Month: February 2019

Flax Seed Gel Experiment

As the viking market of Birka approaches, I understand that several members of my household will be wearing Elizabethan garments. They have asked me to recreate a specific style that requires me to roll back the front of their hair to give dimension and frame their face. I have heard and read of the wonders of flax seed being set into water that then creates a gel. Therefore, I have set five tablespoons of flax seed in a pan with two cups of water. I am leaving it to sit while I pack for the event.

The benefits of flax seeds is amazing and after learning more about the amazing results people are having, I’m excited to see what transpires here. It has been four hours since I set the flax seed in water. The seeds have all settled at the bottom of the pan. As I mix the substance and lift the spoon from the mixture, the liquid is thicker, almost like syrup but less sticky. I attempted to filter the seeds from the liquid using cheese cloth. The cheese cloth proved too small for the pan that I was using and half of the gel batch had seeds in it. I was able to secure three small tins of the gel without seeds. Off to the market we go.

We have returned from the market. The gel proved to be very light and useful in the recreation of the Elizabethan hair styles. I have requested a portrait of my household members to be commissioned. The gel did prove to be too liquid and two of the tins that held the substance spilled their contents in my satchel and hair box.

I have received a copy of the portrait of the fair Fortune St. Keyne and Bianca Anguissola. Their hair held up very well through the hustle and bustle of the market. Today I shall attempt another batch of gel, this time putting the flax seed in the cheese cloth and submerging it in water for 10 hours.

Cool Summer Cooking With Joy

Spring is finally upon us, bringing with it both fresh produce and lots of very warm weather. With temperatures rising it’s time to think about planning foods that don’t heat up your kitchen and raise your air conditioning bill. My grill and smoker are always an excellent choice in summer. Along with steaks, burgers, and dogs, try some new ideas to keep appetites satisfied! Finally, it will be time to remove myself from my house and get outside with some friends and familes and give me the opportunity to break out my propane smoker for the second time. I’m looking forward to cooking for some of my close friends and enjoying the nice summer weather.

The weather lately has been crazy that’s for sure. With record high temperatures all over the US and record amounts of rain all of the world. I’m hoping things will calm down but by the looks of it things are only going to get crazier and crazier. In the meantime I still hope to do some cooking and I thought I would share with you guys some of my favorite things to cook in the spring and summer outdoors, when the weather is nice.

My New Propane Smoker

My friend Jennifer introduced me to her propane smoker last summer and I was just blown away by the flavors of the food. Never have I tasted anything like this before and it was my first time seeing a propane smoker in action. Basically, it’s similar to a grill but instead of throwing the food on the grill, you allow smoke to fill the chamber of the smoker and it gives you some outrageous flavors!

For those of you unfamilar with cooking on a smoker, it’s pretty simple. What I like to do is measure out foot long pieces of extra-heavy aluminum foil. Cut up your favorite veggies, toss in some beans, tempeh, or tofu for protein, and fold the foil to make a packet. Leave one side of the packet open, and pour in several tablespoons of your favorite sauce.( My current favorite, Orange Miso, is a slight variation on the sauce a friend introduced me to.) Seal packet, and toss on the grill until the veggies are done (about 10-15 minutes). Serve alone, or over rice or noodles.

You can use packets for desserts, too. Sliced fruit and berries stewed in a packet with port and cinnamon makes a delightful shortcake or ice cream topping. Packet cook some pears and hazelnuts with maple syrup, cinnamon, and a bit of butter, then spoon over Brie.

Smoked Fruit!

There’s nothing sweeter in the summer than smoked fruits of all kinds. Smoking caramelizes the natural sugars in fruit perfectly. Smoked pineapple spears are everyone’s favorite; but, I also love smoking peaches and nectarines. Slice the stone fruits in half and remove stones. If desired, marinade in a dry or sweet white wine. Brush with butter (or leave plain), and put on the grill sliced-side down.

Allow to cook until the sugars are caramelized on the cut surface, and the fruit has softened a bit. Serve on their own, or put in a glass tumbler with marscapone cheese and top with a bit of chilled dry white wine for a truly elegant dessert.

Another wonderful way to keep the heat out of the kitchen this summer is to use your slow cooker. Most people save their slow cookers for winter, but we use ours even more in the summer. There are so many things you can do with a slow cooker besides soups, many of which are perfect summer foods.

Homemade BBQ Sloppy Joes

Slow cooked pork or chicken barbecue is easy in the slow cooker. Just toss in all your normal ingredients, and let it simmer all day. Side with some baked beans, slaw, and grilled sweet corn for a traditional summer meal without raising your thermostat. You can do the same thing with sloppy joes.

Indian Cuisine

Ever get tired of driving an hour to eat good Indian? Make it in your slow cooker at home. Most Indian dishes are best when they’ve had a chance to stew a while, making them perfect for slow cooking. There are many places to find recipes online, but my favorite is Maunika Gowardhan.

Look for her Indian chicken recipe, which is the base for my own recipe (I add more spices, as well as onions and veggies). My partner has perfected Saag, another interesting Indian dish made with greens. Put the chicken or Saag over brown basmati rice made in the rice cooker, serve with naan and a thick mango-yogurt drink called “lassi” for a complete Indian meal without the drive, or the hot kitchen!



Apricot Truffles Recipe

There was a time when I mainly jogged in the morning, thinking it was a great way to start my day.  There’s crisp new air, chilly dew… you can almost hear the neighborhood cracking its joints with a sleepy stretch and every sound has a tiny echo for a lack of competition.

But then I discovered dusk.  Maybe there’s something about working from home that makes it feel so good to close my computer and literally run out the door.  I remember I’m a person again.  My music, my heartbeat and the thump of my legs that have been itching to get out of a seated position… they all bring me back to myself.

Unlike morning runs with its thin young atmosphere, at dusk the air is fatter…  older and a little wiser.  It carries the humidity of the day and all the smells, too.  Sometimes I can tell you my route just from the smells.  Two blocks down is the white house.  The woman who lives there wears Eternity for Women, and I think she must spray on more just before she leaves work… there’s always a trail of it on sidewalk from her Rav4 to the walkway.  Another block down someone seems to be cooking pot roast nearly every night of the week.   Three more blocks, and they’re doing the customary laundry with extra dryer sheets at the green house with the bunting.

Then, too, there’s something about the way the sun goes down turns the remaining light into an amplifier, making any colors around you turn electric.  Flowers, leaves on the ground, stones.  Everything takes on a little more color and texture.  It’s like a little motionless parade before night comes.  And it’s just for you!

If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a brilliant sunset…

Apricot Truffles

Hands-On Time:  10 minutes
Total Time:  10 minutes
Makes approximately 12 truffles

Gluten-free, all natural, vegan, easy, minimal mess, practically raw

Special equipment: food processor or griddle


1 ½ cups / 255g dried apricots
½ cup / 40g slivered raw almonds
¼ cup / 20g flaked dry coconut*
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder*


Combine all ingredients, except cocoa powder, in your food processor.  Pulse until very fine.  Form mixture into bite-sized balls, about 3 cm in diameter.  Roll apricot balls in cocoa powder to coat.

Refrigerate truffles for 10 minutes before serving.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They’ll keep for several days.

*Notes on variations/substitutions

Flaked dry coconut – I like to use flaked vs. shredded coconut because the larger pieces seem to retain more flavor due to less surface area exposed to air… and because I like to snack on them like potato chips!  You can substitute shredded coconut, though.  Just use a little under ¼ cup to match volume.

Dutch-processed cocoa powder – Please note that if using natural unsweetened cocoa in place of  Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa, the result will be a tad bitter in taste.  The alkali used in Dutch-processing reduces the acidic/bitter taste of powdered cocoa. More info can be found in this article from the one-and-only David Lebovitz.  Want to leave out the cocoa all together?  Shredded coconut or carob powder make good substitutes here.  Or just leave them unadorned!

Soy-Free Shan Tofu

I feel like a lucky explorer today, and I’ll tell you why.  It’s because I was flipping thru a new Asian Tofu cookbook (a gift from Sis & The Guitar Man) and found a certain recipe, had a light-bulb-moment and made way to the kitchen, a whisk and a good dose of inspiration in hand.

A couple days and several recipes later, I was feeling downright smug.  “This stuff is so simple, so versatile, so delicious!”, I thought, and did a quick little jig before J could see me (I try to spread out the instances he catches me dancing or singing to myself in the kitchen, it maintains the illusion his wife has some tiny sliver of poise).

Before I get ahead of myself, I should explain what this recipe is for, right?  Well, it’s not the Shmoo… its tofu.  No, don’t leave yet!  Let me finish, I promise its not what you’re thinking.  No complex ingredient lists (coagulants?  NO!), no special presses…. and no soy.  What’s that?  You read that right.  This is Shan tofu.  A chickpea version from Burma that has somehow escaped my notice until now.

This is puzzling considering how beautifully simple this is.  In fact, there’s just THREE ingredients: salt, chickpea flour, and water.  And unlike soy tofu, this chickpea tofu involves only two specialized skills:

a)  the ability to whisk something
b)  the ability to boil water

…and all that “effort” takes you a whopping 10 minutes and then its off the chill in the fridge (though you could use it the minute it is room temperature for some things).

Flavor and texture-wise, it is not the same animal as soy tofu.  The texture is similar to a chilled polenta.  Sauteed, they get a nice crispy exterior and baked (or fried) they puff up but retain a creamy, almost custard-y center.

Chickpeas have a nice, natural nuttiness, but its awfully nice that you can also add your own spices and flavors right to the mixture.  So far I have used them as everything from a dessert, to snacks, to noodle dishes and salad toppers, and I’m still finding new ways to use it (the book mentions shaving them to make “noodles”!).  A few things I’ve tried mixing into the batter are:

2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander and 1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder for spicy tofu to toss into salads

Add 1 tablespoon of curry powder for tofu you add to Asian noodle dishes or cut to make baked “fries”

Replace ½ cup of the initial 2 cups with maple syrup, add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Let mixture chill for several hours up to overnight, then cut into squares, toss with a neutral oil (like coconut oil) and bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 400 F until puffy and golden.  Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or some raw sugar and cinnamon, and you have something like a vegan doughnut.

Shan Tofu – Chickpea Tofu

Hands-On Time:  10 minutes
Total Time:  2 – 24 hours
Serves 6

Gluten-free, all natural, vegan, easy, soy-free


2 cups / 150g chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour, or Besan)*
6 cups / 1.4 liters water
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
Neutral oil for greasing pan(s)


Lightly oil pans or wide bowls for tofu to chill in later.  I use a 15 x 10 baking dish most often, but two 8×8 cake pans or 8-inch pie pans would work as well, for example.  Ceramic or glass vessels work best, but a 17-inch rimmed baking sheet lined with oiled parchment can work as well (just lift out the chilled tofu to cut it to avoid damaging the metal surface).

Whisk together chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl and add 2 cups / 470ml water.  Whisk to incorporate.

Place your remaining 4 cups / 950ml water in a large, shallow pan or pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-high, give your chickpea mixture a final whisking, and then pour in a steady stream into your boiling water, whisking continuously.

Lower heat to medium-low and cook mixture for 5 minutes, stirring continually and scraping sides to avoid burning.  After 5 minutes, the mixture will be smooth, thick and have a nice sheen.  If there are a few lumps, don’t worry, just try to get it as smooth as you can.

Immediately pour mixture into prepared pans, and allow to set and cool to room temperature. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill for 1 hour, up to 24 hours.  The longer it chills, the firmer the texture.  At 1 hour, it will be firm enough to cut and use as cubes of tofu in salads and for snacking.  At 3 – 4 hours, it can be used for more “sturdy” applications like stir-fries and as baked “fries”.

Store in its pan, covered securely in plastic wrap for 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator, and slice portions as needed.

Cherry Rosemary Quinoa Granola

Growing up, ‘granola’ was a bad word in my book.  It brought back memories of a health food store in Oak Park, IL that I would rather have forgotten. It was a typical mid-1980’s health food store, with that universal musty carob powder and B vitamins smell.

My mother would drag me inside to peruse the rows of bulk dry goods, the canisters with wan-looking yogurt-covered pretzels pressed their waxy faces against the insides of their jars in a way that reminded me of abandoned puppies. And there was a frozen yogurt machine in the corner that dispensed pure disappointment in the form of a soul-crushingly tart and icy ‘alternative soft serve’.

To the eyes of an adult, there clearly was some kind of appeal here, but much like the Iran-Contra affair, this was something my six-year-old self was unable to fathom.

It was here that I first tried granola.  My mother, knowing lunch was another hour away, pressed me to grab a sample while she shopped.  Taking a grudging mouthful, I noted that the texture oddly managed to simultaneously be dry anddamp.  It was nearly tasteless but for a hit of sweetness and impossible to chew properly, making its way down my throat nearly unblemished by teeth.   I was filled with a deep foreboding that I would be able to identify each component all too easily when I saw them again later that evening.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when I started to see locally made granolas in bakeries and recipes popping up on some of my favorite food blogs such as Playful Cooking.  Suddenly the possibility of granola with adjectives like “fresh” and “flavorful” seemed within reach.  Making your own granola is the perfect opportunity to experiment a little with traditional flavors, too.  I added rosemary & cherries to mine, in a nod to one of my favorite cookies in Chicago from the bakery Flourish, which is now tragically closed.

Rosemary adds a little floral note that tastes amazing with Mineola orange supremes and tart Greek yogurt.  For snacking, try adding a binding agent (options listed in the recipe) so you can have the chunky bits to grab onto as you munch.  Quinoa is another fresh addition.  Toasting quinoa is a common thing in South America, and J and I found it in snacks everywhere in Peru.  It adds a pop-y crunch and extra nutrition… not to mention a neat, pixelated look.

I have a feeling the 80’s version of granola would have found rosemary and quinoa as foreign and confusing as a Rubix cube, but thankfully we’ve come a long way since then.  Which I think is just totally tubular.

Cherry Rosemary Quinoa Granola

Hands-On Time:  10 minutes
Total Time:  40 – 50 minutes
Serves 10

Gluten-free, all natural, vegetarian or vegan, easy

¾ cup / 140g raw quinoa
2 ½ cups / 200g rolled oats (if gluten-sensitive, be sure to use certified gluten-free oats)
1 cup / 170g raw chopped almonds
½ cup / 60g raw pecan halves
⅛ cup whole flax seeds
¼ cup / 50g natural brown sugar (I use organic coconut palm sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup / 85g honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup / 160g dried cherries
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced (optional)

Optional binding agent (see note above)
2 large egg whites*


Preheat the oven to 300 F / 150 C

Line a 16 x 12 x 1 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, oats, almonds, pecan halves, flax seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together honey, butter or coconut oil, and vanilla extract.

If using egg whites, fold them in now.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In an even layer, spread the granola onto your prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until granola is golden brown, stirring and tossing once about halfway thru baking.

Remove from oven and stir in the dried cherries and rosemary. Let granola cool completely.

Serve over plain yogurt with orange supremes, as a cereal, or as a snack (binding agent suggested for snacking use)

Store in a dry place in an airtight container for up to one month.

*Egg whites – To make a vegan binding agent, make a slurry of 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds (or flax seeds) combined with 2 tablespoons boiling water, and stir.

Quinoa Salad on Bondi Beach

Over the holidays I traveled to Sydney, Australia with my family. The initial reason for traveling there was a family wedding, which also became a family reunion- we had 4 generations of family members congregate from different parts of the US, London, Canada, South Africa, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong, and all over Australia.

Staying in a house within walking distance to Bondi Beach gave us the opportunity to easily take advantage of this world famous attraction. We started many of our days with the Bondi to Bronte walk, a 6 km path along the cliffs from Bondi Beach to Bronte. Each new step presented a view more breathtaking than the last and we had to consciously refrain from constantly taking pictures. I kept reminding myself to take it all in, it all being too beautiful to even seem real.

Walking up from the beach, the streets are lined with one cafe and restaurant after the next, with juice bars, gyms, bathing suit shops, and boutiques in between. My sister and I were looking for an afternoon coffee (tea for me) when we stumbled into a bookstore called Gertrude and Alice. A step into the shop felt like entrance into another world.

Time felt slower, softer, and more dream-like… surrounded by cookbooks, classics, magazines, and mystical texts, it was a place I could see myself getting lost in for hours. We resisted temptation and stuck to our plan of tea and coffee, mentally bookmarking the spot for a return visit.

couple days later, we bumped into my aunt on our way to eat lunch, and she suggested we try a quinoa salad she had just eaten. At first, quinoa did not sound so appealing since I had eaten so much of it while there, but she insisted it was worth getting anyway. When she told us it was from Gertrude and Alice we were also happy to have an excuse to return. We decided to share the Griddled Halloumi salad my aunt had recommended, minus the halloumi, for which the chef had offered to substitute in avocado.

Being the small cafe it was, we eagerly watched as the chef assembled the salad behind the counter, warming the vegetables on a small griddle. When we were handed our salad we immediately regretted not each getting our own.

The salad was an immediate success; Red quinoa, mixed greens, and warm roasted butternut squash, griddle onions and tomatoes, topped with sprouts and fresh slices of avocado. I had almost forgotten about red quinoa, since white is more commonly served and what I make myself, but the red variety is firmer, chewier, nuttier, and so different it almost seems unrelated to white quinoa. It also held up well with the warm vegetables. Before we had even finished the salad we agreed we would have to come back for our own before the trip was over.

Being back home less than a week and still suffering jet-lag,  this salad seemed like the most appropriate way to deal with my post-vacation blues. I roasted the vegetables first, since the butternut would take the longest, and then cooked the quinoa.

The tomato only needs to be in the oven for about 10 minutes, enough to soften and warm, but it should still hold its shape. Since the onions and tomato take less time than the butternut, I warmed them again in a pan on the stove right before assembling the salad. I also brewed a berry tea similar to the one I had enjoyed in the Bondi cafe, having it warm not iced since I was now back in the cold winter.

Sitting at my table I sadly couldn’t replicate the view and company I had cherished in Australia, however, this salad was truly delicious, and the perfect meal to enjoy while reflecting and reminiscing on my incredible, one of a kind, vacation.

On our last day in Sydney, we made sure to have a final lunch at Gertrude and Alice, each ordering a Griddle Halloumi salad, minus the halloumi.  I made special note of exactly what was in the salad, planning to replicate it when I was back in my own kitchen.


Warm Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Inspired by the restaurant: Gertrude and Alice, Sydney, Australia

1 cup Red Quinoa

1 cup Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tomato, any variety

5-6 Shallots, peeled and cut in half

About 2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive oil

Course Sea Salt

4 cups Mixed Greens

1/2  cup Sprouts

1/2 an Avocado


Lemon Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Lemon Juice (about 1 lemon)

3 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

Pinch of each Salt and Pepper


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375′ F. Place cubed butternut on baking sheet and cover with 1 tablespoon of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender and slightly browned.

Line a second sheet with parchment paper. Cut the tomato and shallots in half and place on baking sheet. Cover with oil and salt and bake for 10 minutes. Remove tomatoes and roast onions for an additional 15 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the quinoa. Rinse quinoa and place in a medium saucepan with 1-1/2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil then turn down heat to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake.

Place quinoa and mixed greens in a large bowl. Mix with dressing and transfer to a serving dish. Layer roasted vegetables and sprouts, and top with sliced avocado.


Vanilla Almond Granola

Not being a huge fan of dried fruit, I kept my usual nuts and seeds and added some coconut. I also used almond extract in exchange for my usual vanilla. My favorite part of the granola is the different textures. I like to use both slivered and sliced almonds, making the granola that much more interesting. This particular recipe takes a little more patience than my usual one; It slowly bakes in the oven for 2 hours at a low temperature. The granola is just slightly sweet, but it is easy to sweeten more or less based on your taste preference for sweetness.

There is something special about mornings… the quiet in the house and sleepy feeling in the air. While I often choose to sleep in on the weekends, there is something about getting up early to take advantage of the stillness.

With the jar of granola sitting on the counter and the aroma still strong in the air, I can’t help but think of the magic of granola; Each individual ingredient is delicious on its own, but once you combine them all you get something even better. Aristotle said it best: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Cinnamon Almond Granola

2 cups Rolled Oats (Gluten Free if needed)

1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/4 cup Raw Sliced Almonds

1/4 cup Raw Slivered Almonds

1/2 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup Raw Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)

1 tsp Cinnamon

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil, melted

1/4 cup Maple Syrup

1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 250’F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup, and almond extract and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring well to coat evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 2 hours, until golden and dry.

Remove granola from the oven, and allow to fully cool, before using a spatula to release and break up the granola.

Book Review: Super Natural Every Day

Heidi Swanson is the luminous author of the blog 101 Cookbooks.  She’s been writing for years (years!) and is literally almost a goddess in the food blogging community.

I immediately checked her website out and was amazed.  There are hundreds (probably thousands) of posts, each carefully and lovingly perfected, with gorgeous photography.  The recipes are detailed and easy to follow.  But aside from that, I just love Heidi Swanson’s voice.  You get the feeling that she’s talking to you like you’re her friend.  She teaches without being overbearing, encourages without making

I jumped at the chance to review her new cookbook because it’s vegetarian!  And we all know how I feel about vegan and vegetarian cookbooks (hint: GOOD).  I cracked it open and barely got through the first pages before having to stop and make food.  The very first recipe – Cucumber Salad – was divine.  Swanson states in the heading of the Cucumber Salad that she hopes this recipe will set the tone for the book, and it does.

It was simple – I had every ingredient except lemongrass already in my pantry – but sophisticated.  The dressing also didn’t use any oil, which I very much appreciated, since I usually have to substitute oil.  I then only made it to the next page before making the Fennel Stew, and then the Red Lentil Hummus.  I would have never thought to make something like her Mashed Yellow Split Peas, but I’m terribly glad I did.

The book is split into two main sections, Near and Far.  Near includes recipes inspired by her life in California.  Far includes recipes from Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India.  From Harira in Morocco to Baby Artichoke Salad in France, the recipes span cultures, ingredients, and tastes.  I personally found myself staying in the “Near” section of the book more.  I’m not sure if that’s because I liked the recipes more, or if I’m just more comfortable and familiar with those ingredients.

There is no way I can top the gorgeous photography in Swanson’s book, so I’ve included a few photos from her website below so you can see the mouthwatering recipes for yourself.  As a note for vegans, many of her recipes include dairy and eggs.  Some of them are easily substituted for vegan versions or left out, but I wish a larger percentage of the total were completely vegan.  Still, the simplicity and deliciousness of the meals as a whole makes it worth it to me.

Swanson’s book Super Natural Every Day can be found on Amazon, or where any vegetarian/vegan cookbooks are sold.

Planning Ahead: 6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

We’ve all been there – rushing home from work late, already feeling as though we’re about to starve to death…and then staring at the pantry and fridge with no idea what to make for dinner.  Nothing is prepped; we have no plan.  The growling in our stomach grows louder until it drowns out all reasonable thought, and we reach for processed convenience foods that can be made in a jiffy.

Worse yet, we order takeout!  The amount of processed ingredients, sodium, and fat in vegan convenience foods and most takeout is astronomical.  We satisfy our hunger in the moment, but don’t do any favors for our health.

The only way to beat the hungry monster is to have a plan for dinner!

It’s hard to eat healthful, life-giving plant foods when you have nothing prepared.  Unless you’re eating a raw salad, most plant dinners require some cooking time.  In this post, I’m sharing my top six tips to make dinnertime painless.

1. Make a master list of recipes from your favorite cookbooks or online (make sure you save the link if it’s an online recipe).

Pick one, two, or more each week from this list to make.  This recipe list will cut out a lot of time you may spend flipping through cookbooks or trying to think up dinner ideas.    When you’ve chosen the recipes for the week, you can quickly flip to the correct page in the correct cookbook and add any ingredients you may need to your grocery list.

2. Have themed dinner recipes for each day of the week!

This is especially fun if you have children.  A few examples of themes you could use are:

Slowcooker Sundays
“Meat”loaf Mondays
Taco Tuesdays
Leftover Wednesdays
Veggie Burger Thursdays
Pizza Fridays
Spaghetti Saturdays

Of course none of these themes are prescriptive.  You can make up your own themes, or switch the days around.  Stick with what works best for your family!  It will put your mind at ease to know that on Thursdays, all you have to do is whip up some veggie burgers for dinner.

3. Make a meal plan before you go grocery shopping.  This is CRUCIAL.  Don’t go to the grocery store without a list.

You’ll end up wandering the aisles, buying food items that don’t go together, just because they look good.  It’s okay to buy a unique fruit, veggie, or grain to work into your week’s meals; but buying a hodge podge of foods with no plan for how to integrate them will only set you up for failure.  It may also increase your food waste at the end of the week, when unused items have spoiled and must be discarded.

4. Prep meals or portions of meals in advance if you can.

If you’re putting a meal in the slow cooker, have everything chopped and ready the night before so you can dump it in before you leave for work the next morning.  If you’re making tacos, make a double batch of the taco filling and freeze half so you can easily thaw it when you’re short on time.  If you have mashed potatoes in two meals in one week, make enough for both meals at one time.

5. Batch cook one pot of rice and beans at the beginning of each week and store in your refrigerator. 

This will ensure you have something that can be heated up in the microwave for a meal in a snap.  Rice and beans also make great lunches throughout the week – it’s a filling meal that won’t weigh you down in the afternoon like animal based lunches can.  If you don’t want to cook beans, keep a few cans in your pantry.  Microwaving a bowl of rice and beans takes less time than going through a drive-through or ordering food that has to be delivered.

6. Keep frozen veggies stocked in your freezer.

Veggies are a great way to add bulk to leftovers and turn something into a brand new meal.  Have a little spaghetti and sauce left?  Add a pound of steamed broccoli and some vegan parmesan.  Have a veggie burger patty but no bun?  Serve it in a lettuce wrap instead with some edamame on the side.  Leftover “meat”loaf?  Sauté frozen collard or turnip greens, microwave a potato, and presto!  Dinner in a snap.

A little planning will give you a HUGE advantage.  Plan because you love your body, and what you put inside it is important.  Plan because you and your family deserve meals that promote health instead of harming it.  Plan because it will save you money!  Plan, so that you are set up for success before you take your first bite that week.  Plan so you never have to be stressed about “What’s for dinner?”

Plan and beat that hungry monster.

Warm Cinnamon Sugar

I might actually come to the finish right at 50k. I’ve expanded on Trixie’s relationship with Erik as he gives her a ride home and I spent some time really analyzing how she sees and feels things from her four inch tall perspective. I also got to play around with why, since fairies can enlarge and shrink other objects but not themselves. Here is what Trixie says about that.

…the scent of warm cinnamon sugar engulfed me. My wings fluttered in response to my stomach’s growl. When I turned the corner to the kitchen, I found Erik just putting the glaze on the buns. “Don’t be skimpy on the sugar,” I warned him. “I’m going to need all the energy I can get today.”

“How many do you want?” He asked as he took the spatula to the baking sheet.

“Two please.” He quirked an eyebrow at me. “I only do this on special occasions.” I glided down to the floor and used a spell I had only cast a few times on myself. The room got smaller as I got taller. I had to focus on keeping my wings flat against my back so as not to knock anything over.

Erik stared at me, slack jawed. I smiled at him and walked over to him. Leaning in I could taste the cinnamon on his skin as I kissed his cheek. “I… I didn’t know you could do that.”

“It’s been a trial and error process. The first few times I forgot about including my clothes in the spell. That was tricky. Ended up having to replace two of my best jackets when I did that. Besides, at my normal size, I don’t spend very much in food or rent, or decorations.” I looked through his cabinets until I found the small plates and grabbed two of them.

“Why don’t you do this more often?” He said as he served the rolls onto the two plates.

I took them over to the breakfast nook that he had in the corner. The north facing window brought in just enough light where it wasn’t blinding to sit on one side or the other. After savoring the first bite, my wings instinctively tried to flutter with joy. “That’s why,” I said using my thumb to indicate the iridescent offending appendages behind me. “They get in the way.”

Well that’s it for me today. I’m dragging this out so that you all keep getting content. Hopefully, when this is done I will be able to post more about my writing misadventures. Keep writing, the finish line is in sight. Writing goggles down.