Monday, May 30, 2016

Bok Choy with Brown Rice and Orange Sauce

This is a good thing to make when you want something beautiful, but aren't particularly inspired by the kitchen gods. I picked up a big bunch of gorgeous bok choy at the farmers market, without a clear plan for it. A couple of days later I had to use it or lose it, so this is what happened. It's as easy as it gets, and goes to show that with a few staples in the house, you can come up with some pretty awesome meals without a lot of fuss.

To make this pretty dinner, cook some brown rice and set it aside to stay warm. Cut the bok choy into whatever size pieces you like. Grate a carrot and chop half an onion if you have one.

Make some Easy Orange Sauce as follows (full recipe in my Sauce Book, but this will get the job done).
Whisk together 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup tamari, 2 T maple syrup, 1 T sriracha sauce, 1 T arrowroot powder. Set aside.

Now heat a large skillet and melt a little coconut oil in it. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrot and bok choy and cook until the bok choy is tender but still crunchy.

Stir in the sauce and cook for a minute or two more, until the sauce thickens a little bit.

Serve over rice with a sprinkle of almonds or other nuts or seeds for garnish.

If you want it any easier, you'll have to order take-out. Enjoy!

If you like this recipe, you'll love my new book! Get it on Amazon!

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Morning Meetings

Every morning (almost), before I get out of bed, I spend a few extra minutes having a "meeting" with myself. I think about how I want my day to go, and what I have lined up on the to-do list. Often dozing a little bit, I sometimes get "other input" as to what I need to get done. I've not always listened to this interruption to my Very Important Thoughts, but lately I do. I get up and write it all down. And then I add my own stuff too, in case there's time for all of it.

Ever since my little trip to the ER a few weeks ago, I've been paying more attention to what's often referred to as the "little brain" we all have in our hearts. Did you know this? There's a lot of explanation on the HeartMath website, as well as in many other places if you feel like digging around. Basically, as I understand it, which is admittedly very little so far, the heart stores and transmits information. When we say things like follow your heart, it's actually valid advice. The heart is smart!

For me, it's clear that my heart got all crazy on me because I wasn't listening to it. It finally had to kick me in the head and say, Hey there sister! I need to be in charge for a while! So OK. Not wanting to repeat any part of that adventure, I'm listening to my HeartBrain - with an open heart. And know what? I feel better than when I spend too much time in my HeadBrain trying to figure everything out for myself. A lot better.

One recent morning meeting turned up some interesting assignments. The list goes like so:

Throw out my hamster cage.
Wear blue (not red).
Draw hearts.
Be the prayer.

My HeadBrain added:
Bathe Heidi.
Invent dinner from stuff we already have.
Write a blog post (or 2).
Play the ukulele.

Surprisingly, it all got done, with no stress and many grins.

There is no literal hamster cage. No hamster either. What this meant was, Stop trying to turn your life into something normal and predictable. It isn't that. It's not going to be. There's no nine to five, no daily grind, and mostly no paycheck. Deal with it.

Sigh... Ok. I see no real alternative. I've been trying to be a hamster for a long time, and I just can't do it. So I threw out the cage, along with the little spinning, squeaking wheel and the damp sawdust.

I put on a blue dress (not the red one I probably would have opted for on a chilly spring day), and pulled out my drawing paper and pens. I got lost in drawing hearts and forgot to take Heidi out to pee.

She didn't care. She sleeps as long as we let her. Eventually I did take her out, and then gave her a nice breakfast and a bath when we came back. I cleaned up the apartment. I considered our dinner options and decided on some kind of noodles and veggies in a teriyaki-ish sauce. I wrote a good blog post. Then another one. I made more tea. I looked out the window.

I took a uke break, standing at my 5th floor windows, looking out at the clouds and cars and people. After about three years of playing on and off - mostly off - I can play three songs by heart. By Heart! Happy Birthday - always useful. I'm Into Something Good - the old Herman's Hermits hit - which is easy and adorable. And This Must Be The Place - Talking Heads - also easy, but it speaks to me. "Home is where I wanna be, but I guess I'm already there..."

And at the end of all that doing, which flowed like water, I remembered someone once saying to me, Your work is your prayer. Ah, yes. Listen on the inside. Get it done on the outside. Or sometimes not. I'm well aware of the fact that I need to get back on a money-making path again very soon. Just thinking about it makes my chest thump out of sync for a second. But right now my work, which must be my prayer (and that makes me the pray-er when I'm doing it), is to listen to my HeartBrain and simply do what I'm told.

It's getting easier. And I do like wearing blue. I'd forgotten.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Green Quinoa Pizza

I ran across this recipe for Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Pizza Crust from SimplyQuinoa, and I had to try it as right away as possible. I didn't have everything I needed, and it was raining, and I didn't want to slog out to the store. Once in the grip of pizza lust, there's nothing to do but surrender though, right?

What does a smart city girl do in this situation? She grabs her phone and fires up the PrimeNow app from Amazon, of course! Within a couple of hours there was a nice young man at my door with a bag of groceries. How wonderfully civilized.

The original recipe calls for soaked quinoa that you don't even have to cook! The crust is made in a blender, so the quinoa is basically turned into wet flour. I made a couple of modifications because I had some cooked rice and fresh basil to use up. The bit of rice I threw in didn't hurt it a bit, and the basil added another layer of flavor.

The crust is pick-up-able, and while not really bread-like, it has a delicious consistency similar to a creamy polenta crust. And it's so green!!!

For toppings I used arugula pesto, chopped spinach, Daiya smoked gouda style cheese, fresh mushrooms, and sliced black olives. It was fabulous!

Many thanks to Alyssa at SimplyQuinoa for this recipe, and so many others. Do check out her website and blog!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Vegan Under Pressure (sometimes we do get sick)

One big selling point for going vegan is that we have a much lower risk of getting sick - both little sick, with things like colds, and big sick, with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. But we're not immune to anything. We're still fragile little humans living in these amazingly resilient bodies. I have a friend who calls them "human suits," which I think is absolutely perfect.

Perhaps one problem with feeling so good most of the time is that we might want to ignore our body's signals when we're not feeling so good. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

I was in San Jose, juggling my time between my elderly father and house-and-dog sitting for my sister, with lots of freeway driving in between the two. It was hot, I was probably a bit dehydrated, and definitely a lot stressed. Suddenly, as I stood up from a rushed lunch, I was clobbered with something new that I couldn't ignore.

My heart felt like it was in four separate pieces, and each one was bouncing wildly in my chest. I could feel it on the outside, and in my pulse, and it was super scary. So what did I do? I got back in the car to run to the airport to pick up my sister. I wasn't really ignoring what was happening, but I certainly was telling it to wait a little while until I had time to deal with it.

Long (very long) story short, I later went to the ER in a friendly little hospital that decided I needed a big hospital and stuffed me into an ambulance to make the transfer. No sirens or lights, which was kind of disappointing, but at least they didn't think I was going to die on the freeway.

During my stay I was poked full of holes and filled with fluids and something to calm my heart back into a normal rhythm. I had 3 EKGs, a treadmill stress test (which became extra stressful when they decided to add some radioactive gunk to the IV gadget stuck in my arm while I was jogging along at top speed, on a steep slant, and holding on with only one hand), a CAT scan (the reason for the radioactive gunk), and an ultrasound (which I really enjoyed, actually, because I got to see my heart in cross section, looking like a happy-dancing monkey with cymbals).

They tried really, really hard to find something wrong with me, but every single test came back normal, normal, normal. There is no heart damage. I don't have diabetes or thyroid disease. I don't have lots of things, I didn't have a heart attack, and by all accounts, there is nothing wrong with me. Hooray! But still... this terrible, scary thing had happened to me, and I needed to know how to interpret it.

Nearly 24 hours after I'd walked into the first ER, I was sent home with a diagnosis of "atrial fibrillation" and a prescription for some horribly toxic meds that made me feel just awful. Not one person, of the very many who came to see me, asked me about my diet or exercise or stress load. Not one would even sort of entertain the idea that the whole thing might in some way be stress related.

Fortunately, a week later, back at home in Portland, my own doctor determined that my diagnosis was not a life sentence as a "heart patient" with a chronic condition, but more likely an isolated incident brought on by... stress. I like her better.

She told me to toss the meds and agreed with my plan to continue taking low-dose aspirin to reduce my risk of stroke, and to add some heart empowering herbs like hawthorn and motherwort. She suggested paying particular attention to hydration and electrolytes in hot weather (hello, coconut water!), as well as potassium and magnesium rich foods. And perhaps most wonderful of all, she did not suggest that I needed to add animal protein into my diet.

My first thought as I walked into the ER was, Oh crap, this is really scary. My second thought was, Oh crap, even with insurance this is going to be way too expensive. And my third thought, the one that really freaked me out was, OH CRAP, my credibility as a healthy vegan is completely shot!!!

But guess what? Two weeks later, back at home, gathering myself back together, I want it out there that yes, vegans get sick too, and it doesn't make us wrong or bad or irresponsible about our diet and lifestyle choices. What it makes us is human, in our cute little human suits.

My own instinctive diagnosis is "confused heart," or maybe "conflicted heart" or "fragmented heart." It felt like it was in pieces, all pulling in different directions, when in fact, that's exactly what's going on in my life right now. I'm trying to be in too many places, both physically and energetically, and trying to be there for too many people. The only thing that makes any sense to do right now is to pull it all back in to center, regain my balance, and let a few things manage without me for a little while.

I'm always telling my stressed out friends to "put their own oxygen mask on first." That's something I need to do for myself too. I'm no good to my dad (or my sisters, or my kids, or my friends, or my readers) if I'm not in proper alignment on the inside, (no matter how fabulous I look on the outside!). I ignored my own need to take care of myself, to keep my own balance, and to "listen to my heart" when it comes to the difficult parts of life. Well, my heart sure found a way of getting my attention.

A vegan diet can do a lot to keep us healthy, but we need to take even more personal responsibility for our own well being. I'm stubborn in not wanting to put my own needs first. A lot of us are. My trip to the medical world taught a couple of things. First, that I have no interest in staying in that world. And second, that I can do even more than eat well and exercise to keep myself healthy. I have some internal, heart-centered work to do, and now is the time to do it. I need to pay attention to me, or I won't be any good to anyone else.

Message received, with heartfelt thanks.
Love, Kim

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cupcake Jones

An easy walk or streetcar hop from our apartment, is one of our favorite stops for a sweet treat. Cupcake Jones is not an all vegan bakery, but they do make some of the best vegan cupcakes I've ever tasted. They offer three vegan flavors - Vanilla, Chocolate, and Red Velvet. I don't play favorites where cupcakes are concerned, but Rick has a special weakness for the Red Velvet.

Each cupcake is generously frosted when it's ordered, and the regular sized ones are also stuffed with some sort of delightful creamy filling. The mini size isn't filled, but the frosting-to-cake ratio is perfect. 

All this time I though the reason I loved these cakes so much was because they were not gluten free. Well, looking at the picture, I see I was wrong... How about that? Vegan and gluten free, and they taste totally amazing. I'm really quite flabbergasted.

Cupcake Jones has two locations. Ours, on NW 10th, and another on NE Alberta. The one on 10th is tiny, with no seating, so plan to get your cakes to go, and then wander off to find a good coffee place nearby. So far, not one barista has minded that we bring our own cupcakes, but they always hope we've brought an extra one for them. Everybody knows Cupcake Jones.