Detoxing in Thailand

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In Thailand the lotus flower symbolizes purity of body and mind. When the flower buds and blooms, it rises above the muddy waters clean and beautiful. The lotus is a metaphor for clean, healthy and happy living.

Detoxing in Thailand

I am SO HAPPY to be in Thailand after months of eating bread, wine and cheese! Don’t get me wrong, those things are wonderful, but when you eat them en masse over a long period of time, a grumpy brain starts to take over. If winter or the holidays are making you feel overweight, sluggish or depressed, Thailand is a wonderful recovery destination with its plethora of fresh fruits, vegetables and ENORMOUSLY flavorful low-calorie cuisine. It’s the place where healthy fresh food, full of nutrients and flavor, will pull you out of your slump and get you re-centered after a crush of calorie-rich holiday foods and winter stressors.

Many of the foods we enjoy over the holidays are great at causing inflammation – bread, cheese, alcohol and sweets – all cause the body’s immune system to go into overtime and cause damage to itself. The good news, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can actually slow down this bad type of inflammation making you feel more energetic and healthy. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

img_5476Vegetarian Papaya Salad with Carrots, Long Beans and Cabbage Served with Tamarind Lime Dressing and Roasted Peanuts

But, it’s not always easy to eat a nutrient-rich diet at home. In our own routines, it is SO hard to find the will-power to say NO to the office bagels or donuts, to say NO to the Friday night pizza or say NO to wine and cheese with a friend. Sometimes we just need to remove ourselves from our routines for a while and land in a place where healthy eating is the norm.

I’ve been traveling extensively as of late and just came out of a 90-day tour through Europe feeling physically bloated and mentally depressed. Coming from the firm belief that food should be our medicine, I entered Thailand determined to heal. After all, Thai food is notoriously full of fresh vegetables, fruits and detoxifying herbs and aromatics, whereas European food often accompanies cheese, bread, beer and wine. Thailand seems a good place to travel to get the body back in shape.

What is DETOX? I like to think of detox as cleansing the body. It’s the idea that we may be able to flush out harmful invaders in the form of free radicals – agents that might promote cancer cells to grow, or in the least wreak havoc through inflammation. Detox means bombarding our body with vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients while flushing out toxins that are causing inflammation. By eating a variety of nutritionally dense foods, we help to heal our bodies from the inside out. The cuisine of Thailand definitely qualifies as nutrient dense!

To help get myself back on track in Thailand with healthy eating, I followed these steps:

  1. Remind yourself, it feels good to eat well. I remembered how satisfying it feels to eat fresh fruit and veggie juices, salads and smoothies. Refusing bread, pasta and dairy in Thailand doesn’t mean missing out on anything. In fact, it will be hard to even find these things here – except for noodles which are most often made from rice and not inflammatory. The fresh dishes are so satisfying, I wonder why even bother with baguets!
  2. Cut out a few calories a day. I made a pact to cut back on calories just a bit. It’s no fun to diet while traveling, but cutting out a few hundred calories a day is easy here. Since Thailand is quite warm, I feel full faster, so eating smaller portion sizes is easier. Because it’s hot, I also drink lots of water which gives me a feeling of fullness. Plus, easy access to fruit and healthy snacks allows me to accomplish that whole, “Six Small Meals a Day” deal that is so tricky back at home. By enjoying food a little here and a little snack there, I’m not be so hungry as to overeat. All of this helps me feel satisfied with one large meal a day.
  3. Get moving. In Thailand I got moving. My trip through Europe was a bit too sedentary, but here I have space for Yoga and Pilates and can walk the beach enjoying the sun as it sets to the west. Physical constraints of travel can make exercise difficult, so it’s nice that here I have some built-in space.
  4. Practice healthy habits. Thailand is the “Land of Smiles,” – a country of kind happy people who know how to make travelers comfortable. The tenets of Buddhism imply that following a path of practice towards mental insight – yoga, meditation, reflection or simply rest – will help end any suffering caused by stress. The practice of healthy eating also helps to diminish discomfort caused stress. I love this idea and remember each day that I am “practicing” all the steps needed for health and wellness. 

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Use FRUIT to get started.

Fruit is a great way to start a detox, and in Thailand there is a wide variety. Have you ever seen a dragon fruit? These pink spiny looking things hold a white seedy flesh that is sweet and somewhat reminiscent of kiwi. I love that they come with their own bowls – just cut one in half and spoon out the flesh! Dragon fruit are so delicious and chock full of vitamins C and B as well as healthy seeds with the fatty acids we want – think chia! They have calcium and the seeds contain a mild laxative – surely to help with detox!

Another fruit I enjoy here is papaya. It’s another detox powerhouse with HUGE levels of vitamin C and A, and its ability to help with digestion. Between digestion-aiding enzymes and fibre, papaya is a potent force in the gut helping to process food and flush out the old. Although sweet, papaya is low on the glycemic index making it a good choice for weight loss as well.

And how about that pineapple? Well, pineapple helps digest proteins in the gut. Protein, especially the kind from cheap meats like hamburger or processed meat are tough to break down, so cause inflammation or other problems like gout. But, pineapple has another of those digestive enzymes called bromelain, that the body loves. Pineapple also helps prevent blood clots, works against cancer cells and can help make a person look younger. That’s an idea I LOVE!

On top of all the nutritional benefits of these fruits, they also work to reduce stress and increase energy. Double win for me!

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The most striking thing about Thai cuisine is the depth of flavors. In this Tom Yam (soup), hot and sour mix with the pungent healing properties of ginger, lemongrass, galangal, lime, chile and kaffir lime leaves. This light low-calorie soup packs in EXTREME flavor of aromatics full of anti-inflammatory goodness that help fight against cancer, lower cholesterol levels, balance blood pressure, detoxify the liver, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, support respiratory health, help with digestion…just to name a few.

Of course, there are a few treats in Thailand that can’t be missed – coconut curries, fried eggrolls and sweet and sour dishes  – they are higher in calories but equally as delicious when shared with a friend. Fortunately, for someone trying not to overdo it, a beautiful thing about Thai cuisine is that plates are meant to be shared, so tasting a decadent dish doesn’t leave me feeling the negative effects of inflammation.

Thai people seem to have it going on in terms of healthy eating, and I am happy to be here to learn a little about it! In one week, my grumpy brain has completely turned off, I feel more energetic despite the heat and look forward to eating more DRAGON FRUIT tomorrow!

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Lagging Spring

Spring in Town

The country ever has a lagging Spring,
Waiting for May to call its violets forth,
And June its roses–showers and sunshine bring,
Slowly, the deepening verdure o’er the earth;
To put their foliage out, the woods are slack,
And one by one the singing-birds come back…

William Cullen Bryant

 

This is yesterday’s deepening verdure. The winter rye is greening in front of the barn, tree buds are beginning to push forward and it is not only Juncos to the feeder.

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BUT, Mother Nature has halted the verdant splendor and given us a more muted palate. Somehow, more quiet and composed.

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Spring is most surely lagging in this northern state.

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Farmhouse Revised

To make sure the full impact is felt, make sure you look at yesterday’s post about buying  a farm. In that post you will find the “Before” pictures. We began this project nine months ago, and while much of the house project is “done” there is quite  a bit of fine-tuning left to work on. Of course, the acreage and outbuildings will keep us very busy for years to come!

We’ve lived in the city for many years with turn-of-the-century oak woodwork, and while beautiful, it is very dark. I’ve been craving light for years, so am thrilled to have been able to highlight the incredible light of the farm. We added windows to both enhance the view as well as to open the house even more to light.

For the interior I chose a monochromatic white color scheme to keep it fresh and clean feeling. Walls, ceilings, floors and trim are all the same white. For dimension, I was strongly influenced by the concept of “farmhouse coastal.” I added beachy splashes with a sea-foam marble for the wood stove heat wall, painted the office ceiling, crown molding and stairs a turquoise blue and have lots of sand colors resonating throughout the fabrics and fixtures.

I also wanted to add a bit of “farmhouse” especially as the house has two large barn wood beams to remind us of the old-timers who hand-sawed the huge timbers that once covered this land. My darling husband was commissioned to create beds, fridge panels, a stove hood and farm table to help the house celebrate its roots! Our laundry, bathroom and mudroom will eventually look like a tack room complete with a sliding barn door. That will be our next project. To complete, in fact, will be a screen porch, a covered porch that will become a solarium and the renovation of the bathrooms.

In terms of interior design, the space is minimally filled. I have yet to decide about window treatments, additional furniture and other objects of interest. I figure I have lots of time to find interesting pieces to fill the space. I’d rather have things I love and that are “perfect” than just fill the space for the sake of it.

Click on the first picture to see the gallery in a larger format. It may take a moment to load.

 

 

Vegetarian Perspective and the New Farm

We bought a farm!

This is actually old news, but I’m finally getting around to share this with the world. First let me introduce you to the country getaway-renovation project-to keep me busy-house! 15 acres and a few outbuildings is definitely a foodie fantasy, of course the incredible views were highly motivating, but the light and potential of the farmhouse are ultimately what sold me. To the west, huge windows look across a ravine to the neighboring farms on the ridge, to the east we have five-mile views of the Lake Pepin and Rush River Valleys and the whole place is surrounded by the pastoral rolling hills of this “Driftless” area of Western Wisconsin. Our place sits on a hill with ample windows to the west and south allowing for flooding sunlight throughout the day. In the city, rays from the sun are blocked by our neighbor’s two and a half story homes and close proximity.

House Day of Closing

The house

View of Neighbor

Our neighbor to the south

Well House and Ravine

The overgrown hill looking out to the ravine

Our Road and Views

View of Lake Pepin and Rush River valleys

While the stinkiest house we have ever renovated, I could immediately see the potential. The house was originally built by a homesteading family in the late 1880s or early 1890s. It stayed in that family until 1986 when it was sold to a young couple. They set to renovate the place with new windows, an open floor plan and new paint, carpet and other basics. In 2003-4, after divorcing, the woman decided to make some big changes to the house by building an addition that would accommodate two new bathrooms, a mudroom and a laundry room. Unfortunately, she fell on hard times, many projects were left unfinished and eventually she lost the home to foreclosure. We were the purchasers.

While we feel extremely grateful for what we have acquired, it is hard to think about the previous owner and her dreams for this place. One day last summer she tentatively stopped in to introduce herself. She was very emotional, but shared her story with us which ultimately gave us a deeper appreciation for the land and the home. We learned that she loved animals and had a couple of horses. She even created a riding arena behind the garage with highbush cranberry. The bushes are 14-16 feet tall now and form a perfect rectangular arena. Poplar seedlings had overpopulated the space, but once Jeff cleared them out, the arena became obvious. If she hadn’t told us about that space and it’s purpose, we may never have discovered it. After the horses died, the land went fallow, burr, thistle and other perennial weeds took over, so we’ve had our hands full with clearing, and I anticipate many years of maintenance and management.

South View

South side with perennial bed

House Day of Closing

Southwest view

North Exterior

North side addition

West Exterior

West side view

These pictures were taken the end of June on the day we closed. I was thrilled to find lots of perennial flowers, flowering bushes and fruit trees. It was obvious that somebody loved gardening as much as I do. However, the gardens and plants were nearly impossible to see for the invasive grasses that have taken over the beds. The farm seemed so overgrown that we thought it had been abandoned for many years. We were surprised to find that the previous owner had only moved in February, and now understand how pernacious these country weeds truly are!

Peonies Buried in the Crab Grass

Peonies in the grass

Hosta and Roses

Hosta and Roses

Pink Peonies

White Peonies

White Peonies

Light Pink and Yellow Peonies

Weigela and Highbush Cranberry Mess

Weigela and highbush cranberry

 

Mock Orange

Mock orange

Yew, Hosta, Spirea and Smokebush

Yew, hosta, spirea, smokebush

Maple Baby

Sour Cherry

Iris and Crabgrass

Iris

Everyone asks if we’ll have animals or grow crops, but what we’re going to do with it is yet to be seen. We have lots of ideas and tons of ambition so anything seems possible. What we do know is that we have 15 acres to renovate, rebuild and restore. We closed last June with the intention of renovating the house as a country getaway. While others would have dug into the land right away, it was more important to me to first create a peaceful and relaxing space. Here are the before pictures:

Kitchen to Livingroom - Day of Closing

Looking into the living room from the kitchen

Kitchen Cabinet

The old kitchen cabinet – I save this for later!

Window to Porch from Kitchen

Old window looking out to porch

Window to Addition - now removed

Blocked off window never removed after north side addition added

Heat Vents and Beadboard Ceiling

Main floor has beadboard ceilings and heat vents

Wood Stove Pad and Wall

Wood stove pad and heat-tiled wall

Large Timber Beam

Large timber beam between kitchen and living room

Office to Livingroom View

Main floor room to become office

Office - Day of Closing

Another view of the office where the desk will go

Beam and Looking to Kitchen

View of beam looking into kitchen

Master Bath Doorway

Master bath doorway

 

Master Bedroom

Master bedroom

A Good Reminder When All Runs Off Electricity Here

A good reminder!

Lofted Space to be Bedroom

Lofted space to become bedroom

Loft and Stairs

Loft and stairs

Stairs and Exit Sign

Stairs and exit sign

Six-Inch Pine in Master

Six-inch pine original to master bedroom

Master Bath and Bedroom

Master bath and bedroom

Master Closet and View to Loft

Master has double closets!

Office and Wallpaper

Main floor plaster never finished – this is future office with wallpaper

Original Fir Floors

Main floor has fir floors

New Windows and Victorian Trim

New windows and Victorian trim

Bottom of Stairs & Fir Under Living room Carpet

Bottom stairs show fir under living room carpet

Two Steffes Units Heat in Winter

Laundry room and mud room addition heated with Steffes electric units

Laundry Room, Bathroom and Closet Addition

Mudroom closet in addition

Laundry Room

Laundry hook-up

Main Floor Bath

Main floor bath

Vent for Electric Basement Furnace

Vent for electric basement furnace

Kitchen Sink and Bay Window

Double sink – maybe move to summer barn kitchen?

Porch Door to Kitchen

Porch door to kitchen

Workbench and Kitchen Window

Workbench, window and door to kitchen

Porch Door to Yard

Porch door to yard

In addition to a lovely house, we have a few choice outbuildings that one day will gleam and shine. Right now they are rather battered and bruised.

Garage

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ImageI’m excited to post the “after” pictures of all our projects. We’ve been here for just over 9 months and have accomplished quite a bit. In addition to renovating much of the house, we have started seedlings for a summer garden, have plans to trench the electric lines, we will finish off the deck and screen porch we started last summer, start a colony of bees, and begin plans for a large-scale permaculture farm. This summer my challenge will be to find a way to live harmoniously with the weeds!

Linden Hills Farmers Market

It’s a happy day in Linden Hills! I don’t know about you, but walking over to the new market today felt like going home after a long absence. Some of us miss the co-op as it used to be, and now, to take its place is one of the best markets I’ve seen in Minneapolis. I know, I know, the farmers market is not going to take the place of the co-op, but I believe it will foster something that has been missing in Linden Hills since its move a couple of years ago. This little market is sure to bring a crowd of local, veg-loving, farmer supporters to Linden Hills downtown once again. Compared to other markets, this one will act as a not only a catalyst of support for local farmers, but will also bring business to downtown in general. I don’t think many other markets in the metro area have that dual ability. When the co-op was in its old location, community gathered. People walked downtown, stopped by the library and had a cup of coffee at Dunn Brothers. Unfortunately, its new location doesn’t provide that same sense of community. The new co-op tends to be a drive in and drive out affair, at least for me, so I’m elated to be able to return to my old stomping grounds!

Last year when I heard about the Fulton Market I was so excited about having a market within walking distance. I anticipated being able to find a variety of veg from local farmers, but when I got there, I was disappointed to find very few farmers, and an overabundance of breads, pastries, prepared foods and preserves. I ended up spending the summer going to the Kingfield market instead. So, when the announcement came that Linden Hills was planning to start their own market, I was a bit more cautious in my enthusiasm. For the last few months I envisioned a tidy little market with lots of young farmers, a variety of veg, some vendors with heirloom plants, a few purveyors of packaged products like honey and cheese and maybe even somebody selling sprouts. Every time I found myself thinking about the Linden Hills market opening day, I had to remind myself that I may end up disappointed. Boy, let me tell you, this market lived up to my wildest dream! If I were giving awards, I would say it is the best market in the city! Of course, I am biased, but it is true.

I was awed by the number of farmers there today, and thrilled to see so many young start-ups! Perhaps the lack of vendors available for new markets was a blessing in disguise for us, as this market may have pulled a few newbies out of their shells! The variety of veg was not overwhelming, but satisfied my raw food dreams. There were snap peas, lots of salad greens, radishes, spring onions, bok choi, rhubarb, strawberries and hand-snipped-with-a-scissors sunflower sprouts, pea shoots and other micro greens! The amount of respect and admiration I have for a farmer who will do that for me is unquantifiable. In addition to edible greens and other veg, there were quite a lot of plants for sale. I saw a good variety of perennials, herbs and many heirloom veggies. As I tend towards beauty in life, I noticed that many of today’s displays were creative, tasteful and eco-friendly eye-candy! Green was a common theme!

In fact, to my delight, green things ruled today’s market. The balance was not tipped by too many breads or pastries, and I thought there was a nice blend of vendors with value-added products. Packaged goodies didn’t steal the show as they do at the Fulton Market. Star Thrower Farm impressed this vegetarian with their extreme respect for the animal. They brought to vend cheese, meat, soap, wool yarn and sheepskins. The honey vendor, Bare Honey had a lovely variety of herb and spice infused product – something you don’t see much. One of the farmer’s mothers is enamored with drying strawberries – what a delectable treat for a cold winter breakfast over oatmeal or granola! Not that we want to think of that yet.

I just about cried when I saw that Foxy Falafel was only selling sauces today, but then quite relieved to find that Foxy was at her brother’s wedding this weekend and will bring the food truck starting next week. If you haven’t tried Foxy’s Falafel yet, you’re in for a treat!

To those of you who organized this market, BRAVO! To the farmers who chose to vend in this location, A MILLION THANKS! You have returned a missing piece of life to Downtown Linden Hills and can be assured that we will support you!

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Tagged

Last night I was busily prepping veggies for a new batch of Farm Fresh Spring Rolls when my son, Max beckoned me to come outside to see what he had made. I was so surprised to see driveway art projects honoring Vegetarian Perspective! Of course I am a very biased mama, but the level of creativity and thoughtfulness stopped me in my tracks. I never really think much about what Max thinks about the VP blog, but his chalk-art creations seemed a testimony to his interest and respect for this project.  Not only that, but I love the little reminder that the VP Blog is “not the gas,” meaning the same as “BP” the gas company! Will he be an engineer, an artist, or go into advertising? Wherever he ends up, he’ll need a spell checker!

Simplicity

At some point in your life you decide you have everything you could possibly need and most of what you want. At this point you are able to understand ideas of simplicity. You stop buying every brand of detergent to see which is best, staying at home becomes the free-time choice, you enjoy sparsely clad, tidy closets and food becomes almost boring. You find the most satisfying dishes are homey and primitive: a pot of soup, a loaf of bread or a simple steamed vegetable. And who wants to read about that on a blog?

Of course I have been cooking and eating, keeping to my mantra of healthy, and doing my best to feed everybody from sustainable sources, but it all just seems so simple and unappealing that I haven’t wanted to bother you with particulars, but I know you miss me.

Even though the food has been simple, I have been experimenting a bit. The polenta above was an attempt to make a beautiful layered dish – not so beautiful, but delicious. In another attempt at layers, I whipped up this vegetable lasagna made with sweet potatoes, butternut squash and eggplant. I loved it, but the boys wanted it mashed and pureed. They’re not that into big chunks of these particular vegetables!

Another idea was to pickle rhubarb with fennel bulb, red onion and radishes. I wanted it to be a sweet and tangy pink little pickle, but it just tasted funny. I think the radish set it off in the wrong direction.

So, as you can see, we’ve been eating simply as I wait impatiently for Foxtail Farm’s first CSA delivery. Once that box arrives, I hope my inspirations and successes in the kitchen will return!

Why Not Vegan?

Veganism. Pure and simple. An approach to health and lifestyle that embodies ethics, morality and all that is righteous. Why then, am I bothered by some of it? I get the idea of avoiding animal products and bi-products: flesh, bone, blood, skin, fur, milk and eggs. I get the idea that people are concerned about the ethical treatment of animals, caring for the environment and the health and nutritional well-being of humanity. I get that. What I don’t get is how vegans can promote this lifestyle while also promoting the production of plastic, non-biodegradable products like shoes and fake fur. Vegan opposition to the use of leather, seems to have limited, healthy alternatives.

We are out of control creating plastic clothing. Sure, some of it is made from recycled plastic bags, but once it gets a hole in it, or becomes rank from sweat not really “wicked” away, these garments head to the landfill or incinerator. Just like any other plastic, they emit pollutants when burned, and one has to believe that they may well emit toxic fumes in stable form.  Perhaps the alternatives for vegans should not be plastic based products, but rather a support of companies that ethically produce leather, wool and cotton. In the long run, these are better for the environment than petroleum or plastics as they are completely compostable.

I also don’t get the vegan promotion of processed foods like meat and cheese alternatives. Some of these things come from reputable food companies and are natural or organic, but many of these products are loaded with salt and preservatives. They are far from healthy.

I’m a vegetarian because I think the idea of eating an animal’s flesh is disgusting – for me. It’s a personal thing kind of like not liking tomatoes. I may not want to eat meat, but I don’t mind if other people do. In fact, I favor the continued cultural practices of animal husbandry. I believe animals are helpful to humans and should be ethically and morally used to those ends. I believe in the family farm with horses, cows, chickens, and sheep. I believe these animals benefit from the kind care and attention of their owners, and their owners benefit from the bi-products these animals create: meat, milk, eggs and wool. If I did eat meat, I would be very selective about the meat I was choosing. I would want to know that it was grass-fed, not full of hormones, and from an animal that was treated respectfully. And, when choosing dairy or buying clothing, I buy from companies that are using ethical practices.

The last reason I am not vegan, my papa is a bee-keeper – brave man that he is! The photos below were taken in 1975 when a colony of honey bees made a home for themselves in the St. Charles Post Office, and my father, the local bee-keeper was called to remove them. I guess it’s all in your perspective as to whether bee-keeping is ethical, but just like the bears, we humans love the honey.

Myth Busting Bread

I’ve not been cooking much lately, but I have been experimenting here and there with bread. We’re thinking about putting a pizza oven in the back yard this summer, so I’ve been reading up on bread making, and have become fascinated with creating and using starters. The first loaf of sourdough I made didn’t quite reach high enough, but had a nice tangy sour flavor. After each loaf I make, Jeff is fascinated by the simplicity of bread. “Really, that’s all that goes into it? Just water and flour and salt? Kind of demystifies all the loaves and fishes stuff from my church-going childhood!”

When I was a kid, my mom always made bread. As part of the “Back to the Land Movement,” we often lived in houses with wood-cook stoves, so bread-making was a pretty big ordeal. You didn’t want to have to do it too often especially in the hot summer. The stove was stoked to a high heat and bread was made in great volume. If I remember correctly, I think we must have made four or five giant two-pound loaves a week. That was sufficient for our family of three.

My mom had a very large ceramic bowl that we actually called, “the bread bowl.” She would fill the bottom of it with warm water, add some yeast until it dissolved and then add a little honey and salt. Once that was all mixed, she would start adding flour one cup at a time and stir it with a big wooden spoon. When the dough became too stiff for the spoon, shirt sleeves would go up, and arms would go in. She’d begin the kneading process in the bowl until the dough was stiff enough to pour out on the counter. Then Mom would go into her rhythmic pattern of kneading: fold, push with the heel of the hand, turn counter-clockwise and repeat. I loved watching the dough transform from a pocky globby mess, to a satiny smooth ball. The ball would be left to rise for a few hours in the bread bowl, then later punched down, formed into loaves and left to rise again in the bread pans. When they were of appropriate fullness, the loaves were baked. Unlike the stuff I’ve been playing around with lately, Mom’s bread took only one day to make.

I still prefer to make bread Mom’s way. I never measure a thing and the bread always turns out just right. Using a starter, on the other hand, has been challenging and I am coming to the conclusion that it is the bread-making for chemists, statisticians, perfectionists and homebodies. Making traditional loaves is a wonderful challenge and I am sure it will feel easier once I get the hang of it. The results really are quite stunning!

I’ve become a big fan of Breadtopia. This site has wonderful recipes and great tutorials that really make bread-making seem simple. I’ve made a few of the no-knead sourdoughs as well as a Sicilian No Knead. I prefer the no knead recipes for their speed as well as the fact that they are a stickier dough which makes them easier to prepare in the stand mixer. The heavier doughs need a little knead and more time for fermenting and rising. The whole grain sourdough, for example, took me five days to complete! No single part was time-consuming, so could be messed with my few moments before work, or in the evening. These traditional European loaves prove one thing. There is no way Jesus could have possible fed 5000 people in the course of a few hours! Myth busted!

Separating Eggs

Doesn’t every nine-year-old need to learn to separate eggs? Some of my vegan readers may scream, “No!” and I completely understand. Nonetheless, waffles were requested, and the boy learned not only how to separate eggs, but to beat them to stiff peaks. We often take for granted these little building blocks in life that really are so important. Can you remember when you first learned to separate an egg? Good job, Maximilliano!

Alemar Camembert

Bread, bread, bread. I can smell it, I can see it, I have to make it, so I go to the co-op to pick up a few things I need, and as I stroll through the aisle, cheesemonger Keith’s fabulous Camembert, from local Mankato, Minnesota Alemar Cheese Company, calls out to greet me. This beautiful cheese loves my idea of making bread, so in great anticipation of their partnership, I escort King Arthur and a soft white rind home for dinner.

Keith’s artisan soft-ripened cheese is like magic, and it demands warm bread to experience all its glory. This cheese, brilliantly white and creamy, when cut, begins to move. It slowly softens, puddles and flows. The soft rind holds up, but the inside spills out like a perfect molten lava cake. The flavors at first are creamy, then develop into an earthy tangy finish with fresh grassy tones. This cheese is superb – far better than any Normandy import. The ‘croûte fleurie’ rind is thin and lovely in flavor and texture; unlike many we find in the typical supermarket.

Now, bread making is a lot like cheesemaking I imagine. It’s fussy, time-consuming business, and as many of you know, I am not a fussy cook. I like to make things that are not complicated or lengthy, so I decide to try Bittman’s No-Knead Bread. No knead means less work, right? Well, this is a very nice bread recipe that turns out a crusty peasant loaf with very little muscle ache, but it is a multi-stepper that involves many hours of home-stay. In fact, shortly before it was ready to bake, I had completely forgotten it rising on the radiator, and was half-way out the door for a trot around the lake when I remembered it. The walk was postponed for over an hour in order to pre-heat the oven and then bake the loaf. Ay, yay, yay!

I am not a fussy cook, but I certainly appreciate those who are. Thanks to all of you who relish lengthy, multi-step food preparation processes! And thanks, Keith for the delicious cheese – Bravo!

Fasting Fridays

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed your body weight go through a yearly cycle? Some people say they always lose weight in the summer, for example. My body definitely goes through a yearly cycle. Every summer I gain weight and every fall, I lose it. Most years I go up and down ten to fifteen pounds. I’ve been on this cycle since I started teaching. There are two contributing factors to the weight gain. The first is that I am home not working in the summer and therefore, eat more. The second is that I am under no stress. In the fall when I go back to work, I suddenly find myself very busy with little time to eat, and suffer enormous anxiety which causes my body to drop weight, usually within three to four weeks. I am often down fifteen pounds by the end of September and can maintain that weight until the holidays. Once the routines of the classroom and workload are established, the weight slowly builds back on between November and August. Of course, I hate the stress and anxiety, but I love the weight loss. What I really love is not feeling hungry. Once I get busy, the adrenalin kicks in, my metabolism gets a jump, and I never feel hungry. It’s easy to keep a healthy weight if I rarely experience hunger. Once I start eating more, however, I find that I get hungry more quickly and then eat more and more often.

Lately, my favorite jeans are just a little too tight, and I find myself wishing that I could feel less hungry, so I decided to fast. Now, this is a break from my normal thinking. I don’t diet. I can’t. I’ve tried, but become completely obsessed with food, so this is not a diet. This is a fast. Not a spiritual quest, just a fast – a reduction in calories so I can get back to not needing to eat so much. I am clearly not an expert on these things, but I am listening to my body. When my weight is down, I tend to eat very little during the first part of the day and normally don’t find myself hungry until about 2:00 in the afternoon. If I have an apple, I can be sustained until my early dinner time of 5:00. So, I’m thinking, I need to find a way to break the hunger – I will fast.

I have no idea about fasting, but the idea made sense last Friday. I drank my regular morning cup of coffee, and had my favorite decaf unsweetened Chai throughout the day. The warm tea helped me feel full and fight off carb cravings. When I got home from work, I had a small bowl of soup. That’s it. For some reason, it felt right. It seems like my body needs to be deprived of carbohydrate calories, and when it is, the craving for them decreases.

I often look at dietary guidelines in shock. How can we eat three meals a day with a snack in between? I would be as big as a house if I did that. Again, I am not an expert, I am only going on fifteen years of self-study and what my body tells me, but I think our bodies need a lot fewer calories than recommended, and I don’t think it’s bad to deprive ourselves of food sometimes. I feel more healthy and am more comfortable when I have days of lower caloric intake followed by days of normal eating. Here’s another little dirty secret of mine: I hate eating breakfast, but don’t tell Health Partners. To keep my co-pays at this year’s level, I have to report everyday to my WELLNESS check what I ate for the day. They counsel me on healthy eating! The healthy eating tracker asks if I eat breakfast, and I always click the “yes” button even though I don’t have my apple until my 12:40 lunchtime everyday! They don’t say what time breakfast has to be consumed! If I eat breakfast at say 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., I am starving by 9:30. If I don’t eat breakfast, I am only mildly hungry at about 12:30.

So, I have decided to make Fridays a fasting day. The fast will begin Thursday evening with a no-carb vegetable dinner like a big salad or vegetable soup. Friday will be a day of low-calorie liquids, most likely tea, and a light dinner. The rest of the week I will eat normally, but I am going to try to back off the carbs a little each day and focus on vegetables and fruits.

I am not going on a diet! I know what you’re thinking. It’s just a fast on Friday. One twenty-four hour day – starting on Thursday.

Kitchen Confidential

I most certainly love my husband because he’s handsome and kind, but the things that draw me to him are rather inconspicuous. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share a few ideas for you guys who really want to impress your sweetie in the kitchen this weekend. As you will see, it’s the small things that really matter!

  1. I love a man who wipes off the counters even if they’re speckled granite and he can’t see the crumbs.
  2. I love a man who loads and empties the dishwasher.
  3. I love a man who sets and clears the table.
  4. I love a man who packs lunch for his kids every day.
  5. I love a man who makes dinner for his wife and family.
  6. I love a man who knows what food brands his wife buys.
  7. I love a man who can grocery shop without a list because he knows what’s missing from the pantry.
  8. I love a man who supports exclusive co-op shopping because his wife does.
  9. I love a man who puts leftovers in glass or ceramic because he’s worried about plastics.
  10. I love a man who cares about what his kids eat, and helps curb sweets.
  11. I love a man who eats whatever is for dinner and always has a genuine compliment.
  12. I love a man who eats over a plate so not a crumb escapes to the floor.
  13. I love a man who knows something fell from his mouth while eating.
  14. I love a man who wipes the ketchup bottle before returning it to the fridge.

Feel free to add to the list. Isn’t it fun to think about all the little things people do that make us love them so much? Happy Valentine’s Day!

Next Step 2010

Besides goals for the blog itself, I have decided on a few next steps for myself.

I started this blog a little over a year ago with the idea that I would review restaurants from the vegetarian perspective. At the time, I was hoping if I complained loudly enough, someone would hear, and restaurants would start including more creative options for vegetarians. Well, this squeaky wheel did not get the grease.

In fact and frankly, the restaurant scene in Minneapolis is pretty boring for vegetarians, and in my humble opinion, has even deteriorated. We have many fine new restaurants, but unfortunately most of them offer nothing more than a few sides or a single vegetarian pasta dish. Unless the pasta is in an Italian restaurant, hand-made ravioli or the occasional, and very unique nightly special, to see pasta on a menu flabbergasts me. That’s right, I said flabbergasted. Without swearing, I cannot think of another word that so clearly defines my complete and utter disgust. I stare at the word “pasta” with shock and awe. You have got to be kidding me! Have I missed something? Have we all been living with the eighties mullet and puffed up big-hair bangs for the last twenty years and not even realized?

I have seen trends in food all my life. Once supper clubs and diners got old, other firsts started. Remember the first pizza, submarine sandwiches, bagels, shrimp, seafood, calamari, Greek, Mission Burritos, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Northern Italian, and Sushi?  I bet if you think about it, you’ll be able to remember other firsts. The food and restaurant industries follow trends for all eaters except vegetarians. Don’t get me wrong, I like pasta, but at home in secret where I can repeat my mantra, “Pasta is so 80s!” Please, most of us have long ago evolved, and our diets include a diverse and exciting palate of grains, legumes and vegetables. Chefs have you ever thought that perhaps nobody orders the vegetarian option because it is so darn lack-luster? That’s right, I said lack-luster.

Well, around the time my CSA box started it’s weekly visit last summer, I got tired of begging and searching for something wonderful in the restaurants, and loved the challenge of getting creative with whatever was in the box, so decided to start posting a few recipes of my own. This was a turning point for Vegetarian Perspective. I no longer dreamed about lovely dinners in a restaurant, but instead dreamed of the fabulous meals I would create at home.

The arrival of the CSA posed a unique sort of challenge that thrilled me. You get this lovely box of fresh produce, you think about the guy who pulled it from the ground yesterday and the other guy who so nicely packed it and delivered it, and you don’t want to let a bit of it go to waste. How could you when you know personally the work that went into the growth and creation of the box? So here you have this produce, and you have to fit it into a recipe. In our modern world, cooking a recipe means deciding what you want to eat before you go to the grocery. You make a list of what you need, set out to purchase, and then come home to prepare the dish. With a CSA it is the other way around, and that stretches the creative juices. You have to cook what’s in the box.

As you know, vegetarians can consume large quantities of vegetables. The first year we participated in a CSA, our full-share was another farmers half, so we switched farms, because we were out of veggies three days after the box delivery. In sharing CSA stories with friends, I soon began to see that some people struggle with their CSA because they’re not sure what to do with all the produce, or they don’t have time for the creative process. So from May to September, Vegetarian Perspective had a clear focus: To create recipes for folks who get a CSA.

Once the CSA share ended, I found myself again trying to define the blog, and I also found myself back in the busy classroom with a new batch of students and very little time to cook. Things slowed down on Vegetarian Perspective, and I missed it. I missed my summer of morning cooking sessions and evening gatherings around the food.

Cooking has become addicting to me, and posting to the blog has been one of the results. But I am also beginning to understand how the social part of food motivates me. I need to make this food, and I need to share it because somewhere deep down, I want people to understand that meatless is wonderful, and can very easily replace a meat-based diet. My CSA box produced a lot of meals this summer, and we began to invite guests to enjoy it. We had a summer filled with parties and great food. Going to a restaurant was the last thing on my mind because everything I wanted was right here at home.

As I have confirmed in my search, good vegetarian food is not coming out of many Minneapolis restaurants. And, I also think that restaurants with their set menus have become too monotonous for modern culture. People want to be surprised, want something new and want things to change. Outstanding in the Field, Dinner on the Farm, and meals in Art Studios are growing in popularity. Because of this realization and my experience with last summer’s CSA cook-off, I have been inspired to venture into the Underground scene. Beginning in a few short months, Vegetarian Perspective will exist in both the virtual and carbon-based world. During the warmer months, I am going to attempt to prepare a weekly vegetarian meal based on my ideals of fabulous food. The menu will be outlined each week, but specifics may not be determined until the meal is actually prepared. Each meal will be based on whatever foods are the freshest at the time. I am not going to limit myself to only local fare for this first run, but will most likely participate with one or two only-local meals in August during the Eat Local Challenge. The main goal is to provide a venue for fabulous vegetarian food, and secondary goals include teaching vegetarianism and creating a larger social network of friends.

To start, the guest list will be by invite only and include friends of friends, but eventually I would like to open to a larger audience. Please feel free to send me your contact information through the vegetarian perspective email, and I will let you know when I open to the public.

Last summer I dubbed one of our parties, Dinner on the Driveway and another Picnic on the Patio, but the VP Underground is yet to be named. I just read of a new underground called Hush, and was reflecting on the irony of the fact that my never-came-to fruition restaurant was to be named “Bulla” (boo-ya) which is Honduran slang for “making noise.” I wanted to make noise about vegetarian food back in 2002 when I thought I might open a restaurant, and here I am again. Perhaps we should call it No Hagan Bulla! – Stop Making Noise! Any thoughts? I’m open to suggestions.

Again, thank you all for your readership. It’s been a fun year of creating and connecting with people across the Blogosphere – I have learned a ton from you all.