Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Still experimenting

I think it’s been more than a year now that I’ve been trying to cook meatless meals. We started out eliminating red meat, and that’s been a constant ever since, except for an occasional night out.

I’ve talked about trying to cook vegetarian and even vegan on this blog. How it was a learning curve and a slow process. How I felt clumsy, how worrying about meal planning and the actual preparation seemed to take up the entire day.

In the beginning there are tomatoes.

You’d think after a year it would get easier. But it hasn’t, though now I have most of what I used to think of as odd ingredients stocked in my pantry, so shopping is easier. The actual searching for recipes and the chopping and stirring and roasting, well, it all still takes a lot of time.

Tonight I made eggplant parmesan. It was supposed to be vegan, but I used real parmesan cheese and cow’s milk, so it was only vegetarian. I have to say, it was better than any eggplant parmesan I’ve had in any restaurant. I’ll make it again for sure.

Yummy.

We’re trying to eat meatless meals about half the time. Sometimes we’re doing that even more than half our meals. I haven’t really seen a difference in our health, but I have to believe we’re better off eating like this than consuming heavy meals with meat as the main course.

And another benefit I just noticed today; all that produce piled up on the kitchen counter sure is pretty.

I guess we’ll just keep on experimenting.

Colorful and good too!


31 Comments

Garlic learning curve

Headed to the oven.

Headed to the oven.

I’m still working through new recipes intended to lower the amount of meat we eat. I’ve rarely prepared the same thing more than once, and to be honest, I’ve probably already forgotten some of the meals, especially those I made at the beginning of this journey a few months ago, that we enjoyed.

I’ve had successes and failures. Sometimes both in the same meal, because, of course, there are two of us here, each with our own opinion, our own likes and dislikes.

For example, this week alone we struggled with the mushroom, brown rice, refried bean burritos and the baked falafel pita with green sauce sandwiches. I loved the burritos, but husband thought the canned enchilada sauce I used over the top was too spicy. On the other hand, he liked the baked falafels, but I thought they were dry, and the raw garlic in the green sauce topping was way too much for me to handle.

But I’m learning. I’m learning that raw garlic is not my thing, though cooked is fine. And that I can stretch my assumptions about what my husband will try.

We’re not truly vegans, nor even vegetarians. We’re just trying to make meat less important in our diet. So once a week or so I cook a meat and potato meal, though never red meat. I enjoy the simplicity of those meals, the feeling of familiarity while preparing them. I enjoy not having to look at the recipe eight or nine times, of just throwing something together.

I guess someday the vegetarian and vegan meals I make will be the same. Familiar. Easy. Tasty. Predictable. But I hope not right away….not the predictable part anyway. It’s a challenge right now, and on good days I’m happy to be puttering in the kitchen. Especially when it works. When it doesn’t, and I’m still hungry after a meal, I long for a simple burger that doesn’t require chopping and sauteing and toasting stuff.

Some people have told me they are amazed at the things I’ve attempted to do. I guess I just don’t know any better. I’m following the recipes, asking people what ingredients are when I don’t recognize them, looking stuff up online. I feel like I’m gaining skills.

It is true, however, that most of the recipes take me a long time to complete. And some of them do seem complicated. There are often recipes inside of recipes. Somewhere within each seems to be a reference to a sauce or toasted something or other that requires another pan and process, the result to be included in the original recipe as an ingredient.

And please. Always have cooked brown rice available in your fridge or you have to start there and add half an hour to the whole event.

But all in all I think we’re doing pretty OK with this change to our diet. I have to say, though, that my hands smell like garlic. All the time.

It’s becoming sort of familiar.

Falafel beginnings

Falafel beginnings


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Food relationships unrelated

I suppose one of the downfalls of a vegan wantabe is learning what all this stuff is. At the beginning of the experiment I enthusiastically roamed a health food grocery store, buying this and that, scooping things into plastic bags, filling out the tags on the twist ties with product numbers so the cashier could ring them up. Odds are the cashiers didn’t need the numbers, but I should have written the names on the tags. For me.

Wonder what these are?

Wonder what these are?

Weeks later I know that the dark one is chia seeds but I don’t remember if those little white things were in there before or if they are…ummm…eggs? And the lighter brown I know is steel cut oatmeal that I keep meaning to try. But the medium brown? I went to my regular grocery store, located much closer to home than the natural store where these were purchased, and I think that brown stuff is ground flax. Maybe.

I visited Aunt Vi this week. She’ll be 101 at the end of September. She was feeling OK but not great. I took her homemade cream of broccoli soup because she loves brocolli. We laughed about how few people like the little green trees, including the first President Bush. I noted as I was leaving that she didn’t have anything sweet to eat. No cookies, no cake. No pie. She likes something sweet at night.

I believe a woman who is almost 101 deserves to have something sweet available. So this morning I got out the bowl and my grandmother’s spoon and made old fashioned molasses cookies, thinking about Aunt Vi and my own grandmother. I’ll take them to her this afternoon on my way down to that natural food store for more healthy stuff.

Yum.  Ginger and cloves and cinnamon.  And molasses.  Of course.

Yum. Ginger and cloves and cinnamon. And molasses. Of course.

And while I was making the cookies I reached into the silverware drawer for a smaller spoon, something to scoop a little sugar into a bowl to roll the cookies in before baking. My fingers closed around my mom’s spoon, one of several she had with a distinctive corn motif. They’re split up among all of us ‘kids’ now.

Hey Mom.

Hey Mom.

As I looked at the spoon I paused, the loss suddenly so overwhelming that breathing was all I could do. And then it was OK again and I finished rolling the cookies. They’re cooling now, getting ready to make a 101 year young lady smile tonight.

Food and relationships and memories all moving forward into my new world of unidentifiable ingredients. Food. It’s not just for eating. Sometimes it’s for reminiscing.
imported-photos-00298


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Healthy menu report

My husband and I have been exploring the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle this summer. It’s not an easy transition, and I’ve written about it before. This week we really made an attempt to eat more plant based food, so I thought I’d tell you how our experiments turned out.

I worked mostly from two sources, the China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook and the Thug Kitchen Cookbook*.

First up was wholewheat penne with fresh herbed tomato corn salsa.

Fresh corn and tomatoes.

Fresh corn and tomatoes.

Looks pretty doesn’t it! The salsa was made with fresh corn cut from the cob and tomatoes out of the garden. A perfect meal to make this time of year up here in Michigan.

The salsa was good on it’s own; tossed with the hot pasta it made a nice meal – but it wasn’t filling enough. I was hungry a couple of hours after we ate. I think this dish would be good cold and as a side, along with something else to make up a meal.

Then we tried quinoa for the first time. The recipe, also from the China Study Cookbook, included white beans and kalamata olives and lemon juice.

The recipe made a huge amount. Next time I’d halve it, and probably double the amount of navy beans. But it turns out this stuff is good cold the next day so I managed to make a dent in it. We both liked the quinoa and I’ll be looking for more recipes that use it.

Pretty yummy!

Pretty yummy!

For this meal I also made carrot fritters, from a recipe I’ve had for a few years, and fresh local corn. It was a great meal.

Midweek we noticed that our garden had produced one eggplant. We had one plant with multiple blossoms, but only one developed into a fruit. It was getting pretty big and I decided I needed to do something with it.

So I googled ‘eggplant recipes’ and found one for eggplant lasagna from Real Simple magazine. It looked a bit intimidating, using fresh tomatoes and broiling the sliced eggplant.

Eggplant in place of noodles.

Eggplant in place of noodles.

But I followed along and it turned out great. Next time I might double the recipe (though that would take a long time, to broil slices of two really big eggplants!) so I could make it in a 9×13 pan v.s. the 8×8 pan that only really made 4 small servings. Either way I’ll definitely make this one again even though I’ll have to buy the eggplant at the grocery store.

Tonight we had black lentil tacos with jicama slaw. That had to wait until I could find jicama. I had never heard of it before, though lots of people seem to enjoy it regularly. I finally found it at a local grocery store, one I don’t normally visit – I guess it pays to change up your habits.

Jicima slaw and herb salsa.

Jicima slaw and herb salsa.

Anyway…these tacos were somewhat complicated. The slaw, made up of jicama, carrots and cucumbers plus rice vinegar and lime juice, needed to be made ahead and refrigerated for a bit before dinner. And I made the herb salsa which had cilantro, green onions, basil, orange juice and rice vinegar, ahead too, just to be safe.

I couldn’t find black lentils…so I used green that I found at my local Kroger store. They seemed to be the same size as the ones in the photo that accompanies the recipe in the Thug Kitchen Cookbook, so I hoped they’d cook similarly, and they turned out fine. I think regular lentils would have worked too.

Looked kind of scary.  But it was good!

Looked kind of scary. But it was good!

The “meat” for the tacos is made up of the lentils, mushrooms, a little soy sauce, apple juice and sesame oil. Add a little cabbage, the jicima slaw, and the herb salsa, roll it all up and enjoy!

They were a bit messy eating, but really really good! There was a tang from the slaw and salsa that went well with the mushroom/lentil combination. I might add just a pinch of salt next time.

So….we had a good week. I’d make most of these dishes again. They weren’t really all that difficult, though I’m noticing I’m really slow at this type of cooking. It’s just a lot more chopping of fresh vegetables than I’m used to. Plus I stop to review the recipe more frequently than I would on things I’ve made for years.

And it takes a ton more planning. I need to know at the beginning of the week what we’re eating in order to make sure I have the ingredients here. I can’t just wander the grocery store and see what looks good if we eat this way. I did find it interesting that the last time I shopped I didn’t go near the meat counter, nor up and down most of the aisles. I was in produce and the aisle that has dried beans. I was in and out in what felt like moments.

At the moment, on days we’re eating plant-based, the meal seems to be the focus of my day as I plan and worry, chop and stir, check and recheck. Worry some more. I’m sure I’ll get better at this, and we’ll find our favorites that I’ll make more than once. Each time will be easier. Right?

Broil the egplant, puree the tomatoes.  Lick the spoon on the ricotta cheese.

Broil the egplant, puree the tomatoes. Lick the spoon on the ricotta cheese.

We’ll see how this all turns out. I don’t think we’ve totally converted to vegan. After all, that eggplant lasagna had loads of cheese. I love cheese. Still, those tacos tonight were pretty darn good…and there wasn’t a bit of cheese anywhere.

I think if we eat plant based a couple of times a week we’ll be improving our health. And moving forward maybe the number of vegetarian or vegan meals will increase. Either way, red meat has taken a vacation around our house.

Mostly anyway.

Garden goodness.

Garden goodness.

*Note: The language in the Thug Cookbook will probably be offensive to many. Just a warning.


18 Comments

My hands smell like garlic

I’m still exploring the vegan lifestyle. Slowly.

So many recipes seem complicated. I’ll be reading along, nodding my head, yes, yes, those are all good ingredients, and then there will be something that I don’t recognize. A single ingredient or a sauce that would have been made days ahead. I sigh and close the cookbook.

Cooking seems to take a lot longer, and I feel clumsy, rereading the recipe over and over as I work. I need to be more organized, no waiting till the last minute and throwing something together.

So far I’ve had some successes and some failures. I guess that’s natural. But there’s so much chopping invested in most of these recipes, so much work, forethought, planning. When something fails I’m very disappointed. Especially when the ingredients seemed like a good fit for us.

I worked most of an afternoon on this vegetable stew.

I like all the stuff in this bowl.

I like all the stuff in this bowl.

It had fresh corn, cut from the cob, pinto beans, butternut squash peeled and cubed, garlic, and was topped with fresh basil. That all sounded good.

But after figuring out how to peel and cut up a butternut squash (you can find anything on YouTube), after cutting corn off six cobs, kernels flying everywhere (Katie loved that part), after watching it simmer for a good long time, it turns out I don’t like the combination of basil and butternut squash. I liked the basil with the corn and beans, but not with the squash.

Looks promising.

Looks promising.

The recipe made a huge lot and I tossed most of it.

On the success side, today I made a side dish – Moroccan spiced couscous. I’ve tasted it, but am letting it sit overnight in the fridge. It looks and tastes promising.

Looks like modern art.

Looks like modern art.

Just couscous, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, salt, with strips of spinach and chopped up orange folded in at the end. It’s supposed to be served at room temperature or cold. I think cold might be the way to go.

I used twice as many oranges.  Because why not?

I used twice as many oranges. Because why not?

And tonight I made a summer pasta, whole wheat rigatoni with tomatoes, zucchini, red bell pepper, garlic and onions. I thought it was pretty good.

Lots of chopping.

Lots of chopping.

It was filling too. I cheated just a bit and put a tiny bit of fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Guess that made it no longer vegan.

Pretty yummy.

Pretty yummy.

Baby steps here. Baby steps.

Pretty veggies.

Pretty veggies.


9 Comments

Vegan virgin

Several of my friends are vegans. Their diet includes no meat, no dairy, no eggs, which means no cheese! I’ve read enough to understand the health benefits of that sort of diet. And I haven’t been particularly interested in meat for a long time. Still. It seems overwhelming to move to the Land of Vegan.

I’m considering it more seriously now after attending a Veg-Fest last winter with vegan friends. I learned a lot, saw a lot of interesting things, but felt a lot of the booths at the show were hawking treats, chips and other type things that I’m already trying not to eat. I can’t imagine spending money to buy vegan versions of things I’ve been avoiding for years.

Like brownies. Or vegan ice cream. Which, by the way, was amazingly yummy. I ate two samples.

Still, I am beginning to explore recipes for main dishes that exclude meat and dairy. I’ve read 3 or 4 cookbooks, and gone to a healthy grocery story to find ingredients foreign to me. Seriously, what do you do with millet? I thought that was in birdseed? And ground flax? Chia seeds??? People eat those?

Today I made Lemony Red Lentil Soup. Hearty, easy and delicious. Could be a main course with some crusty homemade bread. Do I have time to make homemade bread? Well…yes…if I get organized.

Maybe there’s something to this vegan thing.

Yummy!

Yummy!

What is it about new things that frighten us? For me it takes longer to cook vegan because I’m always checking the recipe. Plus it seems like there’s a lot more stuff that needs to be chopped up. More planning ahead required. Different shopping at a different store takes time too.

For now I’m looking for a good bean burger recipe. If you’ve got one, feel free to share. And any other advice is welcome too. I’m going to try to incorporate a meatless meal into our weekly schedule — at first once a week, then maybe two days. We’ll see how it goes.

And I wonder if my vegan experiments should be described in a second and separate blog? Can I manage two blogs? Would anyone read them both? Would I just split my readers up or would I gain a different following? Does the world even need another vegan blog? I’ll have to marinate on that.

Marinate. Get it?

I crack myself up.

Veggies rule

Veggies rule


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Katie says she’s thankful

Listen up!

Listen up!

Katie here.

I know I usually steal mama’s blog when I have a complaint to voice. And don’t get me wrong, there are numerous things to complain about, mostly revolving around the limited access I have to treats. I’m working on that, but it’s slow going.

My mama told me today is Thanksgiving here in the United States. That’s a time when families and friends get together, eat a lot of food, and remind themselves how truly lucky they are. Well. If there’s a lot of food involved I’m in.

Oh.

Mama says it’s not about the food. She says that I have to tell you all what I’m thankful for. Well let me see…

First of all I’m thankful that I have my mama and my daddy to take care of me. I don’t admit it very often but they spoil me just a little bit. I have pillows all over the house just in case I want to take a nap. I need a pile of pillows, don’t you know, because I’m a princess. And a princess always needs to be comfortable. I also get to sleep on the bed, and if I choose the best spot they will usually move over for me. And they make sure I have lots of toys to play with, and they never (hardly ever) forget to feed me right on schedule; if they’re a little slow I remind them and they hop right on it. Yep, my mama and my daddy are the best things that ever happened to me. But don’t tell them, I don’t want them to get too big headed.

My aunt got me this frog when I was a baby!

My aunt got me this frog when I was a baby!

I’m also thankful for all the adventures my mama takes me on. We get to go to my park pretty often, and my mama takes me to other bigger parks too. There’s always a lot to sniff and I love to go go GO! Sometimes, when it’s nice out, we even go to the park and stay there all night! Mama says that’s called camping and I just love it! I get to sleep outside (well, in a tent) and smell the lovely sniffings all day long! I love being outside so camping is just perfect for me! Mama says she likes to do that too so it all works out.

Camping is a blast!

Camping is a blast!

And of course I’m thankful for all of you! I like hearing about all your adventures. It’s a small world and it’s good to know so many doggie families. I’m especially thankful to be Reilly the CowSpotdog’s girlfriend. I hope I get to actually meet him and his family soon — we’ve been long distance friends for a really long time. He lives in a pawsome place now and I can’t wait to visit!

My boyfriend Reilly.

My boyfriend Reilly.

On a sad note we had very bad news last night when we heard that our FB sheltie friend Agnes Ann was killed by a car. Mama couldn’t stop crying, though I tried to make her feel better. She and I went outside and looked at the big full moon and she hugged me really tight and I let her cause I knew that’s what she needed to do. She cried into my fur for a long time and I was just quiet, didn’t even ask to get down. After awhile she wiped her eyes and rubbed the sheltie fur off of her face and we came back inside. I’m thankful that I can give mama that comfort when she needs it. She says I should tell you all to hug your people today too.

This Thanksgiving will be quiet here and I’m happy to be spending it with my folks. I am thankful that they aren’t going south this year, they’re going to spend this holiday with me! I hope they share some of that food I’ve heard so much about, but I doubt it. Mama has this silly rule about people food. I don’t get any unless it happens to jump off the counter on it’s own accord. Which is why whenever mama is in the kitchen I’m in the kitchen. Shelties are smart you know.

Thankful that I'm beautiful.

Thankful that I’m beautiful.

I hope you all have a wonderful, calm, peaceful and happy Thanksgiving with your peoples. I’m thankful for each of you that reads my mama’s blog. It makes her feel good to know you’re all out there.

And if you think of it, send some healing thoughts to Agnes Ann’s mom Kathy.

I'm thankful for all of YOU!

I’m thankful for all of YOU!


22 Comments

Lifestyle changes

I have several friends that have turned vegan, or nearly so.  It’s a thought I’ve toyed with off and on over many years.  Mostly off.  Vegetarian seemed more doable…but I’ve never given that a real try either, if truth be told.

I still think about it, and this morning I just watched the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.   I intended to watch it yesterday, but was so exhausted I fell asleep right after doggy school and napped the afternoon away until we had to leave for a neighbor’s pig roast.

Pig

Pig

Yes pig roast.  As in not vegetarian, nor close to vegan.

Turns out I really didn’t like the meat and munched on all sorts of (not vegan) salads, vegetables and of course deserts.

Good stuff

Good stuff

Still…this morning the whole healthy living thing is lurking on my mind, hence me making time to watch the entire movie. Which turned out not to be difficult…it is entertaining and thought provoking.   I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.  I struggle daily with trying to wean myself away from things that aren’t good for me.  I’ve been observing people when I’m out at lunch.  Thin people tend to be walking the neighborhood.  Heavier people seem to be hanging out with me the days I’m  in the fast food drive through.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I have my annual physical scheduled next week; perhaps this is why I’ve been contemplating lifestyle changes.  He’ll be telling me things I already know.  The reason I’m so exhausted all the time.  The headaches.  The body aches.  Things I could probably fix myself if I took better care of me.

So, as Katie and I head out on a great adventure this morning I’ll think some more.  Seems like a change is in the works.  Who out there has made lifestyle changes?  How hard was it for you?  Are you glad?  Did you stick with it?

Tell me your stories, good or bad.  I’m going to need some support.

Yes I am.

Neighborhood party

Neighborhood party