Monday, October 10, 2011

How is Life?

What a crazy busy life I have had recently. I am not complaining mind you because most of it has been fantastic but it has also kept me away from home and off the computer. I did take many pictures so I can fill you in on our adventures.

Almost every day we spend some time at the boat. I love sitting in the cockpit and watching the sunset while digesting dinner. The best decision we have made in a very long time is keeping the boat at the Inner Harbor 15 minutes from home.

Speaking of the marina my little duck friend took food right out of Jackie’s hand on Sunday. It wasn’t a fluke because she did it twice. Jackie (Walid’s wife) and I have given her a name “Patoot” which is Arabic for duck. Patoot now comes when I make that kissy sounds that people make to call cats (though they rarely come when called)….talk about adorable! She is really a precious little duck.

Okay so enough duck gushing here is some of the other stuff I have been up to lately.

Ferran and Jose:

The end of September Dan, Will and I spend the day together. We started with Vietnamese (at Me Kong Delta Cafe) for lunch which Dan and I love and Will agreed. In fact he said the Pho was the best he ever had. Will used to work for Ian and used to create many of the dishes you saw on my blog before May 2011 when he went to work at Woodberry.  As you see above we ordered a veggie stir fry.

After our Vietnamese lunch Will and I hung out at the boat until we picked up Dan to head to DC. Ferran Adrian and Jose Andres were having a talk at George Washington’s Lisner Auditorium and we got tickets to the sold out event. Will borrowed by copied of El Bulli 2003, 2004 and interviewed Jose for his thesis so he was looking forward to the event as much as we were. It was fascinating to hear Ferran talk about his thoughts on food, recipes and philosophy. My favorite part was watching Jose as Ferran spoke. The admiration Jose has for Ferran was absolutely touching.   I love stuff like that.

We all came home with signed copies of Ferran’s new book “The Family Meal” which isn’t vegan but the ideas I will get from this book will be invaluable. Dan’s copy will be going to my best friend Louis who loves cooking as much as I do and will go into his signed cookbook collection.  Love you Louis!  :-)

After the table we went to Jose's restaurant Jaleo for dinner because Will hadn’t been yet. We were there during the tomato festival so we had to get the watermelon and tomato caviar skewers which were delicious.

Will ordered the dessert which was a tomato and strawberry sorbet (which didn’t seem to have any added sweetener) over olive oil cake with yogurt foam and macerated strawberries. I just love how Jose’s mind works.  I always get ideas eating at Jaleo.

The Boat:

As you know I absolutely adore my husband. He asks so little of me that when he does I do my best to comply. Recently we have been spending every spare moment on the boat. Like I said Dan asks so little from me I really couldn’t say no, nor did I want to. Spending time at the boat has meant working on, shopping for, sailing as well as relaxing at the marina. We have made huge progress on the boat so far and have really been enjoying relaxing in the cockpit (the back) watching the sunset while sipping mugs of green tea. The back of the boat has become our floating deck and we both just love it. Docking the boat 15 minutes from home has been fantastic in case you missed my earlier comment. ;-)

The only problem with spending so much time on the boat has been the wifi speed which was painfully slow. Seriously slow doesn’t accurately convey the problem. It was so bad I gave up taking my laptop to the boat. This was both good and bad. The good part was that I was able to relax and/or be productive on the boat depending on my mood. The down side was that I got so far behind on the blog that I had difficulty pushing myself to get back into the habit. However we now have a wifi booster on board and that should make it easier to keep up the blogs. *fingers crossed*  Today went well so let's hope that continues.

Aimee and Michael ("the kids") were the first visitors to the boat which was very fitting I thought. We took the boat out for a quick trip to the Inner Harbor at sunset and Aimee enjoyed it which was a miracle since she isn’t a huge fan of water other than pools.

Here are a few photos of what the boat interior looks like at the moment. We still have more work to do but we are making a lot of progress I think.

Food on the Boat:

We have been eating dinner on the boat most evenings and I am still getting my sea legs in the galley (kitchen). However I am starting to come up with some shortcuts that would work at home or on a boat and here they are:

• Premade spice mixes has been a life saver. I have come up with three mixes so far (Mexican, Southern Italian and Indian) and those have been key to make quick dinners on board.

• Keeping dried mushrooms on board has also been very useful. Not only do they take up little space but they add a lot of flavor to a variety of dishes. I soak them in hot water in a sealed container for 30 minutes before I start cooking and they are ready to go.  The dish above was a whole wheat noodle soup with dried mushrooms.

• I took an electric hot water kettle to the boat and that has also been very helpful. It boils water faster than using the propane stove which is great for making tea or preheating water for making risotto or pasta on the stove.   This pasta dish was topped with red sauce, fresh greends Tatsoi I think, and nutritional yeast.  Fast and delicious, does it get any better than that?

• We bought a pressure cooker for the boat and that also is great. It means that meals cook quickly and with much less propane. Additionally it means I can keep dried beans on board and those take up less space than canned beans which is also fantastic since you know how many beans we eat. ;-)

• Peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat toast with either apple slices or bananas have also played a big role in food on board. They make a quick nutritious breakfast that is easy to keep on board.

• I have been keeping whole wheat pasta, soba noodles, and risotto on board as well. These are take up little room and I can cook a partial package and have just enough for the two of us with no leftovers to store. Additionally when you combine the dried mushrooms with the risotto you can whip up something when guests stop by which isn’t your typical boat fare.

• We have been eating a lot of hummus with crudités. This really is the ultimate boat food. Collard wraps with pecan nut meat are also great to have in the refrigerator. Raw meals come together quickly on board if you do the prep work at home.

• Additionally I have also been making a lot of raw cashew and veggie based sauces to keep on the boat. One was cilantro, lime, garlic and curry and that turned out very well. Another one was tomato, balsamic and garlic which I really loved. There is also a roasted red pepper, sherry vinegar and smoked paprika sauce. These are great for dipping veggies into, or for topping sandwiches. This was a veggie burger topped with a tomato, raw cashew, balsamic and garlic spread and veggies.

• Roasted portabella mushrooms have been very popular with us lately. These can be cooked at home or on the boat. I have come up with a few different marinades for the mushrooms to add flavor. One is balsamic and Dijon and we like this one a lot. Another is balsamic and Worcestershire (vegan of course) and that one is more “meaty”. These roasted mushrooms are good hot or cold and work well on toasted bread, topped with one of the sauces above and some arugula. They are also good sliced and slipped into a rolled collard leaf. This time I used the roasted veggies but sliced them and added Swiss chard, kale, onions, garlic, crushed red peppers and served it over quinoa.

• For snacks I am keeping the following on board: roasted seaweed, dried fruit, trial mix and nuts (both flavored and plain). These are all very handy to munch while sailing. When I also have peanut butter on board I have been stuffing dates with it and that makes a nice snack.

I hope this gives you some ideas for quick and nutritious food. Trust me if I can do this quickly in a little galley on a boat you can definitely do it at home.

Dr. Greger:

I mentioned that Dr. Greger was looking for volunteers to help with his site and since I love his work I felt compelled to lend a hand. Dan thought I was biting off more than I could chew but it was such a good cause how I not help? I have been enjoying my interaction with Dr. Greger. He is as nice or possibly nicer than I expected him to be. If any of you have a little free time to help out please do. It is a great cause and you might just learn something in the process….volunteering is definitely a win-win in my book.

Here are a few shots I took for an upcoming Dr. Greger video. These will be posted on his site ( on December 2 if you want to check them out. I will put a link up to the video when it is posted.

Phil was in Town:

Last week our buddy Phil was in town from Springfield, Missouri. It is always wonderful to see Phil. I picked him up at the airport, we stopped at the marina so he could see the boat and then we went to dinner at the usual place. I know I have said this before but it is a shame we live so far from Phil. However I suppose because of that we appreciate the time we spend with him more.

Dan and I ordered our favorite appetizer the antipasti platter which they make vegan for us.

Ian has also added a daily vegetarian special. The night we were there it was a whole wheat pasta dish with olives, tomatoes and feta. We had them substitute mushrooms for the feta and it was perfect.

Phil got the garden Caesar salad and the chicken and olives. I just love that we have a neighborhood restaurant where we can get vegan food and our omni friends can order something with meat.

What if Life isn’t Perfect?:

I am constantly surprised by the number of people who seem to believe that my life is without problems because nothing could actually be further from the truth. The only difference in my life is that I refuse to dwell on the negative, but trust me there is plenty of it there. I think that when you dwell on what is wrong you give it more power over you. Instead of focusing on cancer, my aging parents, my ever growing to-do list and complete lack of free time I choose to put my attention on what is good in my life. This positive focus doesn’t make my problems go away but it does help me to forget about them. There are times I go weeks and don’t think about cancer and that is a great thing. Stress isn’t good for anyone’s health and the more you can reduce it the better off you will be.

No I haven’t always been like this in fact for most of my life I was the opposite. I would obsess about what was wrong and this just seemed to made things worse. It finally occurred to me one day that my own behavior was causing me more harm than the things which I was upset about. It took me months to train myself not to focus on what was wrong. Believe me if I can do it I know you can.

I try to write my blog as I live my life. Since I don’t dwell on my problems in real life I do the same thing on blog. Now I am curious have any of you tried not to focus on the positive rather than the negative in your life? How did it work for you? Do you feel more at peace with life when you don’t give the negative aspects more focus than is necessary? What do you use to keep life in perspective? When I have difficulty letting go of what is wrong I find that quietly meditating works wonders to clear my mind. Sometimes all I need to do is concentrate on my breath and that is enough to quiet my mind. I am very curious to hear what techniques you use to bring more peace into your life.

Happy Thoughts:

Wow, life has been very good lately I am not sure where to start, but here goes:

• Spending evenings on the boat means that my husband is taking time to relax each day and this is huge. Dan works entirely too hard and too much so any time he relaxes I am thrilled. Deciding to keep the boat at the inner harbor was one of the best decisions we made.

• We have been doing a lot of work on the boat and it is really starting to show. She is definitely starting to come together and is feeling like “our” boat.

• I have made some friends at the marina and I love that. One of the ladies I met has been very curious about our food and said recently that she can see herself giving up meat since meeting me. *woo hoo* You have no idea how happy this made me. I get so excited when I hear things like this.  

• I love that I have a duck friend at the marina that follows me to the boat when I arrive. She did this on Monday and I thought it was the cutest thing ever!

• Hearing Ferran Adria speak was a once in a lifetime treat that I will never forget. How often do any of us get to listen to the father of molecular gastronomy talk about his philosophy about food? I am such a foodie geek. LOL

• We are becoming friendly with the captain (Robert the retired MD) who brought our boat up from Grenada. He is a wealth of information and a very kind and generous man. Sometimes you just never know where you will meet people with whom you will click.

• The weather this past weekend and today was in the mid 80’s. We had fantastic weather for sailing over the weekend and we used that to spend time with Walid and Jackie.

• I took some pizza almonds that I made to Pam (our CSA farmer) this past Sunday and she really enjoyed them. These has been so popular with everyone that I might investigate what is involved in selling them. Clearly I would need to have a commercial kitchen make and package them and I am not positive I have enough free time to make that happen soon. But it is definitely worth investigating.

Signing Out:

It is a nice walk around the Inner Harbor from the marina to Dan’s office. I am going to get a few miles in this evening but walking over to meet him and then we will walk back together. Nothing like face time with my hubby to put a smile on my face.


  1. Enjoyed your post, as usual. :) How cool that you are helping out at Nutrition Facts. That website is a wonderful source of information! I am so glad that you are enjoying your boat and your time with your hubby as well.

  2. Yay you're back! I'm so glad to hear that you've been enjoying boat life, food, friends and all. Life is good here too, there's so much to be grateful for. To strengthen my bones I've upped my weights and added more leafy greens, almonds, sesame seeds and Vitamin K2. I also started meditating again (after many years) to dissolve worries and feel more fulfilled. My mind is a stubborn one to calm, though! Hopefully it will get easier with practice.

    Please tell me how to make the roasted portabellas with the Dijon/balsamic marinade. Also the veggie sauces--do you make those in the Vitamix? The one in your photo looks very thick. I'm going to buy some raw cashews today. Thanks and have a great day!

  3. Good morning Angel,

    I am glad you enjoyed it. While I don't have a lot of free time it is a pleasure to help at Nutrionfacts because I am such a big fan of Dr. Greger's work.

    We are spending every possible moment on the boat. It is incredibly relaxing just being on the boat at the marina. You would love my little duck friend. She hangs out with me for hours. :-)


  4. Laura,

    Sounds like things are going well at your house. :-) I am reading a book that you may want to check out that should help you quiet your mind. I will write about it in my next post (hopefully today).

    The roasted mushrooms are very simple. I combine balsamic and vegan worcestershire in approximately equal amounts. Just pour them together, whisk and adjust the proportions until you like the flavor. I sometimes add black pepepr or minced garlic too. Pour the marinade into the mushroom caps and cook on 350 degrees until the mushrooms slump. Store the cooked mushrooms in the frig until you need them. They are good hot or cold.

    I do use my Vitamix to make the sauces. When I make the sauces I typically go light on the cashews (about 1/4 cup) for 3-4 total cups of finished sauce. You don't need many cashews to make sauces rich and creamy. I hope that helps.


  5. Beautiful post! I like what you said about focusing on the positive. I'm really working on that after a LONG career of doing the opposite :) Ali- there is something important that I need to discuss with you. Should I message you on Facebook or email?

  6. Megan,

    You and me both girlfried, I used to the princess of darkness. Believe me if I can change anyone can. :-)

    Email or Facebook whatever you are more comfortable with is fine with me.


  7. I'm glad you're back! I missed ya! All your mushroom dishes always look amazing. Makes my dinner plans look shabby, and I have a whole kitchen at my disposal.

  8. Hi Brigid,

    Awww, thanks! It was very difficult not having time or wifi to connection to when I had time. I am glad to be back too.

    I am sure whatever you make tonight will be delicious. Remember that I have a few years on you and practice really does make a big difference when it comes to cooking. You are a better cook than I was at your age. Just imagine what you will be doing by the time you are approaching 50! :-)


  9. Hey Ali, welcome back to the blogosphere : ) I propose that you introduce Masi and Nicco to your new friend, the duck : )

    The boat images and descriptions just look so serene and what a gift to have good food and relaxation . The boat seems like your little "vacation home". Congrats on pulling it all together!

    Last, I liked your little blurb about keeping it positive. Life is life, right? Ups and downs no matter how perfect it seems from the outside.

    Take care,

  10. Steph,

    The boat is definitely like our second home. We both joke that the cockpit has become like our back deck only it floats. The water is so serene it is difficult not to be there every day.

    I don't think Masi, Nicco and Luca would like the duck and I don't think she could defend herself. Not to mention the whole duck diaper thing is just a bit much. My friend Louis thinks I will bring her home too but I don't think so. Time will tell right?

    It would be nice to have everything in life be positive but I don't think that is likely to happen. I think the best all of us can do it focus on the positive and try to resolve the negative. Getting old helps a lot with the attitude change too I think. ;-)



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