GETTING CREATIVE

October 17, 2018

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Last night, was a great example of this for me. I had dinner all planned in my head. I was going to make a vegan egg roll in a bowl for our dinner. Love that dish because it comes together so quickly in the 12” nonstick skillet and with the addition of Chow Mein noodles, Zoe would have the crunch she likes in meals. All was going according to plan until I started gathering ingredients.

That is when I discovered that the bag I knew was vegan sausage crumble was actually a bag of frozen raspberries. I had frozen everything in the refrigerator but sausage and time was now ticking before Zoe came home and dinner was now not going to be on the table. Not that she cares about that, but I like dinner to be ready when she gets home from work.

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HELP WHIP CANCER

October 11, 2018

This is Help Whip Cancer month with Pampered Chef. However, when you are married to someone who is a cancer survivor, every month is about cancer prevention and education. When Zoe was going through chemotherapy, finding foods she would eat was the biggest challenge. Everything to her tasted like cardboard. It was so hard to get her eat anything. The greatest blessing during that time was a cookbook I found called the Cancer Fighting Kitchen. In it, the author, explained how I could make the food taste palatable for Zoe. I learned to oversalt all her food so that it no longer tasted like cardboard

Sadly, the wisdom I gained from this book is a gift I have shared numerous times with friends who are battling cancer. When a dear friend of mine was recovering from what was to be her first of several battles with cancer, I suggested to her daughter that she add acids like lemon juice and hot sauce to her mom’s food. My friend, who normally does not like hot sauce, could not get enough.

We do what we can to help our loved ones eat when their taste buds make everything taste horrible. Another friend of mine said everything tasted metallic. So I suggested her husband put peanut butter on things. He mixed peanut butter into her spaghetti and meatballs one night and she scarfed it down like crazy. Peanut butter became her best friend and they went through gallons of it, or so I am sure it seemed.

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BOWLS FOR VEGGIES

September 28, 2018

When we began this new vegan journey, I had no idea how much I would be learning and considering as I planned out our menu for the week. Not that I stick to it exactly, however, it helps me think through how much I am preparing and what I need and am I making sure we are getting enough of all the nutrients we need. There are so many processed vegan products and we have been trying where possible to avoid those. However, making our own seitan to make “chicken” patties and other faux meat products can be a bit more time consuming then our schedule allows.

The other challenge can be that Zoe and I have different palettes and love different kinds of food. Zoe loves foods that are crunchy, salty, sweet, and fried. As a friend of ours says about her husband, you can be an unhealthy vegan, especially when you are filling your diet with deep fried everything, ice cream, and foods that are loaded in pasta, pizza dough, etc. I tend to like more vegetables, especially the ones Zoe does not like, such as eggplant.

When we find something we both like we get uber excited, as that rarely happens.

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FINDING OUR VOICE

September 20, 2018

One of the reasons Zoe and I decided to give up animal products was that we decided to get serious about our health and working to reverse some of our health issues. Better late than never. What we have quickly learned, however, is that we fell into the trap of eating the same type of foods, just vegan style. Our quickie lunches became “chicken” patties with sweet potato fries and salad. We became quickly aware that our menu choices were become increasingly dependent on faux meats and cheeses. Yes, they were vegan but they were allowing us to be on a plant based diet with minimal eating of plants. I think there is something wrong with that

Even the recipes in the cookbook I had said I was going to cook my way through were  vegan, but had minimal use of plants. Now I realize that nuts and grains and beans can be classified as plants. However, for us, we were thinking more about fruits and vegetables. So this week, we made the decision to focus on meals that were 50% fruits and vegetables and the balance could be grains and other proteins. While I may still prepare a dish or two from that cookbook, we have decided we need to make and eat things that are more plant, as we defined it, centered.

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This week I was going to reflect on what I learned about freezing from the book I am cooking my way through, The Make Ahead Vegan, but then life happened. Three people of varying importance in my life passed over and I, once again, found myself in this state of grief. I once again found myself wondering if meditations of my heart and my work in this world was making a difference. So I did what I normally do and then the signs began to pop up as they tend to do when I need them the most. Yet despite those signs I did not feel motivated to write about food. I wasn’t really feeling motivated to even cook food this week. It was just one of those weeks where I wondered how I could make eating plant based food feel junky and comforting. I haven’t been successful at that either. The the universe heard and answered my prayers in the form of the following random Facebook message from a woman and an organization I had never heard of.

 

Hi, Sharon–I found your blog when I was seeking inspirational words about how food is a global language. I am one of two founders of a non-profit in Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to help refugee women use their amazing cooking skills and heritage to earn money and integrate into our community. One of the things we do is host dinners–people buy tickets to come and eat food from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and meet these women, etc. We’re about to do one with Chefugees from Syria and Iraq, and I would love to include the passage below on the inside of our printed menus (there will be one at each guest’s place).

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THE MAKE AHEAD VEGAN AND ME

September 5, 2018

Normally when I get a new cookbook I start with the introduction, but I was in a hurry to get the menu planned for this past week and the grocery list done. Zoe and I picked two recipes from the section on Hearty Meals and took off running. I plugged them in the menu plan, into the grocery list and jumped into making them, never thinking twice again about the introduction, which I am reading now.

One of the things which attracted us to this book was that it looked like everyday food, which was one of the authors goals. What we decided I would make for us this week was the Rigatoni and Vegan Sausage Casserole and Pasta Chili Bake. One of the things I appreciated was that she shared information about storage times for both the refrigerator and freezer, not that ours will ever make it to the freezer. However, one of the things that I realized was that while these recipes were going to be exactly the kind of food that Zoe loves, they were not going to push or challenge me in the kitchen or help me introduce Zoe to new and different foods. Although it is going to help both of us develop a new relationship with lentils.

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IT’S A FAMILY THING

August 29, 2018

A few weeks ago, I shared that I was going to select a vegan cookbook and like Julie Powell, from the book Julie and Julia, cook my way through it. I was quite methodical in my approach. I looked at various lists of top vegan cookbooks, compiled my list of those that were on more than one top list, and borrowed them from the local library. I was not sure how I was going to discern which one I would choose, but I was clear I would be selecting one from the top ten list I had put together. Then life happened.

I had the opportunity to leave my home and physically go to the library by myself, something I had not been able to do in 7 years, and browse the vegan cookbooks. I found several which caught my attention for various reasons, so I came home with about 6 more books to add to my collection. Now I was faced with an even more difficult task of picking THE book I would cook my way through.

I had no idea on how I was going to pick THE book until I was reminded about how important family is. I was doing more then just cooking my way through a cookbook. I was going to be cooking for my wife and her selective palette. This was not just a me thing; this was a family thing. The decision of what book to use went from being a me thing to a family thing. Zoe and I began to go through the books together. Immediatel6y, some books were eliminated because there were not enough pictures for Zoe to imagine what these dishes were going to look like. Since we tend to eat with our eyes first, those with little to no pictures went back to the library.

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IF AT FIRST

August 23, 2018

This morning was my first attempt to make vegan cream cheese. Zoe has been pretty happy with my getting Tofutti from the grocery store.  The last three trips, however, they have been out of Tofutti. So we have tried another brand, but it did not meet Zoe’s desire for bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, her favorite. Last night, they were out of Tofutti again, so I decided I would try to make vegan cream cheese, something I had read was pretty easy to do. Yes and no.

Last night, I did as everyone suggested, well almost everyone, and I soaked my cashews over night. This morning they were uber soft and I could tell it would be fairly easy to blend them in my blender. So I began. I followed the direction that had the highest rating which had me add 1 tsp organic apple cider, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I was supposed to add 1 tsp of water at a time to help it blend, but I thought I would add cashew milk instead as needed.

So the first tasting with Zoe and she thought it was not creamy enough. So I had it blend several more minutes. It was creamy enough for her, but I could tell by her face it was not cream cheesy enough to please her palette. Other then it not being Tofutti, it did not taste fatty enough. So back to the cookbooks.

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CAST YOUR VOTE

August 15, 2018

Several years ago, well four to be exact, I was in the process of reading the book Julie and Julia. It was about Julie Powell’s efforts to cook her way through Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” My goal at the time was to cook my way through the newly released cookbook by Alex Guarnaschelli. That did not go so well for a number of reasons.

This morning I was reminded it was Julia Child Birthday and it got me thinking how fun it would be to pick a Vegan cookbook and work my way through it. Unlike most people, I do not read cookbooks for the recipes. I read them for the wisdom and the spiritual lessons they offer. So now I am reviewing a list of vegan cookbooks. Not sure which one I will choose yet. If you have a recommendation from the list below, please share your comments or if you know of one I should definitely consider let me know about that cookbook as well.

Unlike Julia Powell, I am not setting a time limit, although my kitchen is not much better than the one she appeared to have in the movie. So what will I learn? Perhaps I will learn lessons about timelessness, senses, simplicity, integrity, adventure, and technique. Time will only tell.

Cookbooks under consideration are:

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PEACHY KEEN

August 9, 2018

I almost missed this, but August is National Peach Month. I have always loved peaches, but now I have a greater understanding of why. Both in China and Japan the peach is associated with immortality and a long life. It is one of the “Three Blessed Fruits” in Buddhism and symbolizes longevity, so eating peaches may help me live longer.

That is just one reason I love peaches now. However, having lived in Georgia for several years, I came to love the state fruit. There is nothing like a good Georgia peach. I used to love making peach pies, but hated peeling peaches until I discovered the Pampered Chef serrated peeler, which makes peeling peaches so easy.

This week I thought I would share a few of my favorite Pampered Chef peach recipes and a few of my new favorite vegan peach recipes. Let me know which ones are your favorites.

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