Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai Curry & Tendinitis

My mother left a message on my voicemail. She is (once again) insisting that any set list I put together include Me & Bobby McGee. I swear she'll have me singing that at her funeral. 

However, she is usually dead on with critiquing either my performance or my song choices. So in it goes.

I am icing my left arm as my intensive practice schedule is threatening me with a wicked case of tendinitis. I've been told that this is not abnormal and to basically suck it up (of course alternating with heat & ice).

Since it's been a while since I've performed, I think I'll need to find a random venue where I can get a feel of what's in store; maybe have some people over and give a small in-home concert. The new part of the equation is that I've never accompanied myself on guitar - even when I did so on the keyboards, I was never quite comfortable solo; I've always felt at home with a band. If my karma keeps going as well as it has, I'm sure musicians will be dropping into my life very soon.

I dropped off my Ovation at a luthier today. Good news - an inexpensive modification to the nut & saddle should enable me to get more time on her. She should be ready in the next day or two. Another serendipitous meeting.

Made some amazing Thai curry vegetables for dinner; trying to keep my food relatively simple, which works best for performing.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after love - hopefully there will be love after love, too~

Friday, June 24, 2011

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

I have to keep reminding myself that every day I begin all over again. Zen masters call this "beginners mind."

So after a self imposed retirement from music of 10 years (coincidentally, the length of my marriage), having sold all my keyboard and other various equipment prior to moving to New Mexico, I find myself with just a guitar and a longing to feed my soul again.

Officially, I've been playing guitar *seriously* for 3 months (again, coincidentally, the length of time I've been on my own again). I'm outside practicing and a neighbor comes by after hearing me practice (not a small feat in a rural area - you really have to go out of your way to "come by") and offers me a paying gig for an artist reception she's having at her gallery in September.

What do you think I said?

Then, a couple of days later, the musical director at the Unity service where I go asked If I'd like to fill in for her when she needs a Sunday off. I said - "Sure, when you think I'm ready." She said "You're ready".

So now I have even more reason to capitalize on my obsessive compulsive practice schedule -- so I don't embarrass myself too terribly within the next couple of months.

It really is like starting all over again. Although I've played countless gigs (primarily as a lead vocalist, and filling in with some keyboards), all over NYC for many years, I feel like a complete novice. New instrument, new material, and a major hit to my confidence (which used to be unshakable) due to the sad course of my relationship.

Needless to say, if I'm going to be standing in front of people again warbling, then I need to look my best. This has definitely influenced my cooking. Back to simple salads and staying off of sugar as best as I can (I did make some delicious strawberry/lime sorbet last night - it was so hot in the house and I really needed something cold).

So here come the salad days of summer...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Herb Garden: The Bitter and the Sweet

The patch of earth beside my front door has always been problematic. Last year I put in a yarrow and Russian sage plant, threw some new gravel over it and declared it a xeric zone. The patch knew I was faking it as much as I did. It was, at best, a temporary solution.

We were supposed to create the huge vegetable garden this summer, but going forward solo, that was out of the question. So back to this little patch. It seems one of my many lessons this year is having the ability to go forth and create, but in manageable quantities.

Gardening is a wonderful excuse for indulging in control. In the inhospitable environment of the high desert, it takes more than desire to grow. It is not "woman vs. nature" as much as "woman working with nature." You really can't get around it - try to bully this land and it will bite back. Hard.

So back to the patch.

As much as my ego was screaming brussels sprouts, broccoli and eggplant, my wiser self acknowledged that perhaps parsley, cilantro, chives, mint and lavender would be more appropriate for an herb garden. A modest, serene herb garden.

One thing about herbs is that they are not so picky about their soil. There's a lesson in there, somewhere. After some time raking out what gravel I could, a handful of soil amender and the patch has now become a garden.

This autumn, I'll relocate the yarrow and Russian sage.

As with all landscaping projects, I always feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, as well as peace and a touch of awe upon completing a phase. A new feeling: bittersweet. Even though I am feeling pretty wonderful, I did find a few tears to help water this new garden. It's times like these the reality that we are pack animals hits home; and that life is best when shared. So I'll share it here, instead.

My yarrow called out to me this morning:

..and of course, it's water colored rendered cousin:

Oh - almost forgot - the sweet: Lemon Coconut Bundt cake for the party

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bumblebees and Buttercream

Three years ago, I had a lovely vegetable garden. A horney toad, named "Bob" took up residence in my parsley. It seems that this summer a Bumblebee has something to teach me.

No sooner did the butterfly bush get comfy, my new friend showed up:

He's not shy and allows me to get really close. I'm so impressed with this photo, I've posted it on just about every online community I'm in, along with this photoshopped version which may have to be my next tattoo~:

Tomorrow is a going away party for a very special person who is leaving Taos. We have been asked to bring dessert. I think I'll have to do a vanilla cake with raspberry & chocolate vegan buttercream filling and icing. I wish I was as good with a pastry bag as I am with a camera, as I'd love to decorate it with bumblebees~

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Buddha and the Bumblebee

Actually, I don't believe there is a Sutta referencing this, but today, the moment of stillness which encapsulates the essence of the world manifested itself as this:

and looking up, I saw where all my yarn scraps had gone on to be transformed:

..and by slowing down and paying attention, my wish for a comfy spot to sit in this beauty was realized when I drove past the thrift store:

Major score~
and the transformation of desert into sanctuary continues:

...with much gratitude to my friend, Cate, who helped me slow down, and realize I don't have to cultivate my garden (or my life) all at once.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Real vegans eat quiche

After the success of the onion pie, I tried my hand at a broccoli quiche from Vegan Brunch. I had the ingredients on hand, nothing exotic, and in less time that I expected, voila:

Broccoli Quiche
I'm taking in to work tomorrow for breakfast. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to feed non-vegans (and have them enjoy it!)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dinner for Four-Girls Night In

It is great when you like the people you work with. I happen to work with a number of interesting, talented, diverse women at the vet clinic. And as part of getting my cooking mojo back, I invited them to dinner last night.

The Menu:
Mushroom-Walnut 'Pate' with crudités
Onion Pie
Asparagus wrapped win phyllo tied with chives
and for desert: vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

I actually had a bruschetta planned, but it was obvious there was going to be plenty for food and I gave myself a break.

Jenn brought a chickpea & potato curry  that she found on, which was not only her first foray into vegan food, but delicious (she also brought vodka , which was equally delicious), and fruit. Sadie made what I am sure was an amazing pasta dish, but had an encounter with gravity earlier in the day from which her dogs benefited. Victoria brought a lovely bottle of red.

The onion pie was from Vegan Table, one of my favorite cookbooks, especially for company. I've been wanting to try this kind of recipe for a while (my next adventure will be a broccoli quiche) and I was not disappointed:

Onion Pie
It was sweet and savory all at once and the tofu/almond milk mixture set up very well. The nutmeg is definitely the secret ingredient.

I've shown the paella before, but in case anyone has forgotten, here it is again, from a previous dinner:

The asparagus in phyllo tied with chives is a wonderful presentation and easier to make than you think. The trick is to blanch the asparagus for 3 minutes in boiling water and then immerse them in ice water to stop cooking. When baked, they don't overcook. Yes, that is a rosemary-tini in the upper left hand corner. I hereby declare it the official drink of the women of the vet clinic. BTW, this is an 'original recipe.'

Asparagus in Phyllo tied with chives
And for desert, with fruit to assuage our guilt, we feasted on a single layer vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. I have been a bit baking challenged at this altitude, but am learning the high altitude modifications and getting better each time. This time I used Earth Balance ('faux butter' and non-hydrogenated), rather than canola oil for the fat, and I really liked the way it came out. It takes a little more effort, but I thought it was worth it. The recipe was from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and I just made the cupcake recipe into a single layer cake. The frosting is from the same book.

Vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream frosting
I'm glad they girls took some home, because as I say "the more you eat, the less I weigh."

And finally, my friends, enjoying it all:

Clockwise from left: Victoria, Sadie, Jenn
A lovely Friday evening.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dinner for One

It's nice to be cooking again. It's like Spring: a sign that life is back. So why is food so much tastier when cooking for someone else? I love cooking, I love making good meals for myself, but the act of feeding someone is the nurturer in action. Everyone needs to eat; but so few really eat well.

Tonight it is un-chicken piccata and broccoli. Wine, lemon juice, Earth Balance, capers, shallots, garlic and parsley. The un-chicken is by Gardein - possibly the most amazing product on the planet; looks and chews like chicken cutlets and tastes amazing.

To add some ambiance, a vodka lemonade with a sprig of rosemary. Use only Simply Natural lemonade, hands down the best on the planet. The rosemary gives it that je ne sais quoi

When I spoke to him last he admitted he missed my cooking and that he'd probably never eat that well again. I don't know how to feel about that. Part of me is glad he appreciated that; and part of my is so sad that that is all that he walked away with.

When you are really good at one thing, does that make you deficient in others? How do I become a chef at love?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Gift of Grace

When traveling through the dark night of the soul, everything that was once comforting seems empty; everything that had meaning is meaningless. There is no visible light leading out of the woods. And when faith seems dead, it takes an act of even deeper faith to "act as if."

There are two things that connect me to the Divine: cooking and music. I had interest in neither 4 weeks ago, and couldn't imagine every having interest again. Then, at a kirtan concert Monday night, during the last chant, something shifted. The dam burst, and sobbing through the song, I saw the light of day again.

The next morning I woke up dry-eyed, clear; happy. I've woken up that way since. I picked up my guitar again and later, started cooking.  Last night for dinner it was Thai Green Curry with Bok Choy; today, Tortilla Soup:

Vegan Tortilla Soup
And, this is the chant that brought me home: Baba Hanuman, interpreted by Shantala:

Thank you Heather & Benjy; Thank you Baba~

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Was I wrong to think a blender could save a marriage?

A friend of mine recently said I was going through an AFGO, Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. Quite a novel way of describing my recent separation from my husband. What does this have to do with veganism and food? Nothing. Everything.

Not long before he left, he bought me a Vitamix for my birthday. I had been wanting one for over a year. For those who don't know, Vitamix is a crazy nuclear strength blender.

 It turns cashews into cashew cheese, fruit, soymilk & ice into sherbet, and makes the best green smoothies on the planet. I incorporated this new kitchen tool into my daily regime and made some amazing meals for us.

Us. There's the rub.

The saying goes that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. That was an easy area of expertise for me. Food has always been love, and I love my husband mucho.

As things deteriorated quickly, I cooked faster and faster. I whipped up desserts on a whim at 9PM; I made green smoothie after green smoothie, thinking that the healthful and very delicious benefits would heal his heart as it could heal the body. I thought that each meal we shared together would speak volumes of my love.

Maybe he thought that by buying me the blender, I could put aside the unresolved issues. Not any less rational than me thinking the blender could save our marriage.

He left almost a month ago and we haven't spoken; I've barely cooked a meal since then. I didn't touch the Vitamix until today. Cooking was always a team sport, with me throwing the pass, and him being the receiver. I didn't remember how to play Solitaire.

Today I made a green smoothie. It was a big step. It didn't taste as good as I remembered; I guess the missing ingredient was love. I'll have to remember to add that next time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

World Cuisine: Gyro & Paella

I have a lot of catching up to do, now that Meatout 2011 is over. There's been some heavy duty lovin in the kitchen that I must talk about.

Faux Meats:

There are a couple of camps in the vegan community about faux meats. Some people think it is okay when in transition, but that it is 'too processed' for normal consumption. Others feel that meat analogues, especially the recent, really good ones, are too much like eating animal flesh, and they therefore, eschew it.

Then there's my opinion. I love them. Abso-freakin-lutely love them. Boca crumbles for putting in chilis, and anything that traditionally calls for crumbled hamburger, as well as their 'chich' nuggets and patties for wraps; Gardein Chili Lime 'chick' strips for everything and their cutlets for piccatas; their 'beef' tips taste a little greasy when browned in olive oil and are perfect for gyro-type wraps:

I used a horseradish "mayo" (thank you Vegenaise), and veggies. It was sublime. Really.

The other faux meat I bow at the alter to is anything by the Field Roast company. What is an advantage to their products is that they are not soy based for those of you who have allergies issues with soy. The three flavors of their sausages are apple & sage, chipolte, and Italian.

For the paella, use the Italian. The fennel is what really replicates the flavor and in my personal opinion, the texture is as satisfying as it gets. By the way, this recipe is from the Conscious Chef by Tal Ronnan, and for copyright purposes, I cannot reprint it, but I'll tell you what is in it.

I have all but forsaken my All-Clad cookware in favor of a couple of Lodge cast iron pans and Lodge dutch oven. I cannot tell you how much I am in love with these. Not only can they fit any budget, they actually work better, and I can for most purposes, forgo the non-stick pans.

First, saute diced red pepper and onions:
While that is cooking, you can brown the 'sausage':

Oyster mushrooms are used to replicate mussels. Their stems are edible and have a chewy texture to them. Adding a sheet of crumbled dried nori, gives them a 'fishy' flavor:
The broth is added to the first pan as well as the rice. Although the recipe calls for "paella" rice, I used arborio, which is a risotto rice. It works wonderfully and adds a fullness to the dish.
A step that I don't have pictures for is the sauteeing of artichoke hearts in wine, lemon, and a little bit of Earth Balance. This substitutes for the chicken.
A little more cooking, combining all the ingredients and:
A paella that has all the flavors and textures of the traditional dish, yet none of the cholesterol or cruelty~

Meatout 2011

The first Taos Meetout Event was small but reached many people. it was held Saturday, March 19th at Cid's Food Market:

Thank you to our sponsors: Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky products), Follow Your Heart (Vegenaise), and We served Tofurky deli slices (black pepper flavor), Tofurky sausages, and had a beautiful potato salad made with Vegenaise. To wash it all down, chocolate Almond Breeze almond milk. BTW, the potato salad recipe is from the Peta Vegetarian Starter kit and is the best one I've come across~

We served approximately 200 people and gave literature out to about 150.

Spreading the word:

The reception we received was wonderful; many people were thanking us for getting the word out and were pleasantly surprised at the tasteful meat alternatives.

Even though there was a glitch with our media support (we got our press release in to the local paper by deadline, but it did not run), thanks to the great foot traffic, it was still a party!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Clouds & Cupcakes

It snowed Monday morning - a last gasp of winter. It was pretty dry here this winter, so the moisture was much needed. The mountains were hidden. It was that typical wet, spring snow.

And, a last gasp of baking - as I am really avoiding sugar lately: the Orange Buttercream (Vegan) Cupcake. It tastes even better than it looks. 

I'm flying out to Florida Thursday for my Mom's 70th birthday. It took 2 weeks of intense negotiating to get me a vegetable paella at the restaurant on her birthday. Really folks, it's just not that difficult. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Menu Planning

I keep hearing it is cheaper to eat vegan. Not the way I cook. It has been nothing short of a fiesta every day. So this week, I sat down with two of my simpler cookbooks: Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein and Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I also came to the conclusion that cruise ship quantities with Bon Appetite intricacies does not mean I'm going to lose the last few pounds any time soon.

So down I sit and pick out a week's worth of recipes and make my shopping list. Granted, doing 90% of our shopping at our locally-owned health market, Cid's is not a recipe for frugality either. However, as most of what we eat is organic produce, it is what it is.

In the spirit of "Eat dessert first, life is uncertain" I'll start with the cake. Ah yes, chocolate raspberry cake. Now in full disclosure, I have up until recently been a pretty crappy baker. But I am slowly mastering the quirkiness of baking at altitude without a net.

I've been burned before with non-hydrogenated based frosting. Last time it destabilized and became watery. Looking back, I think the directions had me overmix it. This time I would go with what I saw in my mixing bowl. What I saw was very, very yummy: Earth balance, powdered sugar and melted dark chocolate.
Batter, batter, batter
Raspberry preserves on one layer. Hint: use the good stuff.
Frosting on the other layer 
The finished cake - best damn cake I've ever had

For lunch yesterday, we had the Mexican Salad from Supermarket Vegan. It contains black beans, corn, tomatoes, scallions, avocado, red pepper, cilantro and a fabulous Lime Dressing. Best to let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge for optimum taste.

Mexican Salad

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a cookbook!

It's hard to articulate why I have taken what some people view as an extreme stance with my dietary choice and I can't help thinking about one of my favorite TwiZone episodes. I wonder, in some far distant future, if we will be the meal du jour for a more powerful life form. Will we be farmed and fattened? Would we be treated with more compassion than how we treat our food?

It is fantastical, of course, but pertinent in my world. I really do think about this. I'm not the only one thinking about this:

From one species eating another species is there a short hop to cannibalism? Ground farmed animals are now being fed to their own species. Who knows? In 1729, Jonathon Swift's A Modest Proposal satirically recommends eating the young of the poor as a way to prevent them from being a burden to their parents.

Thank you, Charlton~

So when I tell people that my bottom line is compassion for all sentient beings, that includes people.

Ready to see how your food is brought to your table? Click here (caution, this is not for the kiddies).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Didi's prognosis: The good news and the bad news

This is my little girl, Didi. She will be 4 in July. She is an American Bulldog. I rescued her right after my beloved Dakota died. She was living in a garage with 2 dogs that tried to rip her throat out. When I first saw her, her entire face was swollen from a bite wound abscess. She was a mess. It was love at first sight. To this day, she doesn't trust anyone  outside the family and the only dogs she loves are her brothers, Rio & Bobo. 

The pic to the right was taken right after the three dogs got hold of a lace shawl I was knitting and ran it through the sage brush over about 1 acre of property. Notice how they don't look the least bit remorseful. Anyway, the other day I notice a large lump on her wrist.  I took her into work and had Ted, the vet, look at her. He wasn't happy either and we did radiographs on both her front wrists. The good news: it wasn't bone cancer. However, the bad news is that due to inbreeding and improper nutrition when she was a puppy, her bones did not grow correctly, resulting in what is called 'bad conformation.' 

So what does this mean? It means that she is already in the process of developing arthritis. It means there is no surgical cure. It means she will be on Dasauqin (a chondroitin/glucosamine supplement) for life and will have to go on some sort of canine NSAID eventually. And, ultimately, it will probably take some years off her life.
It means no long hikes, ever, for Didi. I am so sad and feel even more protective over her than ever.

If you have a puppy that is destined to be a "large breed" dog (over 60#), it is imperative that you feed her "large breed" puppy food so her bones do not grow too quickly. This is also a perfect example of why backyard breeders should not be encouraged.

Didi will be getting a lot of bedtime snuggle privileges in the foreseeable future.

Friday, February 4, 2011

State of Emergency

I didn't turn on the internet radio or look up our local news before jumping in the truck to go into town for supplies. It was -26F Wednesday night and we woke up to no water on Thursday. As my whole day was planned around what I was going to do after my shower, plans had changed. We needed water to drink, water the dogs, brush our teeth, make some tea, you get the idea. Also, this week, my pamphlets from Vegan Outreach arrived:

I was going to leaflet at UNM-Taos, but being that after jumping in the truck to get supplies we found out that Gov. Martinez had declared a state of emergency in NM, and that our fellow Taosenos were without natural gas, i.e. heat, and UNM was closed, I headed to the Cid's to buy water. Then off to Albertson's for a couple of last minute items (yes, baking parchment paper is an essential if one is to be trapped in the kitchen with limited human contact).

This is what the line looked like at the supermarket:

What you can't see is that the lines go all around the perimeter of the store. I had about a 1 hour wait. So, I pulled out two of my pamphlets and held them face-out for all to see. I had just finished reading The Animal Activist's Handbook by Matt Ball, founder of Vegan Outreach. It's not what I thought it would be about. It focuses on listening skills and how to maintain equanimity in the face of the absurd.

Well, being that life is such a nifty little teacher, I stood behind a gent, long hair in a pony tail, about 65 years old, clutching a carton of eggs, a half gallon of milk and a package of brats like they were a life raft. He was talking to anyone who would listen about the conspiracy of the government (which is not unusual for one in Taos), and the benefits of the Tea Party (which is highly unusual for one in Taos). This was my guy, I thought. 

I turned towards him and without skipping a beat, he started his rhetoric in my direction. I listened and asked questions, hell, I had an hour to kill. I finally found a way to artfully insert a few well placed comments about compassionate eating and off we went.

Now, I knew that this was just a test in listening, not getting emotional, and keeping my balance. He was a wonderful teacher. By the end of the hour, he actually accepted a pamphlet, and headed off to his own cashier. To my amazement however, as he was leaving the store, and I was still checking out, he came up to me and thanked me for our conversation!

Score. It was the hugest success I could have imagined. I spoke at length with an individual who was as difficult as could be, and we left on friendly terms, him clutching a pamphlet in his hand. My very first pamphlet recipient.

The rest of the day seemed rather peaceful. Oh, and the baking parchment did come in handy - Coconut Lemon Bundt:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What do vegans eat?

Not much - as in Smokey Tempeh with a Wasabi Chickpea Salad and Potato Salad. The Smokey Tempeh is from my favorite cookbook author, Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Veganomicon, the Wasabi Chickpea Salad is from the blog VeganYumYum, and my new vice, the potato salad is from a Peta handout.

Wasabi Chickpea Salad with Avocado Wasabi dressing

A plateful of love~

Oh, and if you didn't see on the Taos Veg facebook page, the two beautiful souls at The Turquoise Teapot were impressed enough by my vegan brownie and cherry almond cookie samples to put some vegan sweet treats into their shop. I left my copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar to inspire them.