Archives for posts with tag: cooking

Tonight I could be found on my living room floor, hair slicked back to my head in dye (from a box, I’m not proud), rummaging wildly though the cutesy storage boxes I’ve had for years but never bother to go through.

I was on a savage hunt. For a recipe. Not just any recipe, mind you, but THE recipe. My cousin Marco’s meatball recipe.

It might seem strange that a vegetarian would be wildly scouring her apartment for a meatball recipe. It IS strange, but this holiday season has been different. I’m usually more of a “meh, humbug” kind of gal when it comes to Christmas, but this year I let myself get swept up by the season. It’s been pretty fun. The boyfriend and I put up a tree. We hung stockings. We chased each other around with various annoying Christmas melodies (his weapon of choice was Aaron Neville; I preferred “Dominic the Donkey”).

One of the by-products of “Christmas cheer” for me has been Christmas nostalgia. Not melancholy, really, just thinking back to the times and people that made holidays in the past memorable. Mostly the people.

Aforementioned cousin Marco loved the holidays. Easter was his favorite, but in the weeks leading up to Christmas, he’d embark upon a baking and cooking frenzy. Every recipe had a story, and I spent countless hours with him in the kitchen – his “helper” (I use the term loosely as my cooking skills were still in their nascency). Basically, I’d pour the wine, measure out spices, try not to break the eggs, and made sure his Whitney Houston remixes kept going. And of course, listen to the stories.

So this Christmas, as I wrapped gifts and hung ornaments and tried to decide which cookies to make, my thoughts turned to Marco. He crossed over to the Big Disco in the Sky several years ago. I imagine him debating recipes with Julia Child (and cursing her in Italian when they disagree), and sliding, always so gracefully, across a flashing dance floor with Cher thumping through the heavenly speakers.

I digress.

While rummaging through my old files and boxes for THE recipe, I stumbled upon an assortment of artifacts from my own life. Forgotten maps, old love letters, things I had picked up in my various travels and on long-ago adventures. Cards from my parents. Maps of Iceland. An empty tin of Italian cigarettes. The photos of William S. Burroughs and Tom Waits I had hanging in my college dorm room. And the journals. Every trip I’ve ever taken has been carefully documented. Napkins and train ticket stubs are taped to pages filled with the stories of my life.

I didn’t find the damn recipe.

I did find myself overcome with gratitude. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily ebbs and flows of life and forget the bigger picture. The people, and places, and experiences that have shaped us into who we are. The people…

I like to think that celestial Marco led me on this little goose chase for the meatballs. He led an interesting, robust life. Telling me those stories in his kitchen in Manhattan made me realize I wanted fascinating stories to tell, one day. And now I do.

Happy holidays, everyone! Don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t forget to appreciate all the stillness, or the wildness, that has shaped you. Don’t forget to remember your own story. I bet it’s a good one.

Love,
SY

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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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When I was a little kid, one of my favorite toys was my chemistry set. I loved “conducting experiments” with the neatly marked white bottles (of real chemicals! This was the 80’s, folks, we didn’t even have to wear bike helmets), making red liquid turn into blue liquid, making things bubble or crystalize, peering at blades of grass with my microscope – I felt like a real scientist, and I reveled in the magnificent sense of possibility.  My poor parents gazed on, probably thinking one day I’d be running a research lab at MIT.  Sorry, guys!

These days, the mad scientist in me gets unleashed in the kitchen. Things have not changed so much. I still love “conducting experiments”, albeit now my bottles are spices and herbs, and I can be found peering critically into the oven window rather than down a microscope. This week’s experiment was The Loaf. I read about The Loaf in a blog a couple of weeks ago and the name of it – “Life-Changing Loaf” – dazzled me with its promise.  

I began collecting the ingredients excitedly.  “I’m making a weird bread,” I needlessly explained to the kid at the health food store who poured psyllium husks into a bulk bag for me.  He smiled kindly, definitely thinking, “Whatever, weirdo.”

“I’m making a weird bread!” I announced to the boyfriend yesterday before commencing the experiment.  He shot me a quizzical look and went back to his work, immune by now to my “experiments” and behavioral oddities. 

Later, we both peered down at the decidedly unattractive mixture. “It’s a weird bread,” I offered again, this time apologetically.

The Loaf, pre-oven (yes, those are chocolate chips cookies behind it because I am nothing if not a study in contradictions)

So The Loaf, in its nascency, is definitely not cute. When I explained to the boyfriend that the loaf required a full night of sitting on the counter, “resting”‘, he announced that under no circumstances would he be partaking in The Loaf.   

So now it’s just you and me, Loaf. 

Ever the optimist, I popped Loaf in the oven this morning.  Filled with hope, I waited eagerly for Loaf to transform from a slimy mess into a delicious, golden rectangle of nutrition. I waited for it to deliver on its promise. And behold:

The Loaf!

It sort of did!! I was afraid that biting into it would ruin the magic of this victory (it looked sort of like the picture from the blog!), but no! It’s dense, chewy, and pretty darn good!! That’s right! Score one for science today, kids! 

The boyfriend still turns his nose up at The Loaf. More for me. 

I’ve been very busy this week!  I barely had time to food shop, much less cook!  On Tuesday, I was reduced to eating peanut butter on crackers before I had to jam to meet a friend.  The good news is, I’ve made some amazing friends here! I’m really digging life at the moment.

This weekend, before I got all crazy busy, I picked up two eggplants.  I’m not sure why.  In general, I kind of hate eggplant.  Squash (or facsimiles thereof) are my least favorite vegetables.  But they always look so lovely and shiny, and besides, I’m part Italian.  Eggplant appreciation should be genetically programmed into my DNA.

For two days, I stared down those eggplants in my fridge.  On the third day, there was baba ganoush (easy peasy!!  Grill the horrible vegetable in the oven at 400 for 40 mins or until it submits and collapses on its horrible self, wait until the hellfire subsides, peel it, then chuck it in the blender with some garlic, tahini, salt, and lemon juice).  IT WAS DELICIOUS! I took a picture of it, but instead of saving it like a smart gal, I sent it to a cute boy to brag about my awesome baba ganoush.  Yes, I did that.  Yes, he is very cute.  Hopefully he was impressed.

On the fourth day, there was an eggplant/chickpea curry.  I found some random recipes on the internet and sort of did a mash-up.  Grilled the awful thing again.  Then mixed in some canned tomatoes, onion, and a bunch of spices.  Almost every spice I own, I think.  It was really good.  I can’t say I’m on fully on board with the squash thing, but Meg-squash relations have significantly improved.

I have one more thing I’d like share.  Six months ago, my cholesterol level was 233.  Not ghastly, but not great.  I recently got it checked again.  ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT!!  168!!  In under six months, I’ve gotten my cholesterol level down by SIXTY-FREAKING-FIVE points!!  I don’t take any pills for it. The only thing I did was change my diet.  I went vegan and started preparing my own food.  I’ve also dropped about 10 pounds.  

There ya have it, kids.  The proof’s in the pudding (or, the lipids blood work).  Next time, I mostly promise that I will save my food pictures for the blog instead of the cute boy (he’s really pretty rad – that’s no excuse!! NO EXCUSE!).

Oy, Valentine’s Day.

I am usually pretty cheerful.  I’m single right now, but there’s something I like about that (usually)!  There’s freedom! I never have to compromise. I cook whatever I want! I run when I feel like it! I sometimes don’t shave my legs.  I like the sense of possibility; of knowing that at any moment, I could stumble into something really fabulous.  I’ve done some dating, but recently decided to take a bit of a break. I met some really wonderful, fantastic guys, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  So, I decided to take a little breather until I was ready to get back into the game.  I’d know when it felt right.

Then along comes Valentine’s Day, making me so constantly aware of my singleness. Making me feel BAD about my singleness:  What’s WRONG with me? Look at all these Happy Couples!  Why am I not part of a Happy Couple?  Oh, I am so terrible and so, so very SINGLE!

To top it all off, my hip has really been hurting me this week.  I ran 5 miles on Monday and have been limping around ever since.  So I decided to take yet another little break to give this strain time to heal up before my 7 mile run on Saturday.  This did not help with the “being sort of bummed out” thing.  By yesterday, I was in a full-on funk.

I woke up feeling very grouchy, which is unusual for me.  I decided to cheer myself up by wearing my favorite sparkly sweater to work.  Before I left, I looked in the mirror:

“Stupid sparkly sweater,” I thought.  “It looks so dumb!”  I wore it anyway.

On my way to work, I listened to Nirvana loudly and ran a red light. “Stupid red light,” I muttered, “you’re not the boss of me!”

After work, I got stuck behind a Dodge minivan embellished with snappy electric blue racing stripes.  “Well done!!” I shrilled to the minivan from behind my steering wheel. “You’ve managed to make the stupidest-looking vehicle on Earth look EVEN STUPIDER! YOU MUST BE SO PROUD!”  And then I yelled some more things that weren’t nice and listened to Nirvana even louder.

When I got home, I decided it was time for an intervention.  This nasty mood had to go.  It was time to pull out the Big Guns, and the Big Guns have a name:  Reuben.  Vegan Reuben.  This is what it took to get the job done:

Rye bread (stupid rye! at least it was vegan stupid rye!)

Sauerkraut (who puts sauerkraut in a bag?! WTF, Kroger?!)

Fake bacon (I used vegan tempeh bacon and IT WAS GOOD, DAMMIT)

Delicious sauce (Nothing snarky to say here, I could drink it:  Veganaise + catsup + celery seed + splash of vegan soy sauce + dill relish)

I toasted the bread with some fake, vegan butter in the skillet, then assembled the sandwich.  When I sat down to eat it, I felt all the vitriol melt out of my heart like the processed vegan butter I used on the rye.  It was…magical. *tear

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Tonight I kept my love affair with processed foods going, making a recipe I’d spied online for a grilled-cheese-sandwich-cum-jalapeno-popper (toasted bread with vegan cream cheese and sour cream and a bit of shaved vegan pepper-jack if you have it, sprinkled with jalapeno slices).  It was also quite delicious, even though it pushed the boundaries of my relationship with vegan cheese.  

Tonight, well into the dreaded V-day, I can say I’m feeling pretty good.  I’ve added TWO solid sandwiches to my repertoire (and I think BOTH of them could even pass muster with non-vegans), and my hip is finally feeling better.  Life’s good.

And I haven’t given up on Mr. Cupid just yet.  You never know what’s waiting around the corner. 😉

So far, the vegan challenge hasn’t been too challenging for me. I’m not really following the “30 Day Vegan Challenge” book, although a friend lent it to me (good recipes in there!). I’m just doing what I can to eat a clean, vegan diet for the next 30 days.  That said, today, I ate dirty. 

I ate real dirty.

Last night, I came home from work and did a 4-mile run. It was really cold, and it started to snow as I made my way home, but I was so excited that my hip was okay I just couldn’t stop. Once I made it back inside, though, and the exhileration of the run wore off, I was WIPED OUT! Like, couldn’t-drag-my-sorry-butt-to-the-store-to-buy-that-brick-of-brie-I’d-been-dreaming-about wiped out. So, instead of doing a swan dive into a creamy, cheesy slice of heaven, I spent my last meal as a non-vegan eating…vegan food. Yep. Do I get a Lame-o Prize?? 

I needed something quick that I could make with stuff I already had. I picked the easiest, simplest recipe that I could think of:  Mujaddara.  Rice + Lentils + Caramelized Onions = DONE! I threw some cumin, sea salt and ground pepper into the rice and lentil mixture to give it some kick, but the star of this show is really the onions.  FOR REALS, YO. Sweet, savory, warm, and best of all: done in about 30 minutes.  BEHOLD:

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Today, I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal + ‘nana and the leftovers of last night’s meal for lunch.  After work, I went to my local health food store to pick up some vegan staples – stuff that I see over and over in vegan recipes (which I usually pass on making because I don’t have).  It was hard to get in and out of that place and not spend a million bucks. Just walking in there is enough to give any vegetarian a food boner. TONS of stuff – Kale Chips! Trail Mixes! EVERY SUPERFOOD EVER INVENTED BY WHOMEVER INVENTS SUPERFOODS!! But, I was good. I only bought this stuff:

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And also some Yerba Mate endurance tea for my run tomorrow because a girl’s got to treat herself, y’all! Those are: Split green peas (who’s making some Indian dal this week?? ME!), red lentils (again with the dal), millet (because let’s experiment with grains!), nutritional yeast (in tons of vegan recipes), Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (which I think will give me superhuman powers, according to the way vegans rave about the stuff), and more Veganaise (which I eat anyway because of the egg thing, I was just out of it).

Oh, right. Dirty! I got home and ate some bread (vegan bread!!) lathered with a faux-healthy peanut butter situation (I think it had granola in it? But I checked the label, it’s vegan. Definitely not healthy or “clean”, but vegan).  All in all, not a bad start!

I’ve taken a hiatus from this blog for a while as I’ve settled into life in Louisville.  BUT! It’s a new year, which means a fresh start!

I’ve got lots of goals this year. Lofty goals. One of them is to run a half-marathon. I’ve already been training for about 2 months, but just went down for over a week when an old Kung Fu injury flared up (true story). Tonight was my first night back, and ouch. Ouuch.

However, I didn’t revive this blog to complain about my creaky hip. I cracked it back open because, on Friday, I’m starting a new venture that I’d like to document for interested parties. I’m doing a 30-day vegan challenge.  I realize that blogging about 30-day vegan challenges has maybe been done before. Also, it’s not really thaaaat much of a challenge for me since I already don’t eat meat or eggs. Regardless, I’ll be posting some recipe ideas and thoughts about how it’s affecting my training.

Even though I start the challenge on Friday (which means tomorrow I SHALL DINE ON BRIE!! Yeah, only sort of kidding…), I am fixing something tonight that may end up on my list of go-to recipes, if it doesn’t suck:  Roasted root vegetables.  I spotted some beets when I was grocery shopping, and then felt a pull towards the sweet potatoes. Apparently my cravings have themes. So, tonight I chopped them up with some carrots, splashed them with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and shook some rosemary and sea salt on them before popping them into a 475 oven.

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Rooty heaven right here. Rooooty heaven.

I’d say it was a smashing success.  It took about 35 minutes for them to cook though, but they are really just what I wanted on this windy January night.

I wonder if anyone else is really trying to stick to their resolutions (GOALS! I’m purposefully calling them goals because sometimes I break resolutions just out of spite)..?