The Silence of the Lambs

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
~Dr Hannibal Lecter, “The Silence of the Lambs”

As I started to write this post, this quote came to mind. I remember going to see this great movie with my friend, Susie, and we clung to each other the whole time!

In case you are worried…no… I’m not cooking liver!  I did, however, cook fava beans for the first time ever!  Have you ever even seen a fava bean?? Those suckers are huge! (Or “yuge”, if you are following current politics.)

Yesterday’s dinner included: Isa’s Garlicky Thyme Tempeh (my first foray into tempeh), Lemon-Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms, and rice.

The tempeh was easy to do; basically cut according to the instructions, marinate for an hour or more, and grill or broil.  I actually seared on high heat in my cast iron pot which worked just as well. I will admit that, despite actually purchasing fresh thyme, I just ended up using dried. Minus the oil, I followed the fava beans recipe as is and both made for a delicious, hearty meal.

One more new recipe, also from Isa… Good Gravy Bowl with Broccoli & Seitan. The gravy is delicious; I actually doubled the gravy so I had some left over to top a baked potato for lunch. My only challenges with this recipe were related to poor planning. I felt like I used a lot of pots for this recipe for some reason and I didn’t plan the usage correctly. When I realized that I forgot to cook the quinoa, I only had a small pot available and I made a mess on the stove!  So plan ahead!  🙂

“Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo.”  What delicious plant-based recipes have you tried lately?

IMDb: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest

Just to get things started: a reminder.  Given the “lights cancer action” theme of my blog, every blog title is an actual movie term or title.  So, yes, this is actually a movie.  🙂

And, as you can guess, our topic is tofu!

I have indicated several times in the past that I have completely avoided soy since forever, but even more so since my diagnosis. There was so much debate as to whether tofu was healthy for a breast cancer survivor of an estrogen positive tumor, it wasn’t worth the risk. I changed my mind after reading Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The chapter on breast cancer, and his supporting research, convinced me that soy is actual beneficial.

I read that book months and months ago, but, despite giving myself the green light, I remained intimidated by tofu.  That is until this week!  I finally braved purchasing and cooking with it.

I have my Scranton Beets group to thank for getting me over my hurdle.  I tried this yummy dessert two weekends ago and loved it SO much that I made it for a party I attended this past weekend.

Pina Colada Banana Coupe’

1 pound can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2 T. of a sweetener (I used brown rice syrup; other options: honey, agave, etc.)
1/2 cup silken tofu
1-2 small, ripe bananas

Put all ingredients (except the bananas) in your food processor and blend until very smooth.  Layer the banana slices with the pudding and chill it before serving.  (For a bigger group, double the recipe.)

Inquiring minds might want to know: It’s called a coupe’ because the original recipe instructions suggested that this dessert be served in stemmed wineglasses or some other individual serving cup.  I had to Google coupe’, which means “a shallow glass or glass dish, typically with a stem, in which desserts or champagne are served.”

The dessert was a hit at the party for vegans and non-vegans alike!

After this, I was feeling quite brave and moved on to a dish with firm tofu. Purchasing the tofu wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. It was in a refrigerator in the health food section and was clearly labeled “silken” and “firm”.  🙂

Tonight’s recipe was, again, from my go-to book “Isa Does It”: Shroomy Hot & Sour Soup. It was pretty easy to make and was absolutely delicious!  The fact that my 15-year-old ate FOUR bowls will give you some indication of just how good it was.  The tofu was tasty and the texture didn’t freak me out.

I plan to continue experimenting with more tofu recipes and, in fact, will be attending a “tofu 101” class offered by our Scranton Beets leader, Jean Hayes.  If any local peeps are interested in attending, you can check out the Scranton Beets Facebook page and sign up for Tofu Demystified on Sunday, February 26th, 2-4:00 pm.

Hope to see you there!

IMDb: Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest (2007)

Love Old and New

We’ve been enjoying a lot of new recipes this past week, along with some oldies but goodies:

New: “From Oh She Glows Every Day”, Fusilli Lentil Mushroom Bolognese. This was a tasty dish, and I would make it again, although I found it to be similar to Isa’s Lentil-Roni, which is a little easier to make, with fewer ingredients.

Old: From “Isa Does It”, Dilly Stew with Dumplings. Ethan really loves this one, especially the dumplings. I make 1 1/2 batches of those which gives us enough for dinner plus leftovers, and yet they still fit in the pot for steaming. I’m not a fan of rosemary, so I do use dill or thyme instead of the rosemary in the dumplings. Honestly, you probably don’t need anything additional in them.

New: From “OneGreenPlanet.org”, Vegan Crab Cakes and French Fries. I’ve done the crab cakes just baked, and they are fine that way, just a bit drier. They are, obviously, better fried, but then you get all the fat. My edits: I don’t cook my own garbanzo beans; I use 2 cans. Rather than grinding up my crackers, I use panko or bread crumbs. And I’ve never had luck finding dulse flakes, so I substitute Old Bay.

For the fries… I have been using my new air fryer (a Christmas gift from my hubby). I’m getting better as it as I use it more, but the fries were quite delicious and Ethan asked for them more often. The instructions say to toss the potatoes in oil, which I do NOT do, and it’s actually not necessary at all.  I think the intent is to keep them from sticking (the potato starch can make them stick together). I have found the trick is to dry the potatoes off well before starting, and to mix the potatoes periodically during baking.

Old: From “Isa Does It”, Wild Rice Soup with Seitan Strips. I think this soup is delicious, as does the family. It’s tough finding Isa’s recipes online, so this link is a modification of the original. What’s missing is the Seitan strips. While you could make the soup without the seitan, and really not miss it, I do find it adds a little something. I simply cut the strips and fry in a non-stick pan until browned – then just throw in the soup.

New: I have to say that “Isa Does It” probably IS my favorite cookbook. Tonight we tried her Chipotle Oyster Mushroom Tacos and they were fabulous. Definitely one of my new favorites. Ethan and David both really enjoyed them also. I loved the texture of the oyster mushrooms. If you don’t like mushrooms because of mushy texture, these might be the ones to try, as they stayed pretty firm after cooking. This one definitely goes into the rotation!

Two more Isa recipes on tap for the rest of the week: New: Lentil Quinoa Stew and Old: White Wine Risotto! Yum!  I highly recommend this particular book for purchase. It’s become well-worn from much use.

IMDb: Love Old and New (1961)

 

So Far So Good

Day Two! So far, so good!

Just to keep myself honest with getting back to healthier eating, I’m going to try to get back to posting menu plans and recipes… I’ve tried so many new ones over the past few months, there is a lot to share!

I did receive 3 new cookbooks for Christmas.  I had actually asked Santa for “Straight From the Earth” (by Myra & Marea Goodman) and so far I have enjoyed both recipes I tried.  I have to admit, however, that both were a bit more time consuming than I would prefer, especially on a week night.  So I’ll save those for days that I have a little more time to cook.

Over the weekend I made Pasta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  My only modification was to reduce the olive oil. The dish was quite tasty, but I have made a similar dish from Forks Over Knives (Mushroom Stroganoff) that I liked just as much with, seemingly, less work — and no oil. I will admit to using regular sour cream in place of the tofu sour cream in the FOK version, but that’s only because I’m intimated by tofu.  (I definitely need a class!)

The second recipe I tried from this particular book was Baked Falafel Pitas with Chopped Greek Salad and Roasted Cashew Sauce. I should have guessed by the long name that this was going to take a while…3 separate pieces.  None of hard, but collectively longer than I would spend on a school night meal.  This one had a few modifications, mostly just to reduce the oil.  Next time I try this one, I am going to try for a complete elimination of the oil.  I also did not bother to roast either the cashews or the pine nuts.

Chopped Greek Salad: I eliminated ALL the oil and didn’t miss it.  I actually enjoyed this and would eat it as a side salad just by itself.

Roasted Cashew Sauce: I clearly didn’t realize this part called for 1/4 cup of oil. Yikes, that’s a lot of nutrient free fat! Because I was afraid of ruining the consistency, I reduced it to a 1/8 cup. But next time I think I would eliminate completely and see how it goes.

Falafel: Again, I eliminated the 2 tablespoons of oil in the mixture, and I did not grease the pan (I used a Pampered Chef stone and had no issues with sticking. Use parchment if needed, but skip the oiled pan.)

I actually really, really enjoyed these! Plus leftovers for lunch!

*****

Tonight I opted for quick and simple, borrowing from fellow McDougaller and recipe creator extraordinaire, Michael Klunker.  He’s got a slew of great recipes on his site, Klunker’s Kitchen.  I love a recipe where you throw everything in one pot and just cook. Easy clean up, easy prep.  For his Insanely Easy Potato Corn Chowder, I love that a few of the ingredients were frozen, so that makes prep even easier. Limited chopping (potatoes, carrots, onion and celery), one pot, 13 minutes in the Instant Pot, and a quick spin of the immersion blender, and this was done in short order.

The soup was delicious as is!  I think my only tweak for my personal taste is a bit less onion and I would add some more corn.  Enough for 3 for dinner, plus leftovers!  When you check out this recipe, you should see what else Michael has on his page.  Would love to hear if you find any others you enjoy!

*****

IMDb: So Far So Good (2012)

 

Reflections

I always view the New Year as a time of reflection — on both the year that ended, and the year to come. I count myself as one of those relieved that 2016 is over. It was a tough year, complete with disappointments, uncertainty, fear and loss. Many of these things have distracted me from focusing on my health, and I found myself a bit stuck in negative feelings.

To be fair, 2016 had a lot of highlights as well: parties, dinners and game nights with family and friends, volunteer activities, vacations and trips (New Hope, Cleveland, Lake Placid, Virginia, Brockway, NYC), music events (recitals, concerts, football games), Marina’s engagement, Mikayla’s off Broadway play, and a few weddings. We had a year of continued good health, with me passing cancer-versary #4, and blessings of all sorts. I am grateful for so much in my life, but the ups and downs of the past year were draining.

So where do we go from here?

I’m not necessarily a big “resolutions” person. I’d like to think I am reflecting on my life all year long, continually looking for ways to be a better person and to improve our lives. But as we start the new year, I wanted to think about the areas that should be priorities.

Yesterday I watched a video produced by our church about having your Best.Year.Ever. (Watch here.) The first principle is to start with the end in mind, meaning: think about where you want your life to be at the end of 2017 and create a blueprint of how to get there.

I’ve always struggled with long range plans and answering questions like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Or even 1 year.  I’ve been around the block enough to know that life doesn’t always go the way you plan or expect. Those curve balls keep coming so I find it hard to be very specific on where I want to be in a set period of time.

That said, here are my high level areas of focus for 2017:

  • Re-commit to my Health (and that of my family).  This includes getting back to clean eating (no oil, no processed, etc.),  cooking more and eating out less, juicing, more water, and exercise. I need to get back on the treadmill, and I really miss yoga.
  • Spend more quality time with family and friends. Laughter is good for the soul, and so is time with the people you love. Combine them, and it’s nothing short of heaven. 🙂
  • Read more. Write more.
  • Be grateful and look for the little joys in life.
  • Declutter. Simplify.
  • Pray more, and accept each new challenge with grace and strength.

As you reflect on 2016 and starting anew in 2017, what’s on your list?

IMDb: Reflections (1984)

Last Goodbye

It’s been about two months since I last posted. I think of writing all the time and just haven’t had any opportunity. It’s been a crazy two months and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

As you all know, my Dad went into a nursing home in June and was under the care of hospice. He had been declining steadily, becoming mostly non-verbal in the final few months, and he passed away on November 14th. I am grateful that I got to be with him in his final moments, thanks to the awesome nursing staff that called at 2:30 a.m. and said “come now”. His death was peaceful and gentle, and I am glad that he never appeared to be suffering.

To give you insight into who my Dad was, I share below my older brother’s Facebook post from that day. I couldn’t say what he said so perfectly.

It’s with a heavy heart I say goodbye to my Dad, who lost his fight with cancer early this morning. As my brother so correctly stated, Gus taught us everything we needed to know about life and treating others right, all before we left home, though I didn’t realize it until I was in my 40’s and didn’t thank him until I was in my 50s. Never one to say much, he would do anything for anyone, stranger or friend. Looking back, so much of who I am was due to his silent lead. Gus, I raise a can of Gibbons in toast and quote part of a poem I stumbled upon ages ago; 

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men

Nazdrowie Dad.

He truly was a kind, generous, hardworking man and he is greatly missed.

*******

Since I last posted, the original sale of the family homestead fell through. This was very disappointing, as I very much wanted this woman to live in my parents’ home. I was very upset with the whole process and worried about now having to maintain the house over the winter, with the likelihood of a sale slim to none.

And then on November 30th, I got a call that we had an offer — cash deal, no inspections, no fuss… title search and close. Thank you, Lord!  And so, today, I closed on the sale. I am dealing with so many different emotions right. I’m glad to have this responsibility off my shoulders, to not have to maintain and heat the house over the winter, and to be able to finalize my Dad’s estate. But  it’s hard knowing that I will likely never set foot in my childhood home ever again.

I walked through the empty house one final time last night, said my last goodbye, and cried — sad for the people who are now gone from my life, scared for the realization that “we” are now the adults in the room, nostalgic for all the wonderful memories, and grateful for all the blessings bestowed on my life.

The holiday season has been bittersweet so far, with many wonderful times coupled with bouts of tears. I am missing my Mom all the more with Dad also now gone, and in some ways the world seems a bit lonelier.

I know I carry the memories in my heart and mind, so I can say those last goodbyes with peace and a few final tears.

IMDb: Last Goodbye (2004)

Empty Rooms

And the walls have grown sturdy and the halls have worn well
But there is nobody living inside, nobody living inside…

These days, whenever I think of my parents’ house, my childhood home, these lyrics from Dan Fogelberg play in my mind. The house is almost completely empty after a yard sale — and a summer of cleaning and purging. (Enormous thanks to my cousin, Stephanie, and Aunt Pauline who did most of the heavy lifting and whose kindness can never be repaid.)

I have walked around the empty house many times and each room holds special memories.

I picture my mother always in the kitchen, with aromas of fresh baked goods, homemade chicken noodle soup and pierogies. There was always a pie or some other sweet on the counter. I remember Mom and me laughing as I struggled to learn how to roll out cookie dough! I picture my dad in the chair in the corner of the kitchen kicking off his work boots by the back door. We all learned to cook and bake in this kitchen and, like most homes, it was the hub of activity.

img_2337

In the back of the house we had a room affectionately known as “the toy room”. In our childhood, there were old school desks and chalk boards, rocking horses and toy pianos, and boxes upon boxes of toy soldiers, Matchbox cars, and comic books. The floor was covered with Fisher Price “little people” and accessories. Who didn’t have the barn and airport? And we were even allowed to draw roads – with crayon – on the worn out carpet! The grandchildren also grew up in this room and played with many of the toys my brothers and I left behind. The grandkids were much more into dressing up (in Mom’s outdoor decorative flags, of all things) and play-acting — the house was full of tigers and warriors and wizards.

The dining room was the focal point for homework, board games, and family gatherings. Many a late night game of Monopoly or Aggravation was played at the table, and it’s where we all learned to play Pinochle. Holiday dinners were Mom’s specialty. We would add extra tables to extend into the living room so there was space for everyone to sit togehter and there were the special table cloths just for such events. While stained from years of use, I actually kept one of the lace tablecloths since it held such great memories.

img_2334

Very specific — and yet random — memories come up in various places in the house. I remember the Hot Wheels track looping from the dining room table to the living room. Playing jacks on the hardwood floor. The hole in the bedroom wall from rough-housing. Sitting on the landing of the stairs waiting for the Christmas tree to be plugged in on Christmas morning. The cedar-y smell of the closets and the pull string lights in the bedrooms. Rows of jars of garden fresh canned goods in the dark basement. The hissing and warmth of the steam radiators.

The house has undergone some transformations over the years and I think about what it looked like “way back when”. When we had a bath tub and no shower. When the heavy door with the weird doorknob and key adorned the front of the house. When the old kitchen cupboards were painted yellow. When we had a coal furnace, a wood stove in the kitchen, and no railing on the front porch (which led to multiple broken windows from kick balls and baseballs with nothing to stop them).

img_2335

There are so many joyful memories, and many experiences that shaped who we all are today. I could write a book.

The house has not really been “home” since my mother died and now it’s time to let someone else make happy memories there. Sale of the house is set to close in the next week or so (prayers for successful closing!). I’ve met the prospective buyer and I was excited to hear that someone else’s grandchild will grow up here. I think my parents would be happy with that. I know it makes it easier for me to let go.

IMDb: Empty Rooms (2012)