Year end thoughts

Well, here we are on the other side of the semester, the election, the holidays — I won’t try to recap three months in one post, but I’ll share a few relevant details.

On the bike

As expected, I put in quite a few miles between getting G to school and getting to my own classes.  Most weeks, I was on the hook for seven school drop-off or pick ups , which was quite the change from my previous zero.  The two days where I did both drop-off and pick up were the most challenging, often feeling like I made it home only to turn around and go back again.

The biking got more pleasant when the heat abated, making for several nice weeks until it got cold.  G’s school run is particularly challenging in the cold: we get all bundled up at home, get to school, go inside, unbundle G, and pack the cold weather gear for me to take home, all while I try to avoid overheating while removing as little of my own gear as possible.  Reverse it all in the afternoon.

Between the hassle of bundling/unbundling at school, and the need for an ice/snow backup, we started experimenting with the school bus.  G was very resistant, declaring after the first day (which went just fine, despite my fears) that he would never ride the bus again.  Tough luck, kiddo.

He rode the bus a few more times before winter break, and it’s become fairly routine, though I expect another adjustment period when school starts in January.

I’m going to try to find some balance between biking and busing — I love biking with him to school for the fresh air and exercise, which is sadly lacking in his one-recess-per-day school (drops to zero if the temp is below freezing), but I also like my sanity.

School lunches (and snacks)

After multiple days of scarcely eaten lunches, I realized that, for better or worse, my kid was too much of a food snob to be into cold leftovers.  I can’t really blame him, as I highly prefer the reheated version as well.  With that in mind, I bought a nice thermos container and started sending warm lunches.  Lo and behold, food wastage decreased drastically.

We reached a decent arrangement on the afternoon-snack-at-school front by agreeing to two days per week when Gabriel eats whatever snack is provided in the classroom and three days where he brings a snack from home.  This set-up mostly satisfies my desire for the majority of his snacks to have some nutritional value and to minimize processed foods.

The election

[This feels like a bit of a non sequitur, but it’s important, so here goes . . . .]

After the election, I was disappointed when some bloggers failed to say anything about the results.  I felt it was too big NOT to say something, even on food blogs, where political content is not part of the norm, and thus these bloggers either a) agreed with the outcome or b) were too afraid of reader backlash/financial repercussions to speak up.

Though neither “a” nor “b” are true for me (I am deeply distressed with the choice of president, more so every day with each cabinet appointment, and I don’t make any money from this blog, so I really don’t care about readership), I have also been silent on the subject, so I can’t really judge.  Mostly, I don’t know what to say (that hasn’t already been said), and I’ve also been trying to do more listening, especially before saying or writing things that might further alienate people.

I did sit down and write a post, trying to sort through things, but a lot of it I wish I had published before the election, when maybe, somehow, it might have made a difference.  I may eventually publish it, but for now it will linger in “Drafts.”

Into 2017

And so begins another year, another semester . . . I will continue living and voting my values, working for the world I want to live in, one that is just, equitable, and compassionate.  One where people have the knowledge, resources, and support to care for their health and the health of this planet we all call home.  Here’s to creating moments of light in the new year, even when things seem dark!





Meaty Monday

We don’t do a lot of faux meat, or “meat alternatives,” around these parts.  I prefer to get protein from whole foods including legumes, nuts, and whole grains.  These minimally processed foods don’t have complicated ingredient lists, are better environmentally (less energy and water into processing and less packaging), and are easier on the budget.

We do eat tempeh and tofu a few times a month (tempeh is less processed than tofu), and I enjoy Field Roast sausages, though I buy them only rarely.  Ever since a Boca burger left me feeling funky several years ago, I’ve avoided premade veggie burgers, instead making my own bean and veggie burger creations (though I did have a decent store bought veggie burger at a 4th of July party over the summer).

That said, meat alternatives have come a long way since I stopped eating meat (11 1/2 years ago!).  During my brief internship with Lighter (a company with a plant-based meal planning app) this spring, recipes using a number of new-to-me meat alternatives piqued my curiosity, and a few weeks ago, I finally bought a couple of items to try: Upton’s Seitan Bacon and Beyond Meat Chicken Strips.

The Bacon

The bacon looks pretty realistic.  For my first tasting, I cooked two strips in our smallest cast iron pan . . .


. . . and crumbled them over eggs.


I enjoyed the flavor of this product.  I was able to get a bit of crunch on the edges, but overall the texture reminded my more of beef jerky (which I enjoyed, back in the day) than bacon.

Now that we finally have tomatoes coming in, I want to try a BLT using the Upton’s bacon.  I do find it annoying that tomatoes and lettuce are not really in season at the same time — the heat that tomatoes need pretty much ruins lettuce — though I guess now we might be getting close to fall lettuce.  (A year ago, I had a craving for BLTs that I have yet to satisfy.  I actually considered purchasing a small amount of nice, locally raised pork bacon, but never took the plunge.  We’ll see how the vegetarian version works out.)

The Chicken

Looks A LOT like the real thing.

The package of the Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips said it served four, but I decided to stretch it a bit, using half of the container for a fajita recipe.


I sauteed the strips with onion, green pepper, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced kohlrabi, and cumin and chili powder.


Served on whole wheat tortillas topped with lime juice, sour cream, and diced tomatoes.

Like real chicken, these strips don’t have much flavor on their own.  (I under-salted the dish, expecting the strips to have plenty of salt already, which they don’t — the brand does offer preseasoned products.)

As a vegetarian, I found the strips’ texture to be creepily similar to real chicken (I’m not alone in this reaction).  While it was an interesting addition to the meal, I would have been just as happy having an all-vegetable fajita with a side of beans.  I’m not particularly motivated to use the other half of the box.  After many years of vegetarian cooking, it’s like, what the heck would I do with chicken?

I can see buying the bacon again / having it around sometimes (it can be frozen, as can the Beyond Chicken product), but probably not the chicken — I’d just as soon eat tofu or tempeh.  I may eventually try some of the other Beyond Meat products, but I’m not in a big hurry.

These products could be useful for omnivores who are thinking about becoming vegetarian or who want to eat less meat, but are not sure how to cook without meat.  For long-time vegetarians who are used to cooking well-rounded meals without meat alternatives, you’re not missing much other than novelty.

Note: All opinions are my own. This post was not sponsored in any way.

Steroids and shortcuts

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned having problems with what I thought were reflux issues — a feeling of a lump in my throat that wouldn’t go away.  I spent a week eating very small meals very slowly; avoiding chocolate, raw garlic, and wine; and recommitting to daily mindfulness practice to deal with All. The. Stress.

The mindfulness was nice, but the eating changes?  Not so much.  I was hungry and missing my chocolate, and the feeling in the back of my throat (which made the eating I was doing unpleasant) wasn’t going away, so I changed my self-diagnosis from reflux to allergies, and started treating it as such.

First, I bummed G’s Claritin and tried taking a stronger antihistamine before bed for a few days. It seemed to help a little, but the oral antihistamines alone weren’t doing the trick, so I sterilized G’s bottle of Flonase and started inhaling steriods.

Now, I was a Flonase junkie back in high school, taking it regularly for a couple of years to ward off sinus congestion and related headaches.  At some point in college, I realized I didn’t need it anymore, and it’s been over 14 years since I’ve used it.

Lo and behold, just as Flonase was the game changer for G’s never-ending cough, it also saved the day for me.  While I like to avoid taking drugs as a rule, I’m thankful to have found some relief.  It’s nice to be able to enjoy eating again!

Speaking of food, if you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you’ll know that despite the current roller coaster of life, we are still cooking.  Even in busy times, we have to eat, and cooking and eating more or less as normal provides some semblance of balance.

That said, I am making some allowances for this particularly busy time.  In past busy times, I’ve unsuccessfully tried to convince myself to indulge in some of Trader Joe’s prepared frozen food items.  But every time I go to the store and actually pick up the packages and read the labels, I can’t go through with it.  I feel like the options are either not all that healthy, or they’re decent, but half of what you’re paying for is the cooked, frozen grain, which I can make at home, thankyouverymuch.

A couple weeks ago, I made a TJ’s run, vowing to try at least a few things, but I came out with next to nothing in the way of processed foods.  After looking over the options, my compromise was buying lots of frozen vegetables to cut down on prep time.  (Their vegetable pakoras somehow passed my screening, and there are two boxes in my freezer, awaiting a trial.)

Anyhow, the compromise decision has worked well (though I need another TJ’s run to stock up again!).  I’m combining the frozen store-bought veggies with grains and beans cooked from scratch, often rounding things out with some fresh store-bought vegetables, fresh garden produce (asparagus!), and/or frozen home-grown veggies.


On the left, kale (ours from freezer), garden asparagus, and frozen artichoke hearts over whole wheat linguine.  On the right, frozen stir-fry veg medley plus onion and garden asparagus over black beans and rice.

We’re making other food compromises including buying bread, as my baker quite understandably has not had time.   I’m hoping there might be one last round of bread baking in this apartment — with 6 loaves per batch, it would likely see us through to the move!

With all the craziness at the house, it’s very nice to have an intact kitchen and [relatively] clean space to come home to at our apartment.  Taking the time to cook these days, even with some shortcuts, sometimes feels like an extravagance, but it’s worth it when we sit down and enjoy a tasty meal together.


Souper food

This post goes back — waaaayyy back! It’s been awhile since I made this garbanzo bean soup, though I’ve certainly made it more recently than SIX years ago!

Fun to go back in time to 2009 (hi, stove in old apartment!).

In 2016, we’re officially out of garden-grown potatoes, so I actually had to — gasp! — go to the store and buy potatoes for this recipe. In fact, I think the only garden goods in last night’s batch were the garlic (thanks to Matthew’s work peeling, chopping, and freezing HUNDREDS of garlic cloves) and some celeriac that I pureed with the beans. If I had been feeling a bit more energetic, I could have subbed garden leeks for some or all of the [store-bought] onion.

Bon appétit!

Her Green Life

This past week, we cooked a few of our favorite staple recipes, including vegetable upside-down cake and garbanzo bean soup, using almost all local ingredients.  We thought these dishes tasted good before, but you can really taste the freshness of the garden and locally grown veggies (or you could, if you were here eating with us).

Garbanzo bean soup

Someone needs to work on her food photography skills . . . .

If you’re wondering how to make this soup, today is your lucky day.  In the past, I have been too lazy to post recipes here, but I  submitted this recipe to my church cookbook, so it was typed and ready to go.

Garbanzo bean soup

4 ½ c. cooked garbanzo beans, divided (= 2 ¼ cups dry beans or 3 cans)

4 ½ c. vegetable broth or water, divided

1 T. olive oil

2 c. chopped onion

10 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 medium potatoes…

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Warm chocolate: Four ways

I like my chocolate dark and warm.  Here are a few of my favorite preparations, just in time for Valentine’s day.


Drinking Chocolate
What passes for hot chocolate in most places is far too sweet and too watery for my tastes.  I prefer a thick, rich drinking chocolate, similar to an Italian hot chocolate.  My simple alternative requires only two ingredients: milk (any kind, but I prefer unsweetened soy milk) and dark chocolate (at least 60%, but I prefer 70%).

  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 0.7 oz. dark chocolate chips (or a bar, cut or broken into smaller pieces)
  • Equipment: Small, microwave-safe mug; tiny whisk; microwave


Directions: Place milk and chocolate in mug. Microwave for 30 seconds on full power. WATCH your microwave the whole time (a clear glass mug is helpful here). Cooking times can vary, and you may need to stop it sooner to avoid it boiling over (I know from sad personal experience!). Use the whisk to thoroughly combine the milk and chocolate.  I’m not sure where I got that tiny whisk, but it’s really useful!

You can play around with adding a bit more milk or a bit more chocolate to get to your preferred consistency, which is a thin pudding, suitable either for sipping or spooning.


This slightly more involved recipe for an official Italian hot chocolate is worth checking out as well, though I usually turn to my easy, microwave version.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding
This started as a search for something warm and chocolaty, but a bit more substantial than the drinking chocolate.  My version  is a simplified version of this recipe.

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (I use unsweetened soy)
  • 2 T. cocoa powder mixed with 2 T. sugar
  • 2-3 oz. dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • Blender or immersion blender — I found my immersion blender works better here, and clean up is easier!

If using an immersion blender, place all ingredients in a wide-mouth quart jar or place all ingredients in the jar of a regular blender.  Let sit a few minutes so the warm milk can soften the chocolate.  Blend until smooth.

The finished product will still have some texture to it from the cashews, so the mouth feel differs from a traditional milk-egg-cornstarch pudding.  I like it!

Chocolate Chia Pudding
This was another attempt to make something more substantial than the drinking chocolate, but without the soaking step of the cashew pudding recipe.  I start with the drinking chocolate recipe above, with perhaps a bit of extra milk to thin it.  After whisking together the warm milk and chocolate, whisk in 2 T. of chia seeds.  Let sit 5-10 minutes, whisking every once in awhile, until the chia seeds absorb some liquid.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
I’ve been making peanut butter for over a year now, and it was only a matter of time until I discovered chocolate peanut butter.  If you already make peanut butter, this is really simple, basically just a matter of throwing some chocolate chips into the food processor AFTER the peanuts have been butter-fied.  The residual heat from processing the peanuts melts the chocolate.

I used this recipe, with roasted, unsalted peanuts and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips per recipe.  Melty, warm, and delicious on top of toast or pancakes!

To Your Health!
With health-boosting components including antioxidants and flavonoids, dark chocolate can definitely be part of a healthy diet (check out this article for more details).  A bit of high-quality dark chocolate goes a long way!

We still get a lot of our chocolate from what was Sweet Earth Chocolates (now Mama Ganache Chocolates — I liked the old name better!), because we appreciate the company’s social and environmental standards (especially in contrast to charges against other chocolate companies).

What is your favorite type of chocolate and/or favorite way to enjoy chocolate?