Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vegan Thai noodles

Yum! After falling off the wagon vegan-wise (for one must eat Danish meatballs at a Danish Christmas lunch), I felt the need for something very comforting yet fresh-tasting.

Ta-da: Thai noodles!

Rice noodles, boiled
peanut oil
One onion, sliced
as much ginger root as you care to peel and dice
orange bell pepper, chopped in big pieces
grated carrots and broccoli (sold as "broccoli slaw" at Trader Joe's)
fresh cilantro
light coconut milk
juice of half a lime
a sprinkle of salt
spicy dried chilis (optional)

Cook the onion, ginger and bell pepper until they just start to get soft. Add about 2/3 of the can of coconut milk (add it all if you're not still reeling from all the fat in the butter you ate on Danish bread or if you're just really up for coconut) and the chilis. Simmer. Add as much broccoli slaw as you want, lime juice, and cilantro. Salt to taste.
Use the sauce to cover your rice noodles. Top with chopped peanuts if you have them. Eat with chopsticks if it feels right.
Serve with cleansing green tea for a real pick-me up!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why so quiet?

Yes, it's been a while, but I blame my non-blogging behavior on my bad secret-keeping skills. This year I served on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award committee, and while I was reading the oodles of books nominated, I didn't feel right blogging because I was afraid I'd let something slip about the award.
The awards are given in January, but I can breathe easier-- and blog!-- because the shortlist has been revealed. Phew-- now I can just direct you to our shortlist announcement and stop worrying.
I think I can also tell you that my write-ups were used for the committee comments for The Atlas of Love, Shell Games, and What We Are. I loved many other books on the list, but fellow committee members beat me to the recommendations on those. (There's also one I hated, but I'm trying to take a page out of Nancy Pearl's book and never put anything mean about a book in writing, so that title will stay my dirty little secret.)
Another reason I've been quiet on the blogging front is that book writing and agent-seeking have been on the front burner. Oh, and this little thing in retail we like to call The Christmas Season has also been taking some time.
Thank you for stopping by! I hope to make the blog worth bookmarking now that I'm over my secrecy anxieties.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Memory Bank

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
This is a magical, wondrous book for middle readers.
Like Hugo Cabret, some of the story is told through striking full-page illustrations. The pictures heartrendingly depict the tender love of Hope for her little sister Honey and both girls’ despair when their “truly awful” parents abandon Honey by the side of the road after she gets messy and laughs one too many times. Lyrical words (with sophisticated vocabulary) tell how Hope gets banished to the garage and gives into her sorrow by sleeping her life away so she can be closer to Honey in her dreams. Before things get too distressing, Hope is collected by a good-hearted, big man who is in charge of pick-ups and deliveries for the mysterious World Wide Memory Bank (WWMB). Suddenly Hope is surrounded by adults kinder than any she’s known, and by a world more fascinating than anything she ever dreamed.
As Hope explores the vault of dreams, the nursery for first memories, and the extraordinary safe deposit boxes for Eternal Memories, her awe doesn’t overpower her determination to find her sister. Her dreams (shown in pictures) focus on Honey, while illustrated segments wordlessly reveal Honey’s frolics with a rollicking band of wild children and a loving, carefree woman leading the gang.
The plot allows Hope to be a hero and a child: innocent, brave, and finally, safe and loved. I would have read and reread this book as a kid; something about it reminds me of Momo by Michael Ende. It is appropriate for a read-aloud to younger listeners (as young as kindergarten), but will be treasured and enjoyed by imaginative readers throughout their elementary years-- and maybe rediscovered with a gasp of wonder much later in life. This is definitely one to inscribe to someone special! Scholastic gave me a free advance reader's copy, but I'm buying myself a hardcover because I love it so much.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dueling soups

The other night, I had a transitional season cooking moment. I had a full box from our farmers with loads of summer squash, a bouquet of oregano, the biggest, ripest tomato of the season, and more onions than I have seen in our house in a long time. I also had some portobello mushrooms I picked up on sale and some lentils I'd been hungry for. What to do? Dueling soups.

The summer soup started with a sautee of onions, then summer squash and tomato. I added water, oregano, a few kidney beans, and some balsamic vinegar. If I had a lemon, I think I'd add a splash of lemon juice next time for a more Mediterranean taste.

The fall soup started with a sautee of onions, too, but instead of diced, I cut them in long slivers. (I was going for a French onion soup feel.) Next I added big hunks of portobello. After those looked cooked, I added water, a splash of red wine, oregano, a few bay leaves, a few cloves, and lentils. I let it simmer a long time, so it got stew-like.

The night I made them, we had the fall soup accompanied by a carmelized onion flatbread pizza from our neighbor Eat Local. Very good. Then the next night, we had the summer soup served with Greek roast potatoes (garlic, olive oil, oregano, garbanzos) and pita. Also very good. Win, win.


"Mockingjay" was the first of the Hunger Games trilogy that we read aloud. (It was the first that we didn't have an ARC of, so this was the first time Jordan and I were both racing to read Collins before someone at work let something slip.)
I don't want to give anything away, but I do want to say I thought this was a satisfying end to a beloved trilogy. Yes, I did want a little more interaction between two specific characters... ask me if you want to know more. And yes, Katniss did seem a little more whine-y than in the previous books, but the poor girl has been through so much, I think she earned the right to whine some!
Also, thank you to the gods of read-aloud and my dear husband for giving me the chapter with my favorite line in the whole book... I was super-pumped to get to pretend to be Katniss declaring, "IF WE BURN, YOU BURN WITH US!" I flexed and showed my Mockingjay fake tattoo. Then I spent the rest of the week wanting to say things like, "If I do dishes, YOU DO DISHES WITH ME!" "If I go to hear a DJ, YOU GO TO HEAR A DJ WITH ME!" "If I dust the biography section, YOU DUST THE BIOGRAPHY SECTION WITH ME!"
Thanks, everyone in my life, for indulging me while I savored the book and all the high-energy empowerment that came with it.
For more about "Mockingjay" and the trilogy, I highly Katie Roiphe's essay from The New York Times Book Review.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Curry carrot coconut soup

Did you get a giant bundle of carrots in your market box, too? If you think you'll go full Bugs Bunny, holding one stogie-like all week long to use them up, try making soup instead.

I didn't want to leave the house, so I just used what I had. And I was feeling lazy, so I only used one cutting board and a soup pan. I probably should have sauteed my garlic in olive oil in the pan before I stared, but I didn't-- and guess what? It turned out supertasty anyway.

Boil a few inches of water. Add chopped celery-- dregs from a ziploc bag in the freezer (equivalent of maybe half a stalk) will do just fine.

Add a few cloves of garlic, sliced.

Add chopped ginger. I like lots, so I chopped up a good-sized root. (I did skin this. You could also use dried ginger.)

Wash your carrots thoroughly and slice them into thick rounds. No need to skin if you wash them well (and have farmers you trust). Add to the boiling water. Make sure the water just covers the carrots. Add more if necessary. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until your carrots smoosh when you stick a knife at them.

Add some chives if you have them. Shake in some curry powder, cumin, and salt.

Remove pan from heat. Add a splash of coconut milk, if you have it handy.

Use an immersion blender to puree.

If you have cooked wheatberries, they add nice texture and nutrition. You could also top with some nuts for kicks.

See how easy it was to use your carrots? We ate them all within two days!

The Red Pyramid

Rick Riordan's latest, the first of the new series the Kane Chronicles, was a fun read, but somehow I expected more. I loved the use of Egyptian mythology, and I thought the author did a good job using two narrators effectively (and excitingly). However, something about the magic felt too ad hoc for me. This is a big problem when I'm reading fantasy: I need to understand the rules of the world if I'm going to buy into it.

I understand that Carter and Sadie don't know the limits and possibilities of their powers or those of the gods/goddesses/magicians/godlings around them, but as a reader, I have to feel like the author knows. I wasn't quite convinced. Almost-sixth-grader Jack asked me early on, "But how do those shabti work?" I still don't know, and I don't know how pillars of fire or magical caskets or god-channeling pyramids (in Egypt or Phoenix or Paris) work.

This makes me sound very literal and persnickety, but I don't think I am. But the suspense doesn't build for me if I keep thinking, "Well, he'll just pull something out like an avatar hawk warrior. Or a crowd of scorpions. Or a giant sweating crocodile god. Or Elvis."

Did anyone else feel this way about the book? I don't remember the same feeling in The Lightning Thief. Am I just being jaded?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vegan kitchen musing...

Have you ever noticed that portobello mushroom slices can look an awful lot like Mr. Potato Head's mustaches? I did, last night.

Let's Take the Long Way Home

I have lots of reading to catch up on here, but I just wanted to make sure I write about Gail Caldwell's gorgeous new memoir, "Let's Take the Long Way Home." It's a love song to friendship, dogs, and rowing. It's a beautiful reflection on loss and grief. It's poetic, strong, sensitive, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and empowering.
Caldwell writes with grace and power about her friendship with fellow author and dog-lover Caroline Knapp, and about Knapp's death from lung cancer. Anyone who has loved someone or ever hopes to love should read this book! Caldwell's descriptions of the balance of self and relationship that she and Caroline negotiate as two self-proclaimed "happy hermits" is tender and true. The risks and rewards of loving deeply are all here, in lovely prose.
I can't help but gush.
This is not an easy book, but it is a very meaningful one. I bawled and cheered and hugged this book to my heart.

In praise of grains

I just found an inspiring tidbit on whole grains in your pantry from Lava magazine online. We had our oats this morning with bananas, donut peaches, pecans, almond milk, and cinnamon. This week we've also been working though a big batch of quinoa with black beans. (Great with tortillas.) I'm a little burned out on the rye berries and wheat berries, but I'm hoping to get them back in the mix very soon. It's reassuring to see the Ironman site celebrating whole grains; sometimes I worry about making sure my marathoner gets all he needs nutritionally, but we're very aware, and this was just a nice reminder that we're eating well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vegan coffee milkshake*

There's an asterisk there by "milkshake" because I am using the term in the very Rhode Island, Newport Creamery training book circa 1993 way-- denoting a beverage comprised of milk and flavoring, with absolutely NO ice cream (frappe) or ice milk (Awful Awful) or even ice. Although I'm sure you could find some coffee-flavored soy or coconut frozen treat with which to make a vegan frappe, this is for when you're just too lazy and it's so hot out, you don't even want to scoop anything into the blender.

Fill your glass halfway with ice cold water.
Fill it almost to the top with ice cold almond milk.
Top off with iced coffee.
If you're really lazy (like me), just drink it as is. For the best effect, blitz it in the blender or shake it in a martini shaker for about a minute to give it the authentic frothy Newport Creamery Milkshake feel. (For the authentic Creamery Girl experience, you can spill some of it on your polyester outfit and leather sneakers, then let it get niiiiice and sticky as it dries.)

Please note: I just went to the Newport Creamery site and downloaded the menu, for old time's sake. Looks like they are no longer confusing the world with their own take on the term "milkshake." Now it's just frappes, Awful Awfuls, and something new and exciting called an "Outrageous Awful Awful." All I can say is, "Awful big, Awful good."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Last week, I asked my rising sixth-grader student if I could share the link to his summer reading blog, and he said yes. So for everyone who has been curious about what it's like to read "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Uglies" in the summer before you're twelve, here's summerreadingjack!

Reading and discussing with Jack this summer has been a blast. He's been a reading dynamo, and he's also gotten some great writing in. I'm still impressed when I remember how quickly he cranked out a thank you letter to Grandpa as if he were the main character in "Where the Red Fern Grows." Mad skills!

We just started in on a third book, "The Red Pyramid" by Rick Riordan. This was Jack's choice, and I am so thrilled! I've been looking for an excuse to move the first of the Kane Chronicles to the top of my reading stack.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kale "sauerkraut"

I've been loving my sister's new barbarian cooks blog with fun ideas for kale. But when I was ultra-lazy, pressed for time, and eating solo for dinner one night last week, I came up with another fun thing to do with that huge bag o' greens: sauteed a big pile of those suckers in a pan, added a splash of vinegar, a splash of water, and spoonful of mustard. I let it cook down all soft and smooshy while I microwaved a Trader Joe's Italian vegetarian sausage and toasted a tasty hot dog roll from my neighborhood butcher, A & J Meats*. I put it all together, and it tasted DELICIOUS!

*I walk by this wonderful butcher pretty much any time I'm going anywhere. Everyone who works there is informative, helpful, and kind. I keep going in just to buy hot dog rolls and mustard. I feel like I have to explain myself somehow... Would it be weird if I told our butcher I'm vegan? I feel guilty that I'm not giving this local, family business as much money anymore. They are really good people! And they have great meats for all you Seattle-area omnivores!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reader Confession

I set the timer on our microwave so I don't read away the whole morning when I don't have to work until the afternoon. Today, while reading Matterhorn, I originally set it for 90 minutes. Then another 40 more... then another 40... and I still kept reading. I wasn't at all productive, but the Marines are in a hot zone!!! How can I leave them to go to work?

Vegetarian Confession

I hate fennel.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mexican chocolate "Que Sopresa" cookies

I'm baking a new cookie now, and I just sampled. So far, so good: I do want more immediately.
I was going to make vegan poop nuggets (the name really caught on in our household), but the bananas I have in the house aren't ripe enough for smooshing. I glanced around, "What to smoosh?" How about... an avocado? Que Sopresa!

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon

1 large, ripe avocado, smooshed (or 1 1/2 little ones)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rice milk
2 dashes habanero sauce (another surprise)

about 1/8 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup chocolate chips

I had to use my hands to mix these. I formed balls o' cookie dough and baked them for 16 minutes at 325.

"The Lost Symbol"

Since I had a day to my lonesome, I've been trying to get through borrowed books! I've had this on loan from a friend for a loonnng time... Here's the verdict on "The Lost Symbol:"
Dan Brown, what piffle!
I know this is not meant to be great literature, but-- really? The starry-eyed descriptions of noetic science and the Masons made me laugh out loud. Don't even get me started on the tall, sinister, tattooed eunuch villain... Maureen Dowd picked out some choice passages in her NYT book review, but I still wasn't prepared for the sheer ridiculousness of this book.
Maybe Brown was trying to make Langdon more relatable, but he come off as rather thick in this novel. WHY does he keep willfully ignoring or just plain missing just about every major clue? I guess it's supposed to teach us about the dangers of not believing, the blinders we put on when we only consider what we think we know if verifiable, but UGH, the man is a Harvard professor! And he's supposed to be our hero! Let him come up with something other than MAGIC SQUARES, for chrissakes! (Perhaps I'm jaded, but when one of the big reveals in a Dan Brown book is the same as one in a kids' book published a year earlier, I have to think Mr. Brown is kind of phoning it in.)
I may have forgiven all if the pacing had been right. Brown has kept me going from chapter to chapter with breathless incredulity. Not this time. OK, I'll grant that chapter 9 ended well: "Someone was screaming." That kept me going. But chapter 4 ends with Mal'akh's thought/sentence fragment, "A gift for the one man on earth who can help me obtain what I seek"(p. 20). OOOOH, chilling, right? Then chapter 5 starts off with, "The world's largest and most technologically advanced museum is also one of the world's best-kept secrets." (p.21) This feels like a third grader reporting on the Smithsonian, not a masterful suspense writer toying with his readers. Put the two missteps together in the pages I would hope had been most polished by an author and his editors, and I almost decided to move on to another book.
I agree with a customer who chatted with me about the book the other day: the architectural tour of DC we get is fascinating, but the plot and puzzles in this thriller just fell flat. And the characters are ridiculous.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I was very curious, so I'm glad I read it (quickly), but I'm also really grateful that this is a book I borrowed and didn't buy.
Maybe I'm just bitter that we solved the "Da Vinci Code" puzzles and didn't win the "prize more valuable than gold" of having our names used as characters in this book... but I think I'm glad to have been just a dissatisfied reader of this rather than a fictional participant!

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Crossed Bones" aka "The Tenth Gift"

I just finished a swashbuckling romance (but not the Fabio-cover kind) lent to me by a kind customer. She picked it out of the piles at our galley giveaway and was very pleasantly surprised. It's by Jane Johnston, and the published title is The Tenth Gift I'm going to go on record: I prefer the piratical "Crossed Bones" as a title; the published title isn't explained until most of the way through the book, and it just kept reminding me of slimeball character Michael, the adulterous husband-of-her-best-friend who dumps contemporary heroine Julia. (He gives her an exquisite antique book as parting gift, but then, a-hole that he is, spends the rest of the book trying to get it back.)
The novel has two related narratives: Julia's life in London and Cornwall, and the life of Cat, a 17th century Cornish woman who is abducted by Salee pirates! They are connected through Cat's book/journal and their shared love of embroidery. The dual narrative kind of reminded me of "Julie & Julia" in that the contemporary character's story line was less compelling for much of the book than Cat's incredible journey. Things did get spiced up in today's world, though, and romance blossoms in both.
This was a fun and engaging novel that taught me more about the history of Cornwall, pirates, and the corsair culture. Fascinating and entertaining light fare!

Home alone Friday night dinner

While J's away on his run 'round Washington, I'm cooking for one. Before, that probably would have meant leftover rice, frozen limas, maybe with some spinach or an egg for dinner. (That was before turning semi-vegan.) Quick and easy would be the rule.
Now that we're mostly vegan, I feel that every meal has to count nutritionally. Plus, we just got a great delivery of delicious, fresh, locally-grown vegetables. So tonight's dinner in progress is:
chard and various "farmers' choice greens" cooked with garlic, shallots, olive oil, garbanzo beans, a touch of vinegar, and dried cherries and almonds for a touch of the exotic! I'm going to serve all that over a bed of leftover quinoa. On a nice plate, with a tall glass of watermelon juice refresher (watermelon juice with sparkling water and mint leaves from the backyard).
N, you'll appreciate this: the curly kale always makes me remember Gus the iguana. No monkey chow in my meal tonight, though.

Heist Society: superfun

It may look like I haven't been reading or eating much, but au contraire! I've just been so busy doing both, plus working, that I haven't posted much. Sorry, my three faithful followers. I'll try to be better.
I zipped through teen novel Heist Society by Ally Carter. Delightful con romp. I do love a great art heist! This feels like "The Thomas Crown Affair" meets STORM meets "Ocean's Eleven" with teenagers. Kat comes from a family of cons and thieves-- the classy, awe-inspiring kind. Her billionaire friend/ accomplice Hale frames her to get her kicked out of her first attempt at normal life, Colgan boarding school, but that's nothing compared to the frame job someone has done of her father: a seriously evil man is convinced that Kat's dad stole priceless (Nazi-tainted) masterpieces from his undermoat secure art lair, and Kat has two weeks to return the paintings before dire consequences ensue. Yes, I did write "undermoat secure art lair." There was a mini-sub involved. It's that kind of book-- LOVED it!
My favorite thing about the book was Kat's crew and their clockwork precise planning. I cracked up as the kids threw out ideas of different cons to try, all with hilariously evocative names: "the Ben Franklin," "the Princess Bride" ("But where would we get a six-fingered man on such short notice?"), "Dog in a Bar..." Most of them go unexplained, which makes it even funnier to me.
The globe-trotting adventure is dizzying, the teens are full of hijinks and even some romance, and the whole idea of kids as pros in the heist underworld was just delightful. I hope Carter writes more about Kat and her crew. Kat, don't just go back to Colgan yet, I beg!

Two Smiling Feet

So this isn't about reading or eating, but I just had to share a new joyful obsession: Chinese foot massage at Two Smiling Feet in Fremont. We went last week and were amazed-- the experience was very much like our one in Beijing (although minus the private room/ pirated DVD/ free snacks). It was so much more than a foot massage! We got a lovely head rub (including some hair yanks that felt scary but good), amazing foot reflexology work, plenty of time on the ankles and calves, and even some thigh and hip massage. Then they flipped us over and gave us great attention to shoulders, back, and bottom. J and I were both extremely pleased. The masseurs/ masseuses were professional, thorough, and extremely intuitive: they gave J's marathon-training calves more work than mine, whereas my left heel (which had been giving me some twinges) got some extra-tender extra care (without me mentioning it).
We got frequent-client cards which I think had a phone number on them, but they're both in Jordan's wallet somewhere on his big Ragnar relay run... The salon is located in the heart of Fremont, just around the corner from the Lenin statue. I highly recommend stopping by!
(The current unbelievable price is $30 for an hour! Great value!!! Plus we'll earn a free massage after 9 on our little card, I think. Yowzah!)

*Here's their phone number from the card: 206-595-7768. The address is 600 N. 36th St.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies made with vanilla soy yogurt

A little weird, but good, too. The dough was sticky and felt very much like bread. This will need some adjustments, but I don't feel bad feeding them to people at a get-together tonight. I kind of can't believe how low-fat and relatively healthy they must be.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
a little less than 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon

1 single serving container of vanilla soy yogurt
a little less than 1/2 cup sugar
a little less than 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
a splash of almond milk

1/2 package of chocolate chips

I cooked these at 325 for about 16 minutes. I tried the first batch at 350, but the edges got dark a little too quickly for my taste. (I formed the cookies with my hands for the first batch, but they were so sticky, there's kind of a hedgehog look going on. Cute, but hard on the roof of the mouth. For the other batches, I used spoons to shape the cookies.)

Tip: Stretching leftovers with veggies

We tried the delicious and hospitable Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant in the International District Sunday night-- couldn't resist the name, even though we weren't in a seafood mood. We loved the special vegetarian hot pot the owner made for us, and the vegetarian lo mein was very good-- but a little greasy when it came to leftover time. This is where the tip comes in: I added fresh peas and bite-sized pieces of fresh broccoli to the to-go containers (the traditional Chinese takeout kind, without the wire handle) before I microwaved for a minute and a half or two. I shook and stirred everything up before plating, and TA DA! More food, and better for me! The result is lower in sodium, lower in fat, and higher in nutritional value for each serving.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Bitter in the Mouth" by Monique Truong

I would not have read this novel if I hadn't been invited to a dinner with the author. (THANK YOU, Random House! I'm looking forward to it!) Why not? It's kind of a family saga; I don't usually think I like family sagas. (Although I really do like them if they're edgy enough, i.e. The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz). It's also set in the South. I don't mean to offend, but for some reason, I also don't think I usually like novels set in the South. (Again, there are big exceptions: To Kill a Mockingbird and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, for example.) The third strike? The main character is a Yale grad. (Ha! Just kidding! Kind of...)
Despite those prejudices, I am so glad I am reading this! I had heard wonderful things about Truong's previous novel, The Book of Salt, so I knew I would be able to find something nice to say to her if I got to sit near her by the author dinner. Oh, will I ever!
The title refers to the fact that the narrator, Linda, has synesthesia that makes her taste words as she hears and speaks them. (This is quite different from the girl who can taste emotions in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but I do find myself wanting to read Bender's book just to think about these characters who are so affected by taste.) This element of the story is fascinating, but it is sometimes distracting as well-- during dialog, we read the words and the tastes they evoke to Linda. Example: "Did youcannedgreenbeans readpotatochips it?" I understand that the tastes are distracting and disorienting to Linda, but they're even more so to a reader. Yes, it helps us empathize with her sometimes-torment with the "incomings" (taste perceptions linked to words), but because the tastes are not really linked to the words themselves, I am starting to skip/skim the italicized words. And that bothers me a little, because Truong is such a good writer that I have to believe that every word is deliberate, and I should give every word its deserved attention. Like Linda, I have to anesthetize myself somewhat, and that bugs me sometimes.
But there's so much to savor in this book, too!
I love, love, love Linda's friendship with neighbor Kelly. Their letters to one another remind me of childhood correspondence that deepened friendships in my life. I also adore Linda's great uncle Baby Harper. He will be dancing in my mind long after this book is over!
I have about 50 more pages to go. I'm not rushing to finish it because I want to linger. It's that kind of novel. Ahhhh.
It will be on sale August 31. If it sounds good to you, please make your local independent bookseller extremely happy by pre-ordering a copy of Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong!

New cookies

I am thinking of calling these new cookies "vegan poop nuggets" so every time I offer them to people, they say, "No, thank you," and let me eat the rest of the batch.
We'll see how they are when they're not all gooey from the oven-- they may harden when they cool. But right now, they're delicious!

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (maybe a little too much?)
1 tsp baking powder
4 tsp cocoa powder

1 large ripe smooshed banana
an underpoured 1/2 cup of sugar
same underpoured, loosely packed 1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 overflowing tsp of vanilla
just shy of 1/3 cup canola oil
4 large pinches of coconut flakes

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Combine the first grouping of ingredients (dry) in a medium bowl. Combine the next grouping of ingredients in a larger bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Use your hands to mix it all up. Add a splash of coconut milk if it's feeling too dry. It looks like you have poop hands now, right? Now mix in the chocolate chips! Roll by the spoonful in your hands to make nugget-like cookies (or flatten them into traditional cookie shape) and bake on a silicone baking liner on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 11-17 minutes, depending on how big and round your cookies are.

Eat some right after they're cool enough to transfer to the wire rack. Start contemplating more off-putting names for these cookies while they're tasting so dastardly delicious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Plum: perfect!

Saturday night, we fell in love with Capitol Hill's Plum Bistro, an elegant all-vegan restaurant. How exciting to have a full menu we could feel good about! How delightful to have so many delicious, inspiring tastes and combinations! This is meatless/animal-protein-less dining at its best, with local ingredients, creative presentations, chic decor, and a gorgeous cocktail list, too.
We each picked a cocktail for the evening: a jalapeno margarita for J, with a nice kick of spice and tequila, and "Oh My Goddess" alcoholic strawberry lemonade with basil and vodka for me. (This would be heavenly virgin, too.)

We picked the "Spicy Mac-n-Yease" appetizer at the recommendation of our server. I don't think she was exaggerating when she said that some people come to Plum just for this appetizer. It was a good-sized serving of pasta in an I-can't-believe-it's-not-cheese creamy, zesty sauce. Seems like everyone's been trying an upscale mac and cheese on their menu in the last few years, but I think this may be my favorite! (And it's VEGAN?!?) Breadcrumbs add a touch of crunch, but it all went down way, way too easily for something so rich. We weren't kidding when we asked if they sold this in bulk. (Well, I wasn't.)

My entree was the one currently pictured on the restaurant's home page: orange-balsamic glazed tempeh served over Thai-spiced mashed yams, with bitter greens. The tempeh was a firm consistency, with a crispy almost grilled feel to the edges. The glaze was a perfect blend of acidic and sweet, and the spicy (gingery, peppery) yams were the ideal partner. Soft, simple, flavorful greens (not bitter, but savory) filled out the plate. The portion was large and oh so satisfying.

Jordan ordered the "el besito caliente" burger. He was impressed that even though the menu described the filling as "tofustrami," it wasn't really trying to be pastrami, nor was the sandwich battling for burger dominance-- it was a delicious, balanced sandwich on its own terms. It did look a little messy, so I didn't try to swoop in for a bite. It was served with fries (not potato, but I'm not quite sure what root veggie they were)-- good, but not the best, as they were a little flaccid for my taste.

Many other intriguing items on the menu mean that we need to come back again and again. We're both very excited about the Zen Plate, "rice noodles in a ginger-shiitake mushrom broth
served with sautéed black pepper parsley, fresh cabbage, soft tofu & edamame w/ hot chili oil," and the Black Pepper-Battered Red Potato Parmesan, plus seitan steak with mushroom gravy, the "crazy Jamaican burger" served with plantains, and individual pan pizzas. There are also whole lunch and breakfast menus I haven't even seen yet! All is vegan, and several choices are also gluten-free. (N&B: we're going here next time you visit!!!)

A great night out often ends with dessert, and this was no exception. Tofu cheesecake for me, mango frozen soy treat for J. Yum! Although I thought it funny that the waiter couldn't use air quotes when he delivered our "ice cream" and "cheesecake" (his hands were too full).

Also kind of funny: the many typos on the cocktail menu, as if it had been typed up after sampling many, many choices, and having to finally pick and describe the favorites. "Agave necteer," "strawberies," and "lemmons" all put in an appearance. It says a lot when I smile at typos and think they just add to the charm of a place-- everything Plum did put me in that kind of a good mood.

Word to the wise: EAT HERE. But when you go, know that Plum is to the right (Suite B), and La Spiga is to the left (Suite A) at the same address (1429 12th Ave).

Warning to friends: If you ask me, "Where should we go out to eat?," if I'm feeling capable of leaving the Hill, I'll want to go to Plum.

Even if you aren't vegan, try Plum-- they are cooking delicious, creative food for everyone; it just happens to not have any animal proteins.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I Am a Strange Loop"

I finally moved husband-recommended "I Am a Strange Loop" to the top of my pile! I've been thinking about it for over a year now, and the universe encouraged me to think that now is the right time: a damaged copy in the donate box at work beckoned at lunch break.
WOW-- now I can see why Jordan was raving! Some parts are for skimming, but so much is for enjoying and pondering. Hofstadter is exploring consciousness and the sense of "I," so far delving into such fascinating concepts as "soul shards" (bits of people's souls that live on in objects and memories-- not horcruxes, but the way a photo of someone you love will call to mind that person) and a gradation of "souledness" (there can be bigger and smaller souls-- the difference between your beloved pooch and your beloved, wise old grandmother... or the difference between Ronald Reagan affected by Alzheimer's and President Obama).
I'm riveted! There are some bits that remind me of my least favorite part of my Philosophy core class ("What if the car were made out of CHEESE?"), but even those are funny and punny, like little tickles to my brain, rather than big brain squeezes of absurdity. I really enjoy Hofstadter's rigorous arguments coupled with playful analogies. His examples are delightful, as is his sense of humor. (For example, he writes something about the fact that he can't imagine his audience could have possibly missed all the Star Wars movies-- and the interesting examples of soulful robots C3PO and R2-D2, acknowledging that many of his readers might be classified as, well, geeks...)
Huzzah, Mr. Hofstadter! You're a gentleman and a scholar! AND a vegetarian!

Vegan BBQ?

Last night I was hankering for some BBQ (perhaps because I was catching up on the delightful "stuff southern people like" blog). This was a little tough for me once we moved back from Austin, but even tougher now that we're vegan.
So I improvised.
I had lentils. Cooked them barracho-style, kind of: sauteed garlic, onions, and orange peppers, them added water and lentils to boil/simmer. For spices, I used cumin, mustard seed, bay leaves, a few cloves, a teeny bit of fennel seed, and my secret BBQ/summer taste ingredient: celery seed. I don't usually like celery seed, but I really think it gave a boost that made our lentils more satisfying as BBQ. I added a few spoonfuls of tomato paste, salt, and pepper, and a splash of hot sauce, too.

In another pan, I had braising greens. I sauteed some garlic, then simmered the heck out of those braising greens, adding a splash of beer from Jordy's dinnertime can and another secret ingredient: sliced up hickory smoke flavor primal strip vegan jerky. I don't do much fake meat, but I had a few of these kicking around for soccer tournament junk food, and I thought it would add the ham-hocky taste braised greens should have. It worked! A little goes a long way.

I served all with rolls, but next time, I think I would actually serve the lentils a la sloppy joe, on a big toasted bun (maybe with some shredded cabbage) and I'd make some vegan cornbread to have on the side.

(Something interesting: why _does_ a Yankee vegan think of BBQ as comfort food?)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roasted cauliflower

I couldn't resist the lure of leftovers when I got home from work this afternoon. Yes, I'd already had a hearty serving for lunch, but there was some left in the fridge, and it was calling my name. I discovered that it can be might tasty cold, too.
The leftovers:
cauliflower roasted in olive oil, with spring garlic, salt, and a squeeze of lemon, mixed with:
sage, rye berries, crimini mushrooms, and fava beans. (Boy, was shucking and popping the fava beans fun! I'm not kidding. I wouldn't do it every day, but I liked the process.)
Is it just me, or is cauliflower roasted with olive oil really rich and buttery tasting?

The Passage= great summer reading

Justin Cronin's vampire epic fit the bill-- a long, juicy, page-turner to give me that sit-around-and-read-all-day feeling that is what I love most about summer.
I didn't find any printing error in my copy, but I did find plenty to ponder about, gasp at, and predict for the sequel.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vampire goodness: "The Passage"

I'm reading Justin Cronin's "The Passage." At work last week, we did a line by line, word for word comparison on page 270, the page we thought the publisher had told us contained a printing error that affected the plot. I couldn't find any difference between the first printing that they made us pull and the new copies we are selling now, but I did get completely caught up in the story, just from one page. Now I've committed to a 766-page vampire epic that (I've heard) ends as a cliff-hanger for the sequel... but somehow I just couldn't say no. I enjoy the different styles as the outbreak progresses/time passes, and some of the characters I've already left behind were fantastic. It's not quite as gory or creepy as "The Strain," and I like that over 280 pages in, there isn't any romance to speak of, and there certainly isn't any paranormal romance! I'm definitely in a summer reading mindset.

Pasta with kale, garbanzos, and chanterelles

I'm inspired by my friend Lillian's orechiette with hearty greens and sausage post at her site, obsessedwithdinner. We are eating our way through our first CSA box of veggies, so tonight I'm using kale! And rye berries! And spring onions! (The spinach, radishes, and baby carrot will go in a salad on the side.)
I'm simmering chick peas, dried chanterelles, bay leaves, and rye berries. When those are all soft and tasty, I'll sautee the rest of the spring onions and a little garlic. I have some whole wheat penne I'll boil, using Lil's tip of adding the kale at the end of the pasta cooking, then combine all together with olive oil, maybe with a little fresh basil and a splash of white wine. It's not a very summer dinner for the solstice, but today's not feeling very summery, so that's OK.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer re-reading

I just started working with a rising sixth grader on his summer reading. He has one required book (Uglies by Scott Westerfeld), and he got to choose one book from a list. His pick is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He and I have both read it before, so I'm looking forward to practicing reading comprehension skills.
The book stands out in my reading memory as one of the first tragic books I remember. Mrs. Penny assigned it, and I remember reading it on a family trip to Maine to visit my uncle, his wife, and their new baby. I was bawling in the car as we pulled up to the restaurant, and I remember being embarrassed about my red eyes the way only a sixth grade girl can be.
I'm so excited to reread with Jack! Already we've discussed pets, hunting, and foreshadowing.
If Jack grants permission, I will link to his blog, where he will be writing a journal of his summer reading experience.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marinated portabello sandwiches

I recently made a dinner that was proclaimed "perhaps the best vegan meal thus far" by J--
marinated portabello sandwiches. I marinated the mushrooms together with slices of onion and red pepper in a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and chile pepper (with a little salt and pepper), then cooked them over high heat in my wok with peanut oil (Chinese fajita-style?). I toasted ciabatta rolls, spread homemade guacamole on them, then loaded up with the 'shroomy goodness. Served with warm tomato cumin lentils on the side. Tonight we test drive the mushrooms at a BBQ. If all goes well, this will be our go-to summer cookout party food- the thing we bring to throw on the grill when others are cooking burgers. Fingers crossed!

To read: "The Blood of Lorraine"

While I'm baking chocolate chip cookies, I am also reading a heart-wrenching mystery set in France-- "The Blood of Lorraine" by Barbara Corrado Pope. The main character is Bernard Martin, a republican magistrate just lately relocated to Nancy. Anti-semitism, a mutilated baby's corpse, and very realistically portrayed grief make it much darker than my usual mystery fare, but the exquisite writing and character development render me unable to put it down. (Except to watch World Cup and make cookies.)

Another reason to love being vegan...

Eat all the raw cookie dough you want, no worries!

Here's the recipe I'm baking now, but I just ate a spoonful from it before I put the cookies in the oven:

Combine 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, mash a ripe banana. Add 1/3 cup canola oil (maybe a little less), just under 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp flax seed, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 cup oats.
Stir the dry mixture into the wet one. If it looks too dry, add a splash of coconut milk or almond milk.
Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spoon onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
On a summery Seattle late-spring day or equivalent, put a scoop of coconut milk frozen "ice cream" in between two of these cookies for vegan ice cream sandwiches. mmmmm

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I know what I'll recommend for Christmas...

For girls ages 7-12, I just read the perfect gift book! Classic, sweet, inspiring, delightful, it's the kind of novel I would have read and reread as a girl, and it's just the kind of book I like to give as a special gift. It's Betty MacDonald's Nancy and Plum. Random House is republishing it for the fall with illustrations by Mary Grand Pre (of Harry Potter illustration fame).
I can't believe I hadn't read this!!! I am a big Mrs. Piggle -Wiggle fan, but I hadn't discovered Nancy and Plum until now.
The two loving, smart, imaginative sisters remind me of Meg and Jo March-- Nancy is 10 and a very capable seamstress and cook; Plum (Pamela) is 8 and a tomboy who dreams of becoming a cowgirl. They are orphans living with the dreadful Mrs. Monday and her horridly spoiled niece Marybelle at a boarding house for unwanted children. (Their rich bachelor Uncle John is quite oblivious.)
The book takes place over the course of a year, stretching from a Christmas Eve alone in the cheerless boarding house (and then locked out-- so the girls hunker down in the barn), through a year of little triumphs and disappointments, to a very happy, better-than-they-ever-imagined Christmas Eve in a loving home with dear Mr. and Mrs. Campbell.
Bibliophile bonus: the girls talk about their love for some of my favorite novels, including The Secret Garden, Sara Crewe (aka A Little Princess), Anne of Green Gables, and more!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What to read after "Riding with Reindeer"?

I finished Bob Goldstein's "Riding with Reindeer," and enjoyed it throughout. His light tone, epic bike ride, and fascination with Finland and its history kept me happy for the whole ride. It also made me really appreciate our Seattle summers-- Finland's summer storms sound awful!
Now I'm super-excited for our slide show and signing with Bob on Friday. I think I'll have to serve some donuts in honor of Bob's appreciation for Finland's gas stations' breakfast treats.

I started Sebastian Faulks' "A Week in December." After 15 pages, I knew it wasn't the right time to read this; my mind was drifting, and I couldn't keep track of the characters I was meeting. Jenni Fortune, the London Tube driver, is the only one who piqued my interest. I'll try it again later.

In contrast, I picked up a copy of "The Bolter" by Frances Osborne at my lunch break, and I almost couldn't bear to put it down when it was time to go back to work. Now I'm trying to figure out how much work from home I need to do before I let myself read a chapter. Reading treat, here I come!

Vegan pizza at Via Tribunali (I think)

We made an exciting discovery the other night: Via Tribunali's Marinara pizza doesn't have cheese! The authentic Italian crust, flavorful tomato sauce, fresh oregano, and garlic gave all the pizza satisfaction without the animal protein. I didn't verify that the pizza was vegan, so there might be some secret ingredient ground up unicorns or anchovy oil to make it taste so good without the cheese, but methinks this was a truly delicious, on-menu vegan pizza at one of our favorite local chains. Hoorah!
(The happy hour deals after 10 pm add to the excitement.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A reason to love being vegan

... not having to worry about cleaning meat-contaminated cutting boards!

Vegetarian Mexican at Tenoch, QA

We're thrilled to have a new, family-run restaurant just blocks away: Tenoch Mexican Grill. The best part? Several options on the menu for vegetarians, and some (like the enchiladas verdes with potatoes) can even be made vegan, I think. Hoorah!

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Finland, Finland, Finland..." hmm hmm hmmm

"... your mountains so lofty, your treetops so tall! Finland, Finland, Finland... Finland has it all. All together Finn-ophiles!"- Monty Python
Yes, I am reading "Riding with Reindeer" by Robert Goldstein, about his bike excursion through Finland! On a folding bike! With a little cart that's made out of the carrying case for his bike! And maybe reindeer! (But we haven't gotten there, yet.)
Bob won me over when he described Finland as the quiet, mysterious girl in sensible shoes. Need I say that I identified with Finland immediately?
On his book tour for "The Gentleman from Finland" (actually about the Trans-Siberian railroad, not Finland at all) the author blurted to a Finn that his next book will be a travelogue about Finland because she seemed disappointed that no one writes about Finland. Then Bob followed up and did it. Now that's an author who really loves his fans! (He did have a lifelong fascination with Finland and its quiet, strong, debt-paying nature... but he also really seemed to feel an obligation to be true to his book tour promise.)
So far, the book does not disappoint. Bob weaves history, self-deprecating humor, and quiet adventure into a very entertaining travelogue. I'm just a few chapters in, and already I feel like I know more about Finland-- and Bob. Best of all, I want to know more.
First impression: More fun than a platter of reindeer jerky!

Who knew cauliflower curry would smell so good the morning after?

The house is fragrant with Indian spices this morning. Last night's dinner was homemade vegan curry with cauliflower and chick peas, so we woke up to cardamom, ginger, cumin, turmeric, garlic-- and sunshine. What a great way to start the day!
I think I'm still salivating over our amazing dinner at Vij's in Vancouver, so yesterday I felt the need to try my hand at curry again, even though it meant we waited until almost 10:00 to eat.
I've found the secret to a tasty curry at home is to toast my spices in a dry, hot pan first thing. Last night I ground up some mustard seed, fennel and sichuan pepper(!) in the ol' mortar and pestle, then toasted them in a hot wok. (Does this count as fusion cuisine?) Then I added diced garlic, onions, ginger, and green peppers. Then came the cauliflower and chick peas. (I've been trying to use dried beans rather than canned lately, but I really think I need to plan ahead more-- the chick peas could have used more soaking/precooking time.) Then lots of simmering time (adding water, stirring, sniffing, adding more water, fussing with the gas...), splashes of coconut milk (and more simmering), a garnish of cilantro, et voila! Curry! Plus a house that smells like our favorite parts of India.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vancouver restaurant round-up: The Naam

We were in Vancouver, B.C. this weekend for the Vancouver marathon. (Yay, Jordan, Danielle, and Joel!) Food as fuel was a bit of a theme, but we were trying to find vegetarian food/fuel that would delight the tastebuds as it nourished the muscles.
Our first meal in Vancouver was lunch at The Naam. It was a beautiful day, so if we had known to request it, we would have asked to be seated in their charming courtyard/patio. We didn't know the oasis of green existed, though, so we were seated promptly at an indoor table for two. The restaurant smelled good and had a great, fun mix of diners. Something about the artsy vibe reminded me of Vermont. But on our way to our table, The Naam had its first strike: newspapers strewn on the floor. And the hostess just stepped over them-- twice. I wondered if this was some proto-compost sort of ritual, or if it was meant to indicate an extreme hospitality, as in, "Go ahead! Make yourselves at home! Leave your papers on the floor like you did in college-- it's OK! We want you to feel comfortable!"
Alas, the mysterious something floating in my water glass just made me think that the newspapers on the floor were an indication that hygiene was not a priority.
I chose a veggie burrito (the vegan option), and J. chose the Dragon Bowl. My veggie burrito was good, but it was less Mexican than I expected-- oddly, more Italian in flavor. I loved that the menu offered vegan cheese (and labeled items clearly so it was easy to see what was vegan, what had eggs, what had dairy), and it wasn't too weird, but as usual, it's best not to try to think of vegan cheese as cheese, more as just a special topping. I wish there had been some sort of bean in the burrito-- black, pinto, refried-- to give more protein and substance. The salad on the side was a bit too sprout-filled for my taste, but the green dressing and shredded beats were delightful. I ordered a fresh apple and strawberry juice, but it never materialized (except on the bill). J. was disappointed with the dragon bowl because there was no fire in it at all-- but lots and lots of sprouts. We thought this might not have been the best choice for a pre-marathon meal...
I think maybe this would be a fun, safe vegetarian restaurant for those times when you just want a meal in a quirky place. I would be interested in tasting their soups and their desserts, and live music seems like a good fit for the space. All in all, it felt a little too out-there-vegetarian for me; I think I was expecting something more mainstream, something with fewer bean sprouts and less Maude Lebowski-inspired art on the walls.

Finished "Family Man"

Lipman's latest turned out just as fun and entertaining as it started. I enjoyed it and recommend it for a good light read.
Now I'm finishing up the teen werewolf novel "Nightshade" by Andrea Cremer. It will be out in October, and it is a perfect blend of romance and paranormal. The main character, Calla, is the up-and-coming alpha to a to-be-formed pack of werewolves. She and her destined alpha male, Ren, are on track to be mated, take over a pack of their own, and continue their inherited role as Guardians... but then sweet, mysterious, gorgeous boy Shay comes into their lives. Confusion ensues. So far it's a page-turner, with some of the club-going exclusivity of the Bluebloods series or other popular elite urban teen series (Gossip Girl, A-List), but none of the random hook-ups or crass commercialism. I like that Calla is a warrior primarily, but her heart sure does go pitter-pat. The mythology might be a bit too intentionally enigmatic so far (Calla and the other Guardians only know the Keeper-approved stories of their origins and purpose), but I'm zipping through it and having a good time. I'm really looking forward to meeting the author later this month when she comes through Seattle for her pre-pub dinner tour, and I think this will be a great book to recommend to teens and others who enjoyed "Graceling," "Shiver," "Twilight," and "Rampant."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Rice cookers work for oatmeal

Yes, that's this morning's TRUTH BOMB: you can use your rice cooker to make oatmeal. It turned out denser but less clumpy (smoother) than my stovetop method. I used "cook in 3 minutes!" rolled oats but used the "Steam for 10 minutes" option on the rice cooker because that's the least it can do.
Add whatever you want at the end (dried cherries, cinnamon, raisins, a blurp of honey, and a splash of coconut milk), stir, and serve.
The rice cooker is officially along for the ride to the marathon this weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

QUINOA- It's What's For Dinner

Going full-vegan again tonight for dinner, with mexican-style quinoa. That's what I'm calling quinoa cooked with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, some more of my new dried sweet banana peppers (NOT the fiery ones!), black beans, cumin, chile powder, and tomato paste, then topped with cilantro. Maybe there should be some corn, too? That will be my leftover-stretching strategy. On the side tonight, tortillas with homemade guacamole. Ole!

The kind of break you can't wait to end

Usually, a break from work never lasts long enough. But for today's break, I didn't have anything to read* or anything to eat. So sad. Good thing work's a pleasure to get back to!

(*OK, I work in a book store, so I was actually surrounded by things to read, but I had left MY book at home, and I didn't want to risk spilling water or doing something else unintentionally destructive to any of the store's fine reading materials. Quibble, quibble. Plus it's just funnier to be without anything to read or eat just days after starting this blog, right?)

(Full disclosure: I also had a lovely text conversation with my husband on my smartphone, so maybe I could have waited longer for my break to end. But then where's my dramatic title?)

Wolves and Step-fathers and Sichuan Peppers, oh my!

Dinner Tuesday wound up being Greek pasta (garlic, olives, green peppers, onions, more garlic, some tomato, diced zucchini, lots of fresh oregano, white wine, and olive oil) served with whole wheat pita and spicy hummus, in case you were wondering.

Reading: I finished "Dust City" by Weston yesterday, and ooooh, it was so good! I really enjoyed the fairy tale connections (there was one that I didn't catch until a climatic scene-- smacking myself in the forehead for not catching on earlier!), but I think my favorite thing was the gritty noir atmosphere, and how it somehow worked perfectly with the dark fairy tale fantasy elements. I hope adults will give this a read, even though it's being published for teens. The novel is so smart and entertaining! I ordered a big pile for the store.

I also got a respectable length into "Family Man" by Lipman. It is fun! I've been trying to cast it in my head because it reads like a delightful movie. I haven't figured out who I see as the main character (Henry-- just realized both books I read yesterday have Henrys as protagonists!)yet, but his ex-wife, Denise, reminds me of the fabulous Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth in "Arrested Development"), and I imagine funny, loveable step-daughter Thalia as Alexis Bledel (just a little older). The New York setting, likeable characters (and a few we can all agree to love to hate)and sweet, gentle tone have me reading along quite happily. I think this would be a great vacation book or what I call a "palate cleanser"-- the kind of book you turn to after something particularly momentous or challenging. You know, a "nice" book. (And I don't mean that in a snarky way or a belittling way... Can't we all use more "nice" in our lives?)

Eating: Yesterday was another oatmeal morning (with dried cherries and almonds, and plenty of cinnamon.
For lunch, I had leftovers of the greek pasta. I was considering using one of my stretch-the-leftover tricks of adding frozen green peas before reheating, but I still had so much leftovers that I didn't have to do any doctoring.
I only snacked on ONE piece of Colleen's toffee. I still can't believe I was that good.

Then we come to dinner! Big excitement: I tried out my sichuan cooking skills! When we were in Beijing recently, we did a cooking class in a hutong, and we made fabulous chicken with chiles and sichuan peppers. I used my newish wok, my new peanut oil, and my new straight-from-Chengdu sichuan peppers and some super-fiery dried peppers from the University District farmers market to make what we will call Dragon Breath Tofu.
DRAGON BREATH TOFU sounds kind of like a new form of kung fu, doesn't it?

I applied elements of our "Three Treasures" recipe from Beijing (cooking sliced potatoes in a wok in peanut oil, then splashing water on to cook them through), Chinese cooking ideas from the other dishes (heating the peppers in a hot wok with peanut oil, adding splashes of soy sauce with sugar and splashes of rice wine around the wok during cooking, and some of my own mad kitchen creativity (broccoli's great with sichuan peppers because those little suckers get stuck in the branches). It was tingly, spicy, and fun. I put ginger and garlic in for flavor. I think next time I would heat the peppers alone in oil for longer (these peppers tasted a little bitter), and I would add more water to the rice cooker so my rice would be stickier, but otherwise, things went well. J. brought added his own super-fiery pepper to his plate as needed throughout the meal so he could get it hiccuping hot(the Chinese "la" heat) while I enjoyed the tingle ("ma") and fragrant spice of the sichuan peppers.

Oatmeal again this morning, testing out an instant "Oats and flax" variety from Natural Directions. It was a little too sweet for my taste, so we just may bring the rice cooker to Canada as an oatmeal cooker for pre-marathon routine. We'll test that theory tomorrow.

I think it's time to finish up the Greek pasta leftovers for lunch. For tonight, I'm thinking quinoa.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eat, Read, Sleep

The Indie Bound bags have one side with the slogan "Eat, Read, Sleep." That's the inspiration-- now, GO!

What I'm reading:
Family Man by Elinor Lipman (she's coming for an event May 8)-- literally just opened to the first page so far, but I have a feeling it's going to be a fun spring read.

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (ARC-- publication date 11/10). Halfway into this (and several other teen or kids' books for the Penguin fall season, since I just had my rep meeting today) and I'm LOVING it! Weston's debut, Zorgamazoo, was my favorite kids' chapter book for 2008, and his second novel is blowing me away. This one is for teens (and adults), and it's a noir/fantasy/fairy tale, featuring Arthur Whelp, the teenaged son of Little Red Riding Hood's murderer, as the main character. It's not just a witty reimagining of fairy tales (although the kick-ass Snow White had me giggling out loud)-- it is a great, gritty coming of age story, a mystery, and even social commentary. Fantastic! I wish I could start selling it right now. Oh, wait-- PREORDERS! I guess I can!

What I'm eating:
Since New Year's, we've been vaguely vegan. After convincing arguments against animal protein from The China Study (and our annual post-holiday detox), we have been cooking vegan at home (mostly) and eating vegan or vegetarian/pescatarian for the most part. The reason is health-- personal health and environmental health. But we're staying flexible and listening to our bodies. (We were total omnivores during our China trip, and we will eat whatever our friends serve us!)

Today's menu thus far is a good example.

We started off with one of our favorite breakfasts: oatmeal! Yes, it warrants the exclamation point. Today's was a mix of steel cut oats and rolled oats because I was down to oat dregs since I need to go to the grocery store. No matter-- it cooked up tasty and delicious with dried dates, sliced almonds, cinnamon, a little bit of flax seed, and a splash of coconut milk. Banana on the side, and OJ, too.

Then I was feeling peckish and almost broke into some age-old graham crackers in the pantry. Instead, I made chamomile tea for myself and Colleen, my sales rep who was coming for our fall appointment. Lucky, lucky me, Colleen brought a bag of homemade amazing graham cracker toffee! She coated graham crackers in boiled brown sugar/butter toffee mixture and nuts (hazelnuts and pecans), then cooked all at 350 for about 8 minutes. When she took it out of the oven, she sprinkled chocolate chips on top. Then this morning, she brought some to me. It's like she read my craving mind! Not so vegan or so healthy, but that's OK-- it is so delicious, I'm sure the endorphins I got from the toffee must be beneficial.

Lunch was "raid the fridge while working," so it was a little weird, but still good. I had some leftover rice from Indian food, leftover sweet potato (with a hint of cardamom), and a fried egg. Yes, an egg. Again, not so vegan. But I had two eggs left over from baking for a store event, so I thought I might as well eat one. I probably should have had some more veggies, so I'm thinking about some broccoli or a carrot for snack when I get hungry later.

Who knows what dinner will hold? I'm thinking some sort of pasta, since Sunday is J's marathon, but I'm also in the mood to make some soup. Why not both?