Creative quarantine and hummus recipe (vegan)

“Are you kidding me? Is this for real? Didn’t you buy this 2 days ago?”

Yes, yes I did buy that half gallon of ice cream 2 days ago. And yes it’s almost gone. And no I don’t eat it so I didn’t notice it was almost gone. But yes this is what happens when 2 grown boys/ men are stuck inside. They eat.

It’s only been just about 2 weeks of shelter in place self-quarantine, but time seems to have taken on another dimension. Slower? But warped? It feels like a holiday break except there’s no big family dinners. Just the 4 of us. All close together. All the time.

So as of yesterday, I decided I needed some behavior adjustments and made 5 commitments to myself:

  • Hygiene. Did I really have to make a rule for this? Apparently. Skipping showers and wearing pajamas longer than appropriate needs to end.
  • Self care. Yes, this is a category different from hygiene. It’s exercise, meditation, not overeating or drinking. 5 days a week may be more realistic than every day.
  • Work boundaries. Be more intentional about turning it off. It’s easy to overwork as a form of coping.
  • Fellowship. Family, friends, online connections. Reach out daily to a few. We started a Sunday family Zoom meeting. It’s highly entertaining 🤣
  • Creative endeavors. Coloring, writing, cooking, blogging. Catching up on reading blogs I follow and trying recipes!

Yes, these rules seem kinda basic, but it’s clear that I need better routines to adjust to the current situation.

I have been making at least one new recipe a week. A roasted carrot farro fennel salad. Green curry zoodles with roasted shiitakes. Hummus this week…I will never buy it again! I have plenty of time to make it 😁

Hummus (vegan)

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Salt
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Puree chickpeas in food processor until smooth. Add garlic, tahini, salt and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Add water and olive oil. Allow to set for 30 minutes.

Eat it before the boys find it. Hide it behind the tofu.

Coconut Chia pudding (vegan)

Chia pudding with granola and berries

Time for breakfast

It’s been a wild ride these last 2 months, which I am thankful for because it made the darkest days of winter go by quickly!

The boys both finished up their sports this last week and it’s been a bit emotional to start to feel the end of a life phase. Avery ended his high school hockey career with an impressive 50 point season. We’re now waiting for the scouting/recruiting/tryout process for junior hockey to know where he’ll end up next year.

Avery @ Hockey senior day

I missed senior day for Avery while in Iowa for Alec’s swim championships. It was an exciting weekend for the Lake Forest women to defeat perennial powerhouse Grinnell. Alec swam great, including winning the mile in a school record time and NCAA D3 cut. It’s joyful to watch his hard work payoff!

Alec mile conference champ!

During the hockey season breakfast is often the only meal we eat together and I have found joy in getting up early to prep it, knowing it’s only a few more months of Avery at home and our nest is empty!

While I usually prep “regular” breakfast for him, I have simplified my breakfast routine by using one of the daily featured menu items from our recent Baja wellness vacation. Coconut Chia pudding with granola and fruit is ready ahead and provides enough whole grains and fiber to keep me sated. And yes, while this is a breakfast item, it is great later in the day too!

I kind of think of eating the same healthy breakfast every day like one of the Jedi efficiency hacks people like Mark Zuckerberg tout (he wears the same thing every day).

The one decision that removes 100.

The logic is to not spend brain energy on “easy” decisions so that you can focus on the more challenging ones. It’s also the same approach as the one decision that eliminates 100 decisions. Ie, Opting out of social media means hundreds of notifications eliminated daily.

I mention these efficiency hacks because life is truly a whirlwind right now between family and work, as the new business is getting its legs. I have had to make some choices about where to spend my time. My creative energies have been invested in work vs blogging, and I am ok with that for now even though I miss it and interacting with all of you 😊

Coconut Chia pudding with granola and berries (vegan)

Chef Efrain’s recipe from Prana del Mar.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 500 ml of coconut milk
  • 500 ml of rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dry dates (prefer Medjool)
  • 50 ml of coconut cream (the solid part on the top of a coconut milk can)
  • 1/4 cup of dry coconut
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

Directions:

– Soak chia seeds in soy and rice milk, stir gently.

– Add vanilla, cinnamon, coconut cream, and dry dates. Cover and store in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to thicken.

– Make sure your pudding looks thick and the chia seeds have gelled. Sprinkle with dry coconut and pumpkin seeds, granola and berries.

Holiday 2019

I have genuinely lost track of what day it is. That’s a good thing. I needed a bit of rest and indulgence, as I have been working hard.

It’s been lovely to have the boys home, have a bit of “weather” requiring us to hunker down together and enjoy quieter activities like reading and games. I have gotten quite good at building fires. Avery is cashed out in this one 😉

As usual, we also enjoyed time with family. This year I brought vegan items to share. I was pleased with the new recipes:

The fruit baked oatmeal:

Roasted tomato and avocado-pea bruschettas

The lox was pretty too but I can’t verify it’s tastiness 😉

By far the favorite was the pickled vegetables with white bean dip and pistachio-mint pesto.

Who knew pickling was so easy?! Well lots of people. I have never done it as I am intimidated by all those jars and the process. But you don’t actually have to do it that way, you can just do “quick pickling” in the fridge. I used glass storage containers. I am done buying pickles!!

It’s a great way to add some punch to winter vegetables that might otherwise be bland. The cauliflower turned a beautiful pink-purple from the currant vinegar (what I had on hand) and storing with the purple carrots. That was a fun surprise. (I will post recipes in the new year.)

I did some baking too but the chocolate-hazelnut vegan cookies were disappointing. Dry and not enough nut flavor, IMO. The lemon-tahini were fantastic though! (Not vegan). I gave those away and didn’t even snap a pic. Oops.

Anyhow… as one decade closes, and a new year brings with it new opportunities and adventures, I wish you peace, health and joy in 2020!

I am also finally getting the cards mailed… 😊

It’s ok! Play with your food

The end of summer is near–Alec returned to college in Chicago this week.

For those of you not from the midwest, a drive through Wisconsin creates the opportunity for comedic experiences. Such as the Mousehouse Cheesehouse that has a giant rat/cheese wheel on it. Interesting enough, this is not the ONLY giant rat/cheese “sculpture” found on the I94 route.

Beer, Cheese, Gifts and Fudge were advertised. None were purchased. This is Wisconsin. They’re serious about cheese. They also sell beer everywhere. I am unclear how fudge got involved except that after beer and cheese obviously one needs fudge to cleanse the palate. We stopped to snap a pic with the rat.

It got me thinking about how much fun we have in our house with food–trying new recipes or restaurants. So this post is a rather haphazard look at some of the experiments from the last few weeks (and hopefully distracts from my lack of actual recipe posts lately 😉).

What happens when you freeze watermelon cubes as mojito “ice”? Delicious drink for the lake

What happens when you puree an entire cucumber for a martini? Great flavor and color, not so great texture 😉

Challenge day: Can you make a breakfast baked good with a half eaten container of yogurt and a random amount of blueberries and no eggs because you haven’t done the grocery shopping at the lake yet? Oh-yes-you-can lemon-blueberry muffins. Could you repeat it because you wrote any of it down or measured? Oh no.

Favorite new food toy: the Jaguar of zoodlers (“leased” from my sister). Alec and I also laughed while doing this, it’s like the old Play-Dough toys.

I need another drink after all of that creativity! But a perfect reminder to stop and smell the roses (jasmine). It goes fast.

Actual recipes forthcoming now that Alec isn’t here to distract me.

More than you want to know

Thanks to Mr. A of A Barbarian in Gentlemen’s Clothing for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I am 100% certain he did it to make this middle-aged Midwestern American, er, uncomfortable. But I am pleased to do it because he makes me smile with his authentic style.

My answers to his fantastic and bold questions:

1. The goal is to love life, not to endure it. If you’re bound to repeat an endless cycle of your life, are there things you wouldn’t want to repeat for eternity? If there are, have you done anything to change them now? What are those things?

Living a real life Groundhog Day sounds awful! That said, I wouldn’t avoid the challenges I have had in my life, they make me who I am today. The one I work on most with my coach is being self-compassionate and acting grateful towards myself. Daily rituals are part of that habit.

2. Have you ever thought of doing something, but didn’t try to pursue it? Are you glad you didn’t pursue it? Tell us about it?

When I was finishing my undergraduate degree in journalism I considered law school. My dad strongly discouraged me (aka forbid). Two words: Thanks Dad! Bullet dodged. (Ok, 4 words).

3. Is there someone out there that you follow with no question, even thou you know they’re wrong? Tell us who and why do you follow?

Well, any friend or colleague who has earned my trust will get my loyalty even if I disagree with the choice (and there’s always the outside possibility that I am wrong 😉).

4. Is there a thing you’ve been waiting to do? Why are you waiting? Are your concerns realistic?

I am getting ready to launch a new startup. I am finishing up another product launch for a client and expect 2020 to be clarity & focus on the new business. I am very grateful to the many friends who have been quietly encouraging me over the past 18 months of its development.

5. Tell us something that is you’re supposed to be committed to, but found yourself half-assing it? Why are you holding back? How can you give it everything you have?

Does occasionally eating Irish butter while vegan count as half-assing? I have 2 speeds: on/off. Half-ass doesn’t exist for me.

6. What is your ideal haircut for men that you find very irresistible?

Euro cut, long on top short on sides. Well groomed. Exception is men with curly hair–let it grow!!! Especially at the back when it curls up….like McDreamy:

7. How is your net worth? Are you still living from paycheck to paycheck?

Thankfully we’re in a good spot, but ask me again in 12 months (see question 4). Bootstrapping a business is definitely a challenge!

8. What is a guaranteed way to get a better night’s sleep?

Sleep alone by sending your husband on a Canadian fishing trip (Sorry honey). But just look at this muskie Av caught!

9. What are the red flags that you look out for in a romantic relationship?

We have been married 22 years (I’m 46). We’re wayyyyyy past red flags. Besides, he’s perfect 😇.

As our boys begin their dating life some advice and learning they’ve experienced is the trust factor of “self” vs “other” oriented. It can be difficult to spot early on, but invariably shows itself. At least in teenagers. I think adults can be incredibly sophisticated at hiding narcissistic tendencies. Red flag.

10. Is there anything that I have written that you consider poor or irresponsible? Is there a topic that I’ve written that you don’t agree on?

Hmmm…good question. Not that I can think of on either count. I’d tell you. Your Art of War posts are fantastic! And TMI Tuesday makes me smile. I ❤️ your fashion style!! Especially shoes!! I have perfect toes 😉

11. Now for the Mr. A being Mr. A question. If you don’t need a towel after sex, then you’re doing sex wrong – do you agree or disagree? You may choose not to answer, but if you do; tell us why?

Agree but disagree. To each their own.

And now my nominees…and food-related questions:

    1. You’re vegan (play along). What food do you occasionally “cheat” for?
    2. Favorite dinner guests. Real people you know.
    3. Favorite dinner guests. Famous. Dead or alive.
    4. Worst dinner party disaster. (Either as host or attendee).
    5. One thing you’ve changed about eating as you aged.
    6. Favorite summertime cocktail (bonus points for recipes!)
    7. Worst thing you ever ate out of politeness (ie Grandma’s Christmas ham)
    8. Best destination to visit for food.
    9. What one food best represents where you live? (Don’t forget to share your location!)
    10. The food you make when you need comforting.
    11. Food you once threw up (or cleaned up) that you can never eat again.
  • The Rules:

    Thank the blogger who nominated you.

    Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

    Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

    List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.

    Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.

    Bunny battle royale & 2 vegan summer salads

    While traveling this week, the bunnies got into my garden. They ate the zinnias out of the front pots, two new arbor vines and–most annoyingly–my herbs. They destroyed the cilantro, did quite a number on the dill and parsley.

    People: This is war.

    My mom graciously enclosed what’s left and let’s hope they bounce back. Avery has been assigned to “shoot” hockey pucks. Not my fault if bunnies are in the way.

    Read below for the draft post I had started while on the road. The irony!

    ………

    Which herb is my favorite? Tough choice. Why limit life to just one?

    I am thrilled with my expanded herb garden, which is going gang busters with all of the rain we’ve had–except the basil, which is craving for the sun and heat.

    Fresh tarragon, dill and mint are growing well right now and I am sprucing everything up with a few herbs. I vary those 3 on my avocado toasts for breakfast. I have an avocado toast “problem”/addiction. I love it! I substitute tomatoes for the salmon now, but that recipe remains the best base.

    A long-standing favorite summer salad is chicken tarragon with grapes. So when I came across this vegan version on the Charming Chickpea, I couldn’t resist. Super easy and super awesome! I added tarragon, red grapes and red onions and threw it in a wrap.

    We also tried a new recipe from Bon Appetite: Asian melon salad. Super bright with mixing textures of the soft honeydew and crisp cucumber. The ginger dressing with the serrano is fantastic. We skipped the avocado (not ripe yet plus I use it in my toast) and peanuts (oops forgot those at the store!) but made up for it with plenty of fresh mint! It’s a weed. And I am thankful because that means I can’t kill it.

    Unless the bunnies figure it out, I should be good.

    Stop to smell the lavender

    It’s finally spring here in Minnesota!! I planted my flowers and an entire bed of herbs. I decided to give them more space and perhaps overdid it. But I expect to use lots of mint for mojitos amongst other things this summer on the patio. All told, I planted 10 different herbs including multiple varieties of basil, mint, thyme and lavender. And some swiss chard for color.

    I was in such a hurry to get it all planted that I didn’t really enjoy it. They say gardening is one of the most mindful things you can do because it requires you to get multiple senses involved. It was definitely a signal that I am working too hard in that my mind refused to turn off.

    So having a week off came just in the nick of time. Well actually I needed to do this several months ago, but lesson learned. I truly slowed down this week as I accompanied Matt to a work trip in Phoenix. It’s hot, like 100 degrees hot. It takes some adjusting.

    Regardless I spent as much time outside as I could handle. I found a fantastic outdoor lap pool and started to get back in swim shape.

    Sidenote: The outdoor pool in MN opens in just a few weeks!! I can’t wait to see all of my friends…or as Matt calls them, my “subjects” since I am like royalty after all of these years as the Mayor of Swim Town.

    We didn’t have a car so I walked a ton and that really allows you to take notice of things you miss. The desert is beautiful in its own way, but I am definitely a water girl!

    Of course there was food involved. I was impressed to find multiple new fast food salad/healthy chains. It’s getting easier to find vegan options. The highlight was a kale guacamole with grapefruit, honeydew cucumber spritzer and pomegranate limeade. I will be tinkering with those recipes with all of my herbs for sure.

    In Minnesota our summers are truly beautiful and perfect. Especially on the lake. Every time I see the lavender in my garden I will be reminded to slow down and enjoy it!

    NYR (New Year’s Review)

    Life is good. A box full of chocolates in fact.

    I have recently picked up a podcast habit to explore various topics including creativity. My favorite is the Tim Ferriss show.

    He sends out a weekly email too and this idea is from his year end edition. Instead of doing New Year’s resolutions, he does a New Year Review.

    How it works: Look back at the past year week-by-week to identify the people that I spent time with that had a positive or negative impact. And how will I get more time this year with the positive list and less time with the negative?

    I did this and realized from a people perspective that there are very very very few people on my negative list. That I am already investing time with people I enjoy. Even when that’s work related. What a gift that is!

    But I wanted to dig deeper and say of the time I invested with others, what was most valuable, rewarding and memorable? How will I do more of that in 2019 WITH people that I enjoy?

    Here’s my list for “more of” in 2019:

    • Explore new places (cities/restaurants here in MN). We have travel plans to New Orleans and Central Iowa (for a college swim meet) in the next 6 weeks. Omaha surprised me, surely I can find an interesting spot in Grinnell. Dinner reservations are already made for Nola and a few stop in for cocktails spots 😉. This family tradition has created an open minded sense of adventure.
    • Learn new creative skills (I found out I love beading this year!) A food styling Photography class or refreshing my graphic design skills comes to mind to improve the blog. Doing artist dates with friends in 2018 was awesome! I want to take a limoncello making class (which sells out fast every year) or perhaps something for craft cocktails. Local distillery Copperwing has become a favorite.
    • Get outside. Even in winter. Combining walks with new restaurants was a particular highlight this year. Summer days strolling by the creek and then stopping for a glass of rose on the patio, ahhh I miss July! The luminary Loppet ski race and beer garden is on my list (so long as it isn’t minus 5 like today) and watching to see where the Ice Art Shanty village lands. The summer options are endless.
    • Bring together my favorite people to explore food. Perhaps a cooking club? I can think of some fantastic conversationalists that I would love to bring together over food. Gotta get organized for that, surely there’s an app that can help me.
    • Continue learning and challenging how our family eats. I started exploring different ways to shop and cook, including local meal prep delivery, online grocery shopping and shopping more frequently. All in an effort to reduce food waste, eat more locally grown products and to save time. I have more exploring to do here to get us more efficient. Maybe a garden expansion or finding a new CSA.
    • Share what I learn here 😊

    It’s easy to get motivated to think about planning fun food related experiences with my “peeps” that will help me grow in 2019, and equally rewarding to share it here with my virtual friends. Would love to hear what you have on your “more of” list.

    Chocolate cheers to an awesome 2019!

    Tomato soup (vegan)

    Potpourri. Growing up that’s what mom called leftover night. I hated potpourri night. So now, beloved readers, I give you a potpourri post. A recipe, yes. But some other random food stuff since it’s been awhile.

    Let’s start with something cool. I am trying out a new Twin Cities startup, Local Crate. It’s a food delivery concept involving ingredients from local farms and artisans. It’s not dissimilar to why I originally started blogging–to inspire people to explore what’s grown near them. It’s been an interesting and time-saving experience to have a couple meals pretty much prepped. I made vegan tikka masala this week!!

    It doesn’t quite look like the picture but it tasted good. This is ideal for people who love to cook but hate planning and shopping.

    In other food news, Alec is discovering how good he had it eating at home. “Why don’t they make spaghetti and meatballs?” The thrill of a cafeteria offering perpetual ice cream sundaes has worn off. He says he’s losing weight especially now that swim season has kicked in. He has 5:30am practice 3x a week. We look forward to feeding him at Thanksgiving!

    Avery has really embraced the vegan diet. He’s even doing a biology research project on how plant protein impacts athlete performance. It’s the first time he’s gotten truly curious about molecular structure 😉

    He’s also learning how to make vegan snacks for late night studying (nachos being a favorite). Yea for adaptability and learning!

    Finally, here’s the recipe. This is so simple it shouldn’t really count, but sometimes simple is good for the soul. It snowed this week. Yes people. Snow. I am perpetually cold and it’s only October.

    Tomato soup

    • 4tbsp olive oil
    • 3 carrots, sliced into halfmoons
    • 3 stalks celery, sliced
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic minced
    • Celery leaves, fresh oregano and thymes stalks
    • 4c vegetable stock
    • 28oz can whole tomatoes
    • Salt, pepper, basil

    Simmer onion in oil until soft. Add celery, carrots and garlic and sauté another 3-5 minutes until onions are golden. Add tomatoes and vegetable stock. I added a few end pieces of the celery with leaves attached and some fresh oregano and thyme still attached to the stalk. This gave the flavor a bit more depth. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Remove the celery leaves and herb stalks (if you used them). Purée until smooth with hand blender, season to taste with salt pepper and basil (1/2 tsp is an estimate).

    Endings and beginnings

    With the HS graduation party behind us, I feel like this is the start of my summer! (And yes I am unmistakably crabby in the grad pic…7 valedictorian speeches, ugh!)

    It’s an amazing amount of work to host these things and frankly, we crammed several years’ worth of “honey do” list items into one month. I am glad we did it, but we’ll be bribing Av to skip it or host it elsewhere. 😉

    The menu was a Chicago theme (he’ll be attending Lake Forest College):

    • Chicago dogs (yes I had a vegan “dog”). We all agreed celery salt and tomatoes really are quite good on a poppyseed bun
    • Fruit kabobs
    • Veggie & hummus cups
    • Mini cupcakes
    • Chicago microbrews

    Alec is fortunate through swimming (and his personality) to have many friends across not just our town but the TC area, and many ages. It was fun to see them all in one place. I was VERY thankful swimmers like to eat and we had no hot dog leftovers! ⭐️

    It’s hard as an adult not to think about the closing of one chapter and the opening of another. Just yesterday he registered for classes and found out his roommate and academic advisor. Immediately the excitement of everything he’s going to get to learn about replaced any sadness.

    Of course we’re very proud of his accomplishments, but really we just love having Alec around because he’s such a kind, thoughtful person. The next 8 weeks are gonna go fast, just like the last 19!