Sadness

Mamamma and MurphyI haven’t posted for a few days.  I’ve been grieving for my mother in law, Dorothy.  She passed away on Wednesday the 23rd, sort of unexpectedly.  I can’t even begin to tell what an amazing woman she was, and what effect she had on my life.   She is one of the few people in my life who gave me unconditional love.  She didn’t have to; she chose to.  I first talked to her on the phone, before Peru and I had even met in real life.  From the first moment, she treated me like family.  Many people in my life were skeptical about Peru and I; meeting online, fifteen years age difference, a continent apart.  Few people thought it would work.  If Dorothy had doubts, she never conveyed that in any way.  She opened her arms and her heart to me and Eric, and later, opened her home as well.

She had a wicked sense of humor. Whenever I think of her now, in my mind, she’s always laughing.  She would send me emails, or make comments that would absolutely make me blush, but I loved it.  I always saw it as her expression of the joy of living.  She was fierce about her family and her faith; something I truly admired.  Her eyes would just light up when her grandchildren were around.  And generous?  She was so giving in every way. I think it was part of how she lived her faith.

She inspired me.  She showed me how to be a better mother. She was always loving, but didn’t hesitate to kick my butt when I needed it.  It’s that unconditional love thing; she always called us on the things she disapproved of, but never in a way that made you doubt her love.  That’s a hard line to walk, sometimes, but she pulled it off.

When she married Bill, I was happy for her; she deserved a husband who would treat her like a queen, and he did.  And she was visibly happier.  But oh, it was really hard to let her go, run off to Las Vegas.  I liked living with her.  I loved the twinkle in her eyes when she’d play the curmudgeon.  I loved discussing things with her. She was so smart and thoughtful, and saw things from a different point of view.   She didn’t take offense if you didn’t agree with her.  She always allowed you to be yourself. Though I hear rumors she thought I was stubborn… (who, me?) Okay, not rumors; she flat out told me.  And I learned something about myself.

She was always encouraging.  She even showed interest in and supported my fiber arts obsession.  She understood the love that homemade things are infused with, and was a crafty, artful person in her own right.

She was an amazing person that I am very privileged to have had in my life.  There is so much more I wanted to learn from her, and so much more ahead I’d like to share with her.  I wish desperately that I had more time with her, but I’m so grateful for the time that I did have.  I miss you, Dorothy.

Dinner!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. For Father’s day.  I used a vegan chocolate cookie crust, premade.  The Chocolate layer is just melted vegan chocolate chips and a block of silken tofu.  The peanut butter layer is homemade peanut butter, sweetener, and soy milk. Pretty easy to make, but I used every appliance in my kitchen.  Had to make the peanut butter, so had the food processor going; made the chocolate layer in the blender, then finished the peanut layer in the processor again.  It’s very dense, rich; I thought the peanut layer might be light and fluffy, but it’s not; it’s like cheesecake, almost.  It was very good, and should last for a while, since it’s so rich you just need a sliver.

Tonight I’m baking doughnut nuggets, little mini doughnuts baked, not fried; and for dinner it’s Enjedra,  Smells yummy with the cumin and onion cooking now.  I’ll report back!

Reporting back… no pic. Sorry. Every speck was devoured.

The problem with learning to cook totally new is that I don’t really know what I’m going for.  This dish, which is red lentils and steamed greens served over rice, tasted wonderful.  I don’t know, however, if I really did it properly.  The directions called for cooking chopped onion and cumin in olive oil, then adding red lentils and water, cooking til “Smooshy” (yes, that was the technical term used in the recipe!), and that the lentils should be smooth when done.  My lentils were “smooshy,” for sure; but not exactly smooth; and it took at least a cup more liquid than the recipe called for.  Regardless of how it was supposed to turn out, we very much enjoyed the way it DID turn out.  It had a sweetness I really didn’t expect, and the cumin was very understated.  I served it with jasmine rice and steamed spinach.  Everyone liked it, except Murphy didn’t like the spinach part.

The baked doughnuts turned out fairly well. They’re very pale, didn’t brown at all, and the flavor is mild.  Almost the texture of a scone, though the batter was certainly not like scone batter.  A very nice, not too unhealthy, not too sweet little treat.  Too easy to eat too many though.

A very nice meal, all in all.

Happy Father’s Day!

There’s a few trains running through my thoughts, and I often lose their tracks with the ADD thing, so I’ll try to remember to note them, at least, so I can get back to them later.

First; Father’s Day.  I feel terrible, because I let both of the important fathers in my life down.  Didn’t even get a chance to call my own father.  Will make a point of it tomorrow; usually Father’s Day comes first, and I call/gift for that, and then skip his birthday.  So tomorrow, his birthday, I’ll call.  I wish I could do more, but limited funds prohibit it.  Then there’s the father of my own children, who is such an amazing dad.  Sent for a gift for him, but it won’t get here until tomorrow.  Murphy made him a gift, but left it at Primary, and when he went back for it, the teacher was gone, probably having taken it home with her, so he’ll get it next week, we hope. Eric did manage to make a card, which was lovely. We did take him out for dinner, which is becoming a rare treat, and then I made a peanut butter chocolate pie, which he loved.

The dinner was the second train; we went to Sea Fresh.  It took me quite a long time of contemplating; would I get seafood, or really and truly commit to the vegan lifestyle.  I’m happy to report that I ordered the Tofu Teriyaki Bowl.  It’s quite probable that the teriyaki was not strictly vegan, but I simply can’t get that obsessive yet; one step at a time.   I’m still sorting out what’s important to me, what I can live with, what will help me achieve my ultimate goals, and what will help me be the me that I envision on the inside. I expect it will take quite some time for me to sort it out.  It feels really good to be trying though, to be working on what feels right to me.  Dietary Vegan vs Lifestyle Vegan blah blah and yeah, I know labels aren’t necessary or even good but I need to define things for ME, so I can know what I’m committing to, what I care about.  Process.  Time.

Cooking; last night I made non vegan bread for the family; we’ve had a sealed container of Knudsen bread machine mix up in the cabinet forever, and the beloved really wanted some.  So quick and easy; toss mix in the Kitchen Aid, add water, let the dough hook do the work.  Turned out well.  Today, I made Oatmeal bread for me.  It was fairly easy too; but I think I forgot the sugar (recipe called for brown sugar, I couldn’t find any in the cupboard, so planned to just sub regular/molasses, but think I forgot it completely.)    It turned out ok; fairly light,  nice crumb, but not much flavor, probably due to the sugar issue. Will try again.  Then made the Chocolate Peanut Butter pie; wow that is incredible!  So rich!  I’m going to have to do the nutrition on it; I’m thinking it’s horrible but it may not be as bad as I think.  It’s chocolate chips and silken tofu, peanut butter, soymilk, sugar.  Because it was for Peru, subbed Splenda for the sugar.  Warned him it is still way high in simple carbs;  but again, it’s so rich you only need a tiny sliver.

The  last train (that I can keep track of, anyway!) is my hair.  Well, my appearance in general.  But specifically the hair.  I’ve been feeling so old (turning fifty this year is really doing a number on me!) that I really needed to do something.  And I do tend to do drastic things to my hair when I’m in crisis/change/upset mode.  I did have my asbestos friend Barbara trim it for me when she was here recently; it was so long and scraggly looking, damaged at the ends and such.  The trim helped. But still gray/white hair is OLD.  It certainly doesn’t help when you’re looking for a job.  So I decided to henna it.  I’m actually really pleased at how it turned out.   I found a great site (mehandi.com) where you can buy really good quality henna and indigo in bulk, which will save money in the long run over the old chemical kits I used to use, and has the added bonus of being, well, not chemicals, and also GOOD for my hair.  It feels amazing.   I took this picture with my phone, and shockingly enough I actually LIKE it.  I never like showing my picture.  I’m taking it as a sign that I’m liking myself better, because I’m making the changes I want to make, getting healthier mentally and physically, making progress. Here in my mid-life crisis. Bwahahahah.

I’ll try to get a picture of the pie before it gets devoured.  Need more food pics!  I just end up wanting to eat before I can think about taking  a  picture!

Strawberry Muffins! WOOT

I’ve been trying to make some vegan baked goods.  My first attempt didn’t come out well. I made  Chai Tea Breakfast muffins the other day, and they tasted nice, but were hockey pucks; heavy, chewy, kinda like fruitcake.   Not really what I wanted.  So yesterday, I made Strawberry Muffins. Oh, what a difference!  Light, with slightly crunchy tops and moist, crumbly insides.  A world apart!  Having done some research into the chemistry of baking, I think the difference is in creaming  fat with the sugar.  I made a second batch with Splenda for hubby; he loves them, even more than the non splenda version.  I did not try them, as chemical crap is on the top of the list of things I’m trying to keep out of my body, but they did not rise as well, are much more dense and compact.

Last night’s dinner was improv; I had purchased some seitan chipotle sausages a while ago, and I had eaten one previously.  I wasn’t wild about them.  Very hot, but no real flavor to it.  So last night I cut it up into pieces and stir-fried it with some previously cooked jasmine rice and I threw in a handful of spinach.  Served with sliced mango on the side, which really helped cool the heat.  Came out pretty well, but I am NOT wasting money on those sausages again!

Breakfast is becoming the biggest problem. I wait till I’m so hungry I want food NOW and there’s nothing to eat.  I’m getting tired of granola.  I would like something portable I can bring to work (yeah, granola bar yesterday) but I need to think ahead.  Cut up fruit, soak quinoa, maybe even overnight cooking in the crockpot.  Homemade bars of some sort. Is a strawberry muffin enough nutrition for breakfast?  Probably not.  Turtle Mountain Coconut milk Kefir is awesome; maybe a cup with a muffin this morning.  Working right in the middle of the day is awkward.

I’m also back to not feeling great; hormones acting up,  and back spasms, joint pain, blah blah.  Not helpful. I had been doing pretty well for about a week, having more energy and getting around pretty well.  Discouraging to be back to this again; but hopefully only temporarily.

Off to get ready for work, whoo hoo!

So Vegan

Murphy asked me today if I would stop being “so vegan” once I lose weight.

I don’t know.

I hope not.  I mean, I’m still working on where my line is, where do I say NO, I won’t consume that , but YES, that I will.  So even now, I make daily decisions on my lifestyle and eating, and I guess that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

I do know that if I lose as much weight as I want to, if I stop doing what I’m doing, I’m going to gain it back.  So, no, I really don’t want to stop being mindful. And feeling healthier already helps; I won’t want to go back to feeling crappy all the time.

I don’t know if he asked because he wants me to stop, or if he was just curious.  I’m really hoping he’ll learn some good habits; but give up macaroni and cheese?  Don’t see that happening..

Sunday

Batch cooking in progress.  Chili and rice in the freezer. Seitan in the crockpot.  Beans in the other crockpot.  Mac n Cheeze on tap for tonight’s dinner, with a second batch for the freezer.  Maybe some baked goods in a bit, if my knees hold out.

Feeling pretty lucky today to have a husband who loves me so, baggage and all, and that I love completely, and two healthy kids.  We may be broke, but our house has always been full of love.

Pictures later, maybe.

Batch Cooking Weekend

Last night I made some vegan chili to bring to the school potluck.  I was amazed; every bite got eaten.  So today, I made another batch, for us.  I’m going to freeze it for later.  That’s what I’m going to do this and every weekend; batch cook.  Soak and cook beans; freeze for later.  Make chili, enchiladas, beans, rice, soup, whatever; double or triple batch even, and freeze in individual and family portion sizes.

Cooking dry beans is so much more economical than canned.  It’s much more “green” as well; less manufacturing, less fuel for transport, blahblah.  The rate I’ve been going through cans is a little frightening!  I’ve never been a canned food advocate.  I need to plan WAY ahead to keep this vegan lifestyle.  If beans have to be rinsed, soaked overnight, cooked an hour or two.. well, it’ll never happen. So if they’re done, in the freezer, then I’m going to use them.

I used to hate beans.  I used to hate a lot of different foods, I guess; like I tell Murphy all the time, our taste buds grow up.  They still aren’t my favorite things, but they’re growing on me; and as I learn how to use them better I’m liking them more.

And it feels good!  It feels good to know I’m eating healthy, and that because I’m cooking more, my family is eating healthier too.  Not that Peru ever cooked unhealthy meals; he’s a good cook and always had very well balanced meals.  But yeah, they were always a little heavy on the meat protein.  I know that sometimes the guys need to eat after dinner to feel full, but not always.  Peru even said several times how meaty the chili tasted.  Pretty cool!

I started using SparkPeople again too.  Having the typical worry about whether I was getting enough protein I wanted to reassure myself and my family that I was getting enough nutrition.  SparkPeople has wonderful reports, based on your goals and your food journal.  I’ve been right in the middle of my goals every day, mostly without trying hard.

I’ve now lost 26 pounds in six weeks for an average of around four pounds a week.  That’s just about where I want to be; I don’t think any more per week would be healthy.  I expect it’ll drop at some point to 2 or 3 pounds a week, and that’s ok too, as long as I keep trending down.

Thoughtful, Interesting Day.

I was reminded last night by an offhand comment on VegWeb forums, that honey is an animal derived product, making it unacceptable to most vegans.

This led me to thinking, as I was spinning, that wool was also an animal derived product, and unacceptable to most vegans.

I’ve never really liked labels.  Labels reduce a person to only one aspect of the many faces we all wear every day.  I’ve been saying I’m vegan, thinking that it’s easier than saying I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, MSG, HFCS, or chemicals, but sometimes I eat seafood.  A very strict vegan, however, would be very angry that I take that label but wear wool or silk. (Also about the fish, but that’s another story.)  So this has been my question to ponder today. Can I be vegan and still spin wool?

Admittedly, the large wool producers, especially in New Zealand, allow horrific treatment of sheep.  Pink, as a spokesperson for PETA, has a nauseating video out if you’re really interested.  I don’t really want to support that kind of farming.

Most of my wool comes from small family farms. I have bags of wool that I can tell you the name of the sheep that it came from.  I’ve talked on the internet to these people (and one or two in person) and hear how they cry when the lambs are born, and cry when they get sick or die.  I’ve heard how they’ll stay up all night in a cold barn staying with a sick sheep.  These people care about their sheep as animals, not as a profit margin.  In the minds of many vegans, this does not matter; these sheep are just as exploited as their mass produced brethren. But it does matter to me.

I think I can live with myself as a wool spinning vegan.  I will make conscious efforts to make sure that the wool I purchase comes from humane sources (I don’t think I’ll need to buy any for a decade or two anyway!)

In more pleasant happenings, I bought some more of what has become my most favorite treat ever. Turtle  Mountain Purely Decadent Chocolate Obsession. It’s described on the web page as “Chocolate non-dairy frozen dessert with a thick ribbon of chocolate sauce, riddled with crispy chocolate flakes.”  Rich, sweet, creamy chocolate soy cream, with swirls of fudge sauce and paper thin ribbons of crunchy delicate chocolate.  Deep chocolate flavor, with a wonderful texture, and then you come to the fragile little ribbon of chocolate.  It’s so rich that even I only want a normal half cup serving size. So I have that to look forward to tonight.

Another product review; GreeNoodle.  GreeNoodle is ramen like noodles, and yes, they’re green.  They’re made from a “highly nutritious vegetable that was prized by the Egyptians for its health and beauty benefits.” They call the vegetable Moroheiya, and claim  it “is more nutritious than spinach, carrots, or broccoli, in most aspects.”  I had it for dinner tonight.  It comes either as a packet of just noodles, which is two servings, or a single serving of noodles that includes a soup base.  The soup base does not contain MSG, but it does contain sodium caseinate.  It is a VERY high carb food, having 60 grams of carbs in the soup package.  The noodles alone contain 40g. Only 50 of the 320 calories comes from fat, and it contains 8 g of fiber and 8 g of protein.  I threw all caution to the wind and tossed the entire packet of chili paste in; hot hot hot but yum.  The broth was so spicy that once the noodles were gone, I couldn’t drink the broth on it’s own.  Not to waste, I plan to have the pack of noodles only with the remainder of the broth tomorrow for breakfast.  I really enjoyed the flavor of the noodle; even as you cook the noodles on their own, there was a really unique smell, green and sweet, that came from them.  The price of the noodles was really awesome; $1.65 for lunch is a deal!  I will definitely get the noodles again, but I think maybe I’ll use my own broth.

I have now used my market bag every day for four days, and I like it better every time.  The more I use it, the more flexible it becomes.  I had planned on making changes to the pattern next time, but I think after all it may not need it.  I do have a few other ideas to try; but unfortunately, Ben Franklin didn’t have another skein.  ARGH!

Last thing I want to get in today is that I started back on Sparkpeople yesterday.  It’s a lot of work right now; deleting the old foods that I’d entered that I won’t be eating now, entering all the weirdo vegan food I am.  =]  But I do feel reassured; protein is sufficient, and two days in a row, without trying, I hit smack dab in the middle of the range I set as a goal for the major nutrients.  So it’s all good.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, however temporarily it may be.  Should be an interesting day.

Roasted Veggies

Here they are, on their way into the oven.  YUM!  Teensy red potatoes, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, onion, portobello mushrooms, yam, fennel, fresh rosemary and thyme, and seasoning.  Roasted in the oven with a separate packet of beets and a dish of honey dijon marinated tofu.  Oh, and an unbelievably rich lemon tart that is just delicious.  Uh… here is the recipe. I made it exactly as stated, except that I put it in a round tart pan, not owning an 8×8 pan.  Didn’t get a picture, duh!  It doesn’t look like lemon squares.  The vanilla in it makes it kind of beige.  And the lemon part isn’t translucent, like lemon meringue pie filling.  But the shortbread crust is delicious and the filling is so rich!  It’s also my first experience with Ener-G egg replacement.  It worked pretty well!  Can’t wait to do some more!

Today’s Haul at Rainbow Bridge

I took the market bag for another test run today. Pictures taken with my phone in a dark room; not the greatest quality, sorry.  But the bag held a ton of heavy stuff, and functioned pretty well.  It stretched to accomodate all the food below, it didn’t cut too badly into the shoulder or the hands, and it doesn’t seem worse for the wear.  So I”ve learned a few things for the next bag; make the opening wider, and perhaps a bit more reinforced to be more stable when it’s being loaded, and definitely make the straps a tad wider, for stability and comfort.

Here are the items I purchased, hopefully the last of the staples for my new vegan pantry.

1.) Almond milk.  Since I’m told that people with hypothyroidism should avoid soy, I need to make a lot of changes.  Soy milk is no longer the go-to milk replacement.

2.) Egg replacer.  Can’t wait to try this.  Especially good for baking, I’m told.

3.)  Agave syrup. A vegan alternative to sugar, with less calories.  No idea what it tastes like, but I’m told it’s MUCH sweeter than sugar.

4.)  Earth Balance sticks.  I have a tub for table use, but sticks are easier for cooking.  It’s margarine, made from oil, has no trans fats.

5.) Flaxseed meal.  A boost of nutrition, can be added to almost anything without changing the taste, but upping the fiber and mineral content.  I’m also told that you can soak the meal in a little water and it makes a gel that can be used as an egg replacement in baking.

6.) Vital wheat gluten.  Since I need to start avoiding soy, wheat gluten is another high protein meat replacement.  I’m going to make my first batch of seitan today, which in pictures looks fairly disgusting, but many vegans love it.  Should be fun!

7.)  Sausages, made from seitan.  I thought since I’ve never had it, it might be helpful to try one purchased seitan products so I have a clue as  to how it should turn out.

8.) I bought three different kinds of tofu.  Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to avoid it. But once in a while should be ok, and I’ve been thinking about the Mormon pantry concept.  They feel you should have a year’s worth of non perishable food on hand for when the apocalypse comes.  I don’t know from apocalypse, but in a state with multiple varieties of natural disasters, seems prudent to have a decent supply of non perishable food laid in.  I have silken and firm tofu in tetrapak packaging, which is shelf stable for years, and a heavy plastic wrapped one that should keep in the freezer for years.

9.) Tofu sour cream.  Used in a bunch of recipes I want to try.  Again, will try to use in limited quantities.  I’m also very interested to see if Peru will be able to tell the difference.

10.)Coconut Milk Yogurt.  REALLY expensive.  But I love yogurt, especially mixed with granola, so I bought one container to see if it’s worth it.  Again, no soy; most vegan yogurt is made from soy.  “Turtle Mountain” has an entire line of products made from coconut milk, called “So Delicious” ; I tried some ice cream and it was heavenly.

11.) Vegan bouillon cubes.  I hope to be making my own stock, but it will take a while to store up the veggie ends and such, so these can be backup. Low sodium, of course.

12.)  Two packages of green noodles, made from an “ancient Egyptian vegetable.”  Will make a good change for lunch sometimes, and was fairly inexpensive.  We’ll see how it tastes, but it’s noodles, right?  What could go wrong?

So today’s plan for meals is: homemade granola I made yesterday, which I did not burn but somehow does not taste as good, and I can’t quite figure out why.  Need to work on it.  With soy milk (gotta use up what’s open!!)  Then I have a pork roast in the crockpot for the omnis, to go with a HUGE pan of roasted veggies I’m going to make for dinner.  For me, I’m going to try marinating some tofu with the Lawrys I wrote about the other day, and bake it to go with the veggies.  I also plan on making some lemon squares  both for us and for the Subway guys who have been so nice to Peru on his Tuesday Subway runs.  Lunch will either be leftover lasagna, or those green noodles, depending if Eric eats the leftover lasagna for breakfast….

I may do a little kitchen work, but I think I’ll take it easy today.  I had a lot of pain last night after working so hard, and probably my body could use the break.  I’ll see how I feel, but I think mostly I’ll stick to tweaking what I did yesterday, making labels for containers and such.

I’ll try to remember to take pictures of the roasted veggies; they’re so pretty and SO YUM!

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