Announcing the arrival of Buddy Jr.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 , , , 2 Comments

Well, we took in a foster dog over the weekend. It's our first time fostering and this dog has been through a lot so we're feeling a little like new parents who suddenly take a baby home and feel they are ill-prepared and inadequate. Okay, maybe that's just how I feel. I think my husband is feeling just fine about the whole thing, but we are both totally helicopter dog parents right now. We hover over every move of a dog who's received little, if any, positive attention throughout his life so far. I really blame this on the special circumstances and the fact that the dog is not completely housebroken.

Our foster dog is a just-retired greyhound racing dog. He made the long trek from Alabama to Michigan just a few days ago. He's never lived in a home before and everything is new to him. Yes, everything. Sometimes I wonder if he's even been outside before. When we take him out he carefully observes every sight, sound, movement. If the birds are chirping loudly, he has to stop in place and listen. When a car drives by, we have to stop and watch it. He was quite confused when the snow started falling. He jumped up from his pillow and watched it through the window, then ran to the doorwall to get a better view. It only snowed for a few minutes and when it was over, he decided to lay down again. Maybe he thought the house was under attack by tiny white bullets.

He follows us around all the time. He tries to go in the bathroom with us. He walked in our shower (when noone was in there, of course!) That was a sure sign of a dog who's never lived in a home. Every other dog I've known has been petrified by the shower, but not this one. He likes to walk in there and sniff around whenever he gets the chance, just as calm as can be. He has no idea of the terror that lurks inside that shower. It's now been a few days and he is finally following us a little less and napping a little more. Thank goodness because his eyes have been super bloodshot and they're finally starting to look normal!

He is really tall and his head is well above the height of our kitchen table, which has proved to be quite a problem in the first few days. Remember, he's never been in a home before and he doesn't know how to act yet. Also, he's used to a sort of communal eating where the (really disgusting 4D) dog food is thrown into a thing for all the dogs to eat from and they all have to get their share before it's gone or they're out of luck. So it's been a little difficult to cook and eat these first few days. I forgot to mention that he can reach the counter too. So I've been a little less than creative in the kitchen. I'm trying to stick with what requires the least preparation or preparation which I can do on the windowsill! To his credit, he is getting much better at not putting his nose on everything within his reach.

Check out Buddy Jr. trying to recover from his jet lag! ;-)

Rescued Greyhound


Blueberry Banana Avocado Smoothie

Vegan Healthy Blueberry Banana Avocado Smoothie

Throughout my life, there have been many times I eliminated or tried to minimize my processed sugar intake and I've been mostly successful. I find that it makes my body feel better and my mind feel like I am doing something good. However, last fall was a different story.

In late 2012, my dad died unexpectedly and I was deep in grief in a way I never imagined I could be. It seemed to me like an adult shouldn't be so devastated by her dad dying, even if he was young and it was unexpected (though not from unnatural causes). I hardly felt like eating. All I wanted to do was sleep and cry. It's weird that I am willing to admit this because I always try to hide my crying from people and act as if I am fine. I guess admitting it is different than actually breaking down in front of someone. After the initial shock wore off, the whole thing really debilitated me. If I ate something - anything, I considered that a success. And I felt strangely drawn back to my sometimes friend, sometimes foe - sugar. I was craving sugar all the time. I tell people that I was on a vegan ice cream and french fries diet for a while.

So, it's been a few months now. . . They say that grief gets better in time and I honestly did not see how that was possible a few months ago. I wanted to believe it, but I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can tell you that it HAS gotten better. It is still difficult. I still cry almost every day. I still miss my dad. I still think of him all the time. I still think of how things could have been different. But things are getting better. I am awake for more than 8 hours a day! Yay! Little by little, I am starting to enjoy things again. I see a little glimmer of hope on the horizon.

But the nasty sugar addiction I picked up along the way is still hanging on. And I can remember how good it feels to be free from that addiction! I'm not eliminating sugar right now, but I am trying to reduce my dependence on it. As I found myself jonesing for cookies the other day (after indulging myself several days in a row), I decided it was time to try out a healthy alternative. So, working with what I had in the house, I came up with something that combined the sweetness (fruit) I was looking for with a rich taste (from the avocado & coconut milk). Now I know it's not hot out of the oven, but it did help me boost my willpower and I was able to skip the cookies that night!

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
1/2 large avocado or 1 small avocado
3/4 cup coconut, almond or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup tart cherry juice - actual juice, not the concentrated kind (or any juice you like)

Put it all together and blend, adding more juice or non-dairy milk if required for your blender. Enjoy! 


Paczki Day

Monday, February 11, 2013 , , 0 Comments

Well, paczki (poonch-key) day is upon us. And I have a confession to make. A few weeks ago I had a dream, and in that dream, I knew that I was eating a doughnut, but when I sunk my teeth into it I knew that this was no ordinary doughnut. I could tell right away that it was a paczki. Then, just as I realized this, the creamy taste of custard filled my mouth and the following train of thought went through my mind, all while still on my first bite, before I even started chewing:
So light and fluffy. Cooked just right. Ooh, custard. Wow, this is so good. This is the best paczki I've ever had. Man, I haven't had a paczki in years. Oh crap. This is probably not vegan. It may not even be vegetarian. How did I get into this situation in the first place?

Then, bam, just like that I woke up. In the morning I told my husband about this dream and all he could say was "You silly goose! All you think about is food. You even dream about it." Though he does make a valid point, I have to say that there is no possible way he could understand.

He couldn't understand what it was like to grow up with a 12 letter last name containing two z's, only two vowels and ending in those familiar 3 letters -ski, which, to an eastsider (someone from the eastern suburbs or eastside of Detroit) like myself, meant only one thing - you were Polish! My husband never experienced a real winter growing up as a boy in India. That same little boy in India didn't look out at the coconut trees and dream of going to Hamtramck at the crack of dawn to get in line outside for fresh paczkis on paczki day, when it was still cold enough to be winter but you had that feeling that spring was getting closer. And, although that little boy was good at geography, I'm sure he had never even heard of Hamtramck!

Hamtramck, to the younger version of myself, was like the Mecca of all things authentically Polish. That's where my Polish ancestors settled after coming to the United States. That's where they read the Polish news, watched Polish movies in theaters, dined in Polish restaurants, cooked Polish food, spoke in Polish, and just about everybody had a good Polish name. Just recently, in fact, I found the program from my grandpa's high school graduation. I read the names of the graduating seniors to my husband and he asked me if I was making them up. I wasn't.

You know, maybe part of the reason I found Hamtramck and the Polish stuff so fascinating as a kid, was because my 100% Polish grandpa died when I was just a baby and I couldn't remember him. My dad was probably the closest to his dad, of his brothers and sisters, and my dad was a man of few words. He taught me a few things once in a while, like stories of gross foods I decided I never wanted to try, like duck blood soup (this probably planted the early seeds of vegetarianism into my head) and key phrases like 'it's cold as hell' (really comes in handy in Michigan winters). But it didn't satisfy the endlessly curious little girl that I was.

Unfortunately for me, my parents did not share my dream of getting up super early, heading out in the bitter cold and hanging out in Hamtramck for Paczki Day. Did I mention that my dad worked afternoons and hated getting up early? But at least we bought paczkis - lots of paczkis - every year, without fail. We even bought them for some of my mom's (non-polish) relatives too.

Did I say every year? Take note, I live near what I sometimes forget is kind of a large city, in the United States. This means that you can get just about anything you want anytime you want. Exotic fruit? Check. Foreign groceries? Check. Out of season fruits & veggies? Oh yeah, all year round. They ship them in from somewhere or other to make sure they're available for your convenience, probably at a store open 24 hours per day. (The truth is that I didn't notice this until a foreign friend pointed it out to me) Paczkis? Only available once per year! At least that's how it was in the 1980s & 1990s when I walked around with big bangs, slap bracelets and flourescent colored clothing, jamming to the likes of Madonna and Prince. This made paczkis so unique - something that was actually a rare treat!

All of this has led me to the fact that I can NOT find a place around here that sells vegan paczkis and, after a dream like that, I'm just going to have to try making them myself. If I succeed it will be quite an accomplishment because I have never worked with yeast before and my one and only attempt to deep fry was a complete disaster. I've found some recipes online and this video that makes it look pretty easy:

Wish me luck!!

Just a note: I will be the first person to admit that custard paczkis are not authentic. So what? I loved them. They're still paczkis on the outside, just with a different filling. I grew up in Detroit, where custard paczkis were readily available and hey . . . I was dreaming!

photo credit: Kodamakitty via photopin cc


Wilted Bok Choy with Quick & Easy Tempeh

Vegetarian Vegan Wilted Bok Choy

So, rewind to 2009, the first year of my marriage. I had been thinking for a few days that we needed to incorporate more greens into our diet. I know, I know, we're vegan but we weren't really eating many greens. We hardly even ate salad. That's weird because when I was a kid, I ate (and really looked forward to eating) salad almost every single day! Plus, when I was old enough, I was the one entrusted with the responsibility of making the salads and I loved decorating them and making them beautiful. I took pride in my work. Maybe I got sick of all those years of doing the same job? Or maybe I'm waiting until I have a child of my own so I can employ a family salad maker?
At any rate, I was really concentrating on this - how to incorporate more greens into our diet and how to keep it interesting. Then, I happened to turn on the Food Network and catch an episode of 'Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller.' Lo and behold, she was cooking bok choy - a green I had never worked with before! Sure, I had eaten it in Chinese restaurants. At least I thought that's what it was I had eaten! But I never dreamed of cooking it. Here it was, the answer to my prayers (or, at least, my concentrated contemplations), a new AND EASY way to incorporate greens into our diet! Hooray!

It seems like greens are the big thing right now. We just keep hearing more and more about the health benefits of greens. They are full of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Bok choy in particular is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of vitamin K, which helps with bone strength and alzheimer's disease. It also has many B-complex vitamins including folic acid (great for pregnant women), calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. As a cruciferous veggie, bok choy helps protect against different cancers and reduce LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol. And, I can not forget to mention that bok choy is a great source of fiber. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, this is most likely not an issue for you because you're probably getting adequate fiber since fiber comes from plant foods. Bok choy is also low in calories and can help with weight loss. Need I say more?

Little effort, great taste, great nutrition! This is my kind of recipe! This became a recipe I would make when I'd come home starving after work or running errands! You can certainly make tofu or tempeh with this, but I find it to be a satisfying meal with brown rice alone (or another grain). I have included a simple, easy tempeh recipe, that would go well with this without adding much more cooking time.

Quick & Easy Tempeh:

1 block tempeh (about 8 ounces)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1&1/2 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg Liquid Aminos

1. (Optional) Steam or boil the tempeh for 10 minutes. (Many people swear by this. I almost never bother for this recipe, but I really love tempeh, any way you serve it)
2. Cut the tempeh on the diagonal into 1/2" wide slices.
3. Heat the oil and tamari in the pan on medium heat.
4. Add the tempeh. Try to flip the pieces so that more than one side gets tamari.
5. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the tempeh is hot and golden.

Warning: If this is your first time eating tempeh and you do not like it this way (especially if you don't steam or boil it first), try a different method - marinade it, get a chargrilled tempeh burger, get creative. This is just the quickest and easiest method I know and that was the aim of this post.

Wilted Bok Choy:

The recipe calls for reduced-sodium soy sauce, but if you use tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos (which I do), this becomes a gluten-free recipe.



Super Easy Chickpea Salad, Three Ways

Over the summer we always get a share from a local CSA and the produce is absolutely divine! In fact, the vegetables are usually so good that I don't want to cook them. I feel like they are absolute perfection on their own and that if I change the flavor at all, I will be missing out on the veggies' natural goodness. In addition to eating the veggies raw, I usually come up with some interesting salads as well. This is often just a way for me to incorporate beans or lentils into my summer diet when all I want to do is eat fresh fruit & veggies.

Many of the fabulous salads we devour all summer long are just not the same in winter because the vegetables (even organic) from the grocery stores here in Michigan are . . . shall I say, lacking that special something you get when they're vine-ripened and fresh picked by your local farmer. I do still enjoy a nice salad in the winter, even when the pickings are slim. This salad is a great one for winter because you only need a few ingredients which are easily accessible all year round.

They just put in a Trader Joe's by my house and I actually found tasty cucumbers and tomatoes there last week. In fact, they were so good that when I made this, I wanted to just keep eating it all day. I thought I should mix it up a little so I came up with two other versions. This would be a great way to pack three different light and healthy lunches for work. You could certainly add more veggies or herbs, but this is one of those things that I throw together when I'm really hungry and don't have a lot of time for washing & chopping. It's SO EASY! You can whip it up in a jiffy and the results are delicious and nutritious!

To find a CSA or Farmer's Market in the United States, go to:

Here's the simplest version, your base recipe.

1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 beefsteak tomato (or 2 roma or 1 pack cherry or grape tomatoes)
1 cucumber
your favorite salad dressing (middle eastern or italian are great choices)
salt & pepper, to taste

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas
2. Chop the tomato and cucumber
3. Put it all in a bowl, sprinkle on your favorite dressing, and mix!
4. Add salt & pepper to taste (optional)

Super Easy Healthy Vegan Chickpea Salad


Put some of the version 1 Chickpea Salad over your favorite greens. (It tastes great on romaine)
You may need to add more dressing.

Super Easy Healthy Vegan Chickpea Salad, Three Ways


Boil some quinoa and/or rice (or your favorite grain). You could also use a pre-cooked packet. My quinoa-loving, meat-eating cousin just told me that he eats quinoa and brown rice packets from Costco for his lunch at work.

After it cools, mix with some of the version 1 Chickpea Salad. You may need to add more dressing and/or salt & pepper.

Super Easy Healthy Vegan Chickpea Salad, Three Ways