burrito Dinner

Tonight, I thought we had no food left, and no money left over in the week's budget. But then I was inspired. I warmed whole wheat tortillas. I found homemade veggie burger mix that I made two days ago from Vegan with a Vengeance. It never got solid enough to make a burger that would hold together, and was sitting in a bowl in the fridge. I cooked it in a little peanut oil, as if it were ground meat. For the boys, I cooked some ground venison Ben's friend gave us last month, that was still in the freezer. I topped their burritos with cheese (not mine) and baked them all in a stoneware baking pan.

I garnished the cooked burritos with letttuce, chopped tomato, and avocado slices dressed with fresh lime juice and sea salt (avocadoes four for $3.29 at Fareway, purchased a few days ago and just now ripe). I also made polenta with soy milk and non-hydrogenated margarine (I didn't tell anybody it was vegan and they all loved it), topped with warmed canned black beans. Ben and I finished an almost-too-old bottle of red wine from last week, and the boys drank apple juice. It was delicious, fulfilling, and soul-satisfying. When I've digested this great meal, I will meditate on making much out of little. Om...

A New Year, a New Food Attitude

We began 2008 with a bet. Our family of four challenged our friends, the Martins, also a family of four, to live on $75/week food budget and $50/week "everything else" budget. This does not include regular bills we already have in place, including things like music lessons, drama lessons, etc. But it does include eating out, drinking, sundry items, and entertainment. We determined that we would live the anti-consumerism mentality in January, and see how well we could manage it. Both families must stay under budget, but at the end of the month, the family that spends the most has to treat the other family to a "nice but reasonable" dinner out.

It's been difficult, sort of, especially the part about not eating out. But also interesting, to really make a commitment to use up (and re-design) leftovers and not let food go to waste, and to shop more carefully. But we all love to eat well, and Nick Martin and I love to cook well, and sacrificing higher quality ingredients has been a challenge. Nick has been blogging about his experience at, check that out if you are interested. And I decided, half way through the month, that I need to be blogging about ours, especially the vegetarian aspects of it that I've engineered at our house (to the chagrin of the rest of my family--my partner, Ben, and my sons, Angus and Emmett).

Yesterday, the four of us (the adults--Amy, Nick, Ben, and I) went to see Michael Pollan speak about his new book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Afterwards, we all slipped up a bit and went out for a few drinks, figuring that if we were all spending the same amount of money, we would be even. But...there goes half the week's grocery bill! Oops. Well, it was a lot of fun, and worth it, and we vowed to spend next Christmas in Oaxaca, out of the American consumerist holiday madness. The kids will thank us later. Meanwhile, we'll have to get *really* creative with our food stores this week!

In the meantime, I'm posting a picture of the scrambled tofu I enjoyed this past Saturday morning, along with toast made from homemade bread that Nick left at our house after the Martins joined us for dinner on Friday, for black bean butternut squash stew.

This recipe is quick, easy, and doesn't contain very many ingredients, so it's good to make in the morning when you are a really hungry yogi. I often throw leftovers into this mix--black bean stew, white beans, different veggies, homemade salsa, or in this case below, roasted potatoes.

Scrambled Tofu

Serves 2 or 3

1 tablespoon evo (extra virgin olive oil)
12 ounces firm tofu, drained and squeezed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup leftover roasted potatoes, cubed (optional if you don't have them, or add any other leftovers you happen to have)
1 small carrot, grated
1 scallion, chopped, whites and greens

In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Crumble the tofu into the pan. Add the turmeric, salt, cumin, and pepper. Saute until tofu is coated with the spices. Add the potatoes (or not) and continue to saute' until the tofu starts to get nice and brown and a little bit crispy, about five minutes or a little longer. Add the carrots and stir to combine. Divide the tofu between two or three plates and garnish with the scallions. Serve with toast topped with a little evo and sea salt.

Note: Since I was the only one eating this, I warmed three whole-wheat tortillas and divided the remaining tofu between them, rolled them up, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and put them in the freezer. These can be unwrapped and microwaved on high for 2 minutes (cover with a paper towel) for a quick lunch. Good dipped in salsa!

The kids ate the same homemade fast food from the freezer, but I made theirs with eggs and cheese instead of tofu. I'm still trying to win them over to the tofu side but I'm not going to force the issue. Ahimsa comes in many forms.