Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Redemptive Power of Music

And here's a wonderful story about a journalist in LA helping a homeless schizophrenic musician. Apparently the book that was written has become a movie.

Comfortably Numb Interview

I just listened to a great and concise interview with author Charles Barber about his new book, Comfortably Numb, and his own experiences with mental illness.

Morning Pages

This is what I wrote first thing this morning:
Last night after I finished reading and as I was daydreaming into sleep fingers of self-doubt began to crawl up my spine. I began to wonder if my high had worn off. I woke up at 7:46 to the morning sun coming through my faux wood blinds. The last few days have been a bit manic. I don't feel sad or self-loathing today, but I also don't feel as I need to do a million things.
My days usually being around 7 am. I get a large glass of water and then sit down to write my morning pages. For those of you unfamiliar with morning pages they are a daily task from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
I first began working with this book my freshman year of college. My creative writing teacher assigned parts of the book along with other writing assignments. To be honest the morning pages are the only thing I really took from the book.
The idea is that each morning before you do anything else like check your email or take a shower you sit down and write three pages. The rules include that you write with pen and paper (no computers allowed) and you not read the pages when done. The point is just to write: to jump start you brain and get all the cobwebs out from the night before. And you write about absolutely anything even the fact that you may not have anything to say. Eventually you break down and actually start writing about things, typically things you hadn't realized you'd been thinking about. It is cathartic, surprising and part of my saving grace. While I have not written steadily for ten years I have gone back to it periodically. And this time around has lasted about seven months. The only days I've missed were Thanksgiving, Christmas and the day I had a tooth pulled at 8 am. And when I miss a day I notice.
I've included my words from this morning because they help represent cyclothymia, my cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is characterized by mood swings in the same vein as bipolar, but much less severe and faster than a typical bipolar. Cyclothymics can have swings weekly or even daily whereas bipolars tend to cycle over longer periods of time. (This is all my understanding of this, if I mis-write I apologize.)
But there are things that can be done to keep oneself more consistent (I hope anyway). That is where I'm at. I've only missed one day of work because of this in the past 6 months and I'm not manic enough to really warrant medication, but consistency and productivity and confidence are big issues. My ritual of writing each morning helps. It gives me perspective, a place to vent and a routine. I love routines.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Way Off Topic

I know this is way, way off topic, but I have to say that opening the Ny Times and reading about President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes me grin from ear to ear. It's incredible and the shock has still not worn off.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coconut Curry

Yesterday marked day 1 of the weekly menu. I am really late as I was working out computer bugs and celebrating birthdays and being lazy, but I'm on track finally. I have to say it was quite delicious. Spicy, warm and hearty and very simple to throw together.

I did make a few changes to the original recipes (I can't ever seem to just follow a recipe). I only used 1 red onion and I used Bragg's amino acids instead of the fish sauce for the curry. For the wild rice I used a combo of brown and wild rice. The organic wild rice in the bulk section was $10 more so I went with the combo. I halved the recipe and used pecans instead of walnuts as that was what I had. I also replaced the green onions with a stalk of early green garlic from Greenling. Even though I followed the package instructions on my bulk rice it was a bit overcooked. That is probably my only real complaint, but in the face of how delicious it was it's not a big deal. if you made it please let me know what you thought and if you made any changes.

Sense Memory Lane

I went back to Eastside Cafe last week for the first time in many years. I worked there in the little gift shop, Pitchforks and Tablespoons, for 2 1/2 years when I was quite younger. I enjoyed working there, but some gossip I've heard since made me stay away from the place. I finally trekked over to see if it is as good as my memory.
I got out of the car and the first thing I noticed was the smell. It smelled exactly the same, triggering a cache of memories and feelings. It was incredibly strange, like walking into my past (yes I know that's cliched, but it was true).
The food is as good as my memory. I even tried something I hadn't tasted before, the pesto ravioli. I had always avoided it because that much pesto is too much for me, but this pesto was varied and nutty. Along with it I had one of my favorite side dishes: squash with soy ginger glaze. It did not disappoint. And for dessert we had a decent buttermilk pie. I know they are somewhat famous for this pie, but honestly it did not compare to my own or my mother's I should say, a recipe I have co-opted as mine. The filling was tasty, but the crust was raw in the middle. I am not a fan of raw pie crust, salty and floury without any flaky.
Despite dessert being less than great I am happy to have re-discovered this classic Austin gem. And I will definitely return to eat there while sitting uncomfortably in my past.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Meal Plan 1

And here is my first attempt at making a week of meals that are healthy, vegetarian and use much of the Greenling local basket produce. Some of these recipes are mine entirely and some are adaptations of others. I have notated which come from books and have links to the book or authors site. I have not necessarily tried these recipes so it will be an experiment for everyone. Please let me know how they go if you try them. Also if you prefer to add meat feel free. I tried to make each recipe easy and without any exotic ingredients. Don't feel constrained. If you don't like an herb try a different one. If you hate bell peppers try eggplant instead. I'm also giving links to the pdf files of both the recipes and the shopping list. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD FILE of the recipes
DOWNLOAD FILE of the shopping list

This Weeks' recipes:

Day 1:

Curried Coconut Sweet Potatoes and Cauliflower with fake Beef Strips - Adapted from a recipe in Spices of Life by Nina Simonds
Wild Rice with Walnuts & Apples – Adapted from Smith & Hawkins’ Gardeners’ Community Cookbook

Curried coconut sweet potatoes:

3 sweet potatoes
½ head cauliflower

curry seasonings:
1 tsp chile flakes
1 tsp ginger
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp coriander
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

1 ½ T olive oil
2 med red onions, diced

1 ½ cups coconut milk
3 T fish sauce

1 package fake beef strips like Lightlife’s
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

- Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces.
- In a large pot heat the oil until hot.
- Add the curry seasonings and red onion, stir over medium-low heat about three minutes until the onions are tender.
- Add the sauce and bring to a boil.
- Add the veggies and stir to coat.
- Reduce the heat, cover and cook till the veggies are soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Once the veggies are done remove 1 cup and put aside for the next day.
- Add the beef strips and continue to simmer about 7 minutes until strips heated through.
- Add basil and serve.

Wild Rice with Walnuts & Apples

1 apple, cut into ¼” dice
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup raisins
lemon juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups wild rice *any rice will do

- Cook the rice according to package instructions
- Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium about 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Combine the apple, walnuts, onion & raisins in a large bowl.
- Combine the juice, garlic, olive oil and seasonings in a jar. Shake to emulsify.
- Pour the rice into the apple mixture.
- Pour the juice mixture on top and stir to coat.
Day 2:

Lentil Loaf – Adapted from The Six O’Clock Scramble
Roasted Veggies

Lentil Loaf

2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup mashed veggies from night before
½ small onion, diced
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg beaten
1 T olive oil
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

- Mix all ingredients together minus the tomato sauce.
- Pour into a sprayed or buttered loaf pan and cover with foil.
- Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
- Heat the tomato sauce and pour over the loaf to serve.

Roasted Veggies

2 carrots
2 parsnips
2 potatoes
1 yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp rosemary

- Preheat oven to 400.
- Dice all veggies, except the garlic and place on a baking sheet or in any large roasting pan.
- Cut each garlic clove in half and place on the baking sheet.
- Put oil & vinegar and spices on veggies.
- Toss to coat.
- Roast until tender, about 30-45 min.
Day 3:

Roasted Veggie Fritatta with mixed greens

Roasted Veggie Fritatta

Up to 2 cups of veggies from night before
2 tsp olive oil
8 eggs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup mixed greens per person

- Heat a large oven-proof skillet until hot.
- Add the olive oil.
- Add the roasted veggies.
- Lightly beat the eggs and then pour over the veggies.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Cook on low until the eggs are set and the bottom was golden.
- Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the top is golden.
- Slice.
- On top of each serving place the mixed greens. Serve with your favorite vinaigrette
Day 4:

Seitan and Bell Peppers in Peanut Sauce & Sauteed Bok ChoySeitan & Bell Peppers in Peanut Sauce

Peanut sauce:
1 leek or small white onion
1 serrano chile (remove seeds for less spice)
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp peeled ginger
¼ cup cilantro
1 ½ tsp tomato paste
¼ cup peanut butter
1 T soy sauce or Bragg’s amino acids
¼ cup water

2 bell peppers, any color
1 package seitan
1 T olive oil
2 cups cooked brown rice

- Blend all sauce ingredient except for the water in a food processor.
- Once blended turn on low and stream in the water. Set aside.
- Slice the peppers into thin strips.
- Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil.
- Add the peppers and sauté about 2 min till soft.
- Add the seitan strips and heat through.
- Pour the peanut sauce on top and bring to a simmer.
- Serve over warm brown rice.

Sauteed Bok Choy

1 bunch bok choy

1 T olive oil
2 T minced garlic
1 tsp chile flakes

1 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 T soy sauce or Bragg’s

- Clean and cut the bok choy into 1 inch chunks.
- Combine vinegar, sesame oil & soy sauce
- Heat a large skillet until hot and add olive oil.
- Add the bok choy, garlic and chile flakes.
- Toss slowly until wilted but still toothy.
- Add the vinegar mixture and toss for another minute.
- Serve.
Day 5:

Quinoa Vegetable Stew – Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, fresh spinach & crusty multi-grain bread

Quinoa Vegetable Stew

¾ cup quinoa
1 ½ cups water
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped zucchini
½ head cauliflower
28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 T fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste

grated parmesan
loaf of multi-grain bread

- Rinse the quinoa and then combine with the water in a saucepan.
- Cover the pan and simmer the quinoa until fluffy, about 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the bread in foil.
- In a large skillet sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the pepper and zucchini and sauté 5 more minutes.
- Put the bread in the oven to heat.
- Add the tomatoes, basil and s & p and simmer till the veggies are done.
- In each bowl place a handful of spinach.
- Spoon out a serving of quinoa on top of the spinach and then ladle the stew on top.
- Add grated parmesan to taste.
- Pull the bread out of the oven and slice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


You might ask why a food blog is so encompassing of the rest of my life. Because in my mind everything is connected to everything else. What we eat and drink and smoke and take does not just go through us. It stays with us. It effects all aspects of our bodies and, I believe, our minds.
Food was my first love. My complicated relationship with food is one of the most important relationships in my life. I spend probably too much of my time thinking about, reading about and preparing the food that I eat and feed to others. But to not give in to these needs would be torture for me. And I closely monitor how what I eat and drink effects me. Perhaps this is because I am overly sensitive. Perhaps I have become a hypochondriac of sorts or perhaps I am more in tune with my body.
I try to use food to heal myself and sometimes to hurt myself, but I use it possibly more than I enjoy it. I am even learning to enjoy foods that I once deplored. I know they are good for me so I am learning to cook them in ways and with spices that make them taste better.
If my therapist and I are right and there is something in my brain that controls my moods/depressions/non-depressions (cyclothymia) than I would rather use food to feel better than ingest some little blue pill. There is something wrong with our society that we shove pills down our throats to solve so much of life's problems. Sometimes it's OK to feel sad. And sometimes we know deep down that we have very little control over whether or not we feel sad.
I have tested myself enough to know that sugar, white flour, alcohol and caffeine make me feel worse. My energy levels go down, my weight increases, my mood darkens and my cravings for carbs and sweets sky rocket. When I eliminate these things from my diet wonderful things happen.
I can't write about food and not write about all of the things I associate with food, which for me is a very long list.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pantry Staples

Everyone has their idea about what should always be found in their cupboards. The idea being that you always have enough staples to make a healthy meal no matter what can be found in the fridge. I'm working on compiling my list both so I can always know what I need to pick up at the store and also so anyone else can get ideas for their own stocks. It may seem like a lot, but I would rather have what I need to make any base recipe and just have to buy the produce for a recipe. I also tend to bake randomly and get frustrated when I don't have everything I need for whatever I'm craving.

Dry Goods:

Brown rices (short grain and long grain)
Wild rice
Various shapes and sizes of whole grain pasta
Whole wheat pastry flour
Whole whole regular flour
Rolled oats
Cocoa powder
Baking chocolate
Turbinado or organic sugar
Agave syrup
Brown rice syrup
Chocolate chips
Pancake mix
Canned tomatoes in various states
Jarred tomato sauce (Barilla is my fave)
Vegetable broth in cartons, preferably low sodium
Canned corn
Canned pumpkin
Various kinds of canned beans
Various kinds of dried beans
Lentils in several varieties
Olive oil
Vegetable oil (for baking)
Vinegars (balsamic, white wine, apple cider, rice wine)
Baking soda & powder
Cream of tartar

Sea salt
Black Peppercorns
Fresh nutmeg

Dry perishables:
Onions (any kind)
White potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Dried chiles like chile pequin

Long-lasting fridge items:
Maple syrup
Tomato paste in a tube
Dijon mustard
Frozen berries
Peanut butter (the all natural no sugar kind)
Jams of various flavors (also no sugar added)

More perishable fridge items:
Salad greens
Roasted red peppers in a jar
Goat or Parmesan cheese
Sliced loaf of hearty bread

Greenling Delivery

My bountiful Greenling delivery arrived on my doorstep today. It's about my 7th delivery and the excitement hasn't worn off. Here's a lovely picture of the basket as it was delivered:My official delivery voucher gives the contents as such:
Green Garlic (4) - Green Gate Farms
Chioggia Beet - Animal Farm (I didn't receive these. Instead I got a dark green bunch of collards.)
Spinach - Acadian Family Farm
French Breakfast Radish (8ish)- Acadian Family Farm
Sweet Potatoes 2 lbs - Naegelin Farms
Yellow Onions (2) - Naegelin Farms
Tomatoes (2) - Reliable Brand
Tangerines (4) - G&S Groves
Bok Choy - Naegelin Farms
Herb (cilantro & oregano) - Pure Luck

And here's the basket after I rearranged for a better view:
I do think that $35 is not a bad price for the amount of food and knowing exactly where it came from. I have not, however, researched or visited any of these farms. I know Pure Luck makes delightful goat's milk products, but as for the rest I'm going on faith that they are equally reputable and organic. I plan on using all of this bounty, but am not sure yet as to how I will.
Most of my menu for the week is planned and shopping listed, but I need to make a final few changes to adjust for the collards. And radishes. What to do with those pesky radishes?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hello World!

It is a historic day, one of the most historic of my almost 30 years: today we inaugurate the first black American president. I can say that I never believed it would happen and I am deliriously happy that it has. That said I'll move on to what really brings me here today.
My older sister recently started a wonderful knitting and crafting blog. She has asked me to join her as a blogger in solidarity. At first I scoffed. I really didn't know what my blog would be about or if I could make the time to do it, but this morning I had an epiphany. For Christmas I gave my sister and her family a copy of the book The 6 O'clock Scramble, by Aviva Goldfarb. They absolutely love it. I am a little jealous.
This book is not right for me, however, because it is meat centric. Rather than try to adapt her recipes for vegetarianism I have decided to do my own version without meat. I will also use the local box I receive from Greenling Organic Delivery along with pantry staples and other organic, seasonal produce from the local co-op. I plan on posting a weekly menu with shopping lists each weekend, including desserts. I will also reveiw the recipes and throw in bits about my mood, my writing and anything else that comes to mind. So, here goes.