Friday, December 31, 2010

Future Love

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Every night before he goes to bed, Rob folds up his clothes for the next day and arranges them in the bathroom. Sometimes he'll make the next day's snacks too, chopping up carrots and apples in advance and putting them in easy-to-grab containers.

"As a favor to Future Rob," he explains.

The first time Rob described his process like this I was distracted by the odd phrasing. It sounded like a line from one of the Back to the Future movies. But while I was doing some advanced breakfast preparation recently, it struck me how brilliant this idea is - not just the practice, but the thought process behind it - and how different Rob's concept of "future" is from mine.

I think about Future Me quite often, but I picture the Future Me who is my mom's age. "Future" is more of a sci-fi concept than a here-and-now measurement in my mind. I think of the future as being at least 20 years away, not 15 hours from now.

And even more often than I think about any version of Future Me, I think of Past Me. I spend a lot of time being angry with Past Me for not doing things. I berate Past Me for her decisions, criticize her looks, mock her. Of course, she's not around to hear any of it, so Current Me has to absorb all of that (self-)hatred. And so I end up with all kinds of false nostalgia for How Great Things Would Be if Past Me Hadn't Been Such a Fuck-up, along with a new, extra-strength dose of self-inflicted insecurity.

The problem with all of this - besides the total wrongness of bullying my current self by hating on Past Me - is that I have absolutely no agency in the past. Whether or not harsh words and nasty thoughts are helpful, I can't go back in time and change things. Past Me just is. (Or was - whatever.) I can't ever make her be or say or do anything else.

Future Me is another story. She's a story that hasn't been written yet, but one that I'm in the process of writing every minute of every day. Which means I can make her into anything I wish. And I'd much rather move forward as I move forward, forming a story with kind, appreciative words instead of bitterness and hate. Doing favors. Self-love in advance.

It's a strange, self-aware New Year's resolution: moving into the future, deciding to care for my Future Self, and on and on and on.

I think I'll start by making Future Noelle a delicious breakfast.

...

Happy New Year, all!
May 2011 be filled with love, good health, and awesomeness
for your families and loved ones - but for you especially.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Crash

Christmas Morning

I spent all of December 26th in my pajamas. Yesterday I took a 3-hour nap. Today, I'm finally feeling a little more like a fully-functioning human, though I'm still trying to shake this holiday hangover.

Every year since I was about 10, I remember feeling a little letdown after Christmas. It's possible that my post-holiday blues as started earlier, but I associate that Christmas crash with dancing in The Nutcracker. We'd rehearse and rehearse and rehearse for what seemed like years, and then bam! It was over after just a couple of performances. All of that time and energy put into preparing just vanished. Everything was back to normal. I found it terribly depressing.

Jolly Gingerbread Men

I stopped studying ballet after just a couple of Nutcrackers, but the holiday letdown remained. And it's clearly not just the shopping and preparing and cooking and cleaning and party-hosting that does it. Because Westley seems to have it too.

I'm starting to think that this is when the "holiday" should really start. This is the time for pajama'd movie-watching, warm-beverage sipping, kisses under the mistletoe. Instead of going back to normal, things should go forward. To relaxation!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go change into my pajamas and whip up another batch of gluten-free gingerbread men.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: The Protein (Powder) Problem

Today, unfortunately, I have no recipe to share. What I have is a plea. I need some help. Some nutritional advice. Not the "eat this, don't eat that" type. I need hands-on, "swallow this without gagging" advice. (That's what she said.)

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Since going gluten-free and swearing off the soy, I've become quite the vegan cliche. The old "Where do you get your protein?" cliche.

The answer is: Beans. Lots and lots of beans. (Yes, I know practically everything has a leetle bit of protein in it, broccoli is mostly protein, whole grains, nuts, sea vegetables, and on and on and on. But I'm thinking specifically about stuff that packs some serious protein punch.) Except that I can only eat so many beans.

According to my naturopath, I need at least 50 grams of protein every day. When she said it, I thought, "That's not so much." But when I actually started tracking my food intake and really looking at what I was getting, nutrition-wise, I realized that my soy-free, gluten-free vegan diet wasn't cutting it on the protein intake.

So I bought myself some soy-free vegan protein powder thinking, "Hey, I like smoothies, and I have a freezer full of bananas with one, Westley-sized bite out of them. Let's make protein shakes! Yeah!"

It seemed like such a simple idea. A simple idea that would get me at least 21 grams of protein per smoothie. But it turns out that this stuff? Is foul.

IMG_0717

It claims to have a "neutral taste." I'd describe it more as bitter, and vaguely "planty." Rather than hiding in fruit smoothies, it makes the fruit taste like it. I'm sure enough chocolate, peanut butter, and sugar would hide the taste, but the idea here is to make something healthful. Preferably something healthful that I don't have to choke down.

This is not the only soy-free, vegan-friendly protein powder on the market. But I'd like to use up what I've got before trying something else. Any ideas or suggestions would be more than welcome! And while you're at it, tell me where you get your protein.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Our First(ish) Christmas

It's hard to believe that this time last year, we'd just moved into our first new home. Instead of wrapping presents, I was busy packing and unpacking boxes.

Unpacking

I was broken-hearted that we didn't have the time, money, or energy to decorate. So while this will be our second Christmas in this house, it really feels like our first.

Unpacking

Westley chose the tree, and when Rob brought out the boxes of ornaments (both of them), Westley inspected each decoration carefully. I was sure he'd want to decorate the tree, but he was more interested in playing with the shiny, breakable things. It made me more than a little anxious.

Tree Topper

There was an understanding when I was growing up that each year, one ornament would get broken. It always happened by accident, and in later years, was often a cat-related incident. I was sure the same rule would apply in my own household, and terrified that the mandatory broken ornament would wind up embedded in Westley's fingers. It didn't. (It wasn't even his fault.)

Tree Topper

It wasn't the peaceful, idyllic tree-trimming scene I remember from my childhood. But what do I know? I was a child at the time and loving every minute of the Christmas festivities. It's possible that my parents were stressed out of their minds with two tiny children running around, handling glass decorations (some of them antique) and stabby ornament hooks.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Now that I'm the parent, having a fabulous Christmas is definitely a more stressful proposition than it was when I was a child - or a teenager, or a new bride. But it's the best kind of stress. Because watching Westley marvel at every decoration, relish every candy cane, and dance to every carol reminds me to appreciate how special and wonderful this time really is.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Déjà-choo

"I'm starting to doubt this healthy vegan lifestyle," Rob joked through his congestion. "I'm thinking of treating this with low-grade sausage."

I'd say he can't be too sick if he's making jokes, but I think Rob would probably keep his sense of humor even if he were bleeding to death. And having at least one fully-functioning sense of humor in the house is making it much easier to deal with all three of us being sick. Again.

It was clear by yesterday evening that Rob, Westley, and I were all seriously under the weather. I couldn't believe it.

"Didn't we just do this?"

And we did. One month ago. Exactly one month ago. (Thank you, blog archives.)

I just hope this one-cold-a-month thing doesn't become the norm around here. For one thing, a person can only drink so much ginger tea with lemon. And for another, my birthday is about a month from now, and I was looking forward to doing something other than eating soup and napping to celebrate.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: Fungi to Be With

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Criminis, shiitakes, and chanterelles (oh my!)

Before I started cooking all vegetarian all the time, I didn't give mushrooms much thought. While I detested them raw (and still do), they were fine in soups and sauces. But that was all: fine. However, somewhere on the vegetarian/vegan journey, I developed a passion for mushrooms. Yesterday, I ate a big bowl of stir-fried shiitakes for breakfast.

Now, stir-frying mushrooms is not difficult, and doesn't really require a recipe. But, as the name implies, it does involve stirring, and sometimes I'm too lazy for even that level of simplicity. So last weekend, I sprayed a bunch of mushrooms with canola oil and threw 'em on my George Foreman grill. And Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce was born.

Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce
(This recipe requires that you have ye olde Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. The sloped cooking surface and drip tray are important here.)

a very generous handful of mushrooms (I'm partial to chanterelles)
spray bottle of canola oil or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Spray grill with oil and plug it in. When the grill is warm, add your mushrooms and give 'em a generous spritz of oil. Start checking for doneness around 3 minutes. You want the mushrooms to be cooked, obviously, but what you're really looking for is the "run-off" (there has to be a better word for this). All the oil and delicious mushroom juices that collect in the drip tray are the secret of this sauce. When the mushrooms are cooked through, add them to your favorite pasta or whole grain, and pour the contents of the drip tray over everything. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crazy delicious!

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Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce over steamed veggies and quinoa

My only complaint with the Foreman grill is that, at least on my little model, there's not enough room to make a meal for three or more in one go. I was planning to make Lazy sauce for my parents when they came over for dinner and tree-trimming last night, and then I realized that there would be a lot of waiting around with tummies rumbling and pasta getting cold as I grilled one serving of mushrooms at a time. Fortunately, I came up with something (almost) equally easy, and way more tasty. Not to mention fancy-looking.*

Spaghetti with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard

8 oz. brown rice spaghetti
1/4 cup soy-free Earth Balance (or olive oil)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. I had a big pot of boiling water ready, and started the pasta cooking right after adding the mushrooms to the pan.

In a large pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Add onion and cook for a good 10 minutes at least, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be thoroughly cooked before you start adding things to them.

When the onions are very translucent, add the mushrooms and give everything a good stir to coat mushrooms with the Earth Balance-onion mixture. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. If things start looking a little dry, add a splash of water (or vegetable broth, or white wine).

When the mushrooms are cooked, remove turn off the heat. Add the Swiss chard to the pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir everything together cover for 5 minutes. Serve over pasta and marvel over your seven-ingredient(-if-you-count-salt-and-pepper) supper.

Note: I made this with my mom in mind. She has experienced incredible health benefits from following a low-salt diet. The dish tasted a little under-seasoned to those of us who are used to eating a little more salt, but a little salt and pepper at the table did the trick nicely. And following Westley's lead, everyone but me elected to sprinkle this with nutritional yeast flakes. (I'm probably the only vegan alive who can't get behind the whole nutritional yeast thing.)

*I got so caught up in cooking - and being hungry - that I forgot to take a picture. But I promise this really is fancy-looking!

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You'll probably be seeing lots of mushroom recipes here in the coming weeks. I've put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet, and mushrooms like shiitake and oyster contain compounds that support the immune system. Fungus power!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Three Days of 3

The Night Before

Birthday

Birthday
Rob and I wrapped presents and baked (my version of) Mrs. Bean's Nutmeg Ginger Apple Snaps. We stayed up way too late giggling and getting excited on Westley's behalf.

The Day Of: A.M.

Birthday

Birthday

Birthday
That's right, cookies for breakfast.
(And give it up for the 3-year-old belly cast on in the background!)

Birthday

The Day Of: P.M.

Birthday
While Rob was at work and Westley was having some extra-double-bonus birthday fun at my parents', I did a little decorating.

Birthday
There were even more presents...

Birthday
...and ice cream cake!
(I felt like a total badass making this thing myself.)

Birthday

The Day After

Birthday
That's right, cake for breakfast.

Birthday
It's good to be 3.

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