Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vegetarians Invade Food Network!!!

There are reports that two, count them, TWO vegetarians have made it onto Food Network shows. One of the two is not only vegetarian, but, dare I say it, VEGAN! Who are these intrepid adventurers, you may ask? One is Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan baker who won on Cupcake Wars. (I missed the episode, only learning about it after the fact, dadgummit, but through the magic of the internet we can all watch the highlights!) The second is Amanda Cohen, a vegetarian chef from a NYC restaurant called Dirt Candy, who will be challenging Iron Chef Morimoto in an epic battle THIS WEEKEND!!! That's right, you haven't missed it! Set your VCRs, DVRs, Tivos, whatever, to record Iron Chef America on Sunday and don't miss a second of the meat free action!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No-Tuna Bread Salad

I could swear I've written about this recipe before but when I looked back I couldn't find it, so this may be a repeat. But it's a good recipe, so I'm posting it anyway.

So here's the story behind this recipe. I've cut back on the time I spend watching Food Network; watching chefs cook meat, which I don't eat anymore, isn't much fun. I have continued to record $10.00 Dinners with Melissa D'Arabian, however. She cooks meat but she also makes vegetarian side dishes that can be mains and desserts. Some of her meat dishes can also be converted to vegetarian, like her Tuna Bread Salad. When she made the recipe on her show it looked so quick, easy, and tasty that I had to try it. I left out the tuna, doubled the beans, and used a different dressing. (I'm not a fan of mustardy dressings.) It was a success; The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, was the only one who didn't like it. (He doesn't like anything so that's not a factor in determining what the rest of us eat.) The recipe also calls for Northern white beans but I'm going to try it with butter beans the next time I make it since the white beans are really small and don't hold up to the larger sizes of the other ingredients. I'm also going to change the shallots to green onions, which are easier to find at the grocery.

As for the dressing I used the Good Seasons Italian mix, the kind that comes dried in a little packet. Make that and pour it over the salad; it is tangy and has some bite but without the mustard flavor. Other than that, follow Melissa's recipe for a tasty meal. (I also made the carrot soup recipe from that episode as a side dish; I followed that recipe more closely but made a few changes recommended in the comments.)

We've decided to rename this recipe Butter Bean Bread Salad since we like the butter beans in it so well. We use 2 cans of butter beans and a can of some other kind of bean, usually cannellini, sometimes pinto, sometimes Great Northerns. Basically whatever we have in the pantry. The green onions are much better than the shallots, too. Also over load on the tomatoes and basil; they make it really yummy. We also like it with the Orange Scented Carrot Soup from the same episode. After reading some of the comments that follow the recipe, we add a couple of potatoes to the soup along with the carrots.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bonus Post! Green Smoothie Recipe

I recently attended a Vitamix demo where the demonstrator gave out a recipe for a delicious Green Smoothie that does not taste like grass! (Or "the lawn", as she put it.) I've made it since then, although I didn't have all the veggies she used so I made a few substitutions, and it is pretty darn good.

Loretta's Green Smoothie

**All measurements are approximate**

~ 2 cups green grapes
~ One chunk (about a 3/4 inch disk) from a summer squash (I subbed cucumber)
~ 1/4 cup of the outer leaves from a green cabbage (I left this out)
~ 1 cup spinach
~ Approximately 6 pitted dates
~ 2 inch circular section from a pineapple; include the core and cut into large chunks; makes about 3 cups
(she said you can even use the skin but she trimmed it off in case we were squeamish)
~ 2 cups or more of ice

Can also add flax seeds, protein powder, etc.

Place the ingredients into the Vitamix in the order given. Start on Variable Speed 1, dial up to 10, then to High until everything is blended up and smooth. Use the tamper as needed. Add ice through the cap opening as needed.

I absolutely love, love, love my Vitamix! I have used it every single day since I opened it. I've made soup, tons of smoothies, and ice cream. The best part is that it is easy to clean; fill the container with 5 cups of warm water, add 2 drops of dish soap, and blend for a minute or two. Pour the soapy water out over the tamper and lid to clean those then a quick rinse and it's clean. It becomes its own dishwasher!

I feel like I've joined a Vitamix cult!!!

Update on THE BIN and Notes on Homeschooling

I groused so about the bin that DH couldn't stand it anymore. He put up a good fight, but in the end he came through and shoved that thing back in my car last night. I had mere minutes to get to Home Depot before they closed, but I made it. I was anticipating some problems about returning The Bin but it was no sweat, and the two employees who helped me out were great. I am impressed with their customer service, actually. So now The Bin is gone, I have my money back, and my pool fence still needs a storage container of some sort, but I'll worry about that another day.

Also on the organizational front, I spent a good portion of the day yesterday (when I wasn't dealing with The Bin) setting up our home school program for this school year. I have a ton of materials so I went through everything and pulled the items I'll use with the little ones this year. (The Eldest is in the dual enrollment program now so I'm not assigning her work anymore.) I was also able to purge, purge, purge a lot of curriculum items they have outgrown; it's nice to have some space on my bookshelves. (So I can put away the books stacked in piles around the house. Bookshelf space doesn't stay empty for long around here!) I set up our schedule and put some new educational posters on the wall. I pulled out my plan book so that's ready to set up. We're basically good to go!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The End of My Summer Break

This has been a busy summer but I've managed to keep some open time over the past two weeks for some "home days". I love my home days. I use them first and foremost as a time to rest and recharge. I also use the time, unless I'm having fibro flare ups, to work around my house. I've been on an organizing kick lately, tackling some of my grandmother's things, a portion of my closet, my bedroom, and spending a little bit of time in The Yougest's, aka The Wild Child's, bedroom. I've also worked on our backyard and laid the groundwork for our first (in this house) fall veggie garden. (Well, I set out a tarp where I want the garden to go so that the grass will die underneath it. Oh, and our compost bin is filling up.)

I purchased storage containers for The Wild Child's room and bins for some outdoor storage. I have some serious buyer's remorse for one bin, though. It's for our pool fence, which we don't really need on a regular basis since the kids are proficient swimmers. (We still need it for Girl Scout meetings since younger siblings are usually in attendance.) I measured and everything but the selection at the home supply store was limited, I was aggravated and in a hurry, so I pointed to one that was long enough, plus some room for clearance, and said "I'll take it". BIG mistake. DH put it together and it's GI-GORMOUS; it's way too big for the pool fence. It takes up a huge portion of our side yard and it was expensive. I desperately want to return it, but I'm not sure how we're going to get it back to the store. It's assembled now, after all, and I don't know that it will fit in the back of my mini van. I may be stuck with this ridiculous, over sized, over priced, impractical monstrosity of a storage bin; I'm having fits.

I'm also coughing. I have a cold; scratchy throat, coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and I feel like I'm getting a fever, so I'm ending this post right here and going to bed. ~:-P

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Lovely Birthday

I had a wonderful birthday yesterday. I almost squeezed in everything I wanted to do; I only missed my walk since "Eat, Pray, Love" ran long and sunlight was fading fast by the time I got home. (I opted for a family bike ride with the remaining sun, which I like better than walking anyway.) Three of my wonderful, amazing friends showed up to watch the movie with me which made it a lot of fun. I absolutely made the right decision to not allow DH to see the movie; guys don't get it, but I thought it was fantastic. (Which is a word of warning- unless you are with a really unique sort of guy who wants to watch it, leave him home. See it alone or see it with other women; DO NOT make a guy see it if there is even the slightest hint of resistance. He'll ruin it for you.) One friend brought kettle pop corn to share that was amazing! (I have to get her recipe.) The sugar coating on the kernels felt... lacy, almost. No, it didn't taste like lace, it was the texture, silly. Yes, I blew my sensible eating habits, but I really did have only two (HUGE) bites of Key Lime pie for dessert with my lunch. Good thing- it was really rich. Any more than that and it would have made me ill.

And I got presents! One of my friends brought me a lovely orchid, which is so special since my grandmother collected orchids. Every time I look at it I get warm feelings from remembering both my friend and my grandmother. Another friend gave me a silk plant that's also got little twinkle lights all through it. (I love twinkle lights!) She uses them for ambiance in her house instead of candles since she also has a child who LOVES to play with fire. (Her daughter and The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, are kindred spirits.) Now I have ambiance in my house, too!

Per my request, DH got me a Vita Mix, the Binford 2000 of blenders. (OK, I'd link you to an explanation of Binford 2000, but it seems it isn't on the internet. It's a reference to the show "Home Improvement" with Tim Allen, where his eyes would get real big when he was talking about souped up tools made by the company that sponsored his show within a show, "Tool Time". The Binford 2000 series was supposed to be top notch and super powerful. My Vita Mix is top notch and super powerful!) It arrived before my birthday but I decided to save it and didn't open it until yesterday. It comes with an instructional DVD that includes several recipes. We were watching it together (the little ones were fascinated) and DH was inspired by a citrus slushie recipe so that was the maiden voyage for the Vita Mix. (It was actually a margarita recipe but he made it minus the alcohol, of course, so we call it a slushie.) It was amazingly good and ever so festive. After that we tried to make a broccoli soup recipe from Alissa Cohen but it didn't turn out the way I remember it. (I had it at a raw foods "cooking" class a year ago; I think we goofed on the recipe.) The soup did get warm, though; the friction in that blender puts out some heat!

All in all, it was a good day and a good start to my 47th year.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Foods That Start with the Letter Q

I made a quinoa quesadilla tonight for dinner that was so wonderful I have to blog about it. I was inspired to make the quinoa (as opposed to the rice and canned re-fried beans I typically put on quesadillas) after watching a recorded episode of "$10.00 Dinners with Melissa D'Arabian" on the Food Network. It's one of the few cooking shows I still watch since her recipes are either meatless or easy to convert to meatless. She uses a lot of "inexpensive proteins", as she calls them, like beans and quinoa. At least one recipe per episode is usually meatless. (She does NOT refer to anything as vegetarian- that would be tantamount to treason on Food Network.) She also has great tips like suggesting that you soak and cook dried beans ahead of time then portion them out and freeze them for later use, like canned only cheaper (and without the bad plastic cans are lined with).

As for the episode that inspired the quinoa, she cooked the quinoa in the microwave. Rinse it well, then put one part quinoa to two parts water in a loosely covered microwavable dish, (I have a glass dish with a lid), and cook on high for 9 minutes. (I cooked mine for 8 per the package instructions.) Let it sit for a few minutes, fluff and flavor. Here is where we differed. I didn't make the Lentil-Quinoa Salad she made; instead I added caramelized onions and bell pepper chunks and some salt and pepper. I also threw some diced tomato in my bowl, but The Eldest asked me not to add it to the serving dish since she doesn't like tomatoes.

After the quinoa was done I used it on my quesadilla. I toasted a tortilla in a frying pan after spraying both sides with canola oil cooking spray. Once it started to brown I added the quinoa mixture to one half, topped it with a little bit of cheese and some diced lettuce and tomato, folded it over and let the cheese melt for a minute, then slid it out onto a plate. So simple and so delicious; I had to share the recipe!!

Krav Maga

I put The Eldest in a situation yesterday that is causing her a world of hurt today. You didn't know I was an abusive parent, did you? It's for her own good, I promise. What terrible thing did I do, you ask? I signed her up for Krav Maga, the self defense system used by the Israeli army. She took her first hour long class last night and she went for it. There was another girl, about her age, who wimped out halfway through the class but my kid stuck with it; I'm so proud. And she's so sore, poor baby; she couldn't even lift her arms after the class.

The experienced students were tough! (They invited me to stay and watch for the first class.) She was paired up with a young mom (her little boy was hanging out with The Wild Child) who obviously has been doing this a while and was kind enough to take The Eldest under her wing. That woman could pack a punch, let me tell you. I wouldn't want to be the crook that messes with her. The Eldest is far from that kind of power at this point, but if the classes can give her that, she's going.

I was anxious to get The Eldest in some sort of self defense class. I worry about her; she's going off to college next year and I won't be able to be with her and watch over her any more. I am haunted by Natalee Holloway, Jaycee Dugard, and other young women who have been kidnapped and killed, or kidnapped and abused for years. I want my children to have the skills to fight back if someone tries to do the same to one of them. I made sure they could all swim to protect them from drowning. I make them wear helmets when they ride their bikes and seat belts when they are in the car. Human predators are another hazard I need to make sure they are protected from. I know it's not foolproof. Just like good swimmers can still drown and a seat belt doesn't always mean you'll walk away from a car accident, this is not a 100% guarantee that no one will ever hurt them, but it's the best I can do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Dietary Setback

I'm having issues with soy, which is a huge problem now that we are vegetarian. Soy in all of its incarnations is a new culinary adventure for me but I was going at it full tilt. I tried tofu at various restaurants and from the prepared foods case at Whole Foods. We tried several of the soy "meat" products from the grocery store. I bought tempeh. We made stir fries and marinades with soy sauce. We even threw roasted edamame on salads.

Well.... turns out all that soy caused me to have some problems. Namely, it made my breasts feel like they did when I was lactating and it was past time for the baby to nurse. In other words, tingly and tender and sensitive to touch, but with no relief from actually nursing. Blech. I didn't realize it was the soy at first and went to the doctor about it but she couldn't find anything wrong. I finally had an epiphany one day- IT COULD BE THE SOY, and asked my acupuncturist (a long time vegan) if it was possible. She said go off soy to see what happens, duh. Well, I went off soy, and yep, that's the culprit. I even reacted to a tiny bit of soy sauce in a recipe. It's definitely the soy.

BUT IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!!!!! Why couldn't I have known this going in? I mean, it only cropped up after I really started to like soy and soy products. I'm bumming. There are so many things we discovered and really liked, and now we have to give them up. Well, I have to give them up. No more faux BLTs. No more "Joggin' John" with the soy sausage. No more soy marinated mushroom caps filled with guacamole. (From the raw foods class I took last year.) No more stir fry. WAHHHHH.

OK, OK, if that's the worst of my problems life is pretty good. But it's still aggravating!

PS: Does anyone know of any substitutes for soy sauce?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Dream Birthday

My birthday is rapidly approaching so I've been thinking about how I want to spend the day. My dream birthday would involve trips to exotic locales with a happy (as vs. cranky that I made him travel) DH. The Eldest is also a fine traveling companion.

But that's not happening, so I am planning for a more realistic dream birthday. The day will start with a family lunch at my favorite restaurant where I will order all of my favorite menu items and have two bites of their amazing Key Lime Pie for dessert. After that I want to head to the movies with my "lady frenzz" (as my 19 year old "claimed" sister calls them) to see "Eat, Pray, Love". (Claimed sisters, I have two of them, are both invited of course, along with all of my other female friends.) DH is NOT invited; he'll scoff through the whole movie and wreck it for me. (I know these things about him; we have history.) After that I want to be home in time to catch the early part of the sunset on my walk, with enough sunset left over for a quick bike ride to finish the day. Well, the daylight part of the day. Then some chill time after my walk while the kids make dinner.

I'm also hoping for no eye rolls or huffy sighs from The Eldest. (OK, she's not bad about the eye rolls and huffy sighs MOST of the time; I'm teasing her a little bit here.) I was hoping she would have her restricted license before my birthday but we couldn't get an appointment at the DMV until a week afterward. (Yes, I have one of those rare teens who does NOT want to drive; it's quite the power struggle now. I've been bugging her about it for over two years. If she fails her test again this time...) And the little ones- I can only hope for lots of hugs and kisses and doing what they are told to do the first time they are asked. Yeah, that lots of hugs and kisses thing; that's pretty much hoped for from everyone! :)

And finally, as for aging, it's happening. I'm closer to 50 now than 30. I can still claim mid-40s, but just barely. It's OK; sure beats the alternative! I've never been one to mind aging. As long as I am able to learn and love and grow, it's all good.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why Did I Post That??

Sometimes I post stuff then go wait, why did I do that? My last post about fibromyalgia is one of those. I'm not sure why I wrote that, to be honest. I'm not looking for pity, that's for sure. I know I was frustrated when I was writing since it was such a bad day and I needed to vent, so I guess that's part of it. Today was better. I had more energy; I didn't have that walking under water feeling, either.

I have a lot of good things going for me in regards to having fibro. I'm lucky I don't have to generate an income for my family since DH makes enough to support us. I don't know that I would be able to function if I had to work full time again; I would have nothing left for enjoying life, but luckily that's not an issue. I can set my own schedule and take it easy when I need to, although I tend to over do things and get myself in a pickle with commitments every now and again. We have good insurance that is covering things like acupuncture and any doctor visits I feel I need. I don't have fibro as badly as some people do. There are people out there who are bed ridden with it; I have a mild case in comparison. It's not a progressive illness, so as bad as it is now is as bad as it will ever get. I have a lot more good days than bad ones. The flare ups can get really bad, but they are usually over in a day or two. Most importantly, I have DH. He doesn't always get it when I'm hurting, but when he does he gets it right. He doesn't hover or make me feel like he's pitying me at all, he's supportive, and he does more than his fair share to keep our household running. I feel guilty when he works a full day then comes home to no dinner and dishes piled high in the sink, but he's great about it. (OK, he gets cranky every now and again, but he's human; he's entitled. Then he cooks the meal and throws the dishes in the dishwasher, saving the day like the knight in shining armor that he is.)

I don't let the fibro stop me from living my life. I took The Eldest to Europe last year. I go camping with my Girl Scouts. I exercise. I sign up for things. I didn't miss a single day of the classes I took recently. Basically, I live by the hold-your-nose-and-jump-in philosophy. I plan things, and if I'm having a bad day when those things roll around, I deal with it. It's manageable. It's not fun, but it's manageable, and it's not stopping me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Fibro Feels Like

Most of the time I don't believe my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I don't have the typical tender points and I can function pretty well if I keep my schedule from getting too crazy. I'm always a little sore somewhere but normally it's nothing I can't handle. Then there are days when I have flare ups. Those are not good days. Those are days full of frustration that I can't do what I want to do because I feel so darn lousy. It's like the day after the worst day of the flu. You're on the mend but you still feel wrung out, still sore and achy, still tired. The frustrating part is I still want to DO things. I WANT to get out of bed and get on with my life, work on my latest project (I always have one project or another going on) or do something fun with the kids, but I can't. I can push through it when I have to but it is so draining, like when you try to walk fast in a pool with the water up to your shoulders. It's like there's a resistance pushing against you; movement is harder than it should be.

And then there's the "fibro fog", which can hit at any time, flare up or not. That's really frustrating. I am usually pretty sharp, but when I get THE FOG, I'm anything but sharp. Dull as a spoon is more like it. I forget things. If I have something important in my hand I might get distracted and put it down without realizing it and forget where I've put it. I've lost some really important papers that way. I get names wrong. I know lots of people do that too, but I manage to do it in spectacular style! As an example, I spent a weekend on a team with a woman I went to Girl Scout Basic Camp Training with. We worked side by side, we participated in a meaningful ceremony together, we sang silly camp songs together, and took pictures together. I KNEW her name as well as my own. I got back and attended an event with this woman and introduced her as someone else on our team and didn't realize it until about a week afterward. (It woke me up in the middle of the night- did I? OMG, YES I DID!!! SHE MUST THINK I AM THE WORLD'S BIGGEST IDIOT!!!) I blame the fibro fog. Yes, it can be that bad. Fog is a very accurate description of how it feels, too. It's like my thinking is clouded over. I hate it.

But on the up side, I don't have fibromyalgia as bad as some people do. I'm not taking any prescription medication for it although I take an Aleve every day. (Which I also take for arthritis.) I'm trying to manage by changing my lifestyle with the weight loss, regular exercise, (although I come home and I'm bed ridden for two hours after my daily walk, but I still do it), and eating properly. I try to get enough sleep but sometimes my body doesn't cooperate. That's the hardest time for me, when I'm in a not-sleeping-well cycle, but I know it is just a cycle and if I don't freak out about it I'll get through it and get back to sleeping well. I'm also trying acupuncture since I met an acupuncturist through my book club. She's away on a long trip right now so I can't see her for this flare up, but things were going well prior to her leaving. I'm experimenting with herbal supplements. Melatonin did NOT work for me. A doctor I worked with once recommended it for a patient as a very mild sleep aid so I figured what the heck. I tried it last week and took a pill before bed one night. I didn't sleep AT ALL that night and not much the next night either- from ONE pill! I don't know if it was the pill's fault that I was unable to sleep; maybe I just got myself so excited that it would be the answer to my sleep problems that I counteracted any good it could have done. (It is supposed to be mild, after all.)

I hate talking about the fibro most of the time. I don't want it to be a big deal, but sometimes it is. Mostly it isn't. It's just that I don't know when it will be a big deal and when I can live like everyone else and forget about it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Memory Lane

The biggest project on my summer "TO DO" list is to deal with two huge piles of random stuff from my grandmother's house that have been stacked in my living room and hallway for way too long. She passed away a couple of years ago and I was the relative living the closest to her home, so the bulk of what was left, after everyone took what they wanted and the charity truck picked up the clothes and furniture, got stashed in my living room and hallway. The piles took over my living room almost completely at first, but I've whittled it down to the two piles, and was able to condense that down to one pile yesterday, with everything FINALLY out of the living room. (YEAH!!!) At this point I have it down to mainly pictures and paperwork. There are a few other things I am finding it hard to part with- her jewelry box with a little bit of costume jewelry left in it, her hair brushes, a few of my grandfather's things, but it's mostly pictures and papers.

The boxes I sorted through yesterday contained her recipe clippings. My grandmother had a major sweet tooth; the majority of the recipes by far were for DESSERTS! She clipped recipes from the paper and magazines, labels on cans and chocolate chip bags, and sent away for recipes from "Mr. Food". Some of the recipes dated back to before I was born. (Some of them probably go way back even before that, but only a few of them are dated.) She loved to entertain when she was younger and was very active in her church and missions program. She would have missionaries visit and stay with her, or at least eat with her, quite often back in the day. (I don't remember the visits personally but she told me about it.) I'm sure she fed them some desserts that were out of this world.

I remember hosting a shower with her once, how she prepared and planned. She could carry out a theme, that's for sure. I found some themed items from her church that she probably contributed ideas to. She attended several Mother/Daughter banquets and kept the invitation and other items from one that had a sewing theme, "Pattern for Living", from 1964. It was joyous to look at; the way they incorporated sewing into the banquet was so clever. They gave out the menu and favors in an envelope made up to look like a pattern. The favor looked like a little apron with flowers in the pocket; the flower pot was a thimble. The tickets were a section of a tape measure.

I almost cried when I found an autograph album she used when she was 18. Several of her friends signed it and she wrote in it like a diary. Unfortunately she wrote lightly and in pencil so it's hard to make out, but what I can read is priceless. I'm hoping to work on figuring out everything; maybe I'll be able to post it one of these days. (Adding it to the "TO DO" list...)

The pictures are wonderful, too. She gave me a lot of her pictures, especially the older ones from her childhood and early adult years, before she died. That still left a whole bunch for me to go through now! Family gatherings, vacations, her grandchildren, her sisters, holidays, and flowers. She took pictures of every bouquet of flowers anyone ever sent her. I'm hoping to scan all of them with a picture scanner my mom gave me, then I can send them out to any relatives who want them.

It's both hard and comforting at the same time to go through her things. I miss her so much and this makes me think of her even more, but it's almost like she's still here. It's so frustrating that I can't call her and ask her the stories behind some of her things, though, like what she remembers about that Mother/Daughter banquet, or what she wrote in her autograph album that I can't make out. I dream about her, about when she was a young woman. I didn't know her then but I dream.