Archives for the month of: January, 2014

Imagine, if you would, a dystopian future where cheap, careless corporations pollute the water source for hundreds of thousands of people. These people first, of course, turn to government authorities for assistance. However, these authorities also prove to be cheap and careless and massively bungle aid efforts. This leaves these people quite without recourse and trust, but more importantly, without water.

Sadly, this is not the plot of my sci-if graphic novel, but my actual life. My life, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow humans who inhabit the part of West Virginia that is fondly referred to as “Chemical Valley”. Even though we were given the go-ahead to use the water normally last week, the water company quickly amended their statement to say that pregnant women should NOT drink or bathe in the water. Then a spokesperson for the statewide pediatrics association spoke up and added that small children should also stay away from the water.

Even though I, like most of my neighbors, gratefully rushed into the shower the moment we were given the go-ahead (the “pioneer days” novelty of bathing out of a bucket of cold water quickly loses its charm), I couldn’t deny that the water did not smell right. Even after flushing the system as recommended by the water company, it does not smell right. Everyone I’ve spoken to since we’ve been given the green light to use the water normally agrees that something is still not right about our water supply. People vary in their degree of reticence to use the water – some people are taking showers, others still don’t trust it enough to even bathe. I don’t know anyone who is drinking it.

That said, I’m certainly not going to cook with it. However, a person can only eat so many Amy’s frozen burritos before yearning for something homemade. I miss my green smoothies in the morning. Yesterday, determined not to live another day on burritos, I made my first foray to the grocery store since the spill. I was ready to cook, dammit.

But even cooking uses water in more ways than you’d think – simply rinsing vegetables takes on a new level of challenge. For this reason, I decided to stick with a couple old standby recipes that were quick, used few ingredients, and required minimal cleanup. Improbably, both of these recipes are for soup. I’m using bottled water! The combined eight cups of water the recipes call for will use only half a gallon of water, and will make enough food to feed the boyfriend and me for the week.

This black bean soup recipe is tried-and-true. The boyfriend loves it and it freezes very well. It’s vegan but a sprinkle of cheese on top is nice!

This cauliflower soup is excellent. Since basil is out of season, I use the blended cauliflower base to make a creamy, hearty potato soup. It’s a very fun recipe to play with.

The lack of potable water has been a very unsettling glimpse into what life is like for people around the world who don’t have regular access to clean water. While it sucks, it does make me appreciate how much we take for granted!

Wishing you all a fun, chemical-free weekend!

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I read an article a while back about chefs in New York who were cooking up delicious recipes while under the influence of The Pot.  While it was interesting, and certainly explained the whole cupcake fad, it didn’t provide much insight into exactly how one puts together a Brand New Recipe.  What were the steps? Are there even steps?  Is it more art than science?  More science than art?

Last weekend, I decided to take a stab a creating a recipe of my very own.  Since I don’t participate in Illegal Drugs, I was left to rely on my own creativity and, er, skills.  This is what I came up with:

DELICIOUS BLACK BEANS

Since I enjoy steps,  I will include some steps for beginner recipe inventors (like me):

STEP 1) Pick something to make.  Amendment:  Pick something EASY to make.  We’re aiming for success here.  Remember Icarus.  Save that Coq au Vin attempt for another day, fancypants.

STEP 2) Consult The Internet for many versions of your recipe to rip off.  Make note of ingredients that make repeat appearances, and approximate amounts/measurements.

STEP 3) Start cooking! In my case, I knew I wanted to make a spicy, flavorful black bean dip.  So, I started with a can of black bean and a can of diced tomatoes.  I sent them into the blender with a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder.  I added a few shakes of garlic powder, sea salt, and a liberal pinch of cayenne.

STEP 4) Secure an honest taste tester.  My boyfriend was was nearby, and I know I can depend on his reliable, albeit charming and Southern, honesty (“I don’t really care for that”=”This is disgusting”).  He dutifully took a corn chip piled with the blended beans, and chewed thoughtfully.  “Eh,” he finally determined with a shrug.  “What does it need?” I followed him, “Corn? Something sweet?  Or spicy?? Maybe it should be spicier?”

STEP 5) Revise, taste.  Repeat.  I tried the dip myself and found it to be blander than I’d hoped.  The consistency was also too thin.  I added two chipotle chilies in adobo sauce to the blender and gave it another whirl.  While they gave it nice, smoky kick, they didn’t help the fact that it more closely resembled soup than dip.

STEP 6) Use The Science.  At this point, I knew I had to do something to thicken this up.  It also needed texture.  To that end, I diced an onion and sauteed it over medium heat.  After it was translucent, I dumped in the “dip”.  To fix the consistency, first I would invoke evaporation – how much could this thing cook down? If that failed, I would try adding a bit of cornstarch.  Either way, I had A Plan.  If I hadn’t had A Plan, I would have consulted The Internet for A Plan to rip off.

STEP 6.5) Take a leap.  After it had cooked for a bit, I was thunderstruck by a Great Idea.  I spooned a small amount of The Dip into a bowl, grinning in anticipation. The smell of the cooking chipotles jarred loose the distant memory of a meal I had enjoyed years ago while on vacation in Mexico.  It was shrimp served in a luxurious, buttery chipotle-cinnamon sauce.  Cinnamon!!  Of course!  I eagerly sprinkled the spice onto the beans and lifted it to my mouth in triumph…only to be bitterly, bitterly disappointed.  However, it was worth a try! (Maybe another day, cinnamon-chipotle sauce!)

STEP 7) Fail or gloriously succeed.  Dubiously watching the beans bubble in the saucepan, I was fully prepared for either of these outcomes.  The sink was piled high with spoons and small bowls, smeared with the remains of The Dip at various stages.  It had cooked down to a more dip-like consistency, and the chipotles and cayenne had melded nicely to create a rich, smoky layer of spice.  But it was still missing something.  Suddenly, something from the dusty, forgotten reaches of my brain sang weakly out:  Sweeeeeetness, moron!!  It needs sweetness!

I made a face.  Sweetness?  Really?  I mean, I guess I could try it.  As I rummaged for sweeteners, I considered the idea carefully.  I HAD put a whole can of tomatoes into the beans, and a time-honored Italian trick to perfecting some sauces is to add sugar or carrots to bring depth of flavor to the tomatoes.  I ended up choosing honey.  I spooned some beans into a ramekin (out of bowls at this point) and added a tiny drop of honey.  Upon tasting it, my eyes widened in disbelief.  It was EXACTLY what the dip was lacking!  I added a teaspoon of honey to the beans on the stove and brought a loaded chip back to the Boyfriend.  He took a bite, then gave me the thumbs up.

I had done it!! I had  invented a recipe!!

And now, you can too.  No drugs required.

 

As the title of this blog would suggest, I am not one to blindly jump on any bandwagon. 2013 ushered in some straight-up weird trends in wellness. While many of them piqued my interest, I couldn’t commit to trying all of them. Some of them couldn’t deliver enough promised benefit for the cost/time investment (hello, oil pulling). Others, however, warranted at least a go.  Here are some of the weird trends I gave a whirl in 2013:

1) Warm lemon water in the morning.  This is pretty low in the cost/time department, especially when you consider the (alleged) benefits: jump-starting your metabolism and balancing the pH levels in your stomach.

2) Tumeric! The list of benefits for this spice is long enough to entice me to find ways to incorporate it into everyday recipes.

3) Dried beans over canned.  I’ve read enough warnings by now to become wary of canned goods. Some things, like tomatoes, I just use too frequently to abandon cans altogether. But when possible, I have switched to buying fresh or dried items.

4) Tongue scraping. It sounds gross and gags me about half of the time. But I do think I have fresher breath and better overall oral hygiene thanks to the extra sixty seconds I devote to this every morning.

5) No processed foods! Well, not “no” processed foods. I’m certainly not churning my own butter or beekeeping, but I have cut back drastically on the amount of processed food I rely on. Hummus? I can make that! Bread? I can make that, too. I am very fortunate to have the luxuries of time and (a little) money to devote to exploring new ways to detach myself from the middle aisles of the grocery store.

So, what weird habits should I incorporate for 2014? There are so many to choose from!  If I took all of Mindbodygreen’s advice, it would take me about two hours to get out the door every morning (pre-shower dry brushing the skin, pre-tooth brushing oil pulling, meditating, yoga, affirmations, lemon water [before or after oil pulling??], green smoothie, packing organic lunch in mason jars, am I missing anything??), so I have to be selective. 

I think I will try to do at least one juice fast. I have a juicer and surely I could find three days when my boss is traveling and I could endure the eye rolls and head shaking of the Skeptical Boyfriend. 

I am trying to ramp up my meditation practice! The more experience I accumulate teaching yoga, the more I realize the importance of having a strong home yoga and meditation practice. 

Neti pot! This was part of my daily practice while in India, but I haven’t done it since and I miss it.  I think it will help with my allergy issues. 

I have other ideas, but none I’m willing to commit to writing.  Next weekend, I will be at a restorative yoga training! I hope to write about my experiences with that.  Until then, I hope 2014 is treating everyone well! Stay weird,

SY