The Retiree

Today is my birthday.

My 55th birthday.

My age now officially matches my status: retired.

After a whole 4 days of official quasi-retirement, I’m still struggling with this label. Since I didn’t really “retire”, (rather, I was “retired” – as in out to pasture), it feels disingenuous to describe myself as a retiree. It implies choice, of which I had none.

When you actually choose to retire, people throw you a party. There’s cake and balloons. You get to reflect on accomplishments and people say nice things about you. You may even get your own fun Powerpoint presentation (true at the last retirement party I went to!).

When retirement is thrust upon you, you just fade into the sunset. (Well, after a few drinks at happy hour with friends!) One day you just aren’t there anymore.

When you choose to retire, the typical plan is not to work anymore. And that’s not the case for me. Since I was 16, I’ve never not worked, and my 55 seems much too young to not go back to work. Quite honestly, since I’ve been home, I feel like I’m working harder than I did at work! But the pay sucks.

The retiree label makes me feel like I should be older than 55, and who wants that? In my brain, I’m stuck at 26 and I’m just not sure how I got to 55 already.

I don’t like the label very much at all. I’m a retirement fraud and so I declare that we should no longer use the term! I think I’ll use entrepreneur. Dreamer or princess. Maybe superhero (as suggested by one friend)… something a little more fun and interesting. Something that speaks of action and possibilities. I’m open to suggestions!

I certainly don’t want to imply that I’m bitter or resentful about the whole thing. I’m not. Disappointed by how and why it was done? Yes. Disappointed by people I thought would reach out and didn’t? Yes. But disappointment is about the only negative emotion I can muster about the whole thing. I just feel to young, too healthy and too ambitious to be here.

But it’s only temporary.

IMDb: The Retiree (2015)

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The Catalyst

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“When one door closes, another one opens.”

“Nothing happens by chance.”

* * * * *

We’ve all heard these platitudes. Heck, we’ve all said them hundreds of times. I know I certainly have. But do we really believe them to be true?

Does everything really happen for a reason? I mean, “everything”? I can think of many examples of things that appear to have to no reason whatsoever. And yet, I can see how some things might spur one in a new direction. I might feel better if this statement said: “Some things happen for a reason, but not everything. And it might take you a while to figure out.” Rolls right off the tongue!

Does the other door open because it’s supposed to? Or does it open because you selected a door, turned the handle and pulled it open? Don’t we make our own reasons? Open our own doors? (No, I’m not covering the debate of free will versus destiny.)

I have been thinking a lot about this since the middle of May when I received notification that my job had been eliminated and I had only 60 days left in Corporate America. This was not a surprise to me given some other events that had transpired, so I was emotionally and mentally prepared for it. But since then I have had so many people declare the quotes listed above. I’m not saying I completely disagree, but I view this change in my employment status as a catalyst (“an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action”) rather simply fated.

New things aren’t just going to happen to me. I need to do something with this change. I need to come up with a plan, take action, educate myself, and work hard if I want to look back on this and say, “there was a reason this happened”. It’s not going to just happen to me – the door will not just open all by itself. (Although it would be fabulous if it did!) J

So what doors will I be pulling open? What direction is my catalyst sending me?

I plan to pursue a career that focuses on my passions – plant based nutrition, coaching, and writing. Stay tune for more information over the next several months because I need to do my homework first. What are my options? What’s the financial investment? What’s the market? I don’t know what I don’t know about starting my own business, so education must come first.

I already started with my certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell that I completed last week. I have also already started working with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton, as well as taken several courses with a career-coaching program offered by my (soon-to-be-former) employer.

I’m super excited about the opportunities ahead and I guess none of this would be happening if not for this reason, this catalyst.

I do prefer the following platitudes, however:

“When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” ~Dale Carnegie

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” ~ Dr. Seuss

“Life is what you make it” ~ Anurag Prakash Ray

original_life-is-what-you-make-it-wall-sticker

IMDb: The Catalyst (2010)

A Mongolian Tale

One of my favorite dishes as a meat-eater was chicken piccata. I ordered it pretty much every time we went to our favorite Italian restaurant. It’s one of the few dishes I miss a bit, but probably more from the lemony sauce and capers than the chicken. So imagine my delight to find Tempeh Piccata in “Chloe’s Kitchen”! As soon as I came across that recipe, I knew it had to be part of this week’s menu plan.

This recipe called for steaming the tempeh first. I had not done that in any of my prior tempeh recipes. It’s supposed to make the tempeh less bitter, but I actually don’t find it bitter at all, so I may leave that step out next time.  Since I was using my cast iron skillet, I did rub a tiny bit of oil in the pan, but I eliminated the vegan margarine. It was definitely not missed. I also added extra capers since we love them!   I served this dish over rice and with sautéed spinach.

I did double the recipe, since I knew I was going to love it and I wanted leftovers. Plus, I do have two big eaters in the house and I like to make sure I have enough. I am finding that I need to double most of Chloe’s recipes. Her serving size is clearly not the same as in my house.

(Doesn’t it even LOOK like chicken piccata???)

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Next up:

Mongolian BBQ Seitan – This was also a fabulous dish! I loved the homemade barbecue sauce with a kick from the chili-garlic sauce and the fragrance of the ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves. This really was a pretty easy dinner to put together — Chloe describes it as “effortless”. I did double the recipe (of course), but I tripled the sauce so we had a little extra to put over our rice.

Note: In the video, she starts with making her seitan from scratch… I did not do this; I purchased the seitan and it was just as delicious. Just skip ahead on the video; you can also find the recipe online in print format.

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IMDb: A Mongolian Tale (1995)

 

 

Chloe

Winter Storm Stella has us all home bound (25-28″ at last measure) so I thought I’d crank out a blog post as I recover from extreme shoveling.  (Yes, I will be sore tomorrow!)

*****

A few weeks ago I attended a class “Demystifying Tofu” (a topic for another day) at which I met a woman who recommend a new cookbook: “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli. My new friend, Lisa, raved about the recipes so, on the spot, I ordered the book from Amazon.  I have since been trying out a slew of recipes from it ever since and we have all absolutely loved them! Isa is still my favorite by a teensy bit, but this book is a very close second.

Tonight I tried Green Curry Crepes – my first attempt at crepes of any kind. I did some homework on the internet before braving this task to ensure I was aware of any and all handy-dandy cooking tips. One article said the first 1-2 are “experimental” and will give you the hang of it and, truly, I felt like a pro by the time I was done. There was not a crepe left in the dish!  Ethan loves crepes so I’ll have to look for some new recipes now that I’m comfortable making them.

Here’s a photo of one of the crepes.  I intended to take a photo of a plated crepe (the delicious filling has potato, onion, carrot, chickpeas, coconut milk, and seasonings), but I couldn’t wait to try them and then I forgot. IMG_1189

The next fabulous recipe was her Falafel Sliders with Avocado Hummus. Her secret ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes in the falafel, and the avocado hummus was to die for! I doubled the recipe so we had a few leftover. I eliminated the oil in the sliders and added a tablespoon instead of 1/4 cup to the hummus.  I’m thinking I could eliminate it there, too.  These truly were fantastic, and not as difficult to make as I expected, given that there are 3 separate pieces.   Definitely toast the buns!

Drunken Noodles in Cashew-Shiitake Broth: I have loved trying so many different types of noodles on this way of eating. Soba, Rice, Lo Mein, Ramen, Somen… and this recipe called for Udon noodles. They cook quickly – typically 4 minutes – and hold up in stir fries and soups. I doubled this recipe, as well, and good thing!  Ethan had 4 bowls!  It’s such a great soup for strengthening the immune system: garlic, freshly grated ginger, cayenne… Great stuff!  And I actually remembered to take a photo!

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I have tried several more and will try to get those shared with you soon!

IMDb: Chloe (2009)

 

Lady Vengeance

I recently bought a new Isa cookbook.  As you all know, “Isa Does It” is my go-to book. My family loves all her recipes and they are easily adaptable to “no oil”. She provides great cooking tips and shares ideas for substitutions in many cases.

The new book is “Vegan with a Vengeance” and I’ve tried out a few recipes so far.

Ginger Pear Waffles were pretty easy to make and were quite tasty. I found the batter had a more powerful taste than the cooked product, so I might use a bit more ginger next time. I made the mistake of doubling the batter since the recipe said it made eight 6-inch round waffles.  I read it as “6 waffles” and thought I better make 12…  The good news is that we had leftovers for breakfast for a few days.

The Tempeh Reuben is a new favorite in my house!! I always say a recipe’s success is based on how much my son eats… He ate FOUR of these sandwiches!!!  Marinated tempeh (a new favorite), vegan mayo-based Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut on grilled pumpernickel bread. It was fabulous!  Highly recommend! I made this with some French fries from the air fryer and Ethan dipped his fries in the dressing – a very tasty dinner!

Creamy Red Chard Linguine was an easy pasta dish on a night where you need a quick dish. I used Merlot since that’s what we always have on hand and it gave the dish a great flavor. I did double the recipe and swapped out the Swiss chard for spinach. I have never used Swiss chard, so just went for what I knew everyone would eat (plus I had some extra spinach in the fridge). Next time: Swiss chard it is.

So I’m cooking with a vengeance and loving all these great dishes! Can’t wait to work my way through the rest of the book.

p.s. A quick shout out to Jean for a great “Tofu Demystified” class today!  I learned a lot and it was great to make some new friends!

IMDb: Lady Vengeance (2005)

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)