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It’s A Wonderful World

April 18, 2012

It seems the only thing consistent about my blogging is my inconsistency. I remind myself of my children when they were toddlers and we would go to visit friends or infrequently seen family. At first, they would sit in my lap. Then, they played at my feet. As they grew more comfortable, they ventured further and further away from me, even out of the room I was in. However, every few minutes they returned if only to touch my leg or lay their head briefly in my lap, touching base before bravely allowing more distance between us.

It’s been a month since my last post and another month might have gone by had Carolyn Thomas not referenced a post from here on her HeartSisters Blog. Thank you Carolyn! and welcome to all her readers who venture here for even a moment.

At least for now, I have grown bored with writing of food. The more I wrote of eating a plant-based diet, the more I learned of others doing the same and doing it so well! Every recipe I concocted could be found somewhere else! I still experiment with recipes and we still try to stick to the extreme vegan way, but others things call for my attention and energy.

The birds are back. Like a group of old friends, they have returned to our yard. Twenty pounds of bird seed a week barely keeps them fed. The deer seem friendlier too, or more bold at least. Twice in one day this week they grazed in the front yard. I pretend I don’t see them. They pretend they don’t see me. Only when I aim a camera at them does the largest doe stomp her foot at me, telling me to leave her yard! We planted a few marigolds (the only flower the deer don’t seem to like) a few more herbs and three tomato plants.

And, we walk. Our little islands have been discovered by others as the days have warmed. Many mornings we have found piles of empty beer bottles left by revelers. Some days, we find broken vodka bottles, large shards of bright blue glass scattered around the rocks and pieces of clothing. We guess someone lost far more than a shirt on that spot the night before. We pick up trash and know that others who live nearby do the same, a silent effort to protect our little paradise.

Sometimes I feel patient and tolerant. Other times I feel angry. Mostly, I feel sad when we find evidence of such disregard for the earth, for life, for ones own life.

I was watching a show on Oprah’s network the other day about autistic children. One father said, “Who are we to judge her quality of life?” He was talking of his own autistic daughter and his wife’s grief over the life his daughter would never have. It reminded me of when the surgeons have tried to talk me into having the aortic bi-femoral bypass, stating how it will “improve your quality of life.” I always respond, “My quality of life is just fine.” That father was saying that to base the quality of his daughter’s life on his own or his wife’s experience was unfair. The surgeons are doing the same, basing the quality of my life on their own experience. What they don’t realize is my experience has allowed me to be incredibly grateful. I have an appreciation for my life, however limited or limitless it may appear, that perhaps they do not have. That little ah-hah made my shoulders drop a tad. This appreciation of life did not come easy. I left my own bits of broken glass and lost more than a few shirts in my life.

One more pastime has begun to consume us. A friend gave Lee a ukulele. We had so much fun with it that very night that the next day we had to go out and find another so we could both play. I always thought it was impossible to hear a ukulele and not smile. We find it’s also impossible to strum one and not smile either.We sing and strum and laugh and…It’s a Wonderful World

Sweet Savory Days

March 17, 2012

My dear friend Donna posted a comment to my last entry that has settled all over me like an old soft quilt. Her writing and thoughts joined the place Carolyn had made ready by her comment. It is a place of commonality. It is that realization that shatters both uniqueness and separation.  When I get sentimental, deep, reflective and even sad, I almost always believe I am the only one. Even statistics (which I love by the way) showing me how un- unique I am, do nothing to break that shell of solitude I create in my mind. It is not a lonely place, but it still feels sometimes as if I alone am there in it, at least in that moment.

Anyway, what all this rambling is leading to is that Carolyn’s and then Donna’s post shattered that shell, at least for today. I write and write, saying the same things I’ve said for years but meaning something entirely different than I did before. Sometimes I feel I need another language, new words because to say these same things I’ve always said falls far short in my mind when trying to describe what those same words mean to me now. Those comments reminded me that many know exactly what I now mean. Anyone who doesn’t, couldn’t know just by my telling it anyway.It’s certainly fine if they think I mean what I meant before (and who’s on first anyway?).

So, here is Donna’s comment and my response.

Hello My Friend! I am so glad you are feeling better today. I also had to learn to live “in the moment” some years ago. After my By-pass I was nervous, very nervous…..but not enough to quit smoking yet. (For all of you who follow this blog: “I know, I know…) My condition is different than yours, mine is complicated by COPD & Emphzeimia (you would think I could at least spell it by now). My issue comes with sudden attacks of not being able to breath. I am fine, and then suddenly I cannot get a breath…..it happens without warning. I can be sitting quietly and reading, driving the car, or walking from the car to my door. I can work all day at my job…walking all over hotels…8 or 9 hours…nothing happens. It is not logical. Sometimes I have pain in my back and I think “this is it!” “There will be no more breathing”….and then it is gone again. I live on for another day. This is my second go round with a fatal illness….37.75 years ago I almost died from my primary illness, alcoholism. I am reminded of this when those attacks come. The gift of one more day has come for 13,779 days so far, so when that last breath comes, how ungrateful would it be for me to complain. I have to push aside the fear and remember that during those thousands of days so many remarkable things have come….my daughter, my grandaughter, my friends and my spritual growth. The flowers, the oceans, the sunrises, the places I have traveled. The moments with my family and friends. The sunsets…..the laughter and yes, even the tears. I have learned, as you seem to be learning, each sunrise is a gift. As an old man once told me….everytime I wake up on the top side of the earth is a very good day. When my final sunset comes, I will haven received much more than I deserved. Today, you and I are both here, and you are one of the gifts I am grateful for. We are both on the top side of the earth together, and that makes me smile.

Dear Donna,
Thank you for your wonderful addition to this post! You are so right, each sunrise is a gift…as is each moment. I wish sometimes I could freeze the moments, the big ones, the small ones, the ones I hardly notice as a sideways glance in the periphery of my mind and sight. I want to freeze each breath too, to take it in completely and hold it in my chest and heart tightly and gently and fully before letting it go.

I had to get out the calculator, 1123 days. 26,952 hours…it’s really no different that anyone’s life, fragile. As ridiculous as it seems when I say this, I still need reminding. If I forget, I lose at least a moment I could have relished more.

1123 days and so much has taken place. Just like you said, so many smiles and hugs and laughs and tears. So many events and times of doing nothing but being with those I love and who love me, so many deep looks in the eyes and touches of the hand. 1123 days of being grateful. 1123 days of knowing contentment. 1123 of the sweetest days. So much music! and quiet and chaos. 1123 days of silliness and less seriousness, less striving and more thriving, less seeking and more being. More love, so much more love and knowing, in an entirely different way,  that love is all that really matters anyway. So many talks and songs and meals and so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for you, too and to be on this side of the dirt with you!

Life’s A Beach

March 15, 2012

I really thought I might post regularly about food. I envisioned sharing all my culinary efforts. I thought I would remember to take pictures as I cooked, making it really easy to duplicate the finished product. I imagined this helping family and friends who might want the recipes, and also helping me to remember exactly how I made somethings that we liked and would like to have again. Alas, I have fallen once more from the wagon of plans.

My fall began with the recurrence of the pesky cardiac symptom. At first, it was a random moment I thought a mere fluke. The next day, it was a few random moments. By the third day, I knew  I needed a medication tune-up.

Of course, this wasn’t my initial thought. Though heart disease is never far from my current train of thinking, I can easily live and breathe within the comfort of denial. I can forget in the blink of an eye just how scary it can be. I can move seamlessly between devastation and endless hope. I can latch hold of good days as if a bad day had never happened. This redefined living in the moment I considered and consider still a tremendous gift. However, when the not so good day returns, it is a jarring fall from the grace of momentary bliss. Carpe diem can quickly turn to a not so magical ride on a carpet-of-impending-doom.

Fortunately, I had a routine appointment already scheduled with the cardiologist. I explained the sudden recurrence of angina as well as our now month-long walking expeditions.

He gently patted my hand as he drew on a scrap of paper a nonsensical graft of how exercise elevates blood pressure. He added to his graft figures of percentages of resting heart rates and resting pressure, somehow explaining that increasing either beyond a certain point pushed me logically into the land of chest pain (sweating, back pain, throat fullness, jaw pain, shortness of breath and all the other strange sensations caused by narrowed arteries and compromised blood flow).

BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK

BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK (Photo credit: Morning Calm News)

Next, he reminded me of why I love him so. Instead of sending me to a cath lab, he suggested changing two meds, one at a time. I’d try increasing the Imdur to 90mg twice a day for a few days. I’d found the use of long acting nitrates no less than miraculous, so he humored me by suggesting this change first. I liked this choice best too because the Imdur is inexpensive, an ever-present consideration. If that didn’t relieve things, I’d double the Bystolic, the beta blocker. I was to monitor my blood pressure daily.Only if these medication changes failed would we “need to consider another cath and the possibility that there is a new blockage.”

I tried the Imdur increase and though things did improve, I was still having frequent “break-through” angina. Three days ago I doubled the Bystolic instead and finally am almost symptom free again.

Now, I’ll clarify what that means. I live within the confines of an ever-expanding field of vascular limitation. My space grows bigger, slowly, gradually but surely. I push until I experience pain. Then I rest. If the pain subsides with a few seconds, I resume whatever I was doing. I can anticipate when this will happen. I know the limits and I push them gently but frequently. If I take longer to recover, I know I pushed too far. I constantly push the limits, but not foolishly. Slowly, very slowly over these three years I’ve progressed from not being able to brush my own hair to the daily walks we were now taking.

Within these tried and true limits, I was symptom free. Only beyond these expanding walls, did I experience symptoms. The “break-through” angina that began a few weeks ago, happened far within those limits, at times when I hadn’t been experiencing symptoms at all. It happened lying in bed, watching TV, cooking. It resumed as it had before the last medication change in the fall, when I’d have episodes as often as 30 times a day.

Needless to say, blogging about dietary efforts to reverse heart disease was not my focus right then. Instead, had I blogged my real thoughts, I might have written about the anger I felt or the fear or the depression that tried to grab hold of my mind. I could have written about my fear that the recent months of feeling so much better were over forever. I can be such a fatalist. I might have instead, written my family one more set of “just in case” letters to replace the most recent stack of letters by that name I have bound with a rubber band hidden in a drawer. I might have blogged about how I might refuse another cath. One more stent? Three more? Another bypass is out of the question. They said that already. I’ve had enough radioactive material injected in me to be labeled a bio hazard.

So, instead of blogging or writing at all, I busied myself with other things. I continued to walk almost every day. The walks were shorter and I was more diligent in remembering to put the baby aspirin in my pocket, just in case. Lee and I spoke little of it. “You having a spell?” would be the only mention other than a silent taking of the blood pressure.

Two brief “spells” during the night last night were the only symptoms in twenty-four hours. The increased Bystolic seems to be working. Like the shining sun and singing birds after a storm, it is so easy to forget how scary it can be. I do love living! I have an incredible life! I am so glad it is so easy to forget. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.

Our puppy Sam is almost five months old now. She lives like that. Just this morning, I took her out and the garbage truck came down the road and stopped at our neighbor’s house just as we walked onto the grass in the front yard. It scared her. She took off up the front steps for the front door, pulling on the leash ahead of me. She ran in the house and tried to climb up Lee’s legs. Before either of us could begin to comfort her, she had forgotten the scare and was chasing Birdie around the room. The scare was past. The threat was gone. Life was good again. Life was good, still.

So, today the sun is shining. Spring has arrived early. The trees are already wearing baby leaves. The wild onions are tall in the yard. I fill the bird feeders every morning. The lake is rising, threatening to cover the sandbar that allows us access to the islands. Today though, I will walk along the shore, now stained with the yellow pollen of the pine trees, washed onto the sand by the water. Sam will dig for smelly treasure and romp and splash at the shallow edges. It is our third Spring here.

I will cook us plants to eat and day-dream of cheese. No, sesame seeds with nutritional yeast do not even come close to tasting like cheese, by the way. Does this diet help? I have no idea. I only know that today I feel good. Today, I am thriving. Whether it’s from drugs, stents, surgery, luck, plants, diet, love, grace or some predestined plan, I am grateful.

What the Pho

February 18, 2012

A friend took Lee to a Vietnamese restaurant a couple of years ago, called “What the Pho.” Since then, we’ve gone there every few months and always eaten the same thing. I can’t remember the name of the thing we eat though. Lee is somehow able to figure out which item on the vast menu it is once we get there. It’s part soup, part salad, resting on a bed of rice noodles. It’s also massive, but  light. It’s filled with all sorts of vegetables with a thin as water ginger dressing. We top it with a sauce mixture Lee concocts from the bottles of sauces on the table. It is to-die-for delicious.

I’ve tried to duplicate it a couple of times, replacing the rice noodles with thinly sliced cabbage lightly steamed with a bit of soy sauce.

Here is how my latest attempt was made.

I started by slicing some green and some purple cabbage super thin.

This was to trick our minds and bellies into thinking we were eating noodles.

I put about 1/2 cup of water and a generous splash of low sodium soy sauce in a saucepan with the lid on.

I brought the cabbage to a quick boil, gave it a good stir, then turned the burner off. I didn’t touch the lid again, letting the cabbage steam while I prepared everything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I sliced an onion, 2 carrots and a large turnip very thin.

I let them slowly saute in a skillet with a little soy sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, I cut up some yellow squash (I also discarded the seediest part, to avoid the squash making everything too wet) and cauliflower.

This was pretty, but lacked a bit in color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I added some fresh broccoli one of Lee’s customers had given us from his garden.

I’d never had home-grown broccoli before. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

I added all these vegetables to the sauteing onion, carrot and turnip mixture, for a brief steam.

I wanted them to keep the majority of their fresh, crunchy bite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I made the sauce.

In a small bowl:

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup lite soy sauce

1 tsp peanut butter

2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp curry

1/4 tsp black pepper

lite sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp of this wonderful stuff called General Tso’s Sauce and Glaze, though I think the sauce would have been equally delicious without it.

I heated the mixture in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each one, until it was well blended and hot.

 

Finally, I sliced a cucumber.

To assemble our mock Pho, I filled our bowls half full of cabbage.

To the cabbage I added a generous spoonful of the sautéed veggies.

Then a nice drizzle of the sauce and topped each with a few slices of cucumber.

It certainly isn’t much like the delicious dish we’ve had at that restaurant, but it is incredibly tasty and still leaves us feeling rather righteous.

Any vegetables would work and though I never make the sauce the same way twice, with the honey and the soy sauce as the base, it’s good every time.

 

 

 

 

After all that righteousness (and I hate to admit this to you!), and all our efforts these past few weeks, we had a double cheese pizza last night.

It was so good! I moaned with every bite! I didn’t want to brush my teeth because I didn’t want the taste to go away! I could eat another one today. I won’t, but I could. I would love it, too.

I like to think this blog helps someone now and then besides me. Once I started writing about my fat-free food attempts, I hoped someone might find that helpful as well. I hope my admission of caving to the craving inspires, too. If not, I hope you at least find it amusing.  I’d love it if this was easy. However, it seldom is. On the best day, I believe I can do this perfectly from now on. Most days, I just try to avoid the pizza.

Happy eating, whatever you eat today.

Will! I Want My Power Back!

February 16, 2012
Map of Heart Disease Death Rates in US White M...

Image via Wikipedia

I first read about Plant Based diets as they impact heart disease a year and half ago. For the majority of the time since then, I have made an effort to eat mostly plants. Yet, rare has been the full week when I have completely avoided added fat of any kind. Rarer still has been the month I haven’t completely fallen from the plant wagon. Over these many months, a bit of cheese here, a bite of cake, a slice of pizza, a family dinner, a holiday would lead to another and another until I was back shopping in the middle of the store and feeling as if I had to start all over again.

Eating a diet that was plant-based was the only hope of living a long time. Going beyond vegan offered the only hope of stopping a disease conventional medicine believed to be unstoppable. Not only that, but this simple way of eating offered hope of actually reversing the disease.

One would think that someone with heart disease would jump at the chance to live a long and much healthier life. One would certainly think someone who not only had heart disease, but who had vascular disease from head to toe, purple toes I might add, would never allow added fat to ever touch her lips again.

Then, after reading The China Study, and finding out how a plant-based diet could prevent and stop the progression of cancers and a host of other diseases, I would think that eating this way, living this way would be effortless. What could be stronger than the will to live? What could possibly be more powerful a drive than the drive to breath and walk and laugh and live and thrive, even?

Yet, for all these many months, I have craved and caved over and over. I’ll add that I was never someone who “battled” with weight or with food before this illness. Yet, now, when changing my diet permanently matters so much, I find my willpower and resolve to be not much stronger than an over cooked noodle. I argue with myself. I rationalize. I doubt my new convictions before I can barely utter the words. Here are some of those stupid but convincing statements I use to justify that pizza or burger or fried seafood platter.

“Ornish and Esselstyn didn’t study those who stuck to the diet 80% of the time, only 100% or 0%. Whose to say 80% wouldn’t work equally as well?”

“I just can’t believe the media or the medical profession or the government or somebody isn’t talking about this if it really works?”

“Surely the drug companies aren’t that powerful.”

Then too, it’s not easy. Eating out is a challenge. Holidays are a challenge, especially when we are the host and the expectations are that the food fits the memory and the tradition.

We have been back, really back for a few weeks now. We have had one completely fat laden meal (chili dogs at a family dinner night), one fat laden treat (a gift of Valentine donuts) and a small fat filled snack (two bite sized chocolates each,last night). Last night was particularly difficult. I dream of cheese. I told myself that next week, for our family dinner night, we could go somewhere they have fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and I’d order a triple cheese, three-cheese grilled wonder.

I heard someone say the other day, “Nothing tastes as good as thin.” Sadly, the idea of losing the remainder of the weight I gained after getting sick, is a greater motivator than saving my own life. What is that!?!

How could cheese be more important to me than a decade of life? How could the scales motivate me to stick to the diet better than simply because the studies showed it can stop the disease from progressing and possibly even reverse it? Eating this way can do what no drug can! Eating a plant-based, no added fat diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can do what no surgery or procedure can offer me with no side effects or recovery time, no invasion of my body and no threat of death from complications.

It is as if while I want this to be true, I cave to the cravings and eat as if I want it not to be a lie.

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Image via Wikipedia

“Oh, it’s not really true that eliminating meat, dairy and processed foods from my diet can stop heart disease or prevent cancer. This hot, melty, oozing goodness hunk of cheddar won’t hurt me!” I tell myself.

I do want it to be true, though! I want also to keep it simple. It makes sense. Eat real food. Eat things that grow. Don’t eat animals or things from animals. Just eat plants and things made purely and strictly from plants. Don’t cave and the cravings will surely, eventually go away. I tell myself those things, too. Maybe I don’t tell myself those things quite enough.

To someone looking in at us who eats the typical “western” diet, we probably look as if we are doing very well sticking to this. Even when we aren’t doing well, we are sticking to this most of the time. Yet, it astounds me that sticking to it 100% of the time is so damn hard.

It’s much like when I smoked. Many of the arguments feel the same. The cravings are equally as strong. I still hope they’ll figure out a way to make a cigarette that is healthy! It’s been three years and I still miss it!

I feel deprived. I still want the cake and the lasagna and the occasional fried chicken. I miss a scrambled egg. I miss the sprinkling of cheese and crumbled bacon over a salad. I miss the creamy dressings and luscious desserts. I miss the drive-thru everywhere and ice cream. I miss buttered popcorn and chocolate covered raisins. I miss chocolate for dinner.

I’m tired of my own cooking. Lee cooked last night, heated up pinto burgers I had made the day before and roasted us some thin sliced potato wedges and thick sliced sweet onion. The potatoes were crunchy, just the way I like them. We ate it all with sweet BBQ sauce. It was delicious and even more so since I hadn’t prepared it.

Forgive my rant. I feel better now. Saturday will be three years exactly. I’m still here. I’m better and better every day. I’m even walking (slowly and resting often, but I’m walking!). I can do about anything I really want to. I’m even keeping up with a hyperactive puppy. She weighs ten pounds and I can carry her around! I don’t spend days in bed anymore. I can clean the house in a day if I have to, and in two days if I don’t. I carry the laundry up the basement stairs and the groceries in from the car.I throw the football with my grandson and endure three-day Monopoly marathons only to lose for the umpteenth time. I dance in the kitchen in Lee’s arms.

Life is very, very good. I must be doing something right. Maybe one day at a time is the only way to do much of anything. Right this minute, I am sticking to a no added fat, plant-based diet perfectly.

A few of the last weeks successes and discoveries,

Pinto beans work fine in veggie burgers. I used the same recipe as the black bean burgers, with 1/2 cup oats ground in food processor, 2 grated carrots, 1/2 small onion, 1 clove garlic, all added and chopped in food processor, spices and 3/4 cans pinto beans. I actually cooked dried beans this time, about three cups cooked. Then when all pulverized, transferred to bowl and added remaining 1 cup beans. I formed them into patties (wetting my hands to keep from sticking) and baked on a sheet pan I’d sprayed with cooking spray for about 45 minutes at 300, turning halfway through. It makes about a dozen, depending how large you make the patties. I like them thin, about the size of a fast food pattie, so they won’t be gooey in the middle.

I also added 1/2 cup cooked quinoa to the cookie recipe in place of most of the flour. It made them really moist. I kept the oats the same, as well as the prune puree. I played around with different ingredients, including unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of coconut. I still like the ginger the best, but the almost chocolate and forbidden coconut was wonderful.

We had chips and dip more than once and have had to pull back on the tortilla reins a bit. I do love, I repeat love, the avocado and Lee adores chips with anything and everything, but even fat-free home-baked chips are full of calories when we eat a million of them.

Today? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll add a little Chinese flare to the food today. I’ll just start slicing and chopping and see what happens.

Touchdown! Plants Win!

February 6, 2012

It took just two hours to chop and mix all the dips and such for our Super Bowl snacks. In that time I also pre-baked the veggie burgers so all I had to do was heat them up. I made hummus, bean dip and guacamole. I sliced carrots and cut up cauliflower.

The big hit of the night was the chips. They were fabulous! Crispy, salty and very tasty. I don’t know if I’ve ever had better in any Mexican restaurant. Lee said it was my best cooking day ever and believes now we stick to this plant-based eating forever.

Amazing what a little chip and dip will do for a couple of chees-o-holics!

Hummus

Mix everything in a food processor

1 can chick peas with 3/4 liquid

juice of 1/2 lemon

handful of fresh parsley

1/4 sweet onion

1 clove garlic

3 Kalamato olives

2 slices sun-dried tomato

sprinkle of red pepper flakes

salt

pepper

Guacamole

mix all in food processor

3 avocados

1/4 sweet onion

handful fresh parsley

salt pepper

sprinkle of garlic powder

Bean Dip

Mix in food processor and serve warm

1 can refried beans

1/4 sweet onion

1 clove garlic

2 squirts hot sauce

sprinkle red pepper flakes

generous sprinkle chili powder

dash chipotle chili powder

salt

pepper

(very creamy!)

Veggie Burgers

Mix  in food processor

1/4 cup peanuts

1/2 cup oats

add to above and mix in food processor,

3/4 can black beans- drained and rinsed

1 can chick peas- drained, save liquid

1/4 sweet onion

1 clove garlic

2 grated carrots

salt

pepper

1/4 tsp chili powder

dash chipotle chili powder

Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining 1/4 can black beans, gently stirring in whole beans

Form into patties and bake on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray at 300 for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

It made 11  4 1/2 inch round “sliders” which I reheated in dry frying pan just before serving. We ate them on Arnold Sandwich Thins Minis. These little buns have 1 gm of fat and 100 calories per two!

The highlight of the night, though was the chips.

Tortilla Chips

1 package corn tortillas. Check the package and make sure they have no added fat. All they need to be is corn and water.

I cut each one in 8 sections

I sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray

spread out the tortilla sections

I spritzed each panful of chips lightly with oil

Sprinkled all with salt

baked at 300 for about ten minutes, until crisp

The PERFECT CHIP!

I also learned a couple of things for future reference. One, I think I’ll add a little pinto bean to the hummus next time. The bean dip was as creamy as a custard, so maybe the pinto bean will add a bit of missing creaminess to the homemade hummus. The veggie burgers I’ve made in the past have had far more ingredients. I’m still not sure how these held together, but they did. They weren’t gooey inside either. I like them being the right color, too, the color a burger oughta be. I suppose that is the essence of my food preference. I don’t mind a little strangeness now and them. I love trying new things. Still, I want my food to look like “my” food.

Our Super Bowl Fare looked like our food. It tasted like our food. It just lacked a gazillion fat grams and all animal protein. We didn’t even miss the cheese. Yea us!

Along with our renewed commitment to plants, we are also walking. We live across from one of the most beautiful lakes in Georgia and can see water from the windows on three sides of our home. Less than 1/4 mile away are two parks, one in each direction. At one of these parks, a sandbar exposed by the drought of the last year, connects the land to a couple of islands that could only be gotten to by boat in rainier times. We’ve been driving to that park and walking across the sandbar to the island.

That island now connects to another island and then to another by drought exposed sand. I stop often and rest, sitting on rocks or fallen trees. We watch the sailboats while the water gently laps at the shore. We watch the sun rise and set and sometimes the moon. We visit with other walkers and meet other doggie friends for Sam. Summer’s crowds are absent and the sandy beaches of the piney isles are occupied by only the birds and the deer and the squirrels and a few grateful humans and canines humbly passing through. We catch ourselves whispering , as if we are in a church or even invading a space we aren’t really supposed to be. The sandbars and the season has allowed us access to an untouched place humans haven’t been allowed to deface or pollute. Our noise and our convenience haven’t “improved” these few dozen acres. We don’t take this gift lightly, but tread lightly there instead.

I have never loved the Winter so much. By now, I am usually counting the days until Spring. I don’t take the gift of this season lightly or the ability to walk it at all. I walked it yesterday between the chopping and the ballgame with one of our daughters and her boyfriend. She asked me how it felt to be able to walk again. “Triumphant.”

Don’t Eat the Gingersnaps!

February 4, 2012

Those gingersnaps were terrible! They tasted worse by the minute and by the next morning, I threw the whole lot away.

They weren’t near sweet enough and I think the whole wheat flour was just too rugged for such a cookie. I bought a bag of whole wheat pastry flour yesterday. I’ll let you know when I try it again.

I have had a few successes in the past few days. I baked a delicious oatmeal ginger cookie using crystallized ginger.

1. whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg

2. cut up 1/2 cup crystallized ginger into small pieces and mix with 1 tbsp flour to keep from sticking together

3. blend 1 jar baby prunes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, 1 tsp vanilla

4. add dry ingredients to wet and blend well

 

5. Add 1 cup old-fashioned oats and blend well

6. Add ginger pieces and blend

7. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for about 14 minutes

Yummy, chewy fat-free goodness. Warning- these are not sugar-free!

I’ve used the same basic recipe, varying the spices and fruit, sometimes using raisins, apples or dates

 

Another success was a tweaking of the zucchini boat.

I’ve made them a lot lately, using both zucchini and yellow squash. I slice them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (sometimes saving for soup or some other concoction). This prevents “the boat” from taking on too much water, er…liquid from the seeds. Sometimes I fill them with a leftover rice or quinoa dish, or vegetable mixture. My latest efforts were simply filled with diced onion, diced tomato and diced Kalamato olives. I know. The olives are pretty fat laden to use in dishes to reverse heart disease, but I only use a one and a half olive per squash half so it’s not so bad. I bake them about 30 minutes at 375 – 400, depending on what else I have in the oven. Along with the boats, I served fresh corn on the cob and roasted sweet potato slices.

 

The sweet potato is one of my favorite foods. I use to love them baked and drowning in butter. If I simply bake them in their skin now, as I use to do, I miss the butter too much. Cut up in soups or sliced and roasted seems to trick my mind that they are actually a different food, one that does not require butter to taste good. Ah, the games we play…whatever works.

 

One more success, was a soup we had for dinner last night. After a doctor’s appointment,  had lunch at a little restaurant run by volunteers from a Buddhist meditation center, called The World Peace Cafe. It was an interesting place, like a blast from my metaphysical past with an interesting menu. We settled on their “classic veggie burger.” It was huge and fairly tasty and served alongside bakes wedges of potato giving the plate the look of a regular hamburger and fries. I made a mental note to serve my next veggie burger experiment in the same way when I saw the look of joy on Lee’s face.

As we ate, I looked more closely at the menu, admittedly seeking ideas. The “Kale, Mushroom and Lentil Soup” sounded especially delicious but gave little in the way of a recipe except that it also had carrots.

I made the Allie version last night and I must say, it was delicious.

This is a pitiful picture. It was actually very pretty.

I sautéed a chopped sweet onion and three sliced carrots.

Once almost tender, I added two bunches of loosely chopped kale and about six cups of water, a cup of lentils, salt, pepper, two tsp veggie base (see below), a dash of curry, a dash of nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon, good sprinkling of garlic powder and 1/4 tsp chili powder.

I let the pot simmer about 45 minutes, until the lentils were tender but not mushy.

It was delicious!

I mentioned the veggie base.

This stuff is amazing.

It tastes like I simmered a pot of carrots, onion, garlic, celery and some magic for a few days, until all the liquid was gone. If I’d taken the “mud mixture” left on the bottom of that pot of veggies and put it in a little jar, it might taste like this “Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base,” that is, if I was lucky.

Did I say I like it? It’s good in most everything.

 

Another love is a jar of  Baby Prunes.

I read about using them in place of the oil when baking in a recipe in Dean Ornish‘s cookbook.

You know the depth molasses adds to a recipe? The baby prunes do that, too.

No one knows there are prunes in there either.

 

Well, tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday. We are rooting for the Giants and have a few folks coming over to watch the game with us. We are warning them that all snacks will be beyond vegan. To spurge, I’ll make guacamole and will bake some corn tortillas. I’ve tried baking them before and have been disappointed. We both love Mexican food (cheese!), and love a bowl of hot crispy chips and salsa or queso. I haven’t tried baking the chips since I got the oil spritzer. I’m thinking if I spritz them with a tad of oil, sprinkle with salt and them bake, they might be much more to our liking. Lee’s picking up a bag of baked chips as a back up this afternoon.Instead of queso, we’ll have refried bean dip.

I’ll be making veggie burger “sliders” and fat-free hummus with lots of raw veggies. Speaking of hummus, I make it often in the food processor using the recipe out of the Ornish book. It’s tasty enough and I vary the ingredients. Sometimes I add sun dried tomatoes, sometimes a little olive. Sometimes I use the basic garlic and sometimes make it super spicy. What I miss is the creamy texture of the store bought kind that is blended with tahini and lots of added fat. Maybe it’s my Black and Decker food processor that won’t blend it fine enough or maybe it just has to have the oil to be that luscious, but it’s always a little chickpea grainy. If anyone knows how to achieve the creaminess without the use of any oil, I’d love to know how to do it.

One more thought before I close this especially long post. My new issue of A.A.R.P magazine came the other day. In it was an article about Sharon Stone. She talked about her health challenge. She had a brain aneurysm and shortly after that lost custody of her son. He career nose-dived. About the time following those events she said,

I had to sit in the silence until the balls stopped moving.”

It’s been almost three years since my own world turned upside down, when my heart broke both figuratively and literally.

Some just bounce back and seem to pick up where they left off, seemingly unchanged. Not me.

I too have had to let the balls stop moving.

Amen Sister Stone.

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