Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Potlucks again.

I've written before--in the distant past of this blog, which isn't too hard to find, since the archives are pretty shallow--about my affection for potlucks.  These days, however, I'm finding potlucks more an exercise in frustration, since my affection is now met with the reality of dietary restriction and the lack of labeling.  So, when I am invited to a potluck now, my first task is not to think of what I have in the fridge that can be compiled into something approximating a dish; rather, I have to consider the scope of what I bring in terms of the real possibility that I may not be able to eat anything else.

So, when we were invited to a Labor Day potluck last night, I mulled over the possibilities, thinking both of the veggies that needed to be used and the sustenance I would desire. 

I considered and rejected Corn and Tomato Salad, since I didn't think I'd be satisfied if I didn't end up with anything else.  So, I ended up breaking a cardinal rule by bringing a dish I had never made before, but it was such a success that multiple folks ended up requesting the recipe.  Here it is:

Spicy Rice Noodle Salad (mostly vegan and gluten free)

1 (8 oz.) package of rice noodles, prepared according to directions and then rinsed with cold water
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (I used the slicer on my food processor for the veggies)
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
(I didn't have a cucumber to spare, which would have been nice.  I also think snow peas and/or bean sprouts would also be nice)

Dressing (measurements are approximate)
In a food processor or blender, combine
1 garlic clove
1/4 c. Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) or regular soy sauce (if not gluten-free)
1/4 c. honey (or brown sugar, if vegan)
1/3 c. seasoned rice vinegar
2-3 Tb. Siracha or other hot sauce
3/4 c. cilantro (a generous handful is what I pulled off the bunch)

Blend until thoroughly combined, making sure the garlic, especially, is incorporated.

Dress the noodles first, if you have time, adding the veggies later.  If you're headed out the door quickly, combine everything, tossing and chilling before serving.

Corn and Tomato Salad (what I didn't bring but thought of)

1-2 ears of sweet corn (either leftover or cooked for this purpose)
As many ripe tomatoes as you have to get rid of immediately (2-3, at least)
Chopped cilantro
1 chopped green or red bell pepper (or combination)
1 minced jalepeno (if you have it and want some spice)
2-3 Tb. lime juice
Salt to taste (at least 1-2 tsp.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


It still is, isn't it?  And that would explain why I'm both late coming back to the blog and the fridge is filled up with all kinds of late-summer goodness.

The weather took a turn yesterday, and there's a chill in the air suddenly.  It feels like back-to-school weather, and I should be sitting in meetings all week.  But I'm not.  I'm on sabbatical, messing up my kitchen and playing with green chile and peaches and corn and all sorts of goodness.

Yesterday, Jonathan roasted our annual case of Hatch green chile that made its way all the way from New Mexico, and we froze two gallons after we ate heartily of meatballs in green chile sauce (my compromise since I couldn't have the precious green chile cheeseburgers).  Today, I made peach-green chile chutney to freeze, as well.

Beyond cooking, my sabbatical goals include lots of reading and writing.  So, after I get the kitchen tidied, expect to see me back here more regularly.

Peach and Green Chile Chutney

1/2 onion, sautéed
3 c. roasted, peeled, and diced green chile
3-4 c. peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. cider vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne

Combine everything and simmer until slightly thickened.  I'll freeze mine in 1/2 pint jam jars.  (What I don't eat for dinner over chicken breasts tonight, that is.)

Friday, July 18, 2014


At last a real break and not just a neglectful one.

Time for really fresh fruit and picnics and bodies of water.

I'll be back in August.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pray to End Hunger

That's what the sidewalk-chalked entrance to the prayer labyrinth said.

"Pray to end hunger."

We went to the ballpark for church on Sunday in what may be a new tradition for our congregation.  Our Christian Education coordinator used to work for our local minor-league team and has a great affection for baseball, so using her connections last year, our pastor got to be the "starting preacher" for the day.  We returned this year, with a few more folks from a few more congregations, and another chance to support our local food bank. 

On the lines that traced the labyrinth, we placed rows of canned goods and boxes of pasta.

We're headed out of town soon for a trek west, so on Saturday we shopped lightly for the few days we're here.  Jonathan wondered when I started piling the boxes of on-sale noodles in the cart--since noodles aren't much on the menu these days, anyway--and then he recalled the food drive as part of Sunday worship, too.  I also had a chance to get to the back of the pantry, which I try to do every couple of months, to pull out the things that have been languishing (again, a bit more than usual since I've adjusted to the new restrictions) and add them to the offerings.

So as the photographer from the local paper tried to snap pictures of her in her pink hat and new glasses, Jo got to line up pineapple and salad dressing and pizza sauce in the "maze" that people were walking through, reflecting on the plenty that so many of us have right in our own kitchens, praying and learning how to share, so that all may be fed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What's for Dinner?

The company that collects our trash and recycling has "points" to earn for pounds of recycling each week.  These points can be redeemed for a variety of coupons (most of which are useless to me) and free magazine subscriptions (a self-perpetuating system, if you will).  So, I subscribe to a variety of home and garden and cooking magazines--all aspirational, I assure you--and each month I review the steady stream of tips about exercise plans and organizing my house and planning my meals.

Planning my meals?  Who does that?

But since every month at least one of these magazines finds the advice useful for someone out there, I contemplate it briefly, and promptly ignore it. 

Planning meals at my house means keeping a (relatively complete) running tally of what's in the fridge and freezer in my head at any given moment and knowing that we can go out for dinner on Friday night since by then there's precious little left (Saturday morning is shopping day, as you know).

Planning meals means picking up the kids from daycare and preschool and asking "what should we do for dinner?"  (Lately, Jo's answer has been "pot roast," which is not particularly helpful at 4:47 when we need to eat dinner by 5:30 in order to get out the door for Dad's concert by 7:00.)  It means getting in the door, finding any necessary snacks to stave off complete collapses in blood sugar (we not always quite quick enough on that, but somehow we all survive) and turning on a DVD with Dad while Mom escapes to the kitchen to figure something out. 

But this system works for us.  Some nights are more put together than others, and sometimes I even feel accomplished in finding and using the resources at hand.  Some nights it is more eclectic and crowd-pleasing: turkey bratwurst, the end of the tater tot bag, edamame, and the remains of the snow peas from the farmer's market.  Matt got to have peas, too, trying them for the second time in the schedule of green and orange vegetables. 

And then there's others--frozen tamales with farmer's market asparagus or oatmeal with an edamame and grapes chaser.

 Maybe there's something to this meal-planning thing.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What I Get.

Many people's initial reaction when I mention my new diet (and, let's face it, I've mentioned it to just about everyone in the last six weeks or so, including total strangers) is "What do you eat?!"  Frankly, it was my first reaction, too.

But if my narrative of late has been the narrative of "no wheat, dairy, or eggs" (to the extent that Jo has also taken it upon herself to inform strangers that "Mom is allergic to wheat, dairy, and eggs"), it has also become a narrative of unsuffering sacrifice.  Ribs instead of a burger.  Sushi instead of a sandwich.

I made a fantastic batch of granola last week that I'm not sure I would have happened upon were it not for the new diet.  And I've returned to an old affection for vanilla soy milk.  Berries and watermelon and peaches and nectarines.  Soon we'll be home in the Pacific Northwest before cherry season is over.  I can hardly wait.  Roast chicken.  Olives.  Hummus and tahini, salsa and chutney.  I am not suffering, I assure you.

Last night I tossed together one of my new favorite desserts that will linger long after this phase has passed me by, Coconut Polenta Cake.  Indeed, the sacrifice is small, and the limitation renews my creativity as every good artist learns when muddling with a new medium.

Good Granola

Wet Ingredients (mix together)
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. salt
1 Tb. Penzey's Baking Spice (or good cinnamon)

Dry Ingredients
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. steel cut oats
1 c. nuts (slivered almonds are my choice)

Mix together dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients over, stirring until evenly coated.  Press onto parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.  Stir, and continue to bake at 10-15 minute increments, stirring in between, until golden brown.  Store in air-tight container.  Frankly, I don't know how long this will keep, since it never lasts me as long as it should.
Coconut Polenta Cake
Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk together 1 can light coconut milk, 3/4 c. cornmeal, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 c. sugar. 
Pour into greased 9x9 pan, top with a generous handful of fresh or frozen raspberries. 
Bake 40-45 minutes until set. 
Cool to room temperature and slice. 
Also good chilled (that is, for breakfast).

What I Miss.

  • Bread.
  • Fried eggs.
  • Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • Cheese.  Yes, cheese, Gromit.
  • Did I say bread?
  • Restaurant Menus.
  • Milk.
  • Licking the spoon.  Or my fingers.
  • Evening up the edges.
  • Stroganoff.
  • Scrambled eggs.
  • Communion bread.
  • Toast.
  • Cheese samples.
  • Yogurt.
  • Bread samples.
  • MorMor's Fruit Cobbler.
  • Mindless eating.  (Okay, it's probably good I've given this one up.)
  • Pizza.
  • Cheese.
  • And bread.