A Spoonful of Good Luck

A Spoonful of Good Luck

Did you eat your spoonful of black eyed peas for luck this year? I did. While I have (ahem) been buying beans in bulk, soaking, and then cooking them myself, I purchased the ones for today pre-cooked and frozen (organic, … Continue reading

Where I’ve Been

Writing.

Experiencing various disasters as I experiment with vegan, sugar-free, gluten free, allergen-free scones (and thus finally learning the value of the metric system.) Blog post forthcoming on both aforementioned disasters, the importance of ratios in baking, and my improved quantitive reasoning skills (or several blog posts! I’m trying to learn to think small when it comes to writing, rather than big. But, being a writing teacher well versed in assessment at the institutional level, I definitely want to talk about quantitative reasoning and my recent forays into baking.)

But I’ve been noveling, noveling, noveling . . . in my journal. On my laptop using a combination of word documents and novel writing software (I use Scrivener.) And as things get, as they are wont to do, messier and messier and messier (I’ll think, I’m doing it! The novel is coming! It’s coming . . . It’s very similar to making love, actually– when you start to feel the orgasm coming on . . . sometimes it comes– sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is very, very big and lasts a long time. Sometimes it is short and over so quickly you wonder what happened. “It’s always over so fast for you,” a former lover said, not really even trying to hide the reproach in his voice. “It takes such a long time to get you there, and then . . . ” He didn’t need to finish his thought. His point was clear), I’ve been feeling, yet again, like I’m not going to do this thing.

Then one of my students e-mailed me to tell me he discovered, on Friday, that his wife has been cheating on him and did I have any wisdom for him?

Why people think a single woman in her 30′s currently in a relationship-that-is-not-a-relationship– an experiment in unconventional monogamy that can only be called unorthodox– might have any so-called wisdom about marriage is beyond me. A woman with a “failed” marriage (i.e. one that ended in divorce.) A woman with a string of former lovers so long she can’t remember all their names. A woman who has been called a slut, a whore, a cunt, a bitch . . . by both men (to her face) and women (behind her back.) A woman who has cheated in almost every relationship she has participated in (my last two are significant (yet probably not statistically so, being that they are outliers) exceptions.)

There are many things that are strange and weird about me (“This essay is important to me for lots of reasons . . . ” one of my students wrote in his final blog entry last night. “The other main reason is that I don’t want to let are fearless teacher down. She has been such a great woman, she has shown us her true self, and let us in to her crazy little world she calls home.” Indeed. :)) but perhaps the strangest is that women have been asking me for advice about their marriages since my early adolescence.

Being the oldest of five children, I started babysitting early. I was good with kids– babies, in particular, love me. I can make a crying newborn stop wailing in about two minutes (something I am West Seattle famous for in more than one circle.)

And after I had sung, bounced, strolled, read, cajoled their children to sleep, my clients turned to me for another kind of solace: specifically, the mothers. Women always wanted to tell me about their marriages.

Whether they were driving me home or picking me up, regardless of sleeping children in car seats in the back seat or if we were alone, married women in their 30′s and 40′s told me, a 13 year old virgin who would not have her first awkward kiss for another three years, almost four years, the most intimate secrets of their marriages.

Now that I am solidly in my middle 30′s, much more experienced sexually (of course, the paradox of sex is that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know) women and men still turn to me. And the advice I have, the stories, the thousands of stories I have to illustrate, will literally fill a book.

So I wrote my student back, thinking, ah, yes, here is the stuff of the novel. Although I found his request overwhelming and professionally dangerous (I’m a novelist who writes about marriage and a composition teacher, after all, not a marriage counselor), I also found it to be a version of the question I have been asking myself for many, many years: What makes a happy marriage? I’ve known that was the unanswerable question my book is trying to answer for many years . . .but the actual task of trying to get down so much complexity (so many people’s stories, with all their tragic beauty) has proved to be even more difficult than my wildest imaginings.

But I wanted the student, this man who has been cheated on, to read Sugar on the Rumpus– specifically the letter titled “A Bit of Sully in Your Sweet.” In the fall, the second essay my 101 students wrote was a marriage analysis, and I showed them her letter as a brilliant and unorthodox sample of one possible interpretation of the assignment. It remains one of the most thoughtful (not to mention poetic) explorations of the ethics of marriage I have had the intense pleasure of reading.

It had been a while since I read Sugar on the Rumpus, and after I sent the link to the student, I read a few of her more recent letters. One comes up almost immediately when you type in “Sugar on the Rumpus” on Google: it says “Tiny Beautiful Things.”

Tiny Beautiful Things” is a list of advice for young women (and men) in their twenties, written in the form of a letter (a love letter?) from an older Sugar to a younger version (draft?) of herself. There are many beautiful and poignant things she writes in that letter, but I am going to save those for prompts for the novel.

Here is the one I want to share with you, dear readers, if only to explain where I have been the last few weeks and how I have been feeling:

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.

No, I do not have a career. I DO have a life– one I had to leave another life to have. I am a writer because I am indeed writing, even if much of it stays trapped in the many, many journals I have taking up space on every available chair in my tiny “Studio House.” Even if much of it remains unread bytes on my laptop.

My resolve– to not let my fear– my lack of faith– keep me from putting words on the page as they appear.

My book does indeed have a birthday, and I do not know what it is yet. How much comfort I take in that line! And in writing it, I will finally be able to offer that student my “wisdom,” for whatever it is worth.

Perhaps I have, by telling you about my writing, told you a bit about my vegan baking disasters? They are indeed connected.

Much love,

Jen

Beginning (Again) with Black Barley

I am beginning the process of revising a dish that has gotten a bad rap– Succotash. How? With Bittman (he has a fabulous recipe) and Black Barley.

Barley is not “clean,” (it has gluten in it), but I bought a beautiful bag of black barley at New Seasons pre-Cleanse, and I’ve been dying to play with it. It says a little “hello! Look how pretty I am!” to me whenever I open my cupboards.

Anyway, I received a sign from the Universe last night when the EBWINTMENIHMB took me to The Grant Restaurant: one of the sides was a black barley succotash.

Mark Bittman has a beautiful succotash recipe with barley– my mom makes it. I thought, hmmm. The seed was planted, so to speak.

I didn’t have the dish (it came with a sugary glazed chicken), but I saw it on another patron’s plate: it looked nothing like the gorgeous dish my mom makes.

As usual, I can do it much, much better.

So I am going to make Bittman’s dish with black barley. Of course, I’m going to soak the grains first to release their anti nutrients.

Let the re introduction of barley begin!

Virtual Vegan Potluck: (Naked) Curry in a Hurry

Recipe from The Naked Foods Cookbook

Last Saturday night, the EBWINTMENIHMB and I stopped by my parents’ house in Seattle during their romantic dinner.  “What smells so delicious?” the EBWINTMENIHMB asked my mother.

“Pork Scallopine with Citrus Basalmic Sauce,” she replied.  And then, “Jenny, do you remember the night you made this for all your friends?” she asked.

“Oh, mom,” I said, and sort of shuddered.  I did indeed.  It all came back to me . . . that girl I used to be.

I had forgotten about that night: I had just graduated from my MA program at WWU, I was the senior guard at Colman Pool in West Seattle, and to make that summer even better, I got a sweet gig house-sitting at a gorgeous craftsman right on Puget Sound, with beach access and a spectacular view of the Fauntleroy Ferry docks.

The woman who owned the house had known me since before I was born, and not only had I babysat for all three of her children from the time they were infants, I had taught all her children to swim at Colman Pool (literally steps from her house.)  “You should have a few of your friends over,” she told me before she left.

 So I had about thirty of my best friends to the house for a dinner party.  I mean, what ELSE was a newly minted Master of English Literature-cum-Lifeguard going to do with her evenings?  Definitely not read Ulysses again.  Oh no– she reads The Joy of Cooking and thinks about what to feed her friends.

The thing about making scallopine for a main dish is that you have to saute the tiny pieces of meat (that you’ve flattened with a cleaver in between sheets of wax paper) in butter and olive oil.  If you figure about five scallopine per person, that is not only a lot of meat to pound beforehand– that is a lot of pork to saute as your guests are walking in the door.

And then, after all that (your pretty apron now covered in grease and your hair frizzy from the heat), you are flustered and anxious because your guests, annoyingly, want to actually talk to you after you’ve invited them to your house– well, then you need to deglaze the pan to make the sauce.

A LOT of sauce.

Not to mention you have to somehow keep track of all the vegetable sides (even when I was a meat eater, I was big on veggies on the plate.)

At any rate, here’s what I learned: pork scallopine is one thing when you are making an intimate dinner for two– quite another when you have thirty people (all hungry) waiting for their dinner.

So you’re probably wondering what a story about meat has to do with a Virtual Vegan Potluck.  If you’re not with me– feel free to skip ahead to the next blog . . . or go back to the previous one to be sure you didn’t click on the wrong link.  :)

My point is that since then, while I have lost my love for meat (and pretty much all animal products), I still love to entertain.  Therefore, I think a lot about main courses to serve at a party.  Hence, when beautiful punny Anne (get it? AnNE Unrefined Vegan?  It took me a while . . .) sent out the invitations for the Virtual Vegan Potluck, I knew I wanted to bring a main dish.

So tonight, when I got home from work, I pretended that all of you dear readers were coming over for dinner.  Is this the kind of dish that will feed a crowd AND free you up to be present to your guests?

Note: I know that potluck criteria is slightly different than dinner party criteria (like how well will a dish stand up to sitting out for a hour or two, for example), but just go with me on this journey anyway.

To prepare, I had soaked my almonds the night before, like a good girl.

That night of my first dinner party, I was really into my new skill of pounding pork.  Now, ten years later, my thing is soaking nuts.

A bit of backstory: I’ve always been a bit obsessive about my nuts.  I’m (in)famous for going into my friend’s cupboards and pulling out all their old bags of Brazil nuts and ancient olive oils, opening them, sniffing pointedly, and then demanding they throw out the now rancid (and toxic oils.)  After I subjected her to my refrigeration lecture, my mother now refrigerates the bags of walnuts, pecans, and almonds she buys in bulk at Costco (they roast them for about 10 minutes at 350 for snacks.)

I can’t wait until I go home for Mother’s Day to make dinner– I can only imagine her face when I inform her that now she not only must soak her nuts, she cannot roast them at 350 anymore (that turns the good fats rancid.)  Oh no– now she must slow roast them in an open oven at its lowest setting– or get a dehydrator.

Anyhoo . . . the current cookbook writer I am obsessed with, Margaret Floyd, author of The Naked Foods Cookbook (which just came out literally days ago), and its predeccesor, Eat Naked, says that she and her husband, James, always have at least one food soaking or sprouting in their kitchen.

Well, just a few short days after starting to read her books, now I do too.  :)

In case you are feeling a little freaked out about soaking your own nuts, you’d be surprised how uncomplicated it is (I was!)  And yet, like MLA citations (which I’m teaching right now in my English 101, incidentally), how complicated we humans make it appear!  In a previous blog post, I referenced a VERY long conversation about the itnricacies of soaking nutsThe Naked Foods Cookbook makes it very simple (I included another link above that also has a very clear discussion of the benefits as well.)

So before I went to bed, I covered the almonds with water.  In the morning, I spread them out on a baking dish, put my oven on its lowest setting, opened the door, and let them dry out/roast for a few hours.

They turned out lovely.  Soaking nuts make them swell (duh), which not only gives them a very different taste and texture– it makes them bulk up.  Not only do you get more nut for your money . . . you get more nutrients!  Soaking releases the “anti nutrients,” which Floyd describes beautifully in her book.  All you need to do is look at the soaking water the next day to be convinced– so gross!

Suffice to say I am now a nut-soaking convert– I will no longer eat grains, legumes, or nuts that have not been soaked (if I can help it.)  And the very last thing I could eat at Starbucks (the roasted salted almonds) is officially off the list.

I really want to tell you all about the conversation I had with my 101 students about soaking nuts . . . but that is for another blog entry.  I’m on a mission to get this blog post finished (and focused) eventually.

Let’s move on, shall we? I still have a lot to tell you (write you) about yoghurt, not to mention unpacking the idea of a main from a flirting-with-veganism-perspective.

So next we have my home-made seed yoghurt for the dressing, which I made using a recipe from Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods.

I came home from yoga on Tuesday night (after it had been fermenting in front of my heater for about eight hours– the recipe said 6 to 10) and I felt like it was too runny.  So I added a spoonful of So Delicious Plain Cultured Coconut (athough I did not let it come to room temperature, as Margaret Floyd advises in her recipe, so the probiotics in it perhaps did not get a chance to “turn on” (they are dormant, apparently, when it is cold)) AND I took one of my very expensive Metagenics Probiotics and broke open the capsule and dumped that in too (as some other recipes suggest.)   Then I left it out all night under my heater to ferment again (Warning: This is NOT what any recipe suggested, and if it were a real potluck, I would not  have taken that risk.  But since I would be the only one eating all my results . . .)

While it was a bit runny, by morning it had definitely soured.   It was delicious, and I actually couldn’t stop eating it.  I forced myself to save a cup– 1/2 for the recipe, and 1/2 to add to a new batch.  I have lots of ideas about making my own yoghurts . . . blog posts to follow!

Note: My Metagenics probiotic has a dairy starter.  You can definitely use a non dairy probiotic, however, if you wanted to play around with my impromptu method.

When I got home around six, I started mixing together the dressing, thinking about what it would be like if I were REALLY going to a potluck to bring this as a main.  As far as dressing goes, the recipe (from The Naked Foods Cookbook) was ridiculously easy– Curry in a Hurry indeed!

Basically, I mixed together a generous 1/2 cup of my seed yoghurt, 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (next time I would add the zest, a teaspoon of raw honey (yacon would be an EXCELLENT vegan substitute (and equally as nutritious.)  You could also use maple syrup.  I would NOT recommend using agave, because I think that stuff is extremely dangerous.  A teaspoon of coconut palm sugar would also work), a teaspoon of curry powder (I doubled the amount because I love curry seasoning), a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, and a teaspoon of Himalyan pink salt.  As the recipe directed, I put all the ingredients into a pint mason jar (that is actually my standard procedure when it comes to making salad dressing) and shook vigorously.

It was delicious, and, like my yoghurt, I kept eating spoonfuls of it.

Dressing made, it was time to tackle the Swiss Chard.

Doesn’t my farmer package the greens beautifully?  It is so exciting to open the bag every Tuesday and see what is inside.

Gorgeous, and just picked on Monday!  Not only does Hidden Oasis not use any animal products or mechanical appliances on the farm . . . my farmer drives a hybrid (thus creating a smaller petroleum footprint) AND we share the same zip code!  For $20 a week, I feel like I am doing something good for a) my body, b) my soul, c) my community, d) the environment.  Talk about an investment!

And look– I’m making a heart by opening the chard with my fingers.

Look at the almost glowing stems!  Goodness, Swiss Chard is beautiful.

This step is SUPER easy.  Rinse the chard (when was the last time you bought greens that had REAL dirt on them?) and leave the drops of water to cling to the leaves.

Chop the Chard.  I love a recipe that tells you to use the stems– less for the compost, more for my belly.  Plus my landlord keeps teasing me about my frequent (and huge) additions to his pile.

Add the almonds and the chard to a pot (you won’t need extra oil, as the water on the leaves will steam it beautifully) over medium high heat.

Toss the chard and the almonds together, stirring frequently, as the greens gently cook (they get GREENER!) and the ingredients get, as Emeril would say, all happy together.

Don’t overcook!  :)

Then add the dressing.  The recipe says 2 Tablespoons, but I used the whole thing, as I love dressing.  :)  Go ahead– be a glutton.

 So, my friends, I ate the whole head of Swiss Chard and the whole jar of dressing (it was only about half a cup, but there you go.)  It was delicious.  Later that night, reading Healing with Whole Foods, in the chapter on Making Dietary Transitions, Paul Pitchford writes that Swiss Chard is exceptionally cleansing.  Since I am on Day Five of Week One of my Third Revision of the Clean Program, that was exciting.

One final thought: I e-mailed Anne in a panic a few days ago, asking if I should be moved to sides.  Since I have been experimenting with vegetarianism, I’ve been thinking a lot about the protein myth: that is a LONG story, and deserves its own blog post– more than one, actually.

But this dish would be, I think, what Pitchford would call, in his chapter on proper food combining, a “Protein meal”– a high fat protein (the nuts) combined with a low starch, cleansing green.  Of course, it would also serve as a great green to serve with a meat dish, but the more I read about the benefits of a calming vegetarian diet (love that phrase, which I stole from Pitchford), the more I think, why would you do that?

If you are using soaked nuts (for taste and for nutritional impact), freshly picked local greens, and your own (seed) yoghurt . . . who needs meat with all of these nutrients?

In terms of the way I have been revising my eating, this is definitely a complete meal!

And in addition to being delicious, it is inexpensive, easy to digest and . . . comes together VERY quickly.  I will definitely make this again, for a solo supper on a late Spring evening . . . or for a crowd!

Have fun at the potluck, dear readers . . .

Sprouting (Seeding) Frenzy: Adventures in Almond Yoghurt

Look How Dirty My Heater Is . . . As of today, I am the kind of woman who makes her own yoghurt. Look to your left– there it is, a bowl of it, sitting in front of the heater of my tiny little studio house in Vancouver, WA.

And not just any yoghurt either– not dairy yoghurt, from animals– but seed yoghurt.

Did you know there was such a thing?

I didn’t either– at least, not until March of this year, when I started the Clean Program to try and empty myself out in order to fill myself with novel.

Before I tell you about seed yoghurt, which, according to Healing with Whole Foods, is one of the most easily digestible and richest sources of the “good” bacteria we all want in our bellies, I want to tell you something about my first line.

A few years ago I posted a similarly phrased status update to my Facebook page: something along the lines of “Jennifer Locke Whetham is now the kind of woman who makes her own granola.” One of my friends remarked, somewhat cattily, I thought at the time (still think, actually), that she felt to call yourself “The kind of woman who” meant you had to make the item more than once.

Turns out that after that FB status update I made granola a lot. Not only because my granola was kick-ass (it was so good that my friend Marcie’s son Marcus even deemed it the best he’d ever had and he doesn’t even like granola,) but because granola and love are pretty much synonymous for me (that, my friends, is another blog entry.)

For now, I’ll say (write) this: the EBWINTMENIHMB loves granola, and so I made it for him a few times while we were not-dating, and then about once a week during the time we were were TRULY not-dating.

And then, when the EBWINTMENIHMB and I started not-dating again (I realize it’s confusing), I started The Clean Program and eliminated, among a lot of other things, oats from my diet.

I wrote in my journal, during week two of Round One of the Clean Program, that the food I missed the most were oats– I missed that homemade granola. More importantly, what was I going to make for the EBWINTMENIHMB to show him I loved him? Don’t worry, dear reader– there’s a happy ending regarding grain-free granola (or at least a potential one) and me expressing my love for the EBWINTMENIHMB, but I can’t tell you about that right now, because I do want to get (eventually) to the seed granola.

It was February, Valentine’s Day, that I made my last batch of granola for the EBWINTMENIHMB– granola and four kinds of hummus (he also loves hummus.) While I was writing him an eight page letter by hand, telling him about this book I read, She by Robert Johnson, and how the myth of Eros and Psyche so closely matched our past, present, and possibly our future, and how our break-up was a metaphor for the development of my divine feminine (which he ended up not being able to read because I waxed so ecstatic (not eloquent)), I burned the entire double batch I had been planning to leave on his counter while he was at work. Typical.

But again, I tell you all to provide evidence that I did INDEED end up making my own, delicious, home-made granola more than once.

Therefore, I think it is safe to assume, given my previous track record with granola, that now that I have started making my own seed yoghurt, I will become the kind of woman who always makes her own, and that my seed yoghurt, like my granola, will be fucking delicious, far exceeding the kind you pay an exorbitant amount for at the grocery store.

So a few things I want to tell you, dear reader:

I Used Unskinned Almonds-- interesting!1) Since I have been flirting with veganism the past few weeks (eight, to be exact– two three week cycles of the Clean program with a few days off in between each– I’m in my third three week round right now because, like anything, I keep getting better at cleansing and I want to do it again, except better this time), it has suddenly occurred to me (after reading lots and lots and lots of blog posts) that what we think of as “dairy” can all be replicated by non-animal products: namely nut and seed milks, nut and seed cheeses, and (duh) nut and seed yoghurts. Plus, if you have a Vitamix (like i do) or even just a decent blender or food processor, you can make your OWN nut and/or seed dairy products– without added sugars, weird stabilizers, gluten, etc.

2) I have been wanting to make my own seed granola for a while. I first got the idea during my first three-week round of the Clean Program, when I first grokked that cows were not the only source of milk, and therefore not the only source of yoghurt, cheese, and the ubiquitous white liquid we all grew up pouring on our cereals and drinking with chocolate cake. While I didn’t want to experiment with coconut yoghurt made by So Delicious (although I did walk around the Frement Whole Foods for about an hour thinking about it), the seed (heh heh) was planted. Then I read a ridiculously simple recipe for making seed yoghurt using, get this, seeds, water, and miso in Healing with Whole Foods (which I read obsessively during my first three weeks of detox.) For some reason, I just never got around to making it.

No matter. Now is the time. Which leads me to the third thing I want to tell you, which is

3) On May 12th, partly as a result of my reading of vegan blogs, I am taking part in a Virtual Vegan Potluck, organized by the witty, smart, brilliant, fabulous, lovely, PUNNY Anne of an Unrefined Vegan. So for the past week or so, I have been looking at various recipes, trying to decide what to make.

My answer came in two waves: one is the EBWINTMENIMB gave me a book, The Naked Foods Cookbook, that just came out because he thought I would like it. To say that he was right is sort of an understatement. The Naked Foods Cookbook is sort of like the answer to multiple prayers/questions I have been having since I started this shift in my eating.

The second is that my share of the CSA I joined arrived on Tuesday morning, and it contained the most beautiful Swiss Chard I’ve ever seen. Incidentally, the farmer who brings my green bag of produce to my door in a Toyota Prius is a biodynamic farmer– he and his wife are vegans, and they use no animal products whatsoever on the their farm– not even fish fertilizer. Their greens are so beautiful that sometimes I open my refrigerator just to stare at them.

Anyway, in addition to having a recipe for hemp milk (for some reason not even the internet could yield a decent or clear recipe), and some valuable instructions on soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds (more on that later, but for now, again, after reading multiple (and earnest) discussion forums on soaking nuts, complete with some random guy posting a joke about how much his wife enjoyed his soaked nuts and someone else commenting on the non dairy whipped cream his wife enjoyed licking off his soaked nuts) the internet failed to yield clear and concise (or consistent) answers), The Naked Foods Cookbook also had a recipe for Curried Swiss Chard with Almonds that looked amazing.

So I will be making The Naked Food Cookbook’s Curried Swiss Chard with Almonds for my contribution to the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Just you wait. Oh, the glorious pictures I will be taking.

I planned on making my dish today, the 9th, just in case disaster struck before the actual virtual Vegan Potluck on the 12th. It’s a good thing I did, as I realized that the recipe had yoghurt in it– AND honey. Those things are not vegan, in case you were wondering.

The honey is an easy fix– I’m going to substitute yacon syrup (more on that in the post.)

The yoghurt is also a potentially easy fix, but I am resistant to products like So Delicious, that are full of stabilizers and weird chemical ingredients and sugar disguised by fancy names. Yeah . . . not so much.

So the EBWINTMENIHMB went into Portland and picked me up some So Delicious coconut yoghurt (just in case!), while I retreated to my kitchen to try my hand (finally!) at making my own.

The recipe for Seed yoghurt in Healing with Whole Foods calls for a cup of soaked sesame seeds or almonds (I used my almonds), a cup of water, and a 1/2 t of miso– all things I had in my fridge.

Fortunately, since reading The Naked Foods Cookbook, I have been soaking a batch of nuts each night (basically, soaking nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes releases what are called their “Anti Nutrients”– the things that keep them from germinating too early. When you soak them, it simulates germination, making the seed think it is going to be planted, which releases all the things that are good for you. Basic gardening 101, right? I totally remember soaking nastursium seeds back in my gardening days.)

So two nights ago I soaked some hazelnuts (I made milk out of them) and last night I soaked some sliced almonds for the Curried Swiss Chard recipe (it calls for 1/2 a cup to be sprinkled on the finished dish.) I had soaked more than a half cup, fortunately, and so I blended the water and almonds in my Vitmixer, whisked in the 1/2 t of miso, covered it with a tea towel (the instructions say cover but do not seal) and put it in front of my heater. It should ferment in 6 to 10 hours– after that I am too refrigerate it.

So we’ll see. If my yoghurt is a complete flop, I’ll just use the coconut one from Soy Delicious. While it is plain, it has dried cane sugar in it (NOT CLEAN), and while it does have a healthy dose of probiotics in it, it also has a bunch of chemical sounding things in it I cannot pronounce (and cannot be good for my body.)

But back to my opening line.

Now that I am the kind of woman who makes her own seed yoghurt, I have lots of other ideas. I really want to experiment with making coconut milk from a young coconut (mixing the soft, gel like meat with the water inside it and then blending) and the liquid probiotic I used during my first round of the Clean Program (which is fermented coconut water.)

I also want to use garbanzo bean miso rather than soy bean miso (I just discovered this product, as I have been suffering under the delusion that miso must be made from soybeans, which I am trying to eliminate completely from my diet for numerous reasons that Margaret Floyd describes in her OTHER fabulous book, which I also bought, Eat Naked.

At any rate, I’ll “see” you all on the 12th for the Virtual Vegan Potluck! Wish me (and my yoghurt) luck!

Sucessful Stinging Nettle Soup of Seduction

Sucessful Stinging Nettle Soup of Seduction

Today is Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate it than getting out in nature?  It’s gorgeous and sunny here in Seattle . . . why not forage for some nettles? What I refer to in my head as … Continue reading

Courage in the Name of Love: Cracking the Young Coconut

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This gallery contains 3 photos.

Every winter quarter, I give my students an extra credit opportunity– to do something courageous in the name of love. It started the quarter I was teaching Romeo and Juliet.  On Valentine’s Day, I happened to be teaching the scene– … Continue reading

Gwyneth Paltrow Does Not Lie: Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing

Willie Green's Organic FarmYes, as Deb of Smitten Kitchen, (who also made this salad dressing/dip  from Gwyneth Paltrow‘s website Goop) writes, “that Gwyneth Paltrow . . .”

Gwyneth Paltrow, at least when it comes to Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing, tells the truth.

She writes, in her Detox Newsletter (January of 2011), that this carrot-ginger dressing is “the jam,” and for some reason, that strangeness of that phrasing both unnerved me and appealed to me.

To say that a salad dressing is “the jam,” is a little confusing, to say the least.  The first time I read that sentence, months ago now, it took me a second to process its semantics: did she mean “the jam” as in the fruit concoction?  Was this dressing a jam substitute with carrots?

Of course, what she meant (if we can ever really know what we mean when we write– Death of the Author!  Roland Barthes!  Vive Literary Theory and English teachers confusing students everywhere as one teacher asks you “What is the author trying to say?” and the next tells you that we cannot ever, ever know– not even the author can know . . . So.  Awesome) was that this dressing is fucking great.

Brilliant.  The bomb.  The shit.  The cat’s pajamas.  I’ve run out of phrases and there are more interesting things to write.

Anyway, I found myself oddly enchanted by that sentence: This Dressing is the Jam!  I haven’t ever been a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan (I always confuse her with Uma Thurman, although I do LOVE her in Shallow Hal), but for some reason, I can hear her voice saying it.

So . . . (abrupt but necessary transition), I had to cancel Thursday Night’s Dinner of Seduction (The TNDOS) because I felt sort of sick, and making a delicious dinner and then eating it sounded, well, not like I wanted to be doing.

What I wanted to be doing, most of Thursday, was to be curled up in the fetal position.  Dr. Junger warns that Week Two can be intense, and this time around in my Clean Program Redux (the CPR), I am taking the supplements he recommends (although I used this website and ordered the supplements directly from Metagenics through Professional Supplement Center– they were much cheaper this way (and they come in larger quantities.))

Taking the supplements this time around both makes the detox both easier (as in my hunger is more regulated (thanks to the Kinsinase) and my bowel movements MUCH more . . . well . . . eliminating) and harder (I woke up on Thursday just feeling yucky.  All I wanted, strangely, was raw cabbage juice.  I had about 3/4 of a green cabbage in my fridge and I chopped it up and threw it into the VItamix.  It was SO PRETTY– a frothy light green– and it was not as terrible tasting as I thought it would be.  But I think, as Dr. Junger says, my body is tuning into what is truly self-healing.)

Anyhoo . . . drinking raw cabbage juice and feeling just a general discomfort in my stomach was not exactly making me feel sexy and desirable.  So I cancelled for Thursday and we rescheduled for tonight– Saturday.

So yesterday, after I taught my noon class, I decided I would make the dressing ahead of time– let the flavors meet and marry and meld together (it calls for a whole shallow and two tablespoons of ginger, so I imagined it would be pretty pungent.)

And as I peeled carrots and chopped ginger and shallots, I repeated it to myself: This Dressing is the JAM!

As I measured oils and vinegar and pulsed the whole mixture in my Vitamix, I chanted it in my head: This DRESS-ing IS the JAM!

And when it was all done, the dressing was so pretty– a light goldeny orange.  I had some long thin carrots from the New Seasons on Rosa Parks– also very beautiful– and I started dipping them in the dressing.  Ab Fab.

Of course, now a substantial portion of dressing is gone, and it WAS very pungent.  So I am going to make it again today and cut down on the shallot by 1/2.  I am hoping there will be kissing– a lot of kissing (I LOVE kissing and the EBWINTMENIHMB is an amazing kisser– probably the best kisser of everyone I’ve ever kissed) and raw shallot, even if we both eat the dressing, is not the most inviting of aromas.

Here is the recipe with my adaptions: I substituted unrefined olive oil for the grapeseed oil because I couldn’t find unrefined grapeseed (which is also not Clean) or any of its substitutes (canola, sunflower) in unrefined form.  And I will definitely be playing around with the amount of shallot in future preparations.

“The Jam”/(Truthful) Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small shallot (I am going to cut this down even further)

2 T roughly chopped fresh ginger

1 T sweet white miso

2 T rice wine vinegar

1 T unrefined roasted sesame oil

1/4 cup unrefined olive oil

2 T filtered clean water

For the salad, Gwyneth Paltrow recommends a head of baby gem lettuce, 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced, and 1/4 of an avocado, diced.

Tonight, I am going to use greens from my little salad garden that hangs on the fence.  I’m also going to use the diced avocado.  But because of the kissing, I will not be using red onion.  Rather, I will use thinly sliced organic radishes for bite.  Radishes are extremely cleansing– and they will give us fragrant fresh breath.

Enjoy!  And double the recipe.  You won’t regret it.

Dinner of Seduction Two: Seasonal Spring Ingredients Redux

This time last week, Thursday the 5th, was Day Two of my Clean Program Redux.

I love that word, by the way (in case you couldn’t tell from my title)– Redux.  It’s a literary term, meaning “brought back, restored.”  I’m going to start referring to my second round of the Clean Program– my revision of 21 days of detoxing– as the CPR.

So here we are again, dear readers . . . brought back, restored to Thursday (everything is recursive, I’m beginning to realize)– Day Eight of the CPR.

And, like last week, the EBWINTMENIHMB is coming over for dinner and, whether he knows it or not, another seduction.

As I’m flirting with vegetarianism and eating Clean (off the elimination diet), sexy food must also be healthy food. Vital.  Cleansing.  Yet my goal is also that each course would be delicious and indulgent at the same time.

So now that I live in Vancouver again, I want to support local businesses and buy fresh and local whenever I can.  Downtown Vancouver is what is known as a “food desert.”

Fortunately, for me, however, and for my love life, there are two places to shop for healthy, local ingredients: The Vancouver Food Co op and a lovely store called Neighbor’s Market.

I went in to Neighbor’s on Tuesday to see if they had local frozen cherries for my Detox Cherry Beet Smoothie.  They did not, but the woman who owns it said, “I know a farm where I can get them,” and promptly made a notation in a little black book: “Come back next week?” she said.  “They should be in by then.”

While I was there, I started browsing, wanting to see if I could get some root veggies or local greens– just see what they had in terms of produce.  And lo and behold, they had nettles.  I LOVE nettles.  Last week, at the Food Co op, it was fiddlehead ferns for the millet risotto.

I love surprises, and so does the EBWINTMENIHMB.  So as soon as I saw them, I knew that the special ingredient of this Week’s installment of Dinner and Seduction would be nettles.  (And now I’m thinking of Iron Chef and the special/secret ingredient.  God, I love that show.  The Japanese one, not the American one– the dubbed in voices are even more delicious than the food.)

Anyway, I spent Tuesday night trying to think of recipes with nettles.  Usually I would prepare them like spinach– blanch them in hot water so they lose their sting, dry them, and then sauté them in olive oil.  Delicious, yes, but I admit, upon reflection, that they probably got a bit of short shrift that way– when paired with a meat.

Now that I’m seeing the world through the eyes of a vegetarian, I want to make the nettles the star of the meal.  And yet most of the nettle recipes I found were not clean: they had cheese, or were built around a pasta, or were paired with meat.

Then I found this gorgeous recipe for Nettle Soup and it hit me: Nettle Soup with homemade Clean flatbread.  I did a little searching and found a recipe that would be easier to adapt to my nutritional standards: Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe from The Guardian.

Nestled next to the nettles at Neighbor’s were some gorgeous violets.   I could not say no to their lovely little purple faces.   “They are full of Vitamin C,” the owner told me, because of all the sunlight they absorb.  I did a quick search for the nutritional benefits of violets, but right now, I’m just excited to use them as a garnish, sprinkled on top of the soup.

So that’s the first course.

I’m also going to serve a salad.  I’ve been saving the salad greens I’ve been growing behind my house for this meal.  When I bought them, two Sunday’s ago now (Palm Sunday!), I harvested from them almost immediately, and then left them alone until last Thursday.  So I’ve left them alone for another week– letting them regenerate for my dinner of seduction.

They are so happy right now in their new home.  I was a little worried about them getting enough sun behind my house, but they are bursting out of their home– there’s a deer tongue lettuce that looks like it just wants to leap out of the basket.  I say hello to them every morning (I can’t help it.)  Exuberant might be the word for it.

And speaking (writing?) of exuberant . . . I am so excited to serve the EBWINTMENIHMB a salad I harvested just minutes before we eat it.  I have radishes (I have been craving radishes– they are very cleansing) and I’m going to make a carrot ginger dressing (altered slightly to be Clean) from Gwenneth Paltrow’s cleanse diet– according to her, this dressing is “the jam.”  I don’t know quite how to read that (does that mean like jelly?), but it does look delicious.

And just in case the EBWINTMENIHMB is still hungry, I’m going to have another course ready to whip up.  Because at Neighbor’s, foraging through their little refrigerator of greens, I found these gorgeous maitake mushrooms– fresh.  Local.  Maitakes are nutritional powerhouses– I remember reading about them in one of Dr. Perricone’s books years ago.  I even took a supplement for a while (this was years ago.)  So now I have some to actually prepare for culinary delight.

I sort of agonized a while over what to make with the maitakes.  Of course, the millet risotto I made last week with mushrooms and fiddleheads would have been perfect.  But this is my weekly date with the EBWINTMENIHMB– I don’t want to be a one trick pony.

So I let that question back burner for a while, and then I remembered that soba noodles (100% buckwheat) are on the Clean List.  So I am going to make a simple stir fry with the cooked and shocked soba noodles and sauteed mushrooms with scallions and a few other things.  I may add more add more radishes to the recipe.

And of course, there is the question of dessert.  The EBWINTMENISMB has a sweet tooth– he loves dessert.  He especially loves ice-cream, and he pretty much famous in his social circles for his home-made ice-cream.

I’ve been experimenting with clean desserts in my Vitamixer– Tuesday night I made a peach sorbet that was just frozen peaches, and then (strictly in the name of experimentation, you understand) a cherry sorbet that was simply frozen cherries and two teaspoons of raw cacao powder.  I like my desserts more tart– less sweet, so to please the EBWINTMENISMB that is going to be a little trickier.

I tried to make a nondairy vanilla ice-cream yesterday (the first time he made ice-cream, at Christmas (a to-die for peppermint), he told me that making a high quality vanilla ice cream with vanilla beans (rather than extract) is the best base– then add fruits or candy or whatever it is you’re going to add.)

In my ice-cream experiment, I made some almond milk, and then added the recommended portions of sugar (I used palm sugar, which is CLean) and vanilla extract and ice cubes.  It tasted like ice-milk– ok, but definitely not the satisfying mouth feel of ice-cream.

One woman on a vitamix forum suggested four parts frozen to one part liquid– so a cup of coconut milk, say, to a pound of frozen strawberries.I also made one using the ingredients for vanilla ice cream but replacing the icecubes with frozen raspberries.  That one was better.

The EBWINTMENISMB lent me a book called Vice Cream– a vegan approach to ice-cream– but all the recipes are for ice-cream makers.  But the ingredients were awesome.

So I think what I’m going to do a mix of a few things: I’m super into those frozen cherries right now, but the EBWINTMENISMB is not super into chocolate.  So I’m going to make an “ice cream” for him that uses a cup of hazelnut milk (I’ll sprout the nuts tonight) and add a third of a cup of medjool dates (the preferred raw sweetener from the Vice Cream cookbook.)  And then I’ll add a touch of raw honey (I just really want to use that) and a vanilla bean pod.  Instead of ice, I’m going to use frozen cherries.

I think it will be good.  It won’t be ice-cream, persay, but it will be creamy and smooth and delicious.  A vibrant red from the cherries.  Flavor from the sugars (the raw honey and the dates) and from the vanilla bean.

So we’ll see how tonight goes.  We may get through all three courses– we may not.  Hopefully I won’t sting my hands raw whilst transferring nettles from their bag to the huge pot of boiling water to blanch them.  I may enlist the help of the WBWINTMENISMB with the dessert . . . as I’m typing this I’m realizing I forgot the vanilla bean, so I’ll probably text him and ask him to bring one.  Yes, he is the kind of man who has vanilla beans at his house on the regular.  To be honest, I have no idea what will happen.

All I know is that I am excited.

Will post pictures and any successful recipes tomorrow!

Much love,

Jen

I Love My Life: Reason #852

You know that moment in Anchor Man, just after Ron Burgandy tells his fellow news anchors what love feels like? And then they all start singing “Afternoon Delight?”

Well, that is how I felt today, driving back to Clark for my 3:30 class– “Afternoon Delight” was actually playing in my head.

And it’s all due to the Cherry Beet Smoothie I slipped home to make in between my two classes– English 101 at noon daily and my Tuesday/Thursday block class.

I still can’t believe I get to live in Vancouver. At the Washington State Teaching and Learning Conference, which is held every other year at the Vancouver Convention Center, I would find myself standing in line at the Starbucks across from Esther Short Park (it’s in this gorgeous location– think tons of trees and a huge park and sun-dappled shade) I would think, Wouldn’t it be great to live here? And now I do.

And I live close enough to where I work that I can slip home, make a nutrient dense smoothie in my Vitamix, and get in a quickie with the novel.

Yes, I am using a sex metaphor for my writing time. It’s apropos, I promise.

For now . . . I’ll write this: Frozen cherries. One small (peeled) beet. A pear. A cup of cabbage (which I have been (weirdly) craving.) It was beautiful and delicious. Here is the recipe (which includes some interesting nutritional facts about cherries and beets and raw cabbage in terms of their antioxidant and cleansing/detox properties) from the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.  And then I sat at my kitchen table and wrote until it was time to go to class.

Absolute heaven, my friends.

My life is so rich. I spent so many years commuting an hour each way to work– there was no way I could do what I did today in my past life.

And what feels almost as good as cherry beet smoothie coursing through my veins is the knowledge that I live (and eat) in the community where I am so privileged to teach.

Afternoon delight indeed!