Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fusion Leftovers: Greek Quesadillas

Warm olive oil in skillet.

Take leftover flour tortilla. Cover half with feta cheese and the extra chopped yellow bell pepper that was not used in last night's quinoa salad.

Notice that there are jarred whole kalamata olives from an indeterminate date of purchase still sitting in the fridge. Remove from fridge. Open jar. Sniff. Decide that brine acts as a preservative, so all will be well.

Fish a few kalamatas from jar. Rinse. Slice, removing pits, and then sprinkle slices over feta-bell pepper mix to taste.

Fold over tortilla.

Place in hot skillet. Cook until cheese becomes warm and soft, and tortilla is golden and crispy.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Vegan Gourmet

In college, we loved the vegan restaurant in town. On the occasional Sunday night, I would trek alone to the far ("sketchy") end of Main Street to treat myself to dinner. I sat at a small, square table with a white tablecloth and a single flickering candle, soothed by the simple decor, enjoying a secret dinner to myself. The prices were college-student friendly, about $15 for generous portions of gourmet vegan food. I am not a vegan and, barring some unforeseen conversion experience, never will be--but I loved the cajun tempeh, the tahini-carrot spread on homemade bread, the astounding salads, and ohmygod, the vegan cakes. Once a year, all the workstudy employees from the Kosher Kitchen* would have lunch there, in deference to the vegans on staff. It was no sacrifice for the omnivores. The flavors were intense and unusual, and the chef was not shy about using oils and decadent amounts of tahini. I always left feeling satisfied without feeling stuffed. Spring in my step, I would bounce contentedly back to Church Street, Washington Street, or High Street.

Our sophomore year, the vegan restaurant moved to a better location at the other end of Main Street, amped up the decor, and added a few fish and cheese dishes to its still-mostly-vegan-menu. College students muttered that their place had become "bourgeoisie". Although I preferred the original, Zen monastery-meets-storefront look, even as a young liberal I didn't see that the vegan restaurant had "sold out" so much as "stayed in business by diversifying". But, I also chose one of the most liberal colleges on the East coast and then, finding aspects of it ridiculously liberal once I was there, elected to study dead, white Greek men. Take that, early 19th-century biracial womyn's poetry majors!

Before my husband was my husband, or anything other than a buddy, we were college roommates with a group of friends. I remember when G's longtime girlfriend broke it off during winter break of our senior year. He was sad, then...he started dating. I remember, late that spring, when he fretted over where to take a girl from his tennis class for a date. "Maybe we should go to the vegan restaurant for coffee," he said, "Because I like soymilk in my coffee." Now he doesn't drink soymilk in his coffee. He prefers powdered "creamer," a mystery to me.

Years later, after meeting again in California, coincidentally moving to neighboring towns in Massachusetts, falling in love, moving in together, and, at long last (to my mother's impatience), getting married, we visited campus one summer and made a stop at the vegan restaurant. And they were selling--a cookbook! Yes!

Which is all a very long preamble to telling you what I made for dinner tonight, a vegan feast. Herbed, breaded tofu cutlets that had been marinated in red and white wine, garlic, a touch of soy sauce, and a generous portion of dried sage; quinoa salad with sweet, diced yellow bell pepper and carrots, parsley, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds; and (my own creation) kale braised with ginger and pine nuts, with a squeeze of lemon on top. We drank oolong.

It was delicious. We were sated, but not stuffed.

*Nope, I'm not Jewish.

Not the first person to say this

but, Michael Clayton is an amazing movie.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oh and guess what

I was scheduled for another hospice patient this weekend, and...dead! They volunteer coordinator very cleverly assigned me 2 new patients today. It may increase my odds of one living until I can see her.


I am at a Tim Horton's with friends at night. I think we are in Texas, or western PA. Jackie and the others get a table while I place my order. I choose both oatmeal and an almond croissant because almonds lower the glycemic index of the pastry. It comes to $17.95, which I think is steep, but I hand the cashier a twenty. She hands me my change. There is a check for $500 shuffled in it. The check is made out to the "Jesus Love Association" or something like that. I realize that this Tim Horton's is also an evangelical Christian recruiting center of sorts. For a nanosecond I am tempted to pocket the check and try to cash it, but instead I return it to the cashier, as it rightly belongs to the Tim Horton's/evangelical church.

The chubby, nice teenage cashier becomes flustered and embarrassed. She thanks me for my honesty and promises to make it up to me by getting me $500 in cash from her friend who's the son of an oil baron.

Then I return to the giant, Victorian house I'm staying in with my husband on a visit to family. Everyone else is already asleep. I am elated because I will receive $500 soon, thanks to the law of karma operating even in a Christian doughnut shop in Texas/western PA. But it is cold and pouring rain outside, and the rain is leaking through the roof of the old house and pouring in everywhere. A Dad Person, an amalgam of my dad and my father-in-law with no distinctive features, tells me I've made too much noise coming in the house.

I wake up to find I've cracked the window above our bed for air and it is, in fact, raining outside.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fascinating Facts least to me.

I am learning all about glycemic index, and it fascinates me. The body and brain's goal is to have steady blood glucose at all times. Some bodies regulate this better than others, because of mashup of genetics, lifestyle, and body fat.

I read a great explanation of why eating a little fat and protein with carbs is good--a little avocado or almond butter with that whole grain bread, for example, slows absorption of glucose in a favorable way, minimizing blood sugar spikes--but too much fat with carbs (like pepperoni pizza) slows absorption too much, leading to high blood glucose for too long a duration. Which explains the pizza coma. And the burger with fries coma. And yes, the Chinese buffet coma.

Fiber, like fat and protein, also mitigates blood sugar spikes (and subsequent crashes) by increasing digestion time. Which is why whole fruit, although sugary, is good for you; but juice, devoid of fiber, can cause trouble.

I'm also learning that some of the alternative medicine stuff I learned about regulating blood sugar--such as eating almonds and cinnamon--has been studied scientifically with favorable results.

There's the nutrition/A&P geekiness for the week. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off the bake an apple stuffed with cinnamon, walnuts, and a teeny wittle pat of butter for dessert.

PS It seems that all of this points toward a simple, ancient way of eating, with lots of whole foods. Or, as Michael Pollan wrote: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Easter Poem with Rough Meter but Lots of Heart

Today the Lord's High Holy Day
uncorrupted, Christians say
by commercialism, greed, and lights--
unlike the most holy of nights.

The Lord Is Risen, Alleluia,
and crocuses are quickly growing*
hopefully there's no more snowing--
Oh Easter dear, your roots are showing.

Bunnies hop upon the ground
with eggs--fertility abounds;
we're not too far from Pagan root
(our ancestors with baskets of loot--
chocolate, eggs, fresh spring greens--
delightful, I say, what it means)
that Human, after all, are we,
the same sun warms our family tree.

We greet Him now with joy and cheer
The Sun/Son once again is near!
Easter's theme: renewing Life
cut loose from coldest winter's strife,
and whether Christ or Goddess bless
or simply birds upon the nest
(that is to say, the joys of nature unadorned by gods)
No matter what your faith and creed,
Sunday after Spring full moon, indeed's
a fine time to rejoice of things to come,
to pause, and hear the beat of life's great drum.

*This year, Easter is early because the first full moon fell on the equinox, so the crocuses aren't literally growing yet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March: Let's Wrap It Up

Gray, gray, gray, rain and sleet, deceptively sunny but FREEZING cold, gray gray, snow, gray, rain.

We GET it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Three Days in One

Yesterday felt like three distinctive days. It began with the Not-Fun Day: doctor visit, filling replacement, frantically cleaning house and throwing together a menu in preparation for a dinner guest.

New filling in mouth, novacain still numbing half my face in a novel way, I embarked upon the more relaxed Day 2. First, shopping for dinner. I adore scallops. They are sweet and briny pillows from heaven. G. does not love scallops, and they are expensive, so I do not often get my scallops. However, I had a three-fold reason/excuse: 1. I needed to eat smooshy food post-filling, 2. our dinner guest adores scallops, too, and 3. scallops take literally two minutes to cook, which means they are not a huge distraction from dinner guests. Hurray! So, bought scallops. Then I went to Trader Joe's for other ingredients and saw someone I know, who filled me in on the Extreme Home Makeover [warning: link has sound] that had just transpired in his town.

Then (still Day 2) drove out into a more-wooded, less-civilized looking town (in a pretty way) to brainstorm ideas for a series of workshops I'll be teaching with the co-teacher/studio owner. We had fun. She served me tea in a mug with a drawing of hippos having sex. "All guests get the humping hippos mug," she said. Also, she has dinosaurs painted on her mailbox! (She has a young boy.)

Day 3, back to civilization. Drove back to my shiatsu office to meet my client/friend/dinner guest for a 5:30 appointment. It was a good shiatsu session. Then we returned to mi casa for said scallops and had a lovely evening chatting and dining. She brought a lovely wine.

Finally, I got to bed at 11 and hit the pillow asleep. Visions of scallops and dinosaurs danced through my dreams. I woke up totally refreshed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Back to Unrefined

Blog peeps, I am off the white smack again. No white sugar, no white flour (except maybe some pasta, which has more protein than your average white fare), and I'm even saying "adieu" to potatoes. Why is it that all the white foods are the ones that spike blood sugar so bad? (And carrots, the exception proving the rule.)

Realizing I was insanely addicted and terribly fatigued, I quit the smack again this week. So far, so good. And, because of said fatigue, I made an appointment with my doc: let's just make sure I still have a thyroid in there, you know? I went this morning, had a new doc to the practice, who noticed...that my fasting glucose test from last year was just over the "totally safe" line and flirting with "insulin resistance". No one had mentioned this before, but I wasn't complaining of fatigue at the time, either.

So, we retest next week, and meantime, I give thanks that I have eaten way less white food this year than last.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Bucket: Kicking It

My hospice patients keep dying before I can visit them!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Perfect Bread

This week's sourdough came out in a nice "football" loaf with four scores across the top. The thin, crackly crust with its subtly sweet sugar glaze yields to a soft, moist, white whole wheat sourness infused with cinnamon.
I'd purposely given it extra rising time, hoping (as the cookbooks said) that it would impart more complex flavor. It did.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hints of Spring

The air was sweet and warm today, the sky bright and cheery with puff-clouds and whisp-clouds.
Birds darting, chirping. Aaah.

It may snow again, but now at least I have a reminder of the contentment to come.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Italia ho!

Fantastic news! The Italian will be marrying the Iowan in Italy, and we are invited! Che fortuna!

A Note about Process

In a comment to my last post, Narya very kindly advised me not to stress about finding the Perfect Job. I started a lengthy comment in reply, but it got long enough that I decided to post.

I make decisions by gathering loads of info, looking for patterns, and "trying on" ideas for a while. The trying on is an imagining of What My Life Would Be Like, and it goes on until I can "feel" it and understand. I'm curious about almost everything, and have a knack for several things, so I gather up everything, analyze it intellectually and emotionally, turn it over, examine the other side, and then embark upon a process of elimination. I'm fascinated by people who "know what they want and go get it". How do they just know? If you are one of those lucky determined ones, tell me, what's it like? How does it happen?

There's a certain luxury in being able to undergo this process--which I actually enjoy--in my leisurely way. When I was first job-hunting, I needed a job to pay for student loans, rent, food.... Now I have a steady job in hand, and I can pick and choose the next one.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Flavor of the Month

I met with the town planner Friday, and now am scared off that position. I could get into the details, but it makes me ache with deep sorrow for humanity. All I will share is the most winning detail: During the hour I spent in the planning office, the paperwork for two lawsuits against the planning dept. was delivered. Two.

New plan: Teaching ESL! We'll see how long this idea lasts. For what it's worth, my dad thinks it's a good one.

Oh and PS: Got a promotion at Day Job. Ironic? Or merely "Alanis ironic"?