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Friday, May 27, 2011

Jammin'

The choice berries we ate raw...
I love eating raw foods. I have found that the more raw food I eat, the more of it I crave. As I mentioned to someone the other day at a cookout where everyone was milling around waiting for the burgers to cook while I was munching away on my salad, a nice thing about raw vegan food is that it is done quickly!  That said, there are times when raw is not completely ideal, for instance the other day when I came home from a local berry patch with two flats of organic strawberries.  Of course we ate our fill of the raw berries, but they simply do not keep for more than a few days. Some went into the freezer for smoothies, but we have limited space in our freezer, and much of it is currently taken up by last year's blueberries! I considered dehydrating some of the berries, but I opted to make jam instead. It's another one of those things that I was always sort of afraid of doing (see my post on bread baking) but after making jam with a more experienced neighbor a couple of years ago, I discovered that I really enjoy it! Actually, that that's probably an understatement, because as soon as I was done with the jam, I moved on to a salsa (I got a coupon for a free salsa mix when I bought some extra jars) and then blueberry syrup (and freed up some freezer space)! I am hooked!

Cutting it close while cooking my jam!
There is something really satisfying about canning; I'm not sure if it is in preparing the fruit/veggies, hearing the little pings of the lids sealing, or gazing upon the colorful glass jars when they are all filled and processed. You know what's inside is good when you start with handpicked produce and then add love!

Today, however, I stumbled on some slightly disturbing information. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me sooner, but I found out that Ball and Kerr canning lids contain BPA. Now, even though the canned food's contact with the lid should be minimal (given the proper headspace), and the fact that a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables flushes BPA from the system, I am still hesitant to put my organic produce in such close contact with BPA lined lids, especially at high temperatures. I went on a hunt and found a couple of alternatives.

Tattler's plastic canning lids are BPA free, reusable "indefinitely", and made in the USA. The price ($20.95/three dozen) is great considering that they are guaranteed for a lifetime and Tattler will replace any lid that wears out. Unfortunately, the gaskets are made from PVC and the lids are, well, plastic. If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time you know I'm not a big fan of plastic, even if it is reusable.

I am really excited about these glass canning jars made in Germany by Weck Jars. All that needs to be replaced are the rubber rings (and maybe the clamps, occasionally), and the jars are so gorgeous. They cost about twice as much as Ball jars ($13.55/6- 0.2L jelly jars), but I'm willing to give up the pinging lids and pay a little more to avoid BPA exposure.

And no, mom, I'm not throwing out the jam I made...  :)

Just a few of the finished jars...

If you already can, what is your favorite food to preserve? If you don't, would you be interested in learning how to can? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Last Week of the Semester

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vegan Apple Muffins

I bought a bag of "juicing apples" a few weeks ago, but when I got them home I realized that they were too mealy for eating, let alone for juicing. I went on a hunt for non-applesauce recipes, and found a recipe for  caramel apple upside down cake. It was good, but not wonderful, and it wasn't very pretty, either, so the rest of the apples continued to sit in the fridge until the other day when I decided to make a little treat for the guys working on the fireplace. Muffins seemed like a good choice; quick and easy, plus they would give me a chance to use up some of those apples! I didn't get to sample the first batch since I was in the middle of a juice fast, but I think I really scored with the recipe I came up with. My kids scarfed down a couple, and I left the workmen the rest.  The next day, the workmen said that they were some of the best muffins they had ever had and that they could've used at least a dozen more. (I'm guessing that they either might have been exaggerating a bit, or maybe they just don't get too many fresh from the oven muffins.) In any case, they're a good breakfast option because they come together so quickly and they're not too sweet.



Vegan Apple Muffins

1 3/4 c flour*
1/4 c brown sugar**
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 c oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c diced apples (approx. 1 large apple)
(1 c chopped walnuts would probably be a good addition)

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine milk, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup, then stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the apples. Divide batter between 12 greased or lined muffin cups and bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops spring back when tapped. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

*I used a combination of mostly spelt flour with just a little unbleached all-purpose wheat flour and thought they turned out just lovely
**use 1/3 c for slightly sweeter muffins

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Unborn

A few days ago, I shared a note on my Facebook wall that sparked some interesting comments from my friends. I was going to post a comment in reply, but then realized that it was too important for me to leave my thoughts and experience in the form of a simple comment that would disappear in a matter of hours or days.

"Unborn" was the title of the note that I reposted from a friend's wall:
A worried woman went to her gynecologist and said: 'Doctor, I have a serious problem and desperately need your help! My baby is not even 1 year old and I'm pregnant again. I don't want kids so close together. So the doctor said: 'Ok and what do you want me to do?' She said: 'I want you to end my pregnancy, and I'm counting on your help with this.' The doctor thought for a little, and after some silence he said to the lady: 'I think I have a better solution for your problem. It's less dangerous for you too.' She smiled, thinking that the doctor was going to accept her request. Then he continued: 'You see, in order for you not to have to take care 2 babies at the same time, let's kill the one in your arms. This way, you could rest some before the other one is born. If we're going to kill one of them, it doesn't matter which one it is. There would be no risk for your body if you chose the one in your arms. The lady was horrified and said: 'No doctor! How terrible! It's a crime to kill a child! 'I agree', the doctor replied. 'But you seemed to be OK with it, so I thought maybe that was the best solution.' The doctor smiled, realizing that he had made his point. He convinced the mom that there is no difference in killing a child that's already been born and one that's still in the womb. The crime is the same! If you agree, please SHARE. Together we can help save precious lives! "Love says I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself..."
After reading some of the comments my friends left regarding this "cute parable", I felt I needed to share my own experiences. So with some trepidation, here goes.

I have had two abortions in my life, and to this day I mourn my 'unborn' children. I had my first abortion in Estonia at the age of 17. I was young and wild and scared and horribly unprepared and I didn't think I had any other option than to terminate the pregnancy. I am saddened and disturbed that the thought of killing my baby outweighed the thought of giving birth, but more importantly I realize how uneducated I was in the whole arena of sex and, well, life. Don't get me wrong, I had learned the basics and knew I needed to "protect" myself, but condoms slip and break and.... yeah. I'm not going to go into much more detail about that time, but the education (or rather, lack thereof) is worth mentioning. I may or may not have sat through an embarrassing movie at school, and had a brief, uncomfortable talk (far too late) with my mom about whether I was using condoms. Honestly, though, I think I could say that the bulk of my sex education came from sneaking peeks at my parents' copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask. The spiritual side of love and intimacy and its consequences were, to my recollection, never really addressed.

My second abortion was many years later, when I had big plans and a (surprise!) baby simply did not fit into the equation. This time, being in the US, I went to Planned Parenthood. Inside the clinic, I was given a number (and I'm not talking about one of those tear off deli slips) and was then ushered in to speak with a counselor. The counseling session was a joke- it consisted of an apparently disinterested woman asking me what type of birth control I was planning on using in the future. When I earnestly replied "abstinence", she laughed out loud and said, "Well, THAT will never work!" She handed me a prescription for birth control pills and a handful of condoms and moved me along to the next room. There was not one mention of any alternative to the abortion. For my first abortion, I had been put under full anesthesia, but I was awake for this second one. When I gasped and flinched in pain as the doctor started the abortion, the nurse beside me gruffly barked at me to be quiet and stop moving so that the doctor could do his work. After it was over, I was taken to the large recovery room that I shared with several other women, and when I cried out in my pain and grief, I was coldly told by the nurses to shut my mouth so that I wouldn't disturb the others.

If you have half an hour (or even if you don't), I highly recommend you watch the following video of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson talking about Planned Parenthood's financial motivation regarding abortion, as well as her change from pro-choice to pro-life. It certainly shed some light on my Planned Parenthood experience.



The thing that amazes me and saddens me when I think about abortion is that with each conception a completely unique human life is created. How selfish of me to simply say no to this life because it doesn't fit into my schedule! What gives me the right to decide whether a human life should live or die? I can only wonder what my two unborn children would have been like, and what it would have been like to watch them develop, grow, and learn. What it would have been like to touch their soft cheeks. I wonder what they would have looked like and what their thoughts, their dreams, and talents would have been. I can only imagine how my own life would have been changed by them, and how they would have changed the world. All children are a blessing, and all life is sacred.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes

I wanted to make pancakes this morning using some buckwheat flour I picked up yesterday. However, when I went online to find a good recipe for vegan buckwheat pancakes, I discovered that almost all the buckwheat pancake recipes included other flours and were a little more complicated than I felt like dealing with this morning. I decided to experiment and took and combined a few different recipes. I took a chance and used all buckwheat flour and ended up with these simple but tasty pancakes!

Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes

2 cups buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 tbs agave syrup
2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 cup fruit juice
2 tbs coconut oil + more for frying

Combine all dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients to make a relatively thick batter. Pour on a hot, oiled griddle (I use my reversible stovetop cast iron griddle). When the top is bubbly and starting to dry, flip and cook until done. Serve with organic grade B maple syrup (or your favorite pancake topping).


I think that the reason so many recipes call for the addition of other flours in buckwheat pancakes may be purely aesthetic; buckwheat flour does make for rather dark pancakes. The buckwheat has such a nice flavor- a welcome change from regular wheat. I found these pancakes filling, yet not too heavy, and my kids gobbled them up so fast (even Miss H, who normally isn't a huge fan of bread-y foods) that I didn't get a chance to get a very good picture! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I Am Focused- Brazil Nut "Parmesan"

You didn't think I would leave you with just the picture, did you?

I absolutely LOVE the "I Am Focused" brazil nut parmesan recipe from I Am Grateful: Recipes and Lifestyle of Cafe Gratitude.
Simply toss 1 cup of brazil nuts, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/3 tsp salt into a food processor, process with the S-blade until fine and fluffy, and enjoy! According to the book, this is one of the most popular garnishes at Cafe Gratitude, and after one taste I could understand why. It's great on pasta (or raw veggie noodles), but I  think it is especially fabulous on leafy green salads.  Having recently reaffirmed my love of garlic, I admit that I add more than one clove of garlic to my mix.

As long as I am raving about the brazil nut "parmesan", I should say that I have found I Am Grateful to be one of the more accessible raw food recipe books that I have read. The recipes are very tasty, and many of them do not require a lot of exotic ingredients (though a dehydrator and good blender are recommended). For instance, it seems that young coconuts are a staple in many raw food books, and although I love them, it is just not feasible for me to prepare a lot of food with them since I have a hard time finding young coconuts around here. (And when I do, they are expensive!) Granted, there are a few recipes in I Am Grateful that do call for young coconuts. You will also need Irish moss to prepare some of the desserts and, I think, a couple of the cheeses. Overall, though, there are enough recipes with more common ingredients to make this book well worth it; the "I Am Original" onion bread, the recipe through which I was actually introduced to this book, is amazing, and probably worth the price of the book alone.

Yum!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesdays are easier

I haven't been writing much lately because I am in the middle of finals. Finals that are kicking my behind and making me scream and tear my hair out. I am SO ready for this semester to be over!! I should be back to posting a little more often after the end of the semester. In the meantime, I am getting really excited about our new patio fireplace and oven. I've been enjoying watching it come together over the past few days, and this morning I had the thought that if I don't make it in web design & new media, I will become a brick mason. I love watching the men skillfully slap mud on bricks and then tap them into place. It seems really relaxing and meditative. Actually, after putting in most of the pavers of our patio and walkway (while pregnant and then a couple weeks later with Miss H in a sling on my back), I know for a fact that I would enjoy the work. As long as someone carried the bricks for me, that is.
Hopefully, I will make it through the next two weeks alive and will be back to writing towards the end of the month. In the meantime, prayers to get me through this are appreciated.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Oobleck!


I had totally forgotten about this stuff until a couple days ago! Inexpensive, easy to make, keeps the kids entertained for hours, AND easy to clean up... just add cornstarch and water. Thanks, Tree!